In this day and age, incredible computer technology and green screens can create entire worlds inside a film studio. But nothing beats the awe that cinema goers feel when watching a movie filmed in an incredible location, whether its scenic landscapes, cool cities, or surreal historical sites. Some movies make you sit up and say, 'Wow, where is that?', because you almost can't 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 cafe as their favorite star.
So are you one of those film buffs who gets travel inspiration from the big screen? From Caribbean islands to desert towns, get your passport ready, and jot down some travel ideas from 20 Famous Movie Scene Locations That You Can Actually Visit in 2018.
20 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Petra, Jordan
It's been almost 20 years since this movie was released, but it still always makes the list of unforgettable film locations, largely thanks to one classic scene. In this cult film, Harrison Ford is an archeologist on a quest to find the Holy Grail, and he'll have to beat the Nazis to it. The film uses a number of incredible shooting locations, including the Arches National Park in Utah, the Grand Canal in Venice, and many beautiful sites in Spain, Germany, and England. But one scene stole the show - the infamous scene where Indiana Jones rides on on horseback through a sandstone canyon to the impressive facade of the Treasury at Petra.
Not many movies can claim to have filmed at a 2,000-year-old ancient city! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is immensely popular, and the movie has spawned a number of 'Indiana Jones Tours' of people wanting to walk, or ride, in his footsteps.
Be aware, however, that Hollywood took great liberties in setting up the movie's scene in Petra. According to NationalGeographic, the Treasury cannot be explored - it is only a facade with a 'relatively small hall once used as a royal tomb'. But the sandstone canyon that they ride through is real; known as the Siq it is a stunning 75-metre-high slot canyon on the eastern entrance to Petra, and you can indeed ride on horseback through it as you approach the Treasury. Either way, Petra is sure not to disappoint, and should be on every traveller's bucket list.
19 Lord of the Rings – New Zealand
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?
Okay, so the Hobbit Holes are man-made, but 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 cafe, and even hold a wedding! For die-hard LOTR fans, the fantasy has become a reality.
Hobbiton is found in the town of Matamata, which is two hours south of the capital Auckland. If you're making the long, 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. Be aware that New Zealand comprises two separate islands, and there is a lot to explore in this beautiful far-flung corner of the world.
18 Midnight Express – Istanbul, Turkey
It's the stuff of traveller's nightmares: ending up in prison in a foreign land with no clue of when you might ever be freed. And in this case, it just happens to be a true story. American student Billy Hayes was traveling in Turkey when he got caught trying to smuggle hashish across the border. He later wrote a book, which was turned into a movie.
While the chilling prison scenes were filmed at Fort St. Elmo in Malta after shooting was denied in Turkey, the movie utilized beautiful shots of Istanbul, with the Bosphorus, Blue Mosque, and Aya Sofia featuring prominently.
If you are heading to Turkey and actually do want to stay in an ex-prison, the fabulous Four Seasons Istanbul was once the notorious Sultanahmet Jail, and is located a stone's throw away from the city's most famous sites. According to the hotel's website, the original wooden doors and arched hallways were preserved, and some of the marble pillars have carvings by the ex-inmated. Spooky.
17 The Beach – Thailand
If you want proof that film tourism can be both a blessing and a curse, look no further than The Beach. Released in 2000, it stars a baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio, who finds a mysterious map and sneaks his way onto a secluded island commune, a paradise hidden away from the outside world.
The real-life location for The Beach was Maya Bay, on the tiny island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand. The turquoise waters and steep limestone cliffs were so unbelievably beautiful it immediately inspired an entire generation of travelers to flock to Thailand, seeking out a piece of paradise.
But before the locals could even realize what was happening, 'The Beach from The Beach' was completely overrun with tourists, with once-quiet bays jammed with speed boats, garbage, and pollution. It got so overcrowded that it officially closed this year to allow the coral reefs to recover. So, you may not be able to visit the exact spot, but Koh Phi Phi is still a stunning island, with many other gorgeous beaches to explore.
16 The Godfather – Italy
Admit it – after seeing The Godfather, we all wanted to pick up an Italian accent. 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 (and where you can also take a picture holding a Sicilian shotgun), 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. Just remember, if you're traveling in the footsteps of the mob, when in doubt, leave the gun, take the cannoli.
15 Harry Potter - London
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 Hertfordshire – which you can take a tour of – you can easily find shooting locations all around the city. 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.
