We love movies, and we love to travel (duh), so it makes perfect sense that we would travel to our favorite movie locations! While a trip to the Third Moon of Endor or to Hogwarts is easy, visiting the wreck of the Titanic, or the napalmed beach in Apocalypse Now, is pretty much impossible.
Because we can’t visit a few places where some of the greatest movies of all time were shot, we became curious and started to look around at where else we can’t visit. It came as no surprise that the Somalian coast was off limits, but when we learned that we will never be able to set foot in Buckingham Palace, where some of James Bond’s greatest films were made, we were shocked! Whether through natural conditions (like 3 miles under the ocean) or due to political turmoil (thanks a lot, pirates), there are quite a few film locations we can’t check out!
Thankfully there are way more iconic film locations we can visit. The X-Men all lived in Victoria, British Columbia, while The Shire is open for tourists to check out. Little did we know that we could head to New York City and play around in the fire station the Ghostbusters mortgaged in 1984! Our favorite spot had to be the bus bench in Savannah, Georgia, where Forrest Gump ate chocolates. It’s an actual bench that’s actually still there, and you can visit it safely.
Here are 10 iconic film locations we can visit (safely), and 10 we can’t visit, because, well, not safe!
20 20: Visit Christchurch College, Oxford
Harry Potter and his crew spent some time studying at this 500-year-old college, but they called it Hogwarts and instead of teaching philosophy, sciences and humanities, they taught magic. You’ve probably seen it give a cameo in many other movies, too. Aside from Harvard, it’s one of the most popular colleges to film in! The college is open to the public to visit, or even better, apply to study there and, if you’re accepted, you’ll walk away with a prestigious degree. At the least, you’ll be able to impress your friends with your broom-flying skills!
19 19: Can’t Visit The Amityville House, Amityville
There’s no way you’re going to ever get me to set foot inside the Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York. I’ve seen all the movies, and read the books, and watched the documentaries, and no thank you! This house was made famous in the 1977 film “The Amityville Horror”, but only because the events in the film are reported to have happened in real life! Ghost hunters, adventurers, and even Catholic priests refuse to go in, and it’s supposedly still haunted by some type of demon today! Besides, even if you wanted to visit it, you can’t. It was bought by private owners in 2010 and they stopped the public from bothering them by putting up a big fence.
18 18: Visit Hatley Castle in Victoria, BC
Doctor Xavier’s school for gifted mutants also doubles as a quaint tourist spot in Victoria, British Columbia. This city is called the “jewel in Canada’s crown”, and Hatley Castle is one of those reasons. This castle was originally built in Scotland, and then shipped brick-by-brick over to the Pacific coast of Canada and reassembled, just in time for the X-Men to move in. Every X-Men film in the franchise has had scenes shot here, which makes me think that the castle is probably actually the real lair of the X-Men. I mean, it doesn’t do anything. Why else is it there?
17 17: Can’t Visit The Titanic
You could try visiting The Titanic, in theory, although you won’t make it very far. It’s 12,800 feet below the ocean’s surface, 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. James Cameron spent nearly half of the budget for his iconic movie “Titanic” going down to film the wreck, and you’re not James Cameron. Unless you are, in which case I’m very honored that you’re reading this, and please, go ahead and visit The Titanic. The rest of us will wait up here where there is air and relatively comfortable pressure.
16 16: Visit Matamata, New Zealand
Nobody knew that The Shire in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was an actual place. Matamata is actually famous in New Zealand for its thoroughbred horse breeding! Who knew? Jackson leased a nearby horse farm and built Hobbiton complete with roads, water mills and all those adorable little Hobbit houses. Because Jackson had the houses built to have a neutral environmental impact, the New Zealand government has left The Shire exactly like it was in the movies, and you can visit the homes of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins the next time you’re in the area! Who knew?
