We have long accepted the fact that most movies and TV shows are filmed in Hollywood studios filled with green screens, endless camera equipment, and a highly qualified tech crew. That said, certain directors also see the value in utilizing real-world settings to perfectly portray the worlds they are creating on the screen.
Every once in a while, while kicking back and enjoying our favorite series or movie, we can’t help but recognize a specific vista, coffee shop or frequented beachfront. Our team of movie buffs has collected some of the most iconic scenes in entertainment history and have scoured the earth to find their real-life filming locations. Take a look at these incredible side-by-side comparisons and find out where you need to travel in order to see for yourself.
Indiana Jones in Petra
Do you recall the lost city that Indiana Jones visits during his hunt for the holy grail? Well, it turns out that this city is not so lost after all, at least not since it was rediscovered in 1812. In fact, in 2007 it was chosen to become one of the seven wonders of the world. The site can definitely credit Indiana Jones for this title.
Since the release of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade in 1989, Petra has become the most visited tourist attraction in Jordan and one of the most visited archeological sites in the world. In ancient times, Petra stood as the capital of the Nabatean Empire, an ancient Arab state that acted as a trading hub for incense, textile and spice trades between Arabia, Africa, and India.
Interstellar in Iceland
It’s no wonder director Christopher Nolan chose to depict the alien planet seen in his 2014 film, Interstellar by taking the movies cast and crew to Iceland. Those who have visited the country know it to be a frozen utopia filled with out of this world geological wonders.
Svínafellsjökull, an impressive glacier found in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park, is briefly seen in the movie as Dr. Mann’s planet. Mann, portrayed by Matt Damon is shown exploring the icy surface of the planet in hopes to find a new home for humankind. He, however, deems it inhospitable for human life.
The Dark Knight in India
Speaking of Christopher Nolan, let’s move on to the DC universe and into the final installment of the Batman Dark Knight trilogy, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. This time Nolan takes his movie set to the other side of the world, to Jodhpur, India. If you recall, Nolan portrays the impressive Mehrangarh Fort as a subterranean prison in which Bruce Wayne is held captive.
The Mehrangarh Fort is a vast 15th century Hindu fort and one of the largest in India. It is known for its beautiful, intricate carvings and expansive courtyards found within its walls. The exterior of the magnificent structure acted as the exterior of the prison, of which Wayne (aka Batman) escapes before returning to Gotham.
Game of Thrones in Spain
Moving on to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and into the seventh season of HBO’s groundbreaking series, Game of Thrones. Die-hard fans will immediately recognize this scene as the Targaryen dragon pit of Kings Landing, where Jon and Daenerys meet with queen Cersei in attempts to negotiate an alliance against the Army of the Dead.
In reality, the memorable GOT meeting point stands as an archeological site, preserving what remains of an ancient Roman amphitheater. The site can be found just outside of Seville, Spain in the well preserved Roman City of Italica. Game of Thrones also briefly returned to the amphitheater in the final season of the series.
Harry Potter in Northumberland
While many fans of both the movie and book series already well know that you can visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, located in Universal Studios Florida, but not many realize that you can also visit the location of Hogwarts itself. Although it may not be filled with secret corridors and enchanted trees as seen in the popular film series, Warner Bros did use a real castle as its setting for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Alnwick Castle, located in Northumberland, England is the location used for Hogwarts Castle both in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Among other areas in and around the castle, Alnwick’s outer courtyard is most recognizable as the area where Harry first learned to fly broomsticks and again when he learned the rules of Quidditch.
The Sopranos in New Jersey
All you Sopranos fans might recognize this booth from the emotional final scene of the long-running HBO drama series. It turns out that this scene was not filmed on a Hollywood set, but rather at an actual ice cream parlor, located in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery, famous for its delicious homemade ice cream, first opened its doors back in 1939 and today still prides itself on its old fashioned atmosphere. They also take great pride in being the setting for The Sopranos concluding scene and even paid tribute to actor James Gandolfini on the day of his passing, by reserving the same booth in his honor.
