The World’s Most Popular Filming Locations
Who needs CGI and studio manipulation when you have a knockout set IRL? The 9 locations below have been in their fair share of Hollywood blockbusters—from Forrest Gump and Skyfall, to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and (500) Days of Summer. See if you can pair the destination with the feature film below.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Central Park, New York
In the heart of New York City, Central Park has easily risen the ranks of popular filming locations. In fact, since 1908, the iconic spot has been featured in more than 100 motion pictures, from When Harry Met Sally and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Ghostbusters and Elf. With 843 acres of green lawns, cultivated gardens, man-made lochs, and Victorian-style pavilions, there are still plenty of places left to get an original shot.
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Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
This fortified Moroccan village hugs the old caravan route that connects the Sahara and Marrakech. Although the UNESCO World Heritage Site is basically in the middle of nowhere, tourists visit the ancient city because of its film appearances, including The Mummy, Gladiator, Babel, and the especially popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones (if you’re scratching your head—it stands in as Yunkai, one of the three city-states of Slaver’s Bay).
Monument Valley, AZ and UT
The dramatic plateaus, cloud-covered canyons, and rolling meadows of Arizona and Utah’s Monument Valley (near the Four Corners) have been popping up in Hollywood flicks since the early 1930s. As a postcard-picture representation of the American West, the region has been featured in fitting films like Stagecoach (featuring John Wayne), Easy Rider, and The Lone Ranger. But you can also spot the Colorado Plateau’s iconic panoramas—like the twin buttes (AKA "the Mittens"), the Ear of the Wind arch, and the Totem Pole—in Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
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Despite the fact that Adele’s Oscar-award-winning Skyfall theme all but starts playing every time we glimpse an image of Glencoe, the dramatic locale has played host to more than just James Bond flicks. The Scottish highland’s dramatic, unspoiled landscape and breathtaking natural light has drawn out famous directors from all around the world— like Mel Gibson and Alfonso Cuarón—to film projects like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Highlander, Braveheart, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
Venice’s picturesque canals and bungalows, circus-like amusement piers, and eclectic architecture have made it a perennial big picture setting. Since the ’50s films like Grease, The Goonies, and The Big Lebowski have rolled into town to capture the beachfront LA neighborhood’s year-round sun and eccentric vibe.
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Coney Island, Brooklyn
Despite being slightly seedy, little old Coney Island —and its Luna Park amusement rides, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog stand, and oceanfront boardwalk— is one of Brooklyn’s most iconic landmarks. Famous films like The Whiz, Requiem for a Dream, and 2015’s Oscar-nominated Brooklyn, all gave screentime to Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel, Parachute Jump, and beach (albeit different era-appropriate versions).
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Sitting on top of Mount Hollywood, with panoramic views of the LA Basin and Pacific Ocean, Griffith Observatory has earned its spot on LA’s must-see bucket list. Of course, Hollywood location scouts and directors have also made much use of the commanding location. James Deans’ 1955 Rebel Without a Cause actually earned the space and science center its monument status. And in the years since, it’s served as a backdrop in other heavy-hitters like The Terminator and La La Land.
The title of Hollywood’s tropical go-to is Hawaii, and in many cases, Oahu, specifically. Varying landscapes—volcanic mountain ranges, lush valleys, and near-vertical cliffs—make it a filmmaker’s dream since it’s able to stand in for nearly any destination be it South American rainforests, English countryside, or arid African deserts. In the modern film era, Oahu has been featured in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, The Descendants, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
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Bradbury Building, Los Angeles
The stately Bradbury Building in DTLA is no stranger to the big screen. Built in 1893 by Los Angeles gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury, the architectural landmark has made cameos in such popular films as The Artist, (500) Days of Summer, Blade Runner and more. Its skylit atrium, access walkways, and ornate ironwork are unmistakeable.
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