When we think about the films that we love the most, we always imagine that they are set in places too far to reach or even non-existent. Well, a great number of the most famous sets were installed and scenes shot in destinations “easily” (with sometimes a conspicuous investment in plane tickets) reachable and that have developed in some cases a true business thanks to the guided tours for fans. It does not matter how many years have passed from shooting and from the release date, the one thing that will always stick in the spectators’ mind is the setting: it plays a fundamental role in obtaining the success of a film, and this is also demonstrated by the fact that some famous locations have become real tourist destinations.
THE BEAUTY OF ROME
The Great Beauty
Oscar for Best Foreign Film, “The Great Beauty” by Sorrentino was shot in all those palaces, terraces, gardens of a decadent Rome, unable to be surprised and always beautiful. The director has succeeded in exalting the value of the Italian capital city, through a narration that is never too mushy. On the contrary, sometimes it is pretty undervalued. If there exist a “naturally” cinematographic city, that one is Rome.
La Dolce Vita
“La Dolce Vita” is a powerful and profound work by the great director Federico Fellini. The film follows a series of events in the life of a journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) who explore his dissatisfaction in his work and his loves. The director combined constructed sets with location shots, depending on script requirements: the great Rome is the astonishing background, and the Fontana di Trevi is the most emblematic symbol of this film and of the city itself.
Pride and Prejudice
Burghley House, UK
One of the most prominent sets in the film is the Rosings Park, which became Burghley House, the palatial home of a formidable and opulent Lady Catherine de Bourg. The scenes featuring the Rosings Park was actually filmed in the Burghley House, a grand country house which stands near the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, England. It is actually one of the largest and grandest houses of the Elizabethan Era.
Haddon Hall (Thornfield Hall)
Haddon Hall is a fortified medieval manor house built in the 12th century, and it has been one of the locations used for “Jane Eyre” (2011). It has been described as the most complete and most interesting house of its period and it is one of the seats of the Duke of Rutland.
The iconic and beautiful streets of Bath have been chosen as the backdrop for many television shows and movies. Famous for cobbled streets, golden Bath stone, Georgian architecture and grand venues, Bath is a living film set waiting for the cameras to roll. Popular locations include the Ballroom at The Assembly Rooms, which features in “The Duchess”.
Christ Church College, Oxford.
The Christ Church in Oxford is the unforgettable and most recognizable set of the Harry Potter films: it gives life to the inimitable Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. From the Great Hall covered in wood, with its changing sealing and its cavernous atmosphere, to the spooky cloisters and quadrangles; from the ancient staircases to the overall magical location, the Christ Church makes the perfect setting for the adventures of young magicians.
Let’s not stop there, if we go up to Scotland we can leave the experience of the train to Hogwarts, with the steam train Jacobite to Mallaig.
Marriott Marquis Hotel, Atlanta.
The Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia is where you can immerse in the elegant and posh Tributes’ Quarters and Training Center from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”. The hotel was chosen because of its gigantic atrium (it seems to be the largest in the world!) and for the beautiful glass elevators. No need to say that you will be overwhelmed by the greatness of the place and you will have the feeling that somebody’s watching you…
DuPont State Forest
Welcome to the Arena! As you walk the trail toward Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest imagine a world where the ‘Capitol’ controls your every move. The filming at Triple Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest is the location of the lush forest, rivers and the trees shooting out fireball during the games. It is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Western North Carolina, including Triple Falls, High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Hooker Falls. Fans of “The Hunger Games” will flock to DuPont State Recreational Forest to see the lush forest and spectacular waterfall.
Hatley Castle, British Columbia, Canada.
The Hatley Castle was used as the exterior for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the “X-Men” movies. It first appeared in “Generation X”, a made-for-TV movie in 1996, but later it found its way into “X-Men”, “X2: X-Men United”, and “X-Men: The Last Stand” throughout the 2000s. Twentieth Century Fox also used Casa Loma in Toronto and Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario for exteriors, while movie sets on a soundstage in Los Angeles were used to shoot interiors.
