The islands around Greece, each with differing climates and landscapes, offer an amazing level of visual diversity. From pine covered mountains and white sand beaches to volcanic rocks and whitewashed villages – this is the place where you’ll find quaint streets surrounded by historic ruins. From a film makers point of view, there is a myriad of potential here. Here are just a handful of the famous movies that made the most of Greece’s beauty.
Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008)
This romantic musical, adapted from the famous West End and Broadway show, tells the story of a bride to be who is trying to find her real father and uses hit songs by the popular 1970s group ABBA. The all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Amanda Seyfried find themselves on the mountainous isle of Skopelos for much of the filming, with the harbour where Harry and Sam arrive located at the Old Port on the neighbouring island of Skiathos.
If you’ve ever wanted to recreate the moment Sophie, Bill, Harry and Sam leap from the rocks into sea during Our Last Summer, head to Glysteri Beach. But be warned, the rocky peninsula is not easily accessible.
The beautiful white sand beach and transparent Aegean ocean at Kastani Beach sets the scene for Does Your Mother Know? and Lay All Your Love On Me where, since filming, you’ll find a laid-back beach bar and lots of crowds during the high season. If you’re looking for the charming chapel where the wedding takes place, pay a visit to the island’s northwestern tip, near the town of Glossa, and you’ll discover the chapel of Agios Ioannis Prodromos. The interior was a set built at Pinewood Studios in London, but the exterior still stands perched on top of a rocky, 100 metre peak.
The jetty where Donna greets the arrival of Rosie and Tanya is actually not on Skopelos at all, but in Damouhari on the east coast of mainland Greece. This same spot was used for the climax of Dancing Queen.
Bourne Identity (2002)
Based on the 1980 spy novel by Robert Ludlum, Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, a man suffering from total amnesia about his identity and background. In possession of extraordinary talents, he finds himself being hunted down by lethal assassins while trotting around Europe.
During the last scene, Bourne finally manages to track down his estranged love, Marie, on the Greek island of Mykonos. He finds her running a scooter rental business at Sea Satin Market in Little Venice, set beneath the island’s famous windmills. This final scene begins with aerial views over the coast of the island, showing the typical rugged terrain which contrasts beautifully with the white and blue architecture of the town.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
This epic tale, based on Louis de Bernieres’ 1994 novel, is set amid the Italian occupation of Greece during World War II and tells the heartwarming love story of Captain Corelli, played by Nicholas Cage, and Pelagia, played by Penelope Cruz. The film was shot entirely on Kefalonia, one of the biggest and most popular of the Ionian islands which is embellished with old monastries, country roads and stunning beaches.
A huge and beautiful set for wartime Argostoli was built in the village of Sami, mainly around Kastro Hotel and the surrounding area. Myrtos Beach enjoys several scenes – it’s where Corelli explodes the mine, meets Weber and where the La Scala boys have fun with some Italian women. Close to Sami, the village of Dihalia was used for Dr. Iannis’ house, Drosaulas house and the Kapheneion.
Various scenes were shot at Domata, and the country roads of Keramies see Corelli and his troups traveling along in army vehicles. Mount Ainos sets the scene for the ambush and – spoiler alert – the scene where the Germans set a road block and the Italians surrender their guns.
Although much of the set was removed after filming, its easy to get a sense of the movie from the natural terrain and locations around the island.
Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
The Cradle of Life, starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, is the sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. On the rich island of Santorini, an earthquake uncovers the Luna Temple, which was built by Alexander the Great to house his most prized treasures. Lara Croft finds a glowing orb with a code etched into it which serves as a map to the Cradle of Life where Pandora’s box is located.
The opening scene takes place in the quiet village of Oia on the northern tip of Santorini. Here, a Greek wedding is interupted by a devastating earthquake. The last of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, Santorini’s deep history dates back to 3000 BC. With talk about a connection between the island and the lost kingdom of Atlantis, the volcanic cliffs with contrasting white villages make for a spectacular and magical set.
Shirley Valentine (1989)
This award-winning British comedy tells the story of a middle-aged Liverpudlian housewife who escapes her mundane life in exchange for a quest of self-discovery in Greece. Starring Oscar-nominated actress Pauline Collins as Shirley Valentine, the actress’ Greek adventure is set on the idyllic island of Mykonos.
The famous ‘Shirley Valentine Beach’ is actually called Agios Ioannis and is a quiet, unpretentious and relaxing location. The restaurant where she meets her Greek seducer, Costas, and where she later finds employment is actually still on the sea front under the alias of Hippie Fish. While it’s no longer a traditional, rustic taverna, it’s still a must see for film fans.
The hotel where Shirley stays is the Manoulas Beach Hotel, which also still exists today. Due to its fame from the acclaimed film, the resort has undergone much renovation but still resembles the hotel shown on the big screen.