If there’s one thing movies inspire me to do, it’s travel. After watching Amélie, I had nonstop visions of myself traipsing around Paris, and Lost in Translation made me seriously consider spending my next vacation brooding in a Tokyo karaoke bar.
With awards season at its apogee, it’s hard to turn on the television or computer without being reminded of some of the fabulous and fascinating places that have been portrayed in film. Over the years, the Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominees and winners have inspired many a wanderlust in movie buffs like me who just can’t get enough of seeing where our favorite scenes were shot and imagining our favorite actors on set and in character.
The Sound of Music
If you’ve ever wanted to pretend to be Julie Andrews twirling through the Alps, the place to go is Salzburg, Austria, where Mozart was born and where the majority of the Best Picture of 1965 was shot. You can see such landmarks as Nonnberg Abbey, the estates used for the front and rear exterior shots of the von Trapp villa, and other landmarks around the city and surrounding mountains. Speaking of mountains, to see for yourself whether the hills really are alive, visit Mellweg, the mountain featured in the opening sequence. It’s about six miles from downtown Salzburg, near the village of Schellenberg.
Witness, nominated for Best Picture of 1985, looks impossibly picturesque and idyllic because it was shot entirely on location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the home of America’s oldest Amish settlement. Reputedly camera-shy, many real Amish craftsmen and woodworkers agreed to work for the production but refused to be filmed, so the movie used more the liberal and worldly Mennonites as extras. Many of the scenes were filmed on the Paul Krantz family farm in Strasburg, although others were shot in the nearby towns of Intercourse and Lancaster. Some Amish are relatively open to tourism, so it’s possible to get a glimpse of barn raisings and buggies for yourself, and the town has even started a “Witness Movie Experience” bus tour.
Dead Poets Society
In order to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of a rigorous and stifling New England boarding school, this 1989 Best Picture nominee used St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware, to stand in for famous stalwarts like Exeter and Andover. The school was founded in 1929 by the du Pont family, with the goal that every admitted student should receive a first-rate education, regardless of his family’s ability to pay a hefty tuition. Although the school was originally designated for boys only, like the fictional Welton Academy, it’s now coed.
This 2004 nominee was shot in towns in the wine-producing area near Santa Barbara, California, full of quaint bed-and-breakfasts, locally sourced restaurants, and, of course, wineries. The film used locations in Solvang, an “authentic Danish village”; Buellton; Santa Ynez; and Los Olivos, including the Fess Parker winery, where the infamous scene in which Paul Giamatti drinks the swill bucket took place. After the movie was released, tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley increased, although, not surprisingly, sales of merlot went way down.
Mel Gibson’s 1995 epic is considered one of the most historically inaccurate films ever made, and the choice of filming locations is just one reason it gets a bad rap. Although some exterior shots were filmed in the Scottish highlands near Loch Leven and Glen Coe, most of the pivotal scenes were shot in Ireland. The Curragh plain, near Dublin, hosted the film’s battle of Stirling Bridge, and the town of Ballymore Eustace, in County Kildare, was dressed for the battle of Falkirk. Blessington Lakes, Wicklow Mountains National Park, and Trim Castle stood in for the other various outside shots, castles, and forts depicted in the film.
There Will Be Blood
The final scenes of this movie, in which Daniel Day-Lewis utters one of 2007’s most memorable catchphrases—“I drink your milkshake”—were filmed in Los Angeles, at an estate that’s as much of a Hollywood veteran as any actor. Greystone Mansion was built in 1928 for the son of an oil baron, whose descendants eventually gave the entire property to the city of Beverly Hills for use as a park. The Gothic English–style home features tennis courts, lakes, kennels, stables, and a greenhouse and has been featured in movies such as Ghostbusters, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3, and The Big Lebowski, among many others.
Although the fictional Brokeback Mountain was supposed to be in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, the 2005 movie was actually filmed in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia and Alberta. The mountain terrain and landscape are so unique and arresting that four of the national parks within the mountain range—Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, and Jasper—have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Who wouldn’t want to move to France and surround herself with sweets all day? The 2000 nominee Chocolat was as much an ad for French tourism as it was a film. It was shot in the dreamily charming town of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, a medieval village dating back to the year 719. Despite its reputation as one of the most beautiful villages in France, the town has only about four hundred permanent residents, mostly artisans and craftspeople, though its occupancy swells considerably during the summer months, due to foreigners who own vacation homes in the area. Local candymakers are also the only ones in the world to produce Les Anis des Flavigny, a popular anise-flavored pastille. Sadly for tourists, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain is not the same town where Johnny Depp lives full-time.
The next time you see a movie taking place in a quaint village, on a lush beach, or in a dazzling city, do a little digging. If you can discover where it was filmed, you just might have found your next vacation destination.