While many popular Hollywood films are shot on sets in Los Angeles, there are many that venture out into the world to capture fresh landscapes and scenery. Some dazzling movie scenes make you sit up and say, 'Wow, where is that?', because you can hardly believe that such places exist. In many cases, being chosen as a film location brings in lots of tourists, some of whom fly thousands of miles just to stand in the very spot where the movie was filmed, or stay in the same hotel, or eat in the same café as their favorite star.
New Zealand got a huge tourism boost after the Lord of the Rings trilogy propelled it into the spotlight. Movie goers were blown away by the film’s vast, unspoiled nature, fabulous mountain ranges, dramatic cliffs, and… Hobbit Holes? The film set has now become an actual Hobbit village. If you venture to Hobbiton, you can tour the set, see where famous scenes were filmed, stay overnight at the Green Dragon Inn, eat at The Shire’s Rest café, and even hold a wedding! Hobbiton is found in the town of Matamata, which is two hours south of the capital Auckland. If you are making the long trip all the way to New Zealand, you can visit a lot of other LOTR film locations, including the incredible snow-capped Mt. Sunday, Waitomo Caves, and the Volcanic Ruapehu.
This cult film, considered one of the best movies ever made, is an amazing saga of the growth of a mafia family, with Don Corleone as the head, and a reluctant son, Al Pacino, who must decide which direction his life will take. While the bulk of The Godfather was shot on location in New York, the producers did indeed film in Sicily, mostly in the small, quiet coastal town of Savoca. Hardcore fans who visit make the pilgrimage to Savoca can visit locations from the movie, such as Bar Vitelli where Michael asks for Señor Vitelli’s daughter’s hand in marriage, the sweet little church where Michael and Apollonia marry, and the Piazza Fossia. There are many ‘Godfather Tours’ you can join, where private guides will show you not only these film locations, but also give you an insight into the history of the Sicilian mafia, and ply you with Sicilian wine and food.
No list of famous film locations would be complete without the Harry Potter series, and London is everything you’d hope it to be: full of old world charm, architecturally beautiful, and the perfect setting for a movie about witches and wizards in training. While a lot of the scenes were filmed in the huge Warner Bros. Studio in Hertfordshire, the most famous ones include King’s Cross Station with the infamous Platform 9¾, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, and Leadenhall Market, where beautiful classical buildings transported movie goers to another world. Those who want to see the ‘real’ Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will have to venture out of London to other somewhat nearby towns and cities. On the top of the list should be the stunning Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. Gloucester Cathedral also served for the exterior shots of the school, as well as Christ Church College, and Duke Humfrey’s Library in Oxford.
Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, filmed almost entirely on location, features Owen Wilson as a struggling writer who accompanies his fiancée, Rachel McAdams, on a business trip with her parents to France. In this film, every night at midnight Wilson is transported back to Paris in the 1920s, where he finds true inspiration, and true love. With the top sites beautifully showcased, including the Church of Saint Etienne du Mont, the Cathedral de Notre Dame, the bridge at Pont Neuf, the Arc de Triomph and many more, this movie is as much about Paris itself as it is about the actors. Many people have sought out the exact stone steps where Wilson sits down to wait for the magic ride back to the 1920s. Then there are the gardens, the cafes, the markets, and the cobble stoned streets that make the city such a charming place.
In Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the seemingly abandoned stone temples with statues and walkways slowly being entombed by banyan roots looks like a movie set, but it is one of the most famous historical sites in all South East Asia. The filming of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider helped propel the city of Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located, into the spotlight, making it a top backpacker destination. Angkor Wat is a massive temple complex, with many different areas to explore. Guidebooks recommend spending at least two full days exploring this World Heritage Site, but if you only have one day, you can still see the exact spots where the filmmakers got such stunning scenery. Most of the shots of Angelina Jolie were taken at Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple, with those iconic smiling faces carved into the rocks.
While this movie was acclaimed for having some of the most incredible CGI ever known in the industry, the scenery for the movie was indeed inspired by real places – primarily in China. Zhangjiajie is a National Forest Park in Hunan Province, known for its unbelievable sandstone quartz pillars that can stand more than 600 feet high, giving the impression that the mountains are floating. Ever since the movie was released, tourists have been flocking to Zhangjiajie to see the real-life scenery that inspired James Cameron and the movie’s designers to create the fantastical world of Pandora. Zhangjiajie is a massive national park and takes many days to peruse the hiking trails in this area. With the new influx of tourists, many walkways have been built, including the insane glass walkway, which is known as the Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, and stands 4,600 feet above the ground
In the latest Star Trek installation, the crew of the USS Enterprise find themselves stranded on a distant planet when their ship is destroyed by an alien army. And what better place to shoot a futuristic space frontier than at one of the newest cities on the planet? Dubai is an ultra-modern metropolis built literally out of the sand in a few short decades, in the United Arab Emirates, and an emerging tourist destination. Those wanting to see the city through the eyes of the producers should stay at the Ritz Carlton by the Dubai International Finance Center, where a lot of the Dubai scenes were filmed. But there is a lot more to see in Dubai than just skyscrapers – be sure to take a leisurely camel ride on a desert safari and have dinner on the dunes, visit the many gold and spice souks, and ride an abra across Dubai Creek. Dubai is one of those cities you must see once in your life.
Italy, and Rome in particular, has long been a popular film location, as producers are drawn to its ancient history and amazing architecture This movie is like a treasure map for history buffs and travel aficionados, with dozens of incredible places that tourists can easily find. After the huge success of The Da Vinci Code, Tom Hanks returned as Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist trying to prevent an attack against The Vatican. Rome’s oldest and most famous sites receive all of the attention they deserve, including the Pantheon, the Sistene Chapel, St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and the stunning Castel St. Angelo, to name just a few. Many tour guides have capitalized on the movie’s success, and now offer ‘Dan Brown Tours’ to walk in the footsteps of the book. Who needs CGI when you have got ‘The Eternal City’ to work with?
This film, set in the 18th century, stars Jeremy Irons as Spanish Jesuit priest on a mission in South America, who is joined by Robert De Niro, a reformed slave hunter, to try to prevent a remote native tribe from being enslaved by the Portuguese. The waterfall scenes from this chilling tale of colonialism put a natural wonder known as Iguazu Falls on the map. Located on the borders of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls is the largest natural waterfall system in the world and is said to put Niagara Falls to shame. Iguazu Falls was also used as a location for films such as Captain America: Civil War, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Mr. Magoo. But most recently, you may have seen it in box office smash hit Black Panther, which used aerial footage of Iguazu Falls to create the CGI waterfall scene in mythical Wakanda.
The glittering skyscrapers and dense urban jungle of Hong Kong have long attracted producers and location scouts who are charmed by its futuristic yet old-world scenery. In The Dark Knight, Christian Bale as Batman continues to struggle against The Joker, magnificently played by Heath Ledger, who so sadly died shortly after. Although most of the movie is filmed in the US, Hong Kong stole the show as an amazing film location. Audiences were thrilled with the vertigo-inspiring scene where Christian Bale leaps from the International Finance Center, the city’s second tallest tower. The city’s iconic Victoria Harbor and the busy streets of Central served as a great backdrop in the movie, and some of the filming also took place in local markets and crowded streets, much to the surprise of the locals who ran into Morgan Freeman during their morning commute on the Mid-Levels Escalator.