As the 92nd Academy Awards approaches, have you ever wondered where your favorite award-winning movies were filmed? You may be surprised at what Hollywood hits weren’t filmed in a soundstage at all but were captured across the world’s most beautiful places. With the help of some movie magic and some striking locales, directors have transported us back into ancient times, turned cities into faraway planets, and made forests look like mystical lands. Here’s our top ten list for movies shot in spectacular destinations around the world.
10. Gladiator—Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
With exciting battle scenes set in ancient Rome, many shots from the epic Oscar-winning film, Gladiator, were filmed in Morocco. Its scenes of slavery, desert travel, and gladiatorial training were filmed in the city of Ouarzazate and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Aït Benhaddou. The magnificent mud and brick structures of this fortified village are a stunning example of Moroccan architecture and made for an ideal setting to depict ancient Roman times. Aït Benhaddou has also been a notable backdrop for many other films and television shows including The Mummy, Alexander, and Game of Thrones.
Explore Aït Benhaddou during…
Morocco Sahara Odyssey—16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
9. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi—Dubrovnik, Croatia
The Star Wars series is known for having many unique filming locations across the world, such as Tunisia, Ireland, and Norway, and in the 2017 series installment, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, filming took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dubrovnik’s terra cotta roofs, marble streets, and baroque buildings play the role of Canto Bight, a fictional casino city for the galaxy’s gamblers and ultra-rich. Nominated for four Academy Awards, the Star Wars film has since brought many visitors to Dubrovnik, which also served as a set for Game of Thrones.
Explore Dubrovnik during…
Enhanced! Crossroads of the Adriatic: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia—18-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
Cruising the Adriatic: Croatia & Montenegro—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece—16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
8. Out of Africa—Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya’s Serengeti landscape, romantic sunset skies, and majestic wild animals were famously brought to the big screen in the 1985 film, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Based loosely on the real-life story of Danish writer Karen Blixen, the plot follows the story of her life on her farm in the Ngong Hills of Kenya. In her memoir of the same name, she wrote about her experiences there and her fondness for the Kikuyu people, one of Kenya’s major ethnic groups. The iconic film was shot entirely in Kenya, including in Nairobi and the Masai Mara National Reserve. In the same year that it won for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Blixen’s former home was converted into a national museum by the country of Kenya which is open to this day in Nairobi.
Explore Nairobi and the Karen Blixen Museum during…
Out of Africa: Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya & Tanzania—34-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
7. The Last Emperor—The Forbidden City, China
Before the 1987 epic film The Last Emperor, no western feature film had ever been shot within China’s imperial palace complex known as the Forbidden City. But that changed when director Bernardo Bertolucci used the opulence and visual splendor of the Forbidden City to tell the story of Puyi, the last imperial ruler of China. Regarded as a masterpiece of architectural and landscape design, the Forbidden City was the optimal place for capturing Puyi’s life on the throne. As the home of China’s emperors for almost 500 years and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there was truly no better place to film.
Explore the Forbidden City during…
Enhanced! Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River—22-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
China & the Yangtze River—21-day Grand Circle Travel Tour
6. Braveheart—Stirling, Scotland
Dramatic battle sequences, a romantic musical score, and the lush greenery of Scotland’s highlands made Braveheart an instant classic film in 1995. Starring Mel Gibson, the film is based on the life of Sir William Wallace who led the Scots in opposition against the British in the 13th century. In the town of Stirling, the movie’s reenactment of the Battle of Stirling Bridge—the most notable victory for Wallace and his army—was filmed. Today, the Wallace Monument overlooks Stirling and commemorates the heroics of William Wallace, as depicted in the film.
Explore Scotland during…
New! Scotland’s Legends & Lochs: From Glasgow to Edinburgh—15-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
5. Argo—Istanbul, Turkey
This noteworthy film may be set in Tehran, Iran during 1979, but with the help of some movie magic, the production turned Istanbul, Turkey into Iran. Starring and directed by Ben Affleck, Argo is based on the rescue mission of six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis, but since filming in Iran would be difficult, filmmakers chose the colorful bazaars of Istanbul to replicate those of Tehran. Some scenes were even filmed in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, the oldest and one of the largest covered markets in the world still in use today.
Explore Istanbul during...
New! Turkey’s Magical Hideaways—17-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
The Aegean Islands, Athens & Istanbul—16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
New! Turkish Coastal Voyage: Greek Islands, Istanbul & Athens—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
4. The Revenant—Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
The rugged wilderness of the Dakotas in 1823 comes to life on the big screen in The Revenant—an Oscar-winning drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio. While the film takes place in the unspoiled land of the western United States, it was mostly filmed in Canada and Tierra del Fuego, South America’s southernmost tip. Filming wasn’t originally intended to take place in Argentina at all, but after warm winds caused a sudden melting of snow in Alberta, the production had no choice but to relocate to Argentina, with the film’s final scenes being shot on this icy archipelago.
Explore Tierra del Fuego during…
The Wilderness Beyond: Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & the Chilean Fjords—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
Antarctica’s White Wilderness—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
New! Antarctic Circle Expedition: Journey through Antarctica—17-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
3. The Godfather—Savoca, Sicily
The namesake of one of film’s most famous families, the Corleone family of The Godfather, comes from a small town in Sicily but the filming of this iconic movie took place in other villages on the island. When choosing set locations, director Francis Ford Coppola thought the town of Corleone was too developed and instead chose the rustic village of Savoca and the fortress town of Forza d’Agro for production. At a church in Savoca, the scene where Michael Corleone is married takes place and in Forza d’Agro a young Vito Corleone hid from his pursuers in the piazza.
Explore Savoca during…
Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions—16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
New! Discover Sicily: Taomina to Palmermo—16-day Grand Circle Travel Tour
2. The Martian—Wadi Rum, Jordan
Also known as “the Valley of the Moon,” Wadi Rum in Jordan can certainly be described as “other-worldly” with its red dunes, red-ochre sandstone mesas, and granite cliffs. Hollywood thought so, too, and used the sweeping desert landscape as the set for the movie The Martian, which takes place on planet Mars. Wadi Rum was also the backdrop for the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia which tells the true story of British officer T.E. Lawrence. Other famous filming destinations in Jordan include the ancient city of Petra, which was used to shoot Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the live-action remake of Aladdin in 2019.
Explore Wadi Rum and Petra during…
Suez Canal Crossing: Israel, Egypt, Jordan & the Red Sea—18-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy—New Zealand
No other film is as connected with its filming location as The Lord of the Rings trilogy is with New Zealand. Filmed all across the country, New Zealand’s lush greenery, dense forests, and snow-capped mountains have become internationally known as “Middle Earth,” the mystical locale where the movies take place. The sheer beauty of New Zealand has certainly played into the success of the film series whose third installment, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, won all 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture.
Explore New Zealand during…
Enhanced! Pure New Zealand—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
New! A South Pacific Odyssey: Australia, the Outback & New Zealand—30-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
New Zealand: Natural Wonders North & South—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure