Whether its Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, big film and TV franchises have put destinations like New Zealand and Croatia on the map for globetrotters. However as beautiful as they might seem, travellers should be careful when planning to follow in the footsteps of their favourite film heroes and heroines. That’s because most movies are not actually filmed where they seem, with around half of the top 50 bestselling films in the UK last year actually being shot in destinations that are not part of their own storyline. One fifth of these films were not even filmed in the foremost ‘setting’ of the movie. These bucket list destinations are breath-taking nonetheless, so without further ado, here’s 12 of the ‘real’ destinations from favourite movies and TV shows…
THELMA & LOUISE (1991)
Thelma and Louise is a movie classic about two women travelling from Arkansas to the Grand Canyon while on the run from the law. The film however was almost entirely shot in the states of California and Utah. The bar where things star to go wrong for the friends is actually Cowboy Country in Long Beach, California, while the desert scenes, including those at the ‘Grand Canyon’ were actually filmed around Moab, Utah.
When to visit Utah: the weather is normally warm and moderate in the Spring and Autumn months.
GREEN BOOK (2018)
Nominated for five Oscars this year, ‘road trip movie’ Green Book tells the story of a world-class African-American pianist and his Italian-American driver as they set out on a concert tour during a period of segregation in the 1960s. While their journey takes in several states across the Mid-West and Deep South, the film was shot almost in entirely in theatres, diners and towns in the one state of Louisiana.
When to visit Louisiana: February to May is when the weather is comfortable and cool. It’s also one of the best times to discover celebrations in New Orleans.
HOUSE OF CARDS (2013-2018)
A Netflix classic, House of Cards is about ruthless politicians Frank and Clare Underwood battling it out in America’s Capital, Washington, DC for power. However, while some scenes were shot in DC, most of the series, including the Underwood’s homes and many of the main character’s workplaces, were actually filmed in the historic town of Baltimore in the neighbouring state of Maryland.
When to visit Maryland: travellers will normally get the warmest weather in the summer months between June and August.
BLACK PANTHER (2018)
Set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, movie-goers could be forgiven for assuming that the five-times Oscar-nominated Marvel film Black Panther was filmed exclusively in Africa. However South Africa, Zambia and Uganda have only very small roles in its production. Most of the film was shot in Atlanta including the High Museum of Art, City Hall and at indoor-recording studios.
Argentina’s awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls also provided the stunning backdrop to the lead character’s (T’Challa) dramatic fight for the throne.
When to visit Argentina’s Iguazu Falls: during July to October and February the April the weather is great and the park is not normally too crowded.
FORREST GUMP (1994)
Although much is made of the titular character’s upbringing in Alabama, Forrest Gump was actually filmed almost entirely in South Carolina. Most of the town in which Forrest lived and the iconic scene where he recalls his past from a public bench was also shot in neighbouring Savannah, Georgia. Forrest’s time serving in the US Army in Vietnam was also filmed in Fripp Island and Hunting Island State Park, off the Beaufort coast of South Carolina.
When to visit Savannah, Georgia: the Spring and early Summer is when the weather is warm and the tree leaves and azalea blooms are coaxed out of hibernation.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015)
Based on the bestselling book by E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey is about Washington State college senior, ‘Ana’ Steel, and Seattle businessman, Christian Grey. However, the film was shot almost entirely in Canada, particularly around (the other) Vancouver in British Columbia and the city’s historic downtown core, Gastown. Christian is first seen jogging in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour seafront area (rather than Seattle or Portland) and confusingly the scenes at Washington State University in Vancouver (USA) were actually shot at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia.
When to visit Vancouver: the summer months typically bring warmer and dryer weather.
AVATAR (2009) & AVATAR 2 (2020)
Reminiscent of the Amazon or Hawaii, Pandorma’s lush tropical forests inspired a generation of movie watchers in 2009 and helped make Avatar the bestselling film in history. The backdrop to the famous battle scene with the floating mountains is actually Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China’s Hunan Province in China’s Hunan Province, a place on many travellers (especially movie fans) bucket list.
While the visual effects are largely computer-generated, they were heavily inspired by New Zealand’s Maori culture and landscapes. So much so that live action scenes for the sequel Avatar 2, due out next year, will be shot in New Zealand this spring.
Whilst in New Zealand, you have the added bonus of seeing many of the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings filming locations. A trip to Hobbiton is a must for anyone, even if you’re not a fan.
When to visit New Zealand: travellers looking for warmer weather should consider going in the summer months, normally in January and February.
BOND 25 (2020)
It’s been 57 years since Dr. No. In that time Bond has been all over the globe, often turning relatively undiscovered sites into “must see” destinations along the way. The island of Khao Phing Kan was rarely visited until it was used as Scaramanga’s island home in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Details on set locations for Bond 25, Daniel Craig’s last film (due for release in 2020), are sparse but leaks suggest that Canada will be significant in the movie. The last time Bond was seen in the ‘Great White North’ was 42 years ago in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.
When to visit Canada: summer is normally peak season for most Canadian destinations however much of the scenery is just as breathing in the spring months.
JURASSIC PARK (1993 – 2021)
Set in the fictional Central American Island of ‘Isle Nublar’, the original Jurassic Park movie is a classic for children of the 1990s. However, the movie sequels – including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which was the third highest-grossing movie last year – were all shot in Hawaii. Sites across the islands of Oahu and particularly Kauai provided a spectacular backdrop to the film. The TV series ‘Lost’ was also filmed in Hawaii with many locations on Oahu. Also Pearl Harbour of course.
When to visit Hawaii: avoid the rainy season in the winter months and opt for the months between April and October for the best weather.
Set in ever-changing dreamworlds made of seemingly anonymous land and cityscapes, viewers would be forgiven for thinking that Inception was an entirely CGI and studio-based production. That’s despite nearly every scene being shot in (or based on) a real location across four continents. In addition to stunning sites in Canada, the film takes in many unexpected destinations – such as the opening scene, which sees Leonardo DiCaprio wash up on a Japanese beach that’s actually located near Los Angeles.
When to visit Los Angeles: the city is glorious year-round but holidaymakers looking for comfortable weather might consider travelling in the Spring and Autumn.
THE REVENANT (2015)
Academy award-winning film The Revenant is perhaps one of the best destination movies of the last decade. A story of betrayal and survival, it is set in the brutal and wild 19th century US frontierland. While some filming took place in Montana, most of the locations are actually in Canada including at sites of natural beauty such as Fortress Mountain, across Alberta and British Columbia.
When to visit Vancouver: the summer months typically bring warmer and dryer weather. Beautiful in the winter too – and you can combine it with a ski/snowboarding trip to Whistler 2 hours away.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
Critically acclaimed for its genre, fans will be forgiven for assuming that Mad Max: Fury Road – with its deadly high-speed car chases in a post-apocalyptic dessert – was filmed in Australia. Although every other movie in the Mad Max franchise was shot Down Under, one of the country’s wettest rainy seasons on record altered the landscape and forced production to be moved to the Namib desert of Namibia.
Best time to visit the Namib desert: the dry season (normally late Spring to early Autumn) for wildlife viewing.