Some of our favorite movies in the world bring us so much joy. Why? Because we get to be transported to different universes and live vicariously through the lovable characters. In fact, movies bring human beings so much happiness, that we’re willing to leave our comfortable homes, go out to the cinema, and pay lots of money for tickets and snacks.
All the incredible movies on this list have been the works of some of the most talented women and men in the film industry. While the writers and directors play their part in giving the storylines the creativity they need, quite a number of our favorite films have actually been inspired by real-life locations.
This just tells you how incredible Mother Nature really is. She has been the backdrop of many a Hollywood film and we dare to say that some of these films wouldn’t have worked without these specific locations. For instance, imagine Jurassic Park without the dense and beautiful Hawaiian jungle backdrop. How about Mama Mia without all the beauty of Greece?
This list just shows how important film locations are and just like sound enhances our film-viewing experience, having relevant and incredible locations helps to bring the film to life. Read below to see all the exciting real-life places that have inspired some of our favorite films.
25 Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade: Petra, Jordan
For all the Indiana Jones fans out there, Petra in Jordan is the one place where you can perhaps live out some of your favorite scenes from the film franchise. There have been many loved scenes from the franchise but the one that definitely has stood out is the one where fans get to see Indiana Jones riding a horse through the sandstone landscape. What makes this particular scene special is that the city is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it now offers “Indiana Jones Tours”, due to the popularity of the movie.
24 Harry Potter: London
The Harry Potter series of books and movies broke many records. It is, therefore, fitting that it is featured on a list of some of our favorite movies. London provided the backdrop of this fascinating story about wizards and witches. The old world charm, as well as the architecture of the buildings, will leave fans mesmerized. The Warner Bros Studio Hertfordshire provides fans with fun daily tours while locations such as the King’s Cross Station is a real-life location that had the famous Platform 9¾.
23 Mad Max: Namibia
Our first African location on this list is all the way in Namibia with the Charlize Theron blockbuster, Mad Max. There are many desserts in the US and the movie could have been shot there, however, the film Director felt that the Namibian desert was the perfect spot. Namibian explains a bit more about this majestic place. “The Namib Desert is often referred to as the world’s oldest desert and has been in existence for some 43 million years. The Namib is an immense expanse of relentlessly moving gravel plains and dunes of all shapes and sizes that stretch along the entire coastline.”
22 Django Unchained: Louisiana, USA
There’s a reason why Quintin Tarantino is one of the best film directors of our time. If you weren’t that convinced before, watching this epic story will definitely sway you. The story follows the life of a slave who is freed by an unorthodox German bounty hunter and some of the stars include Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Keri Washington. The film was shot in Louisiana, and also featured the evergreen plantation, and the locations provided very realistic representations of that time.
21 Sleeping Beauty: Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
We cannot possibly have a list of locations that inspired some of our favorite movies without mentioning the Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty. Die-hard fans of the story will be glad to know that there’s actually a castle in Germany that sparked the fairytale. BoredPanda highlights that “The Royal Castle in Sleeping Beauty was inspired by the famous castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany. This castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1892 as a personal retreat and a tribute to Richard Wagner, his favorite composer. Ludwig II, known by some as the Swan King, was an enthusiastic art patron, leaving beautiful structures throughout Bavaria.”
20 Lord Of The Rings: New Zealand
For all the Hobbits at heart out there, New Zealand has to be a place that is on your travel bucket list. So, unlike with a number of the places on this list, the Hobbit Holes aren’t actually all natural. They were manmade for the movie, however, the landscape of the area is simply breathtaking and it formed the backdrop to a number of our favorite scenes from this trilogy. If you’re a true fan, you’ll also enjoy the fact that the Hobbit Village has now become a tourist attraction and people from all walks of life travel to see this fascinating place that brought to life one of the most beautiful stories ever made.
19 Jurassic Park: Hawaii
When Jurassic Park first came out in the early ‘90s, it brought with it some CGI that had never been seen before. The movie franchise centered around an attempt by scientists to create a theme park that had artificial dinosaurs. Of course, as everyone soon realized, that was not the safest or smartest decision. This blockbuster was shot in Hawaii with most of the filming specifically taking place in Kuaola Ranch. The spectacular location that was also used for Jumanji and Godzilla.
18 Doctor Strange: Kathmandu
Benedict Cumberbatch led this incredible story that centered around a surgeon who, through a car accident, gets his hands crushed and never working the same. In order to regain his “glory”, he travels to “Kamar Taj” searching for “The Ancient One” who can supposedly heal him.
The backdrop of the city was brilliant as the movie called for ancient towns and cities that remained untouched. Kathmandu offers sacred temples, vibrant markets, the traditional architecture that this film needed and was, therefore, no surprise to be the location.
17 Beauty and The Beast: Alsace, France
At number 17 on our list we have yet another Disney classic but this time, it is the story of the beautiful girl who fell in love with a beast that never thought he could be loved. Every true Beauty and the Beast fan knows about the small village that forms as the backdrop to this heartwarming fairytale. Although fairy tales are usually far-fetched from reality, you’ll be glad to know that Alsace in France is real and gives the same beautiful pastoral architecture we see from the books and the movies.