The Beach in Thailand
Admit it, when you saw the beautiful turquoise waters and white sands in The Beach, the thought of making that secluded island your next vacation spot definitely crossed your mind. Well, it seems you aren’t alone in that thought process. Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand’s Maya Bay where the 2000 drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed has since become a popular tourist destination for movie buffs worldwide.
So much so that the island’s authorities had to temporarily close the island to tourists in attempts to reverse decades of damage done to the area’s marine environment. In short, the beach is no longer as serene and secluded as it once was. Maya Bay gets up to 5,000 visitors a day, which is a bit ironic, considering the premise of the movie is a backpacker seeking an untouched and unique travel destination.
Black Panther in Argentina
Although much of the movie was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, it turns out the Black Panther cast traveled all over the world to perfectly portray Wakanda’s futurist world. One such notably gorgeous scene occurred during the epic battle scenes that took place on top of the Wakanda waterfalls.
Although you might assume that these scenes were entirely CGI, the backdrop actually involved filming at Argentina’s Iguazu waterfalls. UNESCO has established the falls, which run through both Argentina and Brazil as a world heritage site. They are home to around 2,000 species of Latin American flora and fauna.
Escape from Alcatraz on Alcatraz Island
That’s right, this high stakes prison escape movie was filmed in the actual disused prison of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The abandoned maximum security prison, which operated from 1934-1963, has since been preserved as a popular tourist attraction. Alcatraz, now a national park, offers daily tours of the facility where you can see the actual room where the real-life escape took place.
It’s clear to see why they chose to film the 1979 movie, starring Clint Eastwood, at the exact location where the event took place. While still functioning, Alcatraz gained a reputation as the toughest prison in America. The facility housed infamous criminals such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.
Star Trek in California
While it may be no surprise that much of the Star Trek TV and film series was filmed in Hollywood, not all the work was done in a high tech studio as you would expect. To achieve the celestial look within the Star Trek universe, the cast and crew did not have to go far.
Star Trek utilized the Vasquez Rock formation, located in northern Los Angeles County, for several different episodes in the original series as well as in the more recent movies. The franchise featured the rock so many times that it has earned the name “Kirk’s Rock.”
The Hobbit in New Zealand
We know some of you Middle-earth fanatics were waiting for us to pay a visit to the Shire. When filming scenes for The Lord of The Rings film series at Bilbo’s home town, director Peter Jackson went as far as to build an entire village on a family-run farm in Waikato, New Zealand. When set decorator, Alan Lee first spotted the farm he exclaimed that it’s natural forming hills made it look “as though Hobbits had already begun excavations.”
Since then, the film has produced 37 hobbit holes, gardens, and hedges, as well as a mill, a double arch bridge, and even a water and sewerage system. Although the original set was torn down after filming, they permanently rebuild the set again in 2010 for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Now, the town, officially named Hobbiton, is open for visitors to take guided tours. There are now 44 hobit holes, some of which include hobbit-sized decoration and furniture.
Star Wars in Ireland
The Star Wars film series famously uses real-world filming locations as stand-ins for alien planets. In one of the more recent installments, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, protagonist, Luke Skywalker is seen hiding on the planet of Ahch-To. Turns out, this magical looking island does not only exist in a galaxy far, far away. The real-life set for Skywalker’s hideaway is the remote island located off the coast of Ireland called Skellig Michael.
The island was once home to monks who secluded themselves from the rest of civilization for 600 years to practice Christianity. The beehive cells, as well as the long, ancient staircase, had already been on the island for centuries. The island is now open for public visit and has become a popular tourist destination since the success of the movie.
Grand Budapest Hotel in Germany
Although the film is said to be located in Budapest, Hungary, director, Wes Anderson had to cross European borders in order to nail some of the movie’s most beloved scenes. The scenes located within the charming, picturesque Mendl’s bakery were filmed in a famous 19th-century creamery in Dresden, Germany.
The historic shop, named Pfunds Molkerei, is by itself breathtakingly beautiful. It first opened its doors in 1880 by Paul Gustav Leander Pfund. The interior is quite incredible as the walls are covered with hand-painted ceramic tiles and it was even dubbed the “World’s Most Beautiful Milk Shop: in the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records.
