Deserts, beaches, castles, gothic neighbourhoods, futuristic architecture, volcanic islands… The variety of landscapes offered by our country has made it one of the best backdrops for major international productions. We reviewed 10 of these unique film locations.
Whether representing medieval or futuristic environments, there are countless global film productions that find Spain to be the ideal setting for shooting their films.
A fact that, in addition to the tourist and cultural projection that it represents for Spain and the areas where they are shot, impacts positively and directly on the economy of these territories. Last year, Malaga, among others, hosted 186 projects, which left a direct investment of 23 million euros; Tenerife, for its part, hosted 151 audiovisual shootings, which left almost 20 million on the island, according to ‘Shooting in Spain’.
We review 10 of the thousands of locations in Spain that have served as the setting for international feature films.
This Romanesque castle, built in the 11th century in the Huesca town of the same name and declared a National Monument in 1906, was the setting for the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005), by director Ridley Scott. A film starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons that also shot scenes in other Spanish locations, such as Casa Pilatos and the Reales Alcázares (Seville); the Pinar de Valsaín (Segovia), the Cathedral of Avila and the town of Palma del Río in Cordoba.
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia
An important part of the film ‘Tomorrowland: A World Beyond’ (2015), by director Brad Bird and starring George Clooney, was shot in the futuristic facilities of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, designed by the visionary Santiago Calatrava. The Umbracle, the Science Museum, the Hemisfèric and the Palau de les Artes were all featured in the Disney blockbuster.
Seville’s Plaza de España
The work of architect Aníbal González for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition has hosted numerous productions. Among the most significant are ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962), which was also shot in Casa Pilatos, the Royal Alcazars, Plaza de América and María Luisa Park in Seville; and ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ (2002), for which it became the royal palace of Naboo, one of the planets of the universe created by George Lucas. Such is its cinematic legacy that, in 2017, the European Film Academy (EFA) included it in its Treasures of European Film Culture.
If there is a place in Spain that appears to be the garden of the Greek gods, it is the Canary Islands. The Teide National Park, Icod, Buenavista del Norte and Guía de Isora, as well as Timanfaya, in Lanzarote, and the Maspalomas Dunes, in Gran Canaria, were the settings chosen for ‘Clash of the Titans’ (2010) and its sequel, ‘Wrath of the Titans’ (2012). An archipelago that has also hosted blockbusters such as ‘Fast and Furious 2’, ‘Exodus’ and ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’.
The city of Barcelona
Barcelona’s historical and architectural wealth has made it the backdrop of many films: Jack Nicholson travelled through it in 1975 in search of an arms dealer in ‘The Passenger’; Cecilia Roth and Penélope Cruz suffered heartbreak and death in the city in ‘All About My Mother’; and the protagonist of ‘Perfume’ prepared his sinister concoctions in the Gothic neighbourhoods of Barcelona portrayed as Paris in the film. But if there is one international film that pays tribute to the capital of Catalonia, it is Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ (2008).
Cabo de Gata and the Tabernas Desert
To talk about the western film genre and Spain is to refer directly to Almería. The Tabernas Desert was the setting for some of the most iconic American westerns and spaghetti westerns: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘The Price of Death’ ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ are just a few. Nowadays, it is possible to enjoy the cinematic scenes of the 60s and 70s in the Oasys theme park, a real western town. Other later blockbusters, such as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982) and ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1988) were also shot in Cabo de Gata and the Tabernas Desert.
Molina de Aragon Castle
The largest and most monumental castle in the province of Guadalajara, declared a National Monument in 1931, was the setting for the film version of Umberto Eco’s novel, ‘The Name of the Rose’, starring Sean Connery and a young Christian Slater. In addition to this fortress, built in the 10th and 12th centuries, there are many Spanish castles that have been used in films such as those of Peñíscola and Belmonte in ‘El Cid’, with Charlton Heston; the one in Sigüenza in ‘Christopher Colombus: The Discovery’, with Marlon Brando; and the one in Segovia, in ‘Mr Arkadin‘ by Orson Welles.
Castile and Leon
If the 1960s was a golden age for the great historical Hollywood blockbusters, it was also a golden decade for Castile and Leon as a film set. ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965) turned the Sierra de Soria and the area of the Aldeávila dam in Salamanca into faraway Siberia, with stars such as Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin and Alec Guiness. ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966) shot in the Sierra de la Demanda, the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza and the Contreras cemetery, in the province of Burgos. For its part, ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ (1964), with Sophia Loren, Alec Guiness and James Mason, used the Sierra de Guadarrama, La Pedriza and Granja de San Ildefonso in its production. The Granja de San Ildefonso and its surroundings, which also hosted films such as ‘The Battle of the Bulge’ (1965), ‘Patton’ (1979) or ‘55 Days at Peking’ (1963).
‘Mar adentro’ (2004), which won the Oscar for the best foreign film, featured Galicia and its landscapes. Alejandro Amenábar chose the spectacular estuary of Muros and Noia, the beach of Furnas and the port of Insuela-Palmeira, among other places in the area, for his most acclaimed production. But the link between Galicia and cinema goes back to before: ‘The Pride and the Passion’ (1957), with Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren also chose this region for its shooting; as Roman Polanski did later for his film ‘Death and the Maiden’ (1994).
Madrid: the city of Almodóvar
In the universe of Spain’s most international film director, Pedro Almodóvar, Madrid holds a privileged position. It is practically a fetish and one of his favourite muses. From the Plaza Mayor and Callao in ‘La flor de mi secreto’, through the Puerta de Alcalá and the Kio Towers in ‘Carne Trémula’, to Lavapiés and the Cine Doré in his last great work, ‘Dolor y Gloria’, the city of Madrid has always been a grand protagonist in the films of the director from La Mancha. There are even tours that take you through the most iconic Almodovar film locations in the capital.