15 15: Can’t Visit The Somalian Coast
Back in the good old days of the silver screen, they used to film quite a bit on the beautiful beaches of Somalia. The Lone Ranger, Ben-Hur, Patton, and other classic iconic films had scenes shot here. If you wanted to visit, you would basically never be heard from again. The country is barely stable after decades of brutal civil war and famine. Somali Pirates roam up and down the coast, looking for hostages they can ransom for cash. Bandits with Kalashnikovs will shoot first, rob later. The Lone Ranger isn’t here anymore to help you.
14 14: Visit Ladder Company 8 in New York City
When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, don’t just call the Ghostbusters, head down to the fire station they bought in the movie instead! Firehouse, hook and ladder company 8 is an actual functioning fire station that was leased to Ivan Reitman while it was undergoing renovations back in 1984. The station displays autographs from all four Ghostbuster actors, right next to a memorial to the firefighters the station lost on September 11, 2001. Although the station is often under renovation (it’s old), you can still visit when you’re in town!
13 13: Can’t Visit Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant, SC
James Cameron is obsessed with going underwater, this time it was to film his groundbreaking action-thriller “The Abyss”. He couldn’t actually get his actors to dive down to the bottom of the ocean, insurance and all, so instead he found an abandoned nuclear reactor in South Carolina, filled it with 7 million gallons of water, and built an entire movie set down there. You can’t actually go and visit the power plant as it’s closed to the public for security purposes, but until recently you could see Cameron’s “Deep Core” set in the middle of the reactor from Google Maps!
12 12: Visit The Bus Bench In Savannah, Georgia
“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates,” Forrest Gump tells the old lady sitting on the bench next to him, and then goes on to tell her his entire life story over the space of three hours. We’ve all had to sit next to someone like that and endure their conversation, and if you want to relive that experience, head to Savannah and go right to Chippewa Square in the historic downtown. You can easily spot the iconic bench, sit down, and start chatting to the thirty other people all doing the same thing as you about the meaning of Forrest Gump, and whether or not there really aren’t enough rocks.
11 11: Can’t Visit The Southern Philippines
If you love the smell of napalm in the morning, then you may actually enjoy these conflict-ridden islands in the southern Philippines. Otherwise, you shouldn’t visit the locations where Apocalypse Now was filmed in 1979. The famous helicopter assault was filmed here, as were all of the riverboat scenes. To film the final village where Marlon Brando is hanging out, Francis Ford Coppola had an entire jungle mountainside covered in fake dead bodies and huts. The only problem was that then, as today, the area is a hotbed of radical Islamic insurgents, and kidnappings and bombings are common, and the Philippines Army has been fighting a war here for decades. The horror. The horror.
10 10: Visit Timberline Lodge, Oregon
When you walk through the front doors of Timberline Lodge, be sure to yell “Heeere’s Johnny!” as loud as you can. The staff has NEVER heard that one before. If you want the full Shining experience, walk up and down the hallways while creepily growling “Red Rum. Red Rum”, because no tourist has ever thought of doing that. Large parts of The Shining were filmed in this luxurious mountain resort, and while a lot was filmed on a film set in Hollywood, the general idea is that the film took place here. One thing the staff probably haven’t seen before is someone riding around the hotel on a Big Wheel. I’m just saying.
9 9: Can’t Visit Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace has, on occasion, allowed filming here. Scenes from The Crown were shot here, and back in the Sixties and Seventies, a film crew took over the palace for the filming of 007 Die Another Day, Moonraker, and For Your Eyes Only. Since then the Palace has been shut to filming and to the public in general. To make sure of this, there are dudes in red coats and big bushy hats marching around outside the palace, carrying guns. Judging by the way they react to tourists who brazenly step over the yellow line, you’ll want to avoid trying to enter Buckingham Palace.
8 8: Visit Cathedral Grove, BC
You won’t see any Ewoks or Imperial Walkers on Vancouver Island, but you can see the tree where Lea’s speeder crashed in Return of the Jedi when you visit this Vancouver Island rainforest. West of Nanaimo is the world-famous Cathedral Grove, which stood in as the Third Moon of Endor (along with Jebediah Smith Redwoods in California). British Columbia’s west coast is a subtropical paradise, one of the only places in Canada that remains mostly snow-free all year, so visiting whenever you want is easy. Simply input your jump coordinates into the Falcon’s computer, tell Chewie to fly casual, and you’re off!
