Reel to Real: Explore the world’s most iconic film locations

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From the bustling streets of New York to the mystical landscapes of New Zealand, the world of cinema isn’t just a place you can get lost in. You can, but then why won’t you watch the film and then go beyond the screen and actually journey to some of the most magnificent locations on earth! So, this Global Cinema Day - a day established by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for fans around the world to celebrate their favorite movies - we’ve picked up top destinations you have probably seen on the big screen (or, well, smaller screens too now). But this time, go beyond pressing play and instead hit the ‘Book now’ button and go explore the magical world of movies in real life!

So, here are some of the famous movie locations -

Paris, France

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Paris, the City of Lights, with its iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River, has been a quintessential backdrop for romance, drama, and espionage films. Its streets, cafes, and architecture have inspired countless filmmakers.

Must-see sights in Paris: Eiffel Tower,Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral.

? Top films shot in Paris:

  1. Midnight in Paris (2011): A fantasy comedy-drama about a screenwriter who travels to Paris and finds himself transported back to the 1920s, where he encounters his literary heroes.
  2. Inception (2010): A science fiction action thriller about a professional thief who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology.
  3. Amélie (2001): A whimsical romantic comedy about a shy waitress who decides to anonymously improve the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, USA

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The heart of the film industry, Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, offering an unmatched range of urban settings, beaches, and the iconic Hollywood Sign. It's the epicenter of blockbusters, film stars, and the American entertainment industry.

Must-see sights in Los Angeles: Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios Hollywood.

? Top films shot in Los Angeles:

  1. La La Land (2016): A romantic musical about a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress who fall in love while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles.
  2. Drive (2011): A neo-noir action thriller about a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals.
  3. The Big Lebowski (1998): A neo-noir crime comedy about a mistaken identity case that leads a laid-back bowler into a series of bizarre events.
  4. Pulp Fiction (1994): This cult classic crime film, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, follows the intertwined lives of mobsters, hitmen, boxers, and their wives in Los Angeles. It's known for its nonlinear narrative, dark humor, graphic violence, and iconic characters.

Toronto, Canada

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Toronto is often dubbed as "the city within a city" for films due to its ability to mimic American and other international cities. Its diverse neighborhoods and iconic CN Tower provide a versatile setting for various film genres.

Must-see sights in Toronto: CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Distillery District.

? Top films shot in Toronto:

  1. Suicide Squad (2016): This is a superhero film that takes place in various fictional locations, including Midway City, a fictional metropolis in the DC Comics universe.
  2. Room (2015): A drama about a young woman who is kidnapped and held captive in a small room, where she gives birth to a son.
  3. Pacific Rim (2013): A science fiction action film about giant robots battling against monstrous creatures from another dimension.
  4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010): An action comedy about a young man who must defeat his girlfriend's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win her heart.

Rome, Italy

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Rome's ancient ruins, the Vatican, and its historic streets have made it a favorite for filmmakers looking to capture its unique blend of history, beauty, and drama. From epic historical dramas to modern-day thrillers, Rome offers an unparalleled backdrop.

Must-see sights in Rome: Colosseum,Vatican City, Trevi Fountain.

? Top films shot in Rome:

  1. The Gladiator (2000): A historical drama about a Spanish general who is forced to become a gladiator in Rome.
  2. La Dolce Vita (1960): A drama about a journalist who becomes disillusioned with his life in Rome.
  3. Roman Holiday (1953): A romantic comedy about a princess who escapes her royal duties and falls in love with an American journalist in Rome.

Prague, Czech Republic

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Prague's well-preserved medieval architecture and its picturesque Charles Bridge have attracted filmmakers seeking a historical European setting. Its gothic and renaissance buildings provide a captivating backdrop for historical and fantasy genres.

Must-see sights in Prague: Prague Castle,Charles Bridge,Old Town Square.

? Top films shot in Prague:

  1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015): An action spy film about Ethan Hunt and his team as they try to stop a rogue Syndicate agent from starting a nuclear war.
  2. Casino Royale (2006): An action spy film about the first James Bond mission, where he must defeat a terrorist financier at a poker game in Montenegro.
  3. Amadeus (1984): A historical drama about the rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri.

Mumbai, India

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The heart of Bollywood, Mumbai is not just a film production powerhouse but also a key location within many of its cinematic creations. From the bustling streets of Dharavi to the iconic Gateway of India, Mumbai's diverse settings cater to a variety of film genres.

Must-see sights in Mumbai: Gateway of India, Elephanta Caves, Marine Drive.

? Top films shot in Mumbai:

  1. Gully Boy (2019): A Hindi-language musical drama film directed by Zoya Akhtar. It tells the story of a young street rapper from Mumbai who rises to fame through his talent and hard work. The film was shot in various locations across Mumbai, including Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia.
  2. Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A drama about an 18-year-old orphan from Mumbai who participates in the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  3. Lagaan (2001): A historical sports drama set in British India, about a cricket match between villagers and British officers.
  4. Dil Chahta Hai (2001): A Hindi-language coming-of-age film directed by Farhan Akhtar. It tells the story of three friends who go on a road trip across India and learn about life, love, and friendship. The film was shot in various locations across India, including Mumbai.

