Top 50 Movie Locations

Continuing the countdown of top movie locations from 40 to 31, we visit the sleepy village of Sandford, Mill Valley of the Fifties and the Lake Country of Naboo...

HOT FUZZ (2007)


Hot Fuzz film location

The time-honoured tropes of the US cop drama are brought by Edgar Wright to the sleepy West Country village of ‘Sandford’ – an all-purpose fictitious place name used in police training exercises. This is no village at all, but Wells in Somerset, the smallest city in England, with its instantly recognisable Cathedral removed digitally from the skyline. It also happens to be the director’s hometown – and he gleefully turns Somerfield Supermarket in the High Street, where he once worked, into the business of arch-villain Timothy Dalton. Stay, like London cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) at the Swan Hotel, and enjoy a pint at the nearby Crown at Wells, a 15th century coaching inn on the south side of Market Square, which became the local pub where the cops meet after work. Wells stands at the southern end of the Mendip Hills, on the A39 about 18 miles southwest of Bath.

Wells, Somerset

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the clones (2002)

The Lake Country

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones film location

Yes, there’s some CGI added to the long shots of the lakeside palace to which Padmé (Natalie Portman) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) retreat for a moment of peace from intergalactic machinations, but you’ll be surprised how much of this extraordinary villa is real – even the creeping vines and oddly clipped bushes. The arched terrace with its delicately carved balustrade is that of the Villa del Balbianello, overlooking the peaceful waters of Lake Como in northern Italy. Crowning the tip of a steep, wooded promontory about 15 miles north of the town of Como, you can access the estate by boat from the nearby village of Lenno or by a 15 minute trek through the woods. Did you recognise Balbianello as the sanatorium at which James Bond (Daniel Craig) recovers, after having his ‘itch’ enthusiastically scratched by Le Chiffre in Casino Royale?

Villa del Balbianello, Lenno, Lake Como, Italy

The Exorcist (1973)

The MacNeil house

The Exorcist film location

The Exorcist house must be one of the top tourist attractions in Washington DC, though this doesn’t seem to be appreciated by its owners, who’ve erected a high fence around the property. The ideal location for the story, the house is in DC’s smart southwestern suburb of Georgetown near to the University where actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is filming a campus drama. It also conveniently overlooks the perilously steep staircase running down to M Street. What it lacks is a bedroom window to cast the ominous beam of light onto the approaching Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), so a false wing was added for the production. And beware of taking directions from the movies – despite what you might have seen in James Cameron’s True Lies, there’s no subway station at Georgetown.

3600 Prospect Street, Georgetown, Washington DC

The Beach (2000)

The beach

The Beach film location

The problem with making a film about a secluded and unknown beach is that, once the film is successful, the beach is no longer unknown. Danny Boyle’s film of the Alex Garland novel was filmed on Hat Maya, the main beach of Phi Phi Leh Island, near Phuket, Thailand, amid allegations of ecological vandalism when imported palms were planted to make the ‘perfect’ spot even more perfect. Damaged by the terrible tsunami of 2004, the area has now started to recover from the disaster and it can be reached by a daily passenger ferry from both Krabi and Phuket Pier.

Hat Maya, Phi Phi Leh Island, Phuket, Thailand

Back To The Future (1985)

Doc Brown’s house

Back To The Future film location

Robert Zemeckis stitches together a host of Los Angeles locations to make up the fictitious ‘Mill Valley’ and, if you’ve taken the Universal Studios tour, you’ll have seen the famous town square on its backlot. A real location you won’t want to miss is Doc Brown’s bungalow. The 1908 craftsman home is the Gamble House – built for the Gamble family (as in the Procter and Gamble company). It’s now an architectural showpiece and you can not only admire the Japanese influenced wood-shingle exterior but take a guided tour of the house. If you’re a film fan, you’ll want to set aside a bit of time to explore the leafy streets of Pasadena, which has become Hollywood’s go-to suburban backlot. Here you’ll not only find the 1950s homes of Marty McFly’s parents, but locations from both the 1978 and 2007 versions of Halloween, Father Of The Bride, Pretty In Pink, and many, many more.

Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, California

Pride and Prejudice (2005)


Pride And Prejudice film location

The most famous screen ‘Pemberley’, home of Jane Austen’s Mr d’Arcy, must be Lyme Park, Cheshire, featured in the legendary 1995 TV production, which turned a simple wet shirt into the number one fantasy of every heterosexual woman in the UK. ‘Pemberley’ V.2005 is Chatsworth House, seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, which for some arcane reason is in Derbyshire, in the heart of the spectacular Peak District in central England. It’s one of the most famous – and most visited – stately homes in the UK, so if you find yourself overwhelmed by high-season coach parties, take the opportunity to explore the rugged grandeur of the Peak District, dramatic windswept backdrop to many a period romance – a sure thing to dry out that damp shirt.

Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Scream (1996)


Scream film location

Charming northern California – little towns set among rolling green hills wafted with the scent of eucalyptus trees, where the climate is bright but, it has to be said, moist. It’s also where very bad things happen to naughty teens. The mansion in which Wes Craven’s knowing slasher bloodily climaxes is a private home, overlooking Hwy 1 just east of Tomales, south from the Petaluma Road. At the time of filming, the house was vacant, but it's now renovated and occupied, so please respect the owners' privacy. There is no ‘Woodsboro’, but if you want to relax alfresco with your pals and debate the unbreakable rules of the genre, then the town square of Healdsburg, on Hwy101 in Sonoma County, is the place – and don’t forget to take advantage of the fact that Healdsburg is the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country.

Healdsburg, Northern California

Twilight (2008)

The beach

Twilight film location

Stephenie Meyer’s series of novels deftly covers all demographics, with pale interesting vamps facing off against remarkably buff werewolves. Twihards are now also faced with the added dilemma of choosing between Team Book and Team Film. Although the stories are set around Forks, Washington State, with plenty of easily recognised locations, the (first) screen version was made largely around Portland in Oregon. The real surfing beach of La Push can be found at the mouth of the Quileute River in Clallam County, Washington State, but the beach seen in the film is Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, off Hwy 101, two miles north of Cannon Beach. It’s no stranger to the screen, having previously been seen in Steven Spielberg’s raucous WWII comedy 1941; as well as Spielberg-produced adventure The Goonies, and Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfing movie Point Break.

Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Forrest Gump (1994)

The bench

Forrest Gump film location

I don’t know about the USA, but when I was a kid in the UK, the luxurious box of chocolates we opened every Christmas contained a little illustrated card under the lid cataloguing the varieties – which meant we could all avoid those disgusting Orange Cremes. There you have it – there’s a gap in the market for clearly labelled confectionery in Savannah, Georgia, which is where the sweetly innocent / irritatingly dumb Forrest Gump grows up. Unlike Good Will Hunting, there is no bench for your once-in-a-lifetime photo op. In the film, the seat where Gump collars anyone who’ll listen, stood on the north side of historic Chippewa Square. If you really want to sit and ponder exactly how much like a box of chocolates life is, you’ll find plenty of seats within the garden square. If you want to see the original bench itself, you’ll find it in the nearby Savannah History Museum.

Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah History Museum, 303 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Savannah, Georgia

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

The temple

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film location

Not being a gamer, when I first saw the title, I imagined the film starting life as a biopic of Howard Carter, discoverer of Tutankhamun’s treasure, which got the Hollywood rewrite treatment – “Yeah, but how about if this Carter dude was a hot chick in shorts?”. Few tombs get raided in the film, but Lara (Angelina Jolie) does have to retrieve half of the MacGuffin from the astonishing Hindu temple complex at Siem Reap in Cambodia. The largest religious monument in the world, now entwined with serpentine fig tree roots, it’s beyond the imagining of the most extravagant production designer. As Cambodia recovers from its desperately troubled past, a modest tourism industry is beginning to blossom, learning to balance economic gain with inevitable concerns about the effect on the ancient buildings. It’s an extensive site and there’s no public transport between the monuments, so check for guided tours.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

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