However, 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. Want to ride the Hogwarts Express? You're in luck, it does exist, but it will require travelling to the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland.
14 Jurassic Park – Hawaii
It really does look like a land before time, and no doubt was an obvious choice for filming a remote island where dinosaurs are being cloned and brought back to life. When Jurassic Park came out, it was hailed for its CGI which, today, may seem tame, but at the time was incredible (and super scary for kids).
A lot of the filming took place at the beautiful Kualoa Ranch, which was also used as a location for movies such as Godzilla and the recently released Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle. Hawaii's natural beauty has long been a prime filming location for producers seeking out beaches, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and dense jungles.
Other than the Kualoa Ranch, other film locations in Hawaii that you can visit include the Blue Hole in Kaua'i, the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, the Olokele Valley, and the stunning Manawaiopuna Falls. And rest assured, you can explore all of these spots without a group of velociraptors biting at your ankles. Hawaii never disappoints with its absolutely spectacular natural beauty.
13 Midnight in Paris – Paris, France
No list about film locations could ever be complete without an entry from one of the most famous and romantic cities in the world, Paris. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, filmed almost entirely on location, features Owen Wilson as a struggling writer who accompanies his fiancee, 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.
Though the film features the city's most famous sights, movie goers were also enamored with the scenes of daily life in Paris. For example, 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. Paris is sure to be a popular film location forever.
12 Batman: The Dark Knight – Hong Kong
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 passed away 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 (pictured below).
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 wet 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.
If visiting Hong Kong, you can stay in one of the hotels featured in the movie - the classic Peninsula Hotel, one of the most-loved buildings in Kowloon. But it will set you back a pretty penny so if budget is an issue, just visit the Peninsula for High Tea.
11 Angels and Demons – Italy
This movie is like a treasure map for history buffs and travel aficionados, with dozens of incredible (and real) places that tourists can easily find. After the smashing 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.
Italy, and Rome in particular, has long been a popular film location, as producers are drawn to its ancient history and amazing architecture. 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've got 'The Eternal City' to work with?
10 Mad Max – Namibia
This heart-pounding road-racing insane thriller of a movie featured a super hardcore Charlize Theron leading a rebellion against an insane tyrant keeping a group of female prisoners hostage. The movie is set in a post-apolocalyptic world where fierce battles are held over basic necessities, and nobody can be trusted.
While this movie could easily have been filmed in one of the many deserts in the USA, the producer instead chose to shoot in the Namib Desert. With long stretches of flat roads, red-hued sand dunes, and an arid landscape, it was the perfect location to film a dystopian wasteland.
But the Namib Desert is no wasteland – it is in fact the oldest desert in the world, estimated to be some 50 to 80 million years old, and it supports a variety of life.
And Namibia is a lot more than just desert; visitors who trek to this coastal African country will be amazed to see a land where the ocean literally meets the desert. It has been the set for a number of other movies, but still Namibia remains off the beaten path for tourists, which means you can find yourself wandering the striking red sand dunes and have the scenery all to yourself.
9 Doctor Strange – Kathmandu
Ancient cities always provide a great back drop, as movie goers are transported back in time to places that remain untouched by the outside world. In Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a brilliant surgeon whose skilled hands become crushed in an accident, plunging him into a dark depression. Searching for a cure, he travels to a sacred place known as 'Kamar Taj', seeking the guidance of 'The Ancient One'.
With fantastic traditional architecture, colorful street markets and sacred temples, Kathmandu was the perfect setting, as its rich history was juxtaposed against the amazing special effects used to transport actors across space and time.
Many tour guides have now started offering 'Doctor Strange Tours' to show visitors the exact spots where the movie was filmed. Important locations include World Heritage Site Pashupatinath Temple and Patan Durbar Square, but tourists to Kathmandu will find the ancient alleys and old markets equally enthralling. Be aware that Kathmandu was heavily damaged by a huge earthquake the same year the movie was made, but the city's famous sites are being carefully reconstructed and repaired, and can still be visited.
8 The Mission – Argentina
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.
Visitors who travel either to either the Argentinian or Brazilian side of the falls will not be disappointed by the incredible views. But be prepared for lines at the wooden walkways built out into the water to give you the best photography spots.
7 Mamma Mia! - Greece
You don't have to be an ABBA fan to enjoy the fun and somewhat silly production of Mamma Mia! In the film, a young woman about to marry finds out that her father could be one of three men, and she is determined to find out which one by inviting all of them to her wedding.
