Some of the world’s most visually stunning movies, many with Hollywood ties, were filmed at locations around the world with cultural significance, places that stand as testaments to human ingenuity and natural beauty. By providing much more than “scenic backgrounds,” these movies, whether Oscar nominees or other blockbuster hits, broaden viewers’ understanding of civilization itself.
In 1987, the People’s Republic of China granted filmmakers permission to shoot the movie The Last Emperor inside Beijing’s Forbidden City. The film went on to win nine Oscars, including best picture. The Imperial Palace was built between 1406 and 1420 and was the seat of power for 24 emperors for over 500 years.
From Russia With Love was filmed near the Hagia Sophia — a 6th-century mosque in a historic area of Istanbul. In the movie, which premiered in 1963, James Bond meets his love interest at the site, and a series of espionage hijinks takes the pair around the city.
The Sound of Music was filmed in and around the historic center of the city of Salzburg, Austria. The musical’s characters Maria and the von Trapp children sing as they explore the city’s town square, playing near its fountain and traipsing across nearby bridges. The movie won the Oscar for best picture and four other categories in 1965.
The Statue of Liberty in New York is recognized as both a symbol of friendship — France gave it to the United States in 1886 — and of freedom. The musical On the Town (1949) — a story of three Navy sailors on one night of leave in New York, starring Gene Kelley and Frank Sinatra — was filmed at several famous locations, including at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Completed in 1648, the Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to honor his wife and is considered one of the world’s greatest architectural and artistic achievements. In the 2008 Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, the movie’s main character, Jamal — an orphan from a Muslim part of Mumbai — works as a fake tour guide at the Taj Mahal to survive.
The palace of Versailles in France housed three kings, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, and provided them with the height of luxury in a European royal residence. In 2005, the Sofia Coppola movie Marie Antoinette was filmed on location at the palace and across its grounds. Coppola’s crew was only allowed to film one day per week because the site also functions as a museum.