Lord of the Rings
New Zealand, with its green and untouched landscapes, was the perfect scenery for the trilogy of The Lord Of The Rings, and subsequently of The Hobbit’s. A large number of locations from the background to the scenes of these masterpieces, to name a few: Matamata (in the north of the island), with its lush hills, was if it was just created for the serene and peaceful County; the ancient village, built to shoot The Lord Of The Rings, was reassembled for The Hobbit and, by the end of the filming, it has remained one of the main attractions of the place for tourists and fans. Nelson (in the south) is the homeland to the 40 different rings, it is the place in which they were forged; in order to remind it to visitors, it was thought to expose one of the original rings, and to sell copies of it in 9 or 18 carats.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Saint Vincent (Caribbean)
Wallilabou Anchorage, in St. Vincent, was the main set for the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean and it was up to a short time ago, since they were shooting the fifth episode of the saga. The hotel on the spot has hosted the actors during the shooting of the film, and precisely for this reason, it has now become one of the places of holiday most people seek after in the Caribbean. In addition to the normal services that a hotel proposes, this also hosts a museum dedicated to the events and to the protagonists of the movies. Beyond this structure, there are many natural places to visit if you want to relive the principal moments of the adventures of Jack Sparrow and all others: Wallilabou Bay will bring you back to the earliest scenes of the first chapter of the saga, The Curse of the Black Pearl; Petit Tabac is a coral island particularly exploited for various scenes such as the one in which Jack and Elizabeth were abandoned by Barbossa, and the other one which sees the same Elizabeth setting Captain Sparrow’s rum stocks on fire, in order to send an SOS a sign. We cannot, of course, omit the beauty and the uncontaminated spaces typical of the Caribbean, which fortunately still remain almost untouched in spite of the success that has brought them the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Sidi Driss Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia
If you believe you are a true and hardcore fan of “Star Wars” you cannot resist to go and visit this underground hotel in Tunisia: an amazing experience in the location of Luke Skywalker’s subterranean home in the original installment (1977) of the series.
Stanley Hotel (Colorado)
Always talking about hotels, frightful details are told about what was the inspiration of Stephen King for his Shining; the writer, together with his wife, spent the night in a desolate and disquieting hotel at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado: during the night he had a nightmare about his son chased along the corridors of the hotel by a strange presence and this experience gave him the kick-start to write the famous horror story. In the film adaptation by Kubrick, it is precisely the Stanley Hotel the fulcrum around which rotates the narration: the structure is still active today, the famous room where King slept (number 207 in reality and in the novel, which became the number 237 in the film) is among the most requested by guests, in fact, it is necessary to book in advance if you aspire to a distressing experience likewise that of King/Kubrick. After Shining, even Dumb and Dumber passed from Stanley Hotel, and Jim Carrey expressly asked to occupy the room 207, but he changed it after only a few hours: we do not know what happened and why the actor changed his mind, the fact is that already before the story experienced by King and Carrey rumors had it that the hotel was infested by ghosts and it was the theater of paranormal phenomena.
Orange Grove Avenue, Hollywood, CA
The most famous block in horror history is in Hollywood, in Orange Grove Avenue, just north of Sunset Boulevard. That’s where John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, and Nancy Loomis went to shoot “Halloween”, and the houses where they had their night of terror still stand there, at disposal of the most fanatic fans. The Doyle house, where Laurie Strode was babysitting, sits at 1530, and the Wallace house (where Annie was babysitting) is right across the way at 1537. If you can’t get enough of horror sets, here’s another one just behind the corner: just a couple of blocks away, in the 1400 block of North Genesse Avenue, you’ll find the houses where Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp’s characters lived in the original ”Nightmare on Elm Street”.
The world’s most infamous shark that scared so many innocents lives beneath the stunning turquoise waters of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, an affluent summer colony accessible by boat and air only. Local residents were picked by director Steven Spielberg to moonlight as extras in the film, including Chief Brody’s two young sons.
Hermosa Beach Community Centre, Hermosa Beach, CA
Here’s why it’s worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood of this community center: this is where Brian De Palma shot much of his horror classic ”Carrie”, from the novel by Stephen King. It had just closed its doors as the Pier Avenue Junior High when De Palma and crew took it over, shooting all of the high school scenes there, including the locker room opening and the school dance climax.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gorlitzer Warenhaus Department Store, Germany.