The 'magical Greek island of Kalokairi' where most of Mamma Mia! was filmed is a real place, though known by a different name. The dramatic cliffs and picture-perfect white sand beaches are found on the island of Skopelos off the east coast of Greece.
According to TripSavvy, ever since the movie was released, tourists have been coming in hordes to the 'Mamma Mia Island'. Fans of the movie can actually stay in the same hotel where Meryll Streep, Pierce Brosnan and the rest of the crew stayed, the Skopelos Village Hotel, and visit the famous sites featured in the movie.
Skopelos has since become a popular destination for weddings, with people wanting to be married in the same church and honeymoon in this beautiful island paradise. And with that endless blue water, who can blame them?
6 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – Cambodia
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 of South East Asia.
Cambodia's Angkor Wat dates back to the 12th century, but after many centuries of neglect and disuse, it was not until the early 1990s that it took its place on the tourist track. 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. Guide books 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. Visitors staying in Siem Reap will find Cambodia to be a friendly place, and very affordable for backpackers.
5 Memoirs of a Geisha – Kyoto, Japan
The world was mesmerized by the bestselling book of the same name, so it was no surprise when Memoirs of a Geisha was turned into a movie. In this epic period drama set in Japan, 9-year-old Chiyo is sold into servitude at a geisha house in Kyoto, only to become the most famous geisha ever known.
The movie went on to win Best Cinematography, and while a lot of this film was shot in California, some of the scenes could only be filmed in the authentic atmosphere of Gion, Kyoto, the epicenter of geisha culture.
The city's most famous sites are beautifully shot in the movie, especially the hundreds of red torii gates at Fushini Inari Taisha and the iconic pagoda at Kiyomizudera Temple. Be warned that these sites are incredibly crowded with tourists, so you may have to wait some time to get a clear shot of the red gates without dozens of people in them.
If you stay in the Gion district, keep your eyes peeled for a real geisha, who just might silently slide open a wooden door, and walk down the street in full kimono. It's a bit of a cliche to say it's almost like something out of a movie!
4 Django Unchained – Louisiana, USA
Tarantino impressed fans again with his unique story of a slave who is freed by an unorthodox German bounty hunter who employs him to help him track down some targets, in exchange for his freedom.
The stars of this film enjoyed shooting at some spectacular locations, including the grand frontier of Wyoming and the sandy Alabama Hills of California.
But the most dramatic part of the movie takes places at Evergreen Plantation, an actual 250-year-old sugar plantation in Louisiana. The buildings used in the film, including the 'Big House' and the slave cabins, provided a haunting and realistic backdrop for the climax of the movie.
The plantation has been preserved and registered as a historic landmark of the US, and is open to the public. The oak trees that line the path to the Big House are more than 200 years old, and offer stunning photography opportunities. The Evergreen Plantation can be easily reached from New Orleans, and is worth a visit to get a better understanding of what life was like on a real plantation.
3 127 Hours – Utah
All right, so no one wants to have to chop off a body part in order to see a beautiful film location, and you won't have to when visiting Moab, Utah. 127 Hours is the harrowing true story of Aron Ralston, who became trapped in a canyon with his arm pinned under a boulder. Facing certain death, he decides to do the unthinkable, and cut off part of his own arm in order to escape.
Utah is famous for its fabulous red rock formations and canyons, especially in Monument Valley, and has been used in many, many movies. The Lone Ranger, Star Trek, Mission Impossible II, Thelma and Louise, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are just a few of the titles.
Those who visit Moab and want to see exactly where Aron Ralston got trapped should head to the Blue John Canyon. Also, the beautiful underground cave pool used in the movie is not located in the canyon - it is called the Homestead Crater, and is located at the Homestead Resort and Spa, where you can stay and swim inside the crater.
Of course, it goes without saying, if you are traveling into the desert, don't make the same mistake as the star of this movie and go alone! You'd hate to find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place, even in a beautiful spot like Utah.
2 Avatar – China
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 one featured above, which, according to Bored Panda, is known as the Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, and stands 4,600 feet above the ground.
1 Star Trek: Beyond – Dubai
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. The skyline full of sleek and shiny skyscrapers served as a perfect vertical alien world, with the iconic Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Jumeirah Lake Towers all making an appearance.
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.
References: National Geographic, Borders of Adventure,Italy Explained, Visit Britain, IMDB, CBS News, Italy Guides, Traveller.com.au, Insight Guides, TripSavvy,