Hollywood on holiday: Movie locations

Trastevere Rome

Hollywood’s postcard from Rome

Earlier this week I was feeling under the weather and decided that I needed holiday sunshine and a change of scene to revive my body and soul.

Sadly there was neither time nor money to leap on a plane and get away to an exotic paradise or wilderness location.

So I had to settle for the next best thing – a trip to the movies to see Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love.

It’s a great fondant fancy by which I mean you can wallow in its sunny Italian scenery and romance for 90 minutes. It’s the next best thing to actually being in Rome.

It set me thinking about my favourite places celebrated by Hollywood film makers on celluloid…

1. To Rome With Love

Trastevere Rome

Recreating Woody Allen’s film in the Trastevere, Rome

Woody Allen’s love letter to Rome is the story of  a dozen characters making sense of life, love and relationships against the backcloth of the Eternal City.

The golden glow of Rome is captured in the film’s many picturesque locations including the Colossuem, Caracalla’s Baths, the Forum, Capitoline Museums, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.

It’s not Woody Allen at his classic best but it makes for an enjoyable trip to Rome without the cost of the air fare.

Quote: Rome traffic cop – “I’m from Roma. My job is to stand up here and I see all people in Roma – all is a story.”

Rome movies: La Dolce Vita,  Three Coins in the Fountain, Roman Holiday, Roma, The Bicycle Thieves.

2. Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Barcelona – Gaudi’s Casa Mila

Another of Woody Allen’s recent trilogy of European films, Vicky Cristina Barcelona takes us to the cool, cultured Catalan capital for a comedy romance.

Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson star in this study of sexual manners.

Allen’s midsummer sex comedy takes us on a journey to Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, the Miro Museum, the Harbour, and Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família and Casa Milà.

Book me on the first EastJet flight now!

Quote: “Vicky and Cristina decided to spend the summer in Barcelona. Vicky was completing her masters in Catalan Identity, which she had become interested in through her great affection for the architecture of Gaudí. Cristina, who spent the last six months writing, directing, and acting in a 12-minute film which she then hated, had just broken up with yet another boyfriend and longed for a change of scenery.”

Barcelona movies: All About My Mother, Biutiful, The Passenger, Barcelona.

3. 127 hours

Antelope Canyon Utah

Utah’s canyons – the setting for 127 Hours

Danny Boyle’s gripping true life story follows 127 hours in the life of an adventure sports fanatic who gets trapped in a slot canyon following an accidental slip off a rock face.

Utah’s wilderness becomes a character in the film as its unforgiving, arid landscape engulfs the climber who is forced to resort to desperate measures in order to survive.

Filmed near Moab the film captures the monumental power, beauty and danger of  Utah’s canyonlands.

An action adventure that turns into a nightmare is a very different take on Utah than we’re used to watching in the classic John Ford westerns for which the state is famous.

Quote: “The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.”

Utah movies: Stage Coach, The Searchers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise.

4. In Bruges


Dark thrills in Bruges

British director Matthew Vaughn’s dark comedy is a contemporary film noir set in Bruges’ picturesque historic centre.

A hitman and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss whilst holed up in Bruges, the last place in the world they want to be.

One of the criminals is determined to make the most of the city’s cultural attractions, but murder, mayhem and maniacs lurk around every alleyway and medieval street corner.

Bruges looks sensational and it’s refreshing to see a darker visual portrayal of the city instead of the usual travelogue stereotype.

If you find yourself in this charming city there’s a movie walk and film location map  which take in the sites such as the Groeninge Museum, Jerusalem Church and Gruuthuse.

In Bruges quote: “Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in ******* Bruges.”

Bruges movies: The Hot Potato (no, I’ve never seen it either).

5. Amelie

Pyramid, Louvre

Paris – destination for the surreal Amelie

Paris has never looked lovelier than in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s surreal fantasy about an innocent young girl discovering love and life.

A fantastical world opens up to Amelie (Audrey Tautau) as she explores the city meeting a rich array of eccentric and sometimes downright odd characters.

Traditional Parisienne locations are given a new and heightened visual style including Montmartre, the Sacre Coeur and the Metro.

Time for a weekend break in the capital of romance methinks…

Paris movies: Midnight in Paris, The Bourne Identity, Angela-A, Before Sunset.