Rocky in Philadelphia
This iconic scene might be obvious but we couldn’t help but include it on our list. Anyone who has ever seen Rocky probably envisions this scene in their head every time they go for a run or “Eye of the Tiger” comes on the radio. Well, real fans can take that one step further and visit the exact location where Rocky had his triumphant training montage.
The 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art have become so famous for this scene that they have since become known as the rocky steps. Tourists from all over the world visit the museum simply to run up the stairs with their arms in the air. This practice has become so popular that a bronze Rocky statue is now situated at the bottom right of the steps, offering tourists a much needed Rocky photo op.
Lost in Hawaii
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the island where the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 ended up is not as deserted or out of this world as the show made it seem. In fact, the filming location has long been a popular tourist destination, even before the show aired. If based on the beautiful beaches and lush green flora you guessed Hawaii, then you nailed it right on the head.
When we first encounter the Lost survivors, as they gather around the wreckage, the cast and crew are actually located on Mokule’ia Beach on Oahu’s North Shore. The beach scenes in the second season were filmed at Police Beach near Haleiwa.
Star Wars in Tunisia
As we mentioned, Star Wars loves turning real-world locations into intergalactic planets. One real-life location, in Southern Tunisia, is what set the scene as the first planet to be introduced in the original movie, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
In the film, the planet of Tatooine, is a lawless place ruled by Hutt gangsters, located in the galaxy’s outer rim. Both Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker grew up on Tatooine and Obi-Wan Kenobi spent years hiding on the planet. Tunisia’s sandy deserts and African climate made for the perfect location to depict this rugged alternative universe.
When Harry Met Sally in Manhattan
Who can forget the scene which produced one of the most frequently quoted lines in movie history; “I’ll have what she’s having.” Well, it turns out, if you’re in Manhattan, you actually can have what she’s having. That’s right; the scene was filmed in an actual kosher-style delicatessen located on the Lower East Side of New York City.
Katz’s Deli, founded way back in 1888 has become widely popular among locals and tourist alike for its pastrami sandwiches and kosher hot dogs. Each week, the deli serves around 5,000 pounds of corned beef, 2,000 pounds of salami and 12,000 hot dogs. Since the iconic scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, the deli has become a pop culture centerpiece and can be seen in several films and TV shows.
Forrest Gump in Utah
Run Forest Run! One thing we all know and love about the charming and adorable Forrest Gump, played by the equally kind-hearted Tom Hanks, was his affinity for running. So much so, that in his deepest time of despair, he began to run, and did not stop running for three years, gaining quite a dedicated fan base along the way.
Nobody knows the real reason why Gump finally stopped running, but we do know where he stopped; right in front of one of America’s most impressive road vistas. While running on highway US163 through Utah with Monument Valley seen in the background, Gump suddenly stops running in the middle of the road and decides to return home.
Mad Max in Namibia
Thirty years since the third Mad Max film was released in 1985, 2015’s Mad Max Fury Road finally reintroduced the world to its nearly uninhabitable post-apocalyptic universe. This time, with a brand new filming country, Namibia.
While the film was originally mean to be shot near Broken Hill in Australia, heavy rain transformed the landscape and it was no longer suitable for the sandy world of Mad Max. Namibia’s desert flatlands, treeless terrain and rolling hills made for the perfect setting to depict the movies desolate world.
James Bond in Scotland
Stunning landscapes and gorgeous locations from around the world have long been integral in making the James Bond franchise as monumental as it still stands today. Scenes from the 2012 film, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig are by far, no exception. It makes sense, due to Bond’s Scottish roots that the crime-fighting gentleman would at some point end up admiring Scotland’s breathtaking scenery.
In Skyfall, after traveling from Turkey to Japan, and then to London, Bond finally arrives in Glencoe, Scotland, where we find the protagonist returning back to his childhood home. Glencoe’s stunning scenery plays a big part in the film as it hosted some of the movies most destructive fight scenes. 007 fans have since visited the location to admire its natural beauty.