Barcelona, Spain

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Barcelona's modernist architecture by Antoni Gaudí, including the Sagrada Família and Park Güell, offers filmmakers visually stunning locations. Its vibrant streets and beaches have hosted scenes of romance, adventure, and introspection.

Must-see sights in Barcelona: Sagrada Família, Park Güell,Gothic Quarter.

? Top films shot in Barcelona:

  1. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008): A romantic comedy-drama about two American women who spend their summer in Barcelona and become entangled in a love triangle with a passionate Spaniard.
  2. Perfume - The Story of a Murderer (2006): A psychological thriller about a man with an extraordinary sense of smell who uses it to create the ultimate perfume, even if it means killing others.
  3. Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) (1999): A drama about a single mother searching for the father of her teenage son who wants to become a trans man.

Chicago, USA

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Known for its dramatic skyline and the iconic Cloud Gate, Chicago's urban setting has been utilized for its gritty realism as well as its architectural beauty. It's a favored location for crime dramas, comedies, and superhero movies. The best of all, though? Home Alone!

Must-see sights in Chicago: Willis Tower, Millennium Park, Navy Pier.

? Top films shot in Chicago:

  1. The Dark Knight (2008): A superhero film about Batman's battle against the Joker, who throws Gotham City into chaos.
  2. High Fidelity (2000): A romantic comedy-drama about a record store owner who reflects on his past relationships while creating a list of his top five breakups.
  3. Home Alone (1990): Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old accidentally left home alone during the holidays. He defends his house from burglars using clever traps and hilarious antics, with many scenes filmed in the Chicago suburbs.
  4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986): A teen comedy about a high school student who skips school with his best friend and girlfriend for a day of adventure in Chicago.

Tokyo, Japan

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Tokyo offers a unique blend of ultra-modern and traditional settings, from the neon-lit streets of Shibuya to the serene Meiji Shrine. Its dynamic urban landscape serves as a vibrant backdrop for both domestic and international films.

Must-see sights in Tokyo: Shibuya Crossing, Senso-ji Temple,Tokyo Tower.

? Top films shot in Tokyo:

  1. The Makanai (2023): Cooking for the Maiko House (2023): A Netflix series filmed in Kyoto, about two young women navigating life and dreams while preparing meals for apprentice geisha.
  2. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021): This epic monster battle was partially filmed in Japan, showcasing iconic locations like Tokyo and Hakone. While not new, it might still be enjoyable if you haven't seen it.
  3. Fast & Furious 7 (2015): While primarily set in Abu Dhabi, the film features a thrilling high-speed chase sequence with the iconic Tokyo Tower in the background.
  4. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003): A teen comedy about a high school student who skips school with his best friend and girlfriend for a day of adventure in Chicago.
  5. Lost in Translation (2003): Sofia Coppola's poignant and melancholic film follows a fading movie star and a young woman, both finding solace in their unexpected connection in Tokyo.
  6. Akira (1988) This influential anime masterpiece depicts a dystopian Tokyo in 2019, showcasing stunning animation and a complex story about biker gangs and psychic powers.

Dubai, UAE

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Dubai's futuristic skyline and luxury lifestyle have made it a glamorous location for action-packed blockbusters. The city's ambitious architecture and desert landscapes provide a modern and exotic setting for films

Must-see sights in Dubai: Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Mall.

? Top films shot in Dubai:

  1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018): An action spy film about Ethan Hunt and his team as they race against time to prevent a nuclear attack. Some key scenes were filmed in Dubai.
  2. Fast & Furious 7 (2015): An action film about Dominic Toretto and his team as they seek revenge on Deckard Shaw, who killed one of their own. Parts of the film were shot in Abu Dhabi, near Dubai.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015): A science fiction epic film set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The opening scene, featuring a droid rolling through a desert landscape, was filmed in Abu Dhabi.

Madrid, Spain

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Madrid's mix of historical and modern architecture, including the Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor, has provided a scenic backdrop for films. Its vibrant culture and lively streets are often depicted in Spanish cinema and international productions.

Must-see sights in Madrid: Prado Museum, Royal Palace Madrid, Retiro Park.

? Top films shot in Madrid:

  1. Pain and Glory (2019): A drama about an aging filmmaker who reflects on his life and career.
  2. Volver (2006): A drama about a woman who returns to her hometown after her sister's death and uncovers a family secret.
  3. Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) (1997): A science fiction thriller about a man who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery after an accident and begins to question his own identity.

Cape Town, South Africa

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With its stunning landscapes, including Table Mountain and Cape Point, Cape Town lets you experience a diverse range of backdrops - from urban settings to wild, natural beauty. It's become a favored location for international films seeking dramatic scenery.

