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Seen it in the Movies
Distant planets in galaxies far, far away; gladiatorial battles; epic transcontinental motorcycle trips and sweeping railway viaducts… the world of cinema is dotted with countless awe-inspiring landscapes. But for almost every iconic scene in a film, there’s an equally iconic travel destination somewhere out there.
So, with this in mind – and to celebrate this year’s Oscars – we thought we’d put together a collection of some of our favorite locations around the world that have featured in the movies.
Harry Potter: The Glenfinnan Viaduct, Fort William, Scotland
The title of ‘Best Harry Potter film location’ could just as well have gone to the famous ‘Platform 9 3/4’ at King’s Cross Station (not least for the sight of children staring blankly at a brick wall!). But the Glenfinnan Viaduct definitely pips it.
The impressive viaduct – on the route from Fort William to Mallaig – pops up a couple of times in the Harry Potter movies. Its most notable starring role, though, is undoubtedly as a backdrop to the flying car scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
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Seville is dotted with literary points of reference: its beautiful streets were the inspiration for Don Juan, the Barber of Seville and Carmen. But few of its buildings have starred in, not one, but two Hollywood blockbusters.
Designed by the famous Anibal Gonzalez for the Spanish-American Exhibition in 1929, the Plaza de Espana is a gorgeous arc on the edge of the Maria Luisa Park. With its ornate bridges and columns and its colorful tiles, it’s the pinnacle of what is an almost uniquely photogenic city.
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Gladiator: Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate, Morocco
If Ridley Scott was looking for an epic location for the early scenes in Gladiator, then he certainly found it in Ait Benhaddou. A couple of hours’ from Marrakech, the awe-inspiring Kasbah is bordered by the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains, and the swirling sands of the Sahara.
And the inhabitants, at least, will be quite used to the tramp of film crews (and film tourists!): Ait Benhaddou has been the location of choice for countless other high-profile moviemakers such as David Lean, Bernardo Bertolucci and Martin Scorsese.
Manhattan: the Queensboro Bridge, New York City, USA
Breathlessly romantic views of New York City’s skyline are far too many to mention. But Woody Allen – great lover of the city that he is – really topped the lot when he unleashed one of the greatest shots of the city ever to be recorded on film in his 1979 classic, Manhattan.
The Queensboro (also known as the 59th St Bridge) spans the East River between Queens and Manhattan. The spot itself is understated and everyday (the bench on which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sat is long gone), but the view remains undeniably magnificent.
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The Man with the Golden Gun: Khow-Ping-Kan, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
If there were an Oscar for the most idyllic James Bond film location, it would almost certainly go to Scaramanga’s lair in The Man with the Golden Gun. Surrounded by National Park, Khow-Ping-Kan, or ‘James Bond Island’ (as it’s come to be known), is spectacularly marooned out in the Andaman Sea.
The surrounding gift shops may be a bit tacky, but that can’t take away from the fun to be had in retreading the steps of Roger Moore and Christopher Lee’s famous duel. What’s more, the stretch of coastline – studded as it is with outlandish karst formations and riddled with caves – is truly amazing.
Going to Thailand? Check out hostels in Phuket
The Motorcycle Diaries: South America
With mile after stunning mile of South American landscape captured, Walter Salles’ Motorcycle Diaries is a film in which the continent is truly the star. And the effect is as much an homage to its staggering beauty as a chronicling of Che Guevara’s motorcycle journey.
It’s impossible to pick a highlight – the snowy Andes, the Amazon and, of course, the remarkable Machu Pichu, all feature. Having said that, the scene where the two splutter across the Argentine Pampas on their ailing motorbike, ‘El poderoso’, is particularly dazzling…
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a film that is, in one way or another, about appearances. As such, it could hardly have a better location than Ischia: out in the Bay of Naples, and lapped by dazzling azure seas, it’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.
Famous scenes shot on the island include Ripley’s arrival in ‘Mongibello’ (actually Ischia Ponte with the Castello Aragonese in the background) while the scene where Ripley first finds Marge and Dickie was taken on the beach at Bagno Antonio.
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Sir Carol Reed’s The Third Man is a great film in so many ways: Anton Karras’ weird zither theme tune; Grahame Greene’s brilliant screen play; Orson Welles’ ‘Cuckoo Clock’ speech… But what really makes it special is the way it showcases the city of Vienna at its beautiful best.
Although heavily scarred by the Second World War, its swirling, mist-filled streets – echoing throughout to the sound of footsteps – are wonderfully atmospheric.
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The Lord of the Rings: New Zealand
When Peter Jackson was looking for somewhere to shoot The Lord of the Rings, he didn’t have to think very hard. In many ways, the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, with its array of extraordinary landscapes, was the logical choice for the biggest fantasy film of all time.
LOTR locations are dotted all over the islands: The Waikato Region was the scene of ‘Hobbiton’; the beech forests of Milford Sound (on the South Island, near Te Anau) were the setting for ‘Fangorn Forest’; while the challenging climb up Tongariro Crossing leads to the scene of the film’s ‘Mount Doom’ climax.
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Hostel: Prague, Czech Republic
A bit of harmless fun it may be, but there are a couple of fairly central inaccuracies about Hostel (and its equally gory follow-up Hostel II): First of all, it clearly wasn’t shot in Bratislava. And everyone knows that the only violence taking place in hostels is of the snoring variety in the dorms at night!
Returning to the Hostel film location… It’s a combination of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, of course – in all their gloriously attractive, backpacking nirvana-esque finery!
Shoot the Hostel sequel! Check out hostels in Prague