The Hunger Games in North Carolina
The suspenseful scenes held in The Hunger Games “Arena” are found much closer to home than you might think. The idyllic waterfall seen in the backdrop of the Hunger Games first installment can be found in North Carolina’s Dupont State Forest. You can see these falls, named Triple Falls, in the moving scene where Katniss discovers Pita hiding from their competitors in full camouflage.
Another waterfall, called Bridal Veil Falls, found in the same park, is also utilized in the film. You can spot Bridal Veil in the scene where Katniss attempts to find relief from her burning leg by jumping into a pool of water, at the base of the falls.
Into The Wild in Alaska
Did you know that the 2007 survival film, Into the Wild, is actually a biographical tale based on the real-life story of Christopher McCandless? In this, not only does the movie showcase McCandless’s experiences in the Alaskan wilderness, the scenes in and around the abandoned bus, were filmed with a perfect replica just 50 miles south of where the events actually took place.
The actual abandoned World War II-era bus, “Bus 142,” where the real Alex spent his final days, still sands on the Stampede Trail, west of Healy in Denali National Park, Alaska. Since the release of the movie, the spot has become a famous attraction for serious hikers. Getting to the bus is no easy feat, however, and it takes a difficult 20-mile trail to reach it.
Orange Is the New Black in New York
Majority of the show, Orange Is the New Black takes place, within prison walls, as the audience follows the inmates of the Litchfield penitentiary. If you’ve ever wondered how director Jenji Cohen and her set designers managed to make the set look so accurately like a prison, we have your answer here.
The exterior scenes outside of Litchfield were all filmed outside a semi-abandoned psychiatric center called Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center. The center, which opened in Orangeburg, New York in 1931, spans about 600 acres and once housed around 11,000 patients.
The Martian in Jordan
External scenes of the 2015 science fiction movie, Martian were filmed in Wadi Rum, a UNESCO world heritage site located in Jordan. The desert climate and sandy dunes found at Wadi Rum offer the ideal setting to depict life on Planet Mars.
Martian was not the first film set on Mars to utilize Wadi Rum. Movies such as Mission to Mars, Red Planet and The Last Days on Mars all used the Jordanian site as their filming location.
You’ve Got Mail in Manhattan
Who can forget this tear-jerking scene at the end of You’ve Got Mail. While New York natives might already be well aware, others might not realize that this exact spot is open to the public and can easily be visited by anyone who’s interested
The 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park, Manhattan has been standing in the Upper West Side park since 1981 when a group of volunteers took the initiative to begin planting. Today more than 40 locals tend to their individual plots and remain committed to maintaining the garden’s beauty.
Django in Louisiana
Django Unchained, the Western film, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino made waves soon after its release in 2012. One of the key settings in the film was Bennett Manor, where Django and Schultz arrive in an attempt to track down the Brittle Brothers.
What acts as Bennett Manor in the film, stands in reality as a functioning plantation located on the west side of the Mississippi River near Wallace Louisiana. The site, first built in 1790, was declared a national historic landmark in 1992. The house is unique as it is one of few that still resembles the architecture of the pre-Civil War plantations.
Forrest Gump in Georgia
Whilst we are down south, let’s take a step into the world of one of the most lovable characters in history, Forrest Gump. One of the most memorable lines in the film, “life is like a box of chocolates…you’ll never know what you’re gonna get,” is probably one of the most quoted lines in movie history.
Fans of the movie, know that Gump recited these lines while sitting on a park bench, telling his story to friendly strangers that take a seat next to him. While the bench itself no longer stands where it did in the movie, you can visit the location where it once stood, in Chippewa Square, at the center of Savannah, Georgia’s downtown historic district.
The Avengers in The Philippines
If you have yet to see Avengers Infinity War and End Game, consider yourselves warned, there are spoilers ahead…Those of you who are up to date might recall the final scene in Infinity War where we see Thanos taking in his victory in solitude.
To those well-traveled Marvel fans out there, you might recognize this green paradise. Marvel movie makers traveled all the way to the Philippines in order to film that scene in Infinity War, as well as in End Game, when the surviving Avengers return to retrieve the infinity stones from Thanos. More specifically, the scenes were filmed on the site of the beautiful Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue, Ifugao Province.