Must-see sights in Cape Town: Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island.

? Top films shot in Cape Town:

  1. District 9 (2009): A science fiction action film about an alien spacecraft that arrives in Johannesburg and the government's attempts to relocate its inhabitants.
  2. Invictus (2009): A biographical drama about Nelson Mandela and his efforts to unite South Africa after his release from prison.

Istanbul, Turkey

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Istanbul's rich history and strategic location straddling two continents have made it a crossroads of cultures and a fascinating location for filmmakers. Its iconic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus provide a stunning backdrop.

Must-see sights in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque.

? Top films shot in Istanbul:

  1. Skyfall (2012): The 23rd James Bond film features a thrilling opening sequence in Istanbul, showcasing iconic landmarks like the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia.
  2. Argo (2012): This historical thriller tells the true story of the CIA's daring rescue operation to extract six American diplomats from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. While the film primarily focuses on the events in Tehran, scenes depicting Tehran were actually filmed in various locations in Istanbul, including Balat, Eminönü, Bakırköy, and Etiler. The Grand Bazaar was transformed to resemble a Tehran bazaar for several key scenes.
  3. Taken 2 (2012): This action film follows Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA agent, as he attempts to rescue himself and his ex-wife from a vengeful kidnapper in Istanbul. The film extensively showcases iconic locations throughout the city, such as Karaköy, Eminönü, Balat, Grand Bazaar, Beyoğlu, Kuruçeşme, Topkapı, and Salacak. The breathtaking car chase scene also features the Istanbul skyline!

Berlin, Germany

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Berlin's history, evident in its architecture and the Berlin Wall remnants, along with its totally thriving cultural scene, makes it a compelling location for films exploring themes from espionage to drama and historical narratives.

Must-see sights in Berlin: Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall Memorial, Museum Island.

? Top films shot in Berlin:

  1. Inglourious Basterds (2009): The 23rd James Bond film features a thrilling opening sequence in Istanbul, showcasing iconic landmarks like the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia.
  2. The Bourne Supremacy(2004): While the story takes place across multiple locations in Europe and Russia, the film was primarily filmed in Berlin, Germany. You’lll find various iconic locations throughout the city, including Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Friedrichstraße, The Brandenburg Gate, The Westin Grand Berlin Hotel, Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park
  3. Goodbye Lenin! (2003):This heartwarming comedy-drama tells the story of a man trying to keep his mother, who fell into a coma during the fall of the Berlin Wall, unaware of the changes that have taken place.
  4. Run Lola Run (1998):This German cult classic follows Lola as she frantically tries to find 100,000 marks in 20 minutes to save her boyfriend's life, showcasing the dynamic energy of Berlin.

New Zealand (Yes, we used the whole country!)

New Zealand, famously known as Middle-earth for its pivotal role in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies, has given filmmakers breathtaking landscapes ranging from rolling green hills to dramatic mountain ranges. Its diverse and pristine environments have made it a go-to destination for epic fantasy films as well as intimate dramas. Go here for peace, quiet and stunning sights.

Must-see sights in New Zealand: Hobbiton (Matamata), Fiordland National Park, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, Milford Sound.

? Top films shot in New Zealand:

  1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy & The Hobbit trilogy: Locations spanned both the North and South Islands, including North Island’s Hobbiton (Matamata), Mount Victoria (Wellington), Tongariro National Park, Waitomo Caves, Paradise Valley (Rotorua) and Queenstown, Glenorchy, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Canterbury Plains in the South Island.
  2. Avatar: Some landscapes inspired scenes in Pandora, especially in Fiordland and Wellington.

Australian Outback & Barrier Reef

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Australia's vast landscapes, from the urban settings of Sydney and Melbourne to the rugged Outback and pristine beaches, have provided diverse backdrops for various film genres. Its unique wildlife and scenery have been featured in numerous domestic and international productions, showcasing the country's versatility as a film location.

Must-see sights in Australia: Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Sydney Opera House.

? Top films shot in Australia:

  1. Lion (2016): This biographical drama tells the true story of Saroo Brierley, who gets separated from his family in India as a child and uses Google Earth to find them years later. Filmed in India and Australia, it's a heartwarming and emotional journey.
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): This action-packed sequel to the original Mad Max films revitalized the franchise with its feminist themes, stunning visuals, and incredible stunts. Filmed in Namibia and South Africa, it's a visually stunning and exhilarating experience.
  3. The Babadook (2014): This psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, tells the story of a single mother struggling to cope with the death of her husband and the arrival of a terrifying monster. Filmed in Melbourne, it's a chilling and thought-provoking exploration of grief and fear.
  4. Mad Max (1979): This post-apocalyptic action film, directed by George Miller and starring Mel Gibson, is considered a cult classic and helped launch the careers of both. Filmed primarily in Melbourne and Broken Hill, New South Wales, it's a dystopian vision of Australia that remains influential.
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