6. Manhattan



No apologies for picking another Woody Allen film – he seems to capture the heart and soul of a city so brilliantly, especially his New York stories.

Manhattan has one of the best-ever movie openings with Allen describing what the city means to him. Pure poetry.

From the dramatic opening skyscraper shots to the scenes by Brooklyn Bridge and the carriage ride in Central Park this is perhaps the definitive New York movie.

The Big Apple’s interiors also feature heavily including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Bloomingdale’s and the Russian Tea Room.

It’s one of my favourite film scripts of all time… especially the brilliant opening narrative which always makes me want to jump on a plane back to NYC.

Manhattan quote: “He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion… To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”

New York movies:  Annie Hall, Shaft, Saturday Night Fever, Wall Street, Taxi Driver, Premium Rush.

7. The Third Man

Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir classic takes a waltz on the wild side in Vienna.

Joseph Cotten plays a novelist who goes in search of his old friend, the elusive Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to find himself caught up in a web of intrigue, murder and racketeering.

Rarely has a city’s underbelly of crime and menace been better captured on film. The black and white cinematography bathes Vienna in dark shadows whilst the strangely angled and disorienting camera shots add further to the sense of foreboding and mystery.

Look out for Vienna’s Morzinplatz, Neuer Markt, Josephsplatz, the Reichsbrucke bridge and Riesenrad fair’s ferris wheel.

Quote: “This isn’t Santa Fe. I’m not a sheriff and you aren’t a cowboy. You’ve been blundering around with the worst bunch of racketeers in Vienna, your precious Harry’s friends, and now you’re wanted for murder.”

Vienna movies: Before Sunrise, The Illusionist, Tales from the Vienna Woods.

8. The Shining

The opening of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, is a stunning piece of cinematography with its sweeping landscape shots of a car winding its way up the ‘Oregon’ mountain highway.

Kubrick wanted to establish “an ominous mood” and “the vast isolation and eerie splendour of high mountains, and the narrow, winding roads”.

Glacier National Park and its Going-For-The-Sun Road in Montana, one of my favourite wilderness places, doubled for Oregon.

The Oregon landscape does, however, feature in some of the shots filmed at  the Timberline Lodge which is located on Mount Hood in the state.

Famously, the hotel asked Kubrick to change the number of the sinister Room 217 of Stephen King’s novel to 237, so customers would not be scared by the real Room 217.

Count me out of that weird hotel trip!

Bizarrely, much of the film was shot at Elstree Studios in the UK where the set for the Overlook Hotel was the largest ever built (for its time), including a full re-creation of the exterior of the hotel.

Quote: “When the place was built in 1907, there was very little interest in winter sports. And this site was chosen for its seclusion and scenic beauty…”

Oregon & Montana films: Oregon: The Road, Stand By Me, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Montana: A River Runs Through It, The River Wild, Heaven’s Gate.

9. Goodbye, Lenin!

Berlin Wall

Hitting a brick wall – Goodbye Lenin!

Goodbye Lenin! is a film about how a young man tries to pretend that the Berlin Wall still exists to protect his sick mother from a fatal shock.

His Mum has been in a coma for eight months during which time the Berlin Wall was brought down.

When she wakes up, her son goes to extremes to re-create Berlin life as she remembers it – with the Wall still in tact.

There are many wonderful sequences of Berlin with the early scenes being dull and grey in marked contrast to the brave new colourful world of the reunified Germany.

I love Berlin’s clash of East and West so this poignant movie is a perfect celebration of the city’s past and present.

Quote: “The country my mother left was a country she had believed in, and which we kept alive until her last second. A country that in fact never existed like this. A country that in my memory will always be connected to my mother.”

Berlin movies: Metropolis, The Baader Meinhof Complex, Christine F.

10. The Hunter

The Hunter is set in one of Australia’s last great wildernesses in Tasmania.

Willem Dafoe plays a mercenary sent to the wilds of Tasmania by a mysterious and shady corporation in search of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger.

The impressive cinematography creates a sense of danger, tension and loneliness in the immense backwoods of the island.

The spectacular landscapes of Mount Wellington, the Central Plateau, and Deloraine almost had me packing my bag for Hobart Airport!

Quote: “He went missing last summer, search and rescue was out for two weeks. Not a trace.”

Tasmania movies: Van Diemen’s Land, The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce.

Let me know your favourite movie locations too!

1 reply »

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