The department store Görlitzer Warenhaus in Germany was used for the atrium lobby of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. The store was scheduled for demolition, but fortunately, the production saved it: it was the perfect setting for the convoluted movie. Every detail inspired the production; columns, staircases, all original and right there at their disposal. The rest of the setting was built. The department store has been under renovation to rescue it, however, it has not found a solution yet.
Café des 2 Moulins, Paris
The Café des 2 Moulins is a café-brasserie in the Pigalle district in Paris, which became famous thanks to the movie “Amélie” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The place takes its name from the likewise renowned Moulin Rouge, just a few minutes by. Before starting shooting the movie, the café was closing, but Jeunet gave it another chance: he asked the permission to use it as one of the settings of his film. Later on, after the “Amélie” was released in the cinemas, the café recovered its operating speed; today, the place collects a huge number of images, photos and symbols about the movie.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Andalusian city of Almería and its nearby Desert of Tabernas have been the backdrop for dozens of famous films, including several iconic Spaghetti Westerns by Italian director Sergio Leone. Are you a fan of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”? This stark, beautiful region of southern Spain will be instantly recognizable. You can visit the beaches near the airport, which passed for sand dunes in the days of cowboy films; take the Sorbas/Murcia exit on the freeway and you’ll find yourself at the gates of Mini-Hollywood: the movie location is so famous that it appears in atlases and on road maps.
The Sound of Music
The Austrian city of Salzburg is famously beautiful. The towering mountains and fairytale castle above a bustling old town mean this city a must-visit in its own right. But add to its credentials that it was the location for one of the world’s most popular and influential musicals, and you’ve got a truly captivating city to explore. “The Sound of Music” references and locations are hard to miss. The best way to explore them all is by organized tour.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague has an impressively long list of film location credentials. Hollywood have been combining the magic of the city’s architecture with a wide range of intriguing plots for many years: Prague offers mystery but also romanticism, thanks to its multiplicity of districts and environments. The most famous classic movie filmed in Prague is the 1984 release “Amadeus”, which used several familiar outdoor locations.
Skiathos and Skopelos islands, Greece
The extravagant musical movie “Mamma Mia” stars some of Hollywood’s biggest names. It drew large crowds to Greece, especially to the stunning island of Skiathos. There you’ll find familiar tavernas, beautiful sandy beaches, and glorious sunshine that will make you fall in love with this spectacular island – and the film – all over again.
Lawrence of Arabia
For many of the Middle Eastern settings, David Lean, the director of “Lawrence of Arabia” used the heavily Moorish city of Seville, particularly the vast complex of buildings in the Parque de Maria Luisa, Avenida de Isabel la Catolica. Here you can find the Cairo officers’ club which is the, currently empty and rather dilapidated, Palacio Español, a semi-circular arcaded building in the Plaza de España. Jerusalem’s civic buildings’ are the Plaza of the Americas just to the south, while Damascus town hall, the Arab council chamber, is the nearby circular El Casino, Avenida de Maria Luisa. Every street you take, every building you see will remind you of the exotic setting of Arabia.
SET TO SET
The lighthouse at Marshall Point, Maine
Sited on a rocky point of land, Marshall Point Lighthouse is located near the fishing village of Port Clyde, Maine. Having a look at the surrounding landscape the first thing that comes to mind is… “to start running“! The lighthouse, in fact, witnessed the most famous run in the movie history: this is one of the locations of the movie “Forrest Gump,” where Tom Hanks reached the other Ocean.
Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia
If you are in the mood for a break, let’s rest at the Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia, where the bench on which Forrest waited for the bus and told his story was set.
United Methodist Church, LaVerne, California
The final scenes of “The Graduate” are incredibly enduring: when Dustin Hoffman banged on the second-floor window of the United Methodist Church, he earned his spot – and the movie’s – in film history. A touching scene we would like to watch over and over again, in a place that hosts today a devoted community.
Firehouse in Tribeca, New York City
The “Ghostbusters”’s headquarters finds their place in Tribeca, New York City, the home of Hook & Ladder Company 8, which is a fully working and operational New York Fire Department firehouse that you can actually visit. The somewhat spooky location has been the set of the adventures of the most famous three oddball parapsychologists in the world of the cinema.
