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 of your favorite movies, whether based on fictional realities or not, were filmed in remote locations around the world, which are definitely bucket list worthy travel destinations. Follow along as we list 20 must-see film locations around the world.
1. New Zealand, Lord of the Rings
Since the Lord of the Rings was filmed over many years in New Zealand, the country has seen a massive boost in tourism. People from around the world have oohed and aahed over some of New Zealand’s most beautiful backdrops chosen for the movie’s thousands of scenes. Hobbiton was set in the undulating Matamata hills, where Frodo and Bilbo’s homes were set on a backdrop of flowers and crops planted by movie staff a whole year before production began. Mount Doom and Mordor were filmed in Tongariro National Park within the dark volcanic area of Mount Ruapehu. Gollum chose the ring’s hiding spot to be The Misty Mountains–the set for this was the glaciers of South Island and The Southern Alps. In the iconic movie, Middle Earth has moved millions, many who have already traveled to explore these beautiful movie locations.
2. Thailand, The Beach
Alex Garland, the main character in Danny Boyle’s novel The Beach, found paradise in Hat Maya, Phi Phi Leh Island’s main beach. While Thailand was been on the backpacker’s beaten path for decades, it reached iconic fame following the major success of the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Though the island itself is truly breathtaking, it’s not exactly the same as it was portrayed in the movie. During post-production, film makers added the backdrop of mountains digitally. There was some controversy when it became public that the beach on Phi Phi Leh was bulldozed by crew to make it appear more like paradise. Following the 2004 tsunami in Thailand however, the beach returned to its natural state and looks very similar to the original setting. Anyone visiting today will see Phi Phi Leh in all its beauty, a small, rugged and gorgeous island protected by towering cliffs on all sides.
3. Canada, Alive
The movie Alive was based on the true story of a group of Uruguayan rugby players who, in 1972, were involved in a plane crash in the Andes. The story focused on the survival of 16 players who survived a terrible fate by eating those who perished during and after the crash. It was Disney Studio’s Jeffery Katzenburg who green-lit the process. The $25 million movie was filmed in the Purcell Mountains, a landscape reminiscent of the site of the original crash in South America. Filmed over four months in the mountain location 10,000 feet above sea level, the directors have said it was the most challenging movie they ever made. The Purcell Mountains are in the southeast region of British Columbia, Canada and are well known for excellent skiing and snow boarding at Panorama Ski Resort. The only two mountain lodges are fly-in access only and offer some of the most scenic backcountry adventures in the province.
4. Philippines, Apocalypse Now
Exotic North Luzon is an area in the Philippines used as the set for the cult hit Apocalypse Now, inspired by the book Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad and brought to life in 1979 by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola. Intrepid explorers flock there for white sand beaches, aquamarine water, and extreme diversity. Lush jungle backdrops, pristine landscapes on far-flung islands, and very few visitors are what you’ll find. Cordilla’s verdant rice terraces, trekking through wild terrain, rafting, and caving are top activities in Luzon. Baler Bay, a location used in the movie, has become one of the Philippines’ most visited surfing beaches. Originally, the west coast of Luzon was to be used as the main movie set, but after almost total destruction by Hurricane Olga, Pagsanjan, the location of famous Pagsanjan Falls, became the new one; in the movie, this is where the character Kurtz’s iconic compound was built along with Do Long Bridge.
5. Kauai, Hawaii, Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is a story well known by anyone who is a movie fanatic and enjoys a great story exploring the “what if’s” of life. Filmed partially in Kauai, Hawaii, Jurassic Park explores what types of issues and successes would arise if dinosaurs co-existed with humans in a controlled environment. Manawaiopuna Falls is otherwise known as Jurassic Falls, located near the jaw dropping Na Pali Coast. Helicopter rides are available to land on the very secluded and private falls so guests can explore and take photos. Kauai is the most private island in Hawaii with 80% of the land being uninhabited by humans. With a humid climate and lush rainforests, it is an incredible tropical paradise that will make you feel like a dinosaur is waiting around the corner to greet you. The Na Pali Coast cliffs are geometric and jagged, making this island look prehistoric and mysterious.
