Last Updated on December 9, 2022
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Every year scores of movies are filmed around the world, although only a few become box-office successes.
While some blockbuster movies like Casablanca were filmed entirely on Hollywood sets, others were filmed, at least partially, on locations scattered about the U.S. and all over the world. If you’re a movie buff, as my wife is, or just have a few all time-favorites, as I do, you can visit many places outside Tinseltown where your favorites were filmed.
In several locations around the world – Salzburg and New York immediately come to mind – movie location tours are a thriving business. Salzburg’s movie tours focuses only on The Sound of Music but in New York tours can cover a multiple of movie locations as well as TV series, the latter including such popular shows as Seinfeld, The Sopranos and Sex in the City. You can take one of these tours or, if you’re adventurous, develop your own.
The problem in developing any movie-location tour, of course, is finding the locations where different films and film scenes were shot. One of the best sources I’ve found for learning these locations is The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, a cornucopia of information on location shoots of many movies. It’s easy to use and read, and well indexed.
With a source such as this guide or other resources (in any city the local tourist board will usually be quite helpful in pointing you in the right direction, as well), you can find the location of various movie scenes. Just be aware that, depending upon the age of the movie, some places depicted may no longer exist. For example, Best & Co, the New York department store where Michael Corleone and Kay do their Christmas shopping in The Godfather, was torn down shortly after the movie was filmed. Likewise for the CIT Building (at 650 Madison Avenue, New York) where advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) worked in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
On the other hand, some famous places can be a cinematic gold mine since they’ve been used as location shoots for many popular movies. New York’s famed Plaza Hotel, for example, has been featured in scores of movies including The Way We Were Arthur, Sleepless In Seattle, Barefoot In The Park, The Cotton Club, “Crocodile” Dundee, Plaza Suite Funny Girl, The Great Gatsby, King of New York and Home Alone II, among others. Commercial establishments such as the Plaza will welcome your visit (and business), of course, but keep in mind that some locations you’ve seen on-screen are on private property and you shouldn’t trespass or disturb anyone’s privacy.
Here are four popular films and some of their scene locations, which the peripatetic movie buff may want to consider visiting. Thousands more await you all over the world.
The Sound of Music
Shot on many different locations in and around Salzburg, Austria, the opening scenes in the Salzkammergut show the castle on the Fuchslee, one of the regions several beautiful lakes. Julie Andrews does her twirling about atop the mountain of Mellweg near the village of Schellenberg. Other scenes were filmed in Salzburg’s Old Town, in the Residenzplatz and the Residenz Fountain.
North by Northwest
Hitchcock filmed his comedy thriller in New York City (the Plaza Hotel, United Nations and Grand Central Terminal); Chicago (at the LaSalle Street Station, now replaced by a more modern structure); at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota; and on Long Island (at Old Westbury Gardens, which in the movie is the home of villain James Mason). The beautiful Old Westbury estate was also used in the closing wedding scene of Hitch (nothing to do with Hitchcock, but the romantic comedy starring starring Will Smith). By the way, the famous scene in Indiana, where Cary Grant was attacked by a crop-dusting plane, was actually filmed on Route 99 near Bakersfield, CA.
Midnight in Paris
The 2011 film by Woody Allen brings to the screen some of the best places that Paris, as well as other areas outside the French capital, have to offer. View little shops on the Left bank, the Avenue des Camoens, Hotel Le Bristol and the restaurant Le Grande Véfour, where Gil (Owen Wilson) has a disagreement with Inez’s (Rachel McAdams) parents. Former diners at the upscale eatery include Napoleon and Josephine, Victor Hugo, Colette and Jean Paul Sartre among many others. Additional scenes outside the capital were filmed at the Palace of Versailles and at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.
The incredible desertscapes in the 1962 epic (with Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Jack Hawkins and Claude Rains) were filmed in Jordan, some in the spectacular area of Wadi Rumm north of the Gulf of Aqaba. Many of the non-desert scenes, however, were filmed in Spain. The town of Aqaba was a set built at a beach near Carboneras in Southern Spain and the attack on the train filmed at nearby San Jose. Many of the “Moorish” scenes were filmed in Seville at the site of the 1929 Spanish-American exhibition, and the scene of the courtyard of the “Cairo officer’s club” was created at the Hotel Alfonso XIII.