7 7: Can’t Visit Juarez, Mexico
“There it is. The beast!” So, says Donovan in Sicario as their vehicle nears this Mexican border city. Although a very new movie, its rave reviews, awards and general awesomeness has made it an instant classic among crime-movie fans. And the scenes depicting the cartel-controlled city of Juarez are fairly accurate. You won’t want to go here, where kidnappings, shootings, beheadings, and general gruesome mayhem reign supreme. The cartels and the Federalis often clash with heavy weapons, making it a war zone. People don’t live here because they want to.
6 6: Visit Petra, Jordan
Indiana Jones ends his famous trilogy by finding, and losing, the Holy Grail in this ancient city carved into a mountainside. Of course, Indiana “You Call Him Doctor” Jones ends up destroying Petra as he leaves, but in real life, you can still visit. Petra was part of an Arab kingdom that existed sometime between Hellenistic and Roman times, and Moses is rumored to have been here. Who was there or not is often debated by historians, but we all know one famous archaeologist who has been there, and his name is Indiana Jones, and he foiled Nazi plans for world domination…twice.
5 5: Can’t Visit The USS Ranger
Ace, Maverick, and Goose (RIP) may have flown from the deck of this actual United States Navy aircraft carrier in the iconic film Top Gun, but that doesn’t mean you can stroll around here. The USS Ranger is an operational aircraft carrier, and the US Navy isn’t too keen on random members of the public showing up and helping themselves to some selfies. We all know Maverick was a wild man who did what he wanted, but he also had a personnel pass and flew F-14 Tomcats, and he was freakin’ Tom Cruise!
4 4: Visit Curracloe Beach, Ireland
The D-Day landing sequence in Saving Private Ryan looked so real, except that it wasn’t a beach in Normandy where Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi landed. It was Ireland! You can visit Curracloe Beach and reenact the horrific Omaha Beach landing yourself. Crawl up out of the surf and yell at a local walking her dog to “Get to the seawall!” Don’t forget to storm up the hill and burst into the local pub, pretending to spray it with a flamethrower. The Irish love that.
3 3: Can’t Visit Egypt
So many films were shot in Egypt that I can’t list them all here. Okay, I’ll try. Cleopatra. Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Gallipoli. There are more, but the point is that when it comes to iconic movie locales, Egypt has it going on. Except that you can’t visit any of them. The country has been in the throes of violence ever since the Arab Spring in 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood took over, then a military junta deposed them and started rounding up activists, while terrorism and lawlessness have been on the rise. Add to that the fact that sharks keep eating tourists, and there’s really nowhere safe in Egypt, on land or in the water!
2 2: Visit Fox Plaza, Los Angeles
Hans Gruber fell from the top of this plaza on Christmas Eve while Sgt. John MacLean yelled "Yippee KaYay...". Of course, Fox Plaza had been renamed Nakatomi Plaza for the film, but everything is pretty much as you see in Die Hard. The helicopter pad is there, the lobby where terrorists pretended to be a bored concierge is there, and if you really want, you can head to the parkade and sit in a limo while listening to Run DMC. Don’t forget to call Domino’s and scream “Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?!?”
1 1: Can’t (Don’t) Visit The Democratic Republic Of The Congo
Gorillas In The Mist was filmed in this sub-Saharan African nation during a lengthy lull in fighting. That doesn’t mean you’ll want to go visit the mountains where Sigourney Weaver hung out, because the fighting is ongoing and flares up now and again. Most travelers who visit are from agencies with a lot of letters in their name, and they pay for armed escorts. That’s not really the type of movie travel you’ll want to be a part of. If you really want to make a difference, support the Red Cross or a UN agency on the ground in this Congo nation (or the other one).