Argo in Turkey
Although most of Ben Affleck’s historical movie, Argo, takes place in Tehran, Iran, not a single minute of the film was shot there. As filming on location in Iran was not possible, Affleck, who both directed and starred in the film, had to get creative.
In addition to various location in Los Angeles, the cast and crew also traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to get a few key shots. These scenes include the Old City- Sultanahmet area, the infamous Istanbul Grand Bazaar and the stunning Hagia Sophia Mosque, seen above.
Avatar in China
Pandora’s “Hallelujah Mountains” seen in the 2009 scifi film, Avatar, might look completely out of this world, however, in reality, they are not as out of reach as you would expect. Granted, the mountains in real life are not floating in mid-air, but you can find a similarly majestic vista in the Hunan province of China.
The quartz-sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie mountains provided the bases of what later became the floating “Hallelujah Mountains.” The Zhangjiajie government remain proud of this fact and even renamed the Southern Sky Column of the mountains the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountains.” The real-life scenery is unbelievably gorgeous and definitely worth a visit for fans and non-fans alike.
Tomb Raider in Cambodia
Another mystical backdrop that can be visited in real life is seen in the 2001 action hit, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Located in Angkor, Siem Reap Province in Cambodia stands the ancient Ta Prohm temple. The temple, which once served as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university has since become an iconic tourist attraction as millions flock to take a photo under the same tree as Angelina Jolie.
It’s no wonder this site was utilized in the iconic adventure movie. It’s ancient history, mysterious appeal and grandiose naturally growing tree branches offer the perfect aesthetic for the famed Lara Croft as she sought out the ancient Illuminati artifacts.
Pirates of the Carribean in Utah
While the title might suggest that the Pirates of the Caribbean film series would stick to filming locations in and around the Carribean Sea, they did utilize some surprising alternatives to make their movies happen. One especially surprising filming location is located in the landlocked state of Utah.
The scene where Jack Sparrow is stranded in David Jones’ Locker shows audiences an unimaginably secluded world with miles of nothingness. The filming spot is located ten miles into the Bonneville Salt Flats, an expanse of land covered with salt and other minerals in Tooele County, Utah.
Planet of The Apes in California
Who can forget that memorable finale scene in the original Planet of the Apes movie where George Taylor makes the discovery that the planet he is on is actually earth? Well, it turns out that this scene was filmed at a California State Beach in Malibu called Point Dume.
The beach is often used for swimming, surfing, scuba diving, and fishing. It’s also a perfect spot for whale watching during the winter migration period. The ending of the movie was also filmed at Pirate’s Cove Beach which is located just around the corner from Point Dume.
Game of Thrones in Croatia
Heading back to Kings Landing, another real-world site that the series used to portray its medieval universe was the coastal city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Located along the Adriatic sea, the series used Dubrovnik to depict many of its most recognizable scenes.
One of these scenes includes Cercei’s infamous “walk of shame” in the series’ fifth season. Thanks to Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik now has a booming tourism scene and currently stands as one of the most prominent tourist destinations along the Mediterranean Sea.
Goodwill Hunting in Boston
While it’s no surprise that this 1997 classic was filmed in the heart of Boston, Massachusets, did you know that the bar seen in the movie can be visited in real life? Contrary to many other movies that use real bars and restaurants as a setting that they rename, in this case, they did not even bother changing the name.
Although its’s undergone a bit of a facelift since the filming of the movie, the L Street Tavern, located in South Boston acted as the place where Will Hunting and his friends spent their evenings. Tourists now go to the bar in attempts to sit at the same table where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon once sat. That being said, the establishment still has the local, down to earth appeal that is showcased in the movie.
Lord of The Rings in New Zealand
Taking a step back to Middle-earth, here’s another memorable Lord of the Rings scene that you can visit in real life. Though filmmakers did have to utilize special effects in order to transform this natural bank into the towering Argonath Gate, you still can’t help but notice the similarity.
The Anduin river that Frodo and his eight companions need to follow in order to pass through the Pillars of the Kings, is a real body of water that is open to the public. The river, located on the South Island of New Zealand, is called Kawarau river and we are happy to report that die-hard fans can now take a rafting tour to experience the scene for themselves.