6. South America, Motorcycle Diaries
Gael Garcia Bernal is the star of the movie Motorcycle Diaries, a story about the young and ambitious Che Guavara, who embarked on a South American motorcycle journey where he bore witness to the social inequalities of the country–it was this experience that fed his revolutionary devotion. Guevara’s journey began in Buenos Aires, went west on to Argentina, passed through Patagonia, and continued onward through Chile alongside the Andes Mountains to Machu Picchu and finally Venezuela’s Guajira Peninsula. The movie mostly stayed true to Che’s route, filming in the locations through which he traveled. Shoots included gorgeous scenes in Argentina’s Lake District, the revered Inca village Ollantaytambo in Peru, and the ruins of Machu Picchu. The film was shot in sequence, and followed the journey impeccably to keep the film as authentic as possible. Anyone planning South American adventure should definitely watch Motorcycle Diaries.
7. Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Tunisia, Star Wars
This cult movie classic Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia at this quaint hotel located in Matamatat-Al-Qadimal. The hotel is named Sidi el Driss Hotel and as described from travellers, it is the most basic version of a hotel you can get. With public washrooms and small beds, this hotel is definitely geared towards Star Wars fanatics who are willing to rough it for a memorable experience.
8. New York City, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
An old school movie that is completely timeless and makes you want to stroll the streets of NYC looking fabulous. We have tracked down the address of Holly Golightly’s apartment which still looks as if Holly is about to come out the front door herself. At 169 East 71st street, East Side, New York City, you can photograph one of the most famous locations in all of New York and reminisce of all the classic sophistication that was Audrey Hepburn. Don’t forget to stop by Tiffany and Co. on Fifth Avenue to admire the lovely jewels that Holly once loved.
9. Damouchari, Greece, Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia is a film about a mother preparing for her daughters upcoming wedding, while at the same time, the daughter invites three men to stay at the hotel to figure out which one is her biological father. It was filmed on a small island in Greece where there is a small fishing town and clear aquamarine water. You can visit this location and relive the moments of singing and dancing on the beach. Mamma Mia was also filmed on the island of Skopelos, which is now a huge tourist destination. Mamma Mia lovers have found Skopelos to be disappointing as many of the movie landmarks do not look anything like they do in the movie. Damouchari is much less touristy and has plenty of scenic views to offer that will satisfy any photographer’s camera.
10. South Carolina, The Notebook
The Notebook is known to be one of the most classic love story movies of all time. In it, Noah promises his love, Ali, that one day he will fix up an abandoned Mansion to suit her requests, which are a white mansion with blue shutters. The mansion becomes a symbol of his love throughout the movie and guides Ali back to where she fell in love with Noah. This movie was filmed in whimsical South Carolina where big trees, moss and palm trees grow in beautiful groves along the road. Have you ever wanted to visit the exact location where the mansion that Noah renovated for Ali actually is located? Or how about the home Noah grew up in, where they had a dance party on the front porch? The mansion is located on Wadmalaw Island in Martin’s Point Plantation. Noah’s childhood home is located in Edisto Beach, also in South Carolina and can be visited as well.
11. Martha’s Vineyard, Jaws
A horror movie classic, Jaws was filmed in the peaceful and classy location of Martha’s Vineyard. Despite the peaceful pier lined with boats waiting to explore the ocean, a rubber shark with the never changing “I’m going to eat you alive” facial expression was dragged through these waters. The irony of the sophisticated location mixed with the simultaneous creation of one of the most terrifying movies in history is enough reason to visit Martha’s Vineyard and take a dip in the water where the possibility of a shark attack feels all the more real.