16 Aladdin: Taj Mahal, India
Of course, the Taj Mahal had to inspire a movie or two. The story behind the building of the structure is even more heartwarming…well if you’re into that mushy stuff. BoredPanda explains people’s fascination over it. “Thought by many to be a palace, the Taj Mahal is actually a magnificent tomb that Emperor Shah Jahan began building in 1632 for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The iconic tomb is encased in white marble and surrounded by lush gardens.” For the Aladdin story, the Taj Mahal is the Sultan’s Palace.
15 Midnight Express: Istanbul
At number 15, we have a real-life location that inspired a real-life story. In Midnight Express, we follow the story of American, Billy Hayes, who traveled to Turkey but was caught at the border due to unlawful activities. Billy wrote a book about his time in Turkey and that gripping book, which detailed the prison life in Turkey, was later turned into a film. The film had a number of aerial shots of the city, as well as scenes from the Four Seasons Istanbul.
14 Midnight Paris: Paris, France
How on earth could we complete a countdown about real life film locations without including the city of love? Paris is the breathtaking city of France which has inspired many film shoots, including Woody Allen’s Midnight Paris. The lead, Owen Wilson, gets transported back to Paris in the 1920s. The movie, of course, gives us stunning locations, food, music, markets, little cafes, city gardens, and all the beauty that the city of love has to offer. If you’ve got Paris on your travel bucket list, you’ll definitely want to see this movie.
13 Mama Mia: Greece
The beauty that is Greece can only be described by one word – majestic. It is, therefore, not a surprise that this was the backdrop of one of the most loved musicals out there – Mama Mia. The specific island that the film was shot was the “magical Greek island of Kalokairi”. This particular addition to our list is special because, not only can you visit Greece to enjoy the magnificent views, if you book a hotel room at the Skopelos Village Hotel, you might be able to stay in the same room as Meryl Streep or Pierce Brosnan stayed in!
12 127 Hours: Utah
This is one incredible and true story of Aron Ralston who became trapped under a canyon for 127 hours and because his shoulder was pinned down, he had to do the unthinkable to survive – he had to cut off part of his arm. The character was brought to life by James Cameron and the setting was in Utah. Utah’s red rock formations and canyons have attracted a lot of movie sets over the years. Movies such as Thelma and Louise, Star Trek, The Lone Ranger, and Mission Impossible II were just some of the movies that have also been taken by the beauty of the canyons.
11 The Little Mermaid: Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Having Disney stories added to this mix may come as a surprise to some people but to us, we totally get it. Although Disney’s stories are all about fairytales that are really far-fetched from reality, in essence, every story starts from inspiration. Every writer needs to have walked a certain path or experienced a particular real event to be inspired, right? With regards to The Little Mermaid, in particular, Lake Geneva in stunning Switzerland was the natural and beautiful backdrop that inspired the creation of Chateau De Chillon, which is Prince Eric’s castle in the story.
10 The Beach: Thailand
Released in 2000, The Beach was one movie that had a huge contribution to Thailand’s tourism in the 21st century. The movie was shot in Koh Phi Phi Leh, and the island saw a huge tourism influx as soon as it was released. The steep limestone cliffs and the unforgettable turquoise waters, together with Leonardo DiCaprio’s youthful face and dreamy eyes was enough to get anyone to stop and stare. Today, Thailand has become a popular tourist destination as people seek to have that little bit of paradise that Leonardo found in the movie and maybe if you go, you might find it too.
9 The Dark Knight: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a little difficult to describe. The majestic skyscrapers can give a futuristic vibe while the city still has an old-world sense to it. This interesting scenery is, perhaps, the reason why many film locations have been set in the city. The Dark Knight was lead by Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Although the US was the main location for plenty of the scenes, there were a number of scenes from Hong Kong that simply stole the show.
8 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Cambodia
Angelina Jolie led the cast of this fun, an adventure-packed film that was shot in Cambodia. The Angkor Wat, which is both a World Heritage Site and largest religious monument in the world was featured in the film as Angelina’s character entered a village in Cambodia. Cambodia is one place that is beautiful and in recent years, is starting to see the benefits of tourism. Movie-Locations highlights that “as Cambodia recovers from its troubled past, the modest tourism industry is beginning to blossom, learning to balance economic gain with inevitable concerns about the effect on the ancient buildings.”
7 Avatar: China
Avatar was arguably one of the best movies of our time. One of the most noticeable facts was not just the storyline that had everyone is drawn into it from start to finish, but rather, the CGI that has been the best the industry has ever seen. Although great CGI is appreciated, a visually memorable movie also needs a backdrop that will bring everything to life and shooting in the Chinese mountains allowed that. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has breathtaking sandstone quartz pillars that can give the illusion of floating because they stand at around 600 feet high. Understandably, the moment the movie was released, tourism to the area has never been the same.
6 Frozen: Balestrand, Norway
There are very few Disney movies that have had as much of an impact on kids (Okay, some adults too. We’ll admit it) as Disney’s Frozen. All the true fans out there will probably be excited to learn that St. Olaf’s Church is actually a real-life church that you can visit in Balestrand, Norway. This has to be quite incredible though. Imagine entering that church and seeing vividly the imagery that you saw in both the books and the movies.