The Big Lebowski and There Will Be Blood
Greystone Mansion, Los Angeles
This Los Angeles estate was constructed in 1928 for Edward Doheny, son of an oil tycoon. The property was purchased in 1965 by the city and is now a park and historic place. The grounds are open to the public, and the mansion itself can be toured. Long an iconic location for motion picture and television shoots, Greystone has been featured in dozens of films: for example, it has been used for interior scenes of “The Big Lebowski” mansion and it was the Greystone manor bowling alley that was seen in the predictably bloody end to 2007’s “There Will Be Blood“.
Rebel Without a Cause and La la land
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
The Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, is located on the southern side of Mount Hollywood: an astonishing view awaits those who climb the mountain and reach the Observatory. This is the right place to go if you want to take in with one glance the entire Los Angeles and the Ocean. But this is the right place for movie lovers too: the influential school trip and explosive final shootout of “Rebel Without a Cause” takes place at the Griffith Observatory, where a bust of James Dean has been erected on the building’s grounds. Of course, we cannot forget one of the last Oscar winners: the director of “La La Land”, Damien Chazelle, gave a romantic and dancing new face to the otherwise bare Observatory usually overcrowded with tourists.
Bluejohn Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
If you feel like embarking on a new adventure, don’t forget to tell someone where you are planning to go. The true story of Aron Ralston teaches you that. He was trapped by the arm for more than five days in 2003 in Bluejohn Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, a beautiful place but still dangerous and not suited for the inexperienced. The movie by Danny Boyle was filmed at the real location with an incredible solo performance by James Franco.
When Harry met Sally
Katz’s Delicatessen, New York City.
If you want to head downtown for a sandwich and good company, your best place is Katz’s. Not only are the sandwiches irresistible, but this is where Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, and Meg Ryan shot the classic faked orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally”. You can re-experience the unforgettable scene at their table, which is helpfully marked with a sign: of course, you can have what’s she’s having!
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.
When you thinks about the Museum of Art you imagine a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures and other works of art. But when you stand in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art you only have one word in your mind: “Rocky.” The steps that lead to the Museum became really famous because of the movie, where the protagonist runs up them giving his spectators the absolute sensation of power and domination.
When talking about Jurassic Park it is impossible not to recall immediately Isla Nublar, the dangerous and disturbing island from the invented name but that, in reality, is located in Hawaii. Kauai is its real name, and in 1992, during the shooting of the film, a terrible storm, fell on it, a storm that had not been seen for years in those locations. The set was practically razed to the ground, but this did not stop the production; the cast witnessed that Richard Attenborough (who in the movie interprets the millionaire John Hammond) was able to sleep while the hurricane raged on the island. It currently exists an organization focused on Isla Nublar that makes it a tourist destination for the lovers of the film: from the special flights to the island to the booking of a mini-cruise or the helicopter tour over the location. As stated by the same Attenborough in a scene of the film, the journey to get to Jurassic Park does not last long, a couple of hours at the most, but the place will remain impressed in the memory forever.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco
Ait Ben Haddou was built as a fortified city along the road from Sahara desert to the city of Marrakech. Nowadays it has become a World Heritage Site, and a few people still live there. The breath-taking location has also been the set for one of the most famous movie ever: “The Gladiator”. It’s a heady and emotional Oscar-winning film, made all the more potent by its surroundings, from the dank forests of “Germania” (near Farnham, Surrey) to the scorched African town of Ait Ben Haddou where Maximus (Russel Crowe) is sold into slavery.
This location was no stranger to the movie industry, as matter of fact, many other films were shot here, such as Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, The Jewel of the Nile, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mummy, Alexander and so on.
Out of Africa
The goldened savannah view is instantly recognizable. Kenya and more precisely the Maasai Mara, known as the Mara Triangle, is where some of the most famous scenes in “Out of Africa” were filmed. The safaris, Finch Hatton’s biplane, and the epic scenery captured the imagination of cinema audiences all over the world and presented Kenya as a destination in a way that no holiday brochure ever could.
For cinema lovers, the only real difficulty is: “From where do I start?”, which of these places to visit first, and what kind of atmosphere you want to breathe. Horror or adventurous, passing then to the romantic one, here there is some inspirations for all tastes!