12. Glen Coe, Lochaber, Scottish Highlands, James Bond Skyfall
In the 2012 James Bond Film, Skyfall, Bond revisits his childhood home after years of avoiding it. He pulls off to the side of the road to come to terms with arriving home again, then proceeds to finish his excursion to the home he grew up in. Harry Potter was also filmed at Glen Coe, which is considered the most romantic location in the Scottish Highlands. The home that Bond grew up in was designed and built specifically for the Bond movie and still stands today in England, protected by the British Ministry of Defence.
13. County Meath, Ireland, Braveheart
Located in the quaint town of Trim, Trim Castle was built in the 12th century and was the featured location for a variety of Braveheart scenes. It is more affordable to film in Ireland than Scotland at times so the crew opted for this incredible castle instead of an actual Scottish one. You can visit the grounds of Trim and go for a tour through the entire castle. Stay at the classy Trim Castle Hotel located directly across the road, and stroll down the streets of this tiny and beautiful village.
14. Alberta, Canada, The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film The Revenant was filmed in one shot per scene for just a few hours each day. It was actually more like a live performance than a movie. The locations where The Revenant were filmed were Kananaskis County, Castle Rock, Bow Valley, Drumheller and Dead Mans Flats. You can visit each of these locations both by staying in a hotel or roughing it in a tent for a few nights to experience the gorgeous nature in which this film was shot. It’s much more enjoyable in the warmth of the summer, but the winters provided beautiful photography opportunities as well.
15. Savoca, Italy, The Godfather
Visit the breath-taking location where The God Father was filmed. Savoca is a tiny village just 8 km long with less than 2000 people living there. It’s buildings and surroundings truly look like they came straight out of an Italian Travel Guide. The vibrant blue sky and historic buildings will envelope you in beauty, and have you feeling like you’re actually in The Godfather movie.
16. Petra, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Pretend you are on an important mission like Indiana Jones and check out this incredible movie location. Petra, Jordan is known for it’s stunning architecture that is carved deep into surrounding red cliffs. The ancient city is still bustling with locals and tourists alike, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can choose to go for a camel ride.
17. Chicago, Divergent
Divergent takes place in a post-apocalyptic city that functions very differently than what we are experiencing today in North America. As such, the downtown core of Chicago was digitally edited to look like Chicago many, many years into the future. It was an scary reminder to take care of each other and our surroundings. You are able to walk down the streets where Divergent was filmed, but it will look much more polished and busy. Don’t forget to try some deep dish pizza and check out the Navy Pier just blocks away from this famous movie location.
18. Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris, France, Inception
We could try to explain what scene takes place in this location, but then we would have to explain the premise of the movie. And then that means we would have to understand the movie. So we will stick with the facts – you can visit this location and take some incredible pictures that are reminiscent of the scenes in Inception. It is a scenic, but high activity bridge that highlights the artistry that went into the building of Paris. If you figure out what Inception is about and can explain it in ten sentences or less, please let us know.
19. Monuriki, Fiji, Castaway
While some movies are filmed on locations that don’t necessarily line up with the situations presented in the movies, Castaway was extremely accurate. The island on which they filmed this legendary movie, is actually uninhabited and can only be visited for day trips. You can stay at the jaw dropping Likuliku Lagoon Resort on a nearby island, but it will cost you a pretty penny each night you are there (rooms start at over $900 USD per night). When you visit Monuriki, you can take photos with the “HELP ME” letters shaped with coconuts from the movie. This is one incredible adventure of a lifetime that you don’t want to miss, so start saving now!
20. ZhangJiaJie National Forest, China, Avatar
Yes this a real place that you can visit and hike in. How incredible is this! It was this location that truly inspired the realm of Avatar and set the tone for the whole movie. There is a natural bridge of stone 82 feet above the ground that the locals called the Number One Bridge Under The Heavens and is the highest natural bridge in the world. Tourists are known for attaching padlocks to the railways near the arch and throwing the key over the edge of the bridge.