Impressive sci-fi movie locations around the globe
What makes science fiction so appealing is that it forces us to imagine what it would be like to live in a world that is different from our own. Well, with these 20 locations, you don’t have to imagine.
Here are some of the most impressive real-life locations from your favourite sci-fi films.
Finse, Norway (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)
Star Wars fans will instantly recognize the beautiful vast white landscape of Finse, Norway, from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The small Scandinavian town was used as the setting for the famous Battle of Hoth. It’s also where Luke encounters Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force spectre. At 1,222 metres (4,000 feet) above sea level, the mountainous village is the highest station along the Norwegian railway system.
Bradbury Building, Los Angeles (Blade Runner)
To achieve its signature cyberpunk aesthetic, Blade Runner was filmed using real locations throughout Los Angeles. A classic example is the Bradbury Building downtown. Built in 1893, this five-storey office building served as the setting for the film’s climactic rooftop encounter between Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). The Bradbury Building has been used in a number of other films, including 500 Days of Summer and The Artist.
Guggenheim Museum, New York (Men in Black)
“At any given time there are around fifteen hundred aliens on the planet, most of them right here in Manhattan,” explains Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in Men in Black. As such, the film was shot all throughout the city, including at the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, where Agent J (Will Smith) tries to track down a dangerous alien.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China (Avatar)
The otherworldly mountains of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in China’s northern Hunan province, served as the inspiration for the floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar. After the film’s success, local officials sought to capitalize on the association by marketing the area with slogans such as “Discover the real world of Pandora.”
Mexico City Metro (Total Recall)
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall is about a man (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who searches for answers as to his recurring Mars-based dreams. Director Paul Verhoeven had hoped to use Houston’s futuristic skylines for the movie, but he was told that it would be too expensive, so he took production south of the border to Mexico City. Tourists travelling via Mexico City Metro may recognize the interior of the station from the subway chase scene. Legend has it you can still see spots of fake blood from the violent standoff between Schwarzenegger and a gang of hit men.
Fort Worth Water Gardens, Texas (Logan’s Run)
The Fort Worth Water Gardens were built in 1974 and designed by New York architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Just a year later, the site would be used in a pivotal scene to show life outside the dystopian society in Logan’s Run.
Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina (The Hunger Games)
This abandoned textile village in Burke County, North Carolina, was used as the filming location for “District 12,” the smallest and poorest of Panem’s 13 districts, in The Hunger Games. It might not look very impressive, but the story behind it is certainly interesting. As Atlas Obscura explains, “The Henry River Mill Village opened in 1905, and like so many gold-panning towns, the promise of jobs and prosperity followed. And it delivered.” However, by 1973 the mill shut down, and by 1987 it was a ghost town.
Mentmore Towers, England (Brazil)
This 19th-century English country house in Buckinghamshire has appeared in several films, including Eyes Wide Shut, The Mummy Returns, and Batman Begins, in which it served as Wayne Manor. In Terry Gilliam’s mind-bending cult classic Brazil, it was used as the exterior of an upscale restaurant. Mentmore Towers was built between 1852 and 1854 for the Rothschild family.
Devils Tower, Wyoming (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
This popular Wyoming destination, located in the Bear Lodge Mountains, can be seen in the climactic scenes of Steven Spielberg’s UFO classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of the highest-grossing films of 1977. Devils Towers is a butte that stands 1,560 metres (5,112 feet) at its highest point.
Badlands, South Dakota (Starship Troopers)
South Dakota’s Badlands National Park was used to depict the alien planet of Tango Urilla, with its strange rock formations, in the Starship Troopers universe. However, the film’s big battle scene on “Klendathu” was filmed in Wyoming in the canyons of Hell’s Half Acre, which is described as having a “devilish landscape.”
Death Valley, California (Star Wars: A New Hope/Return of the Jedi)
Death Valley is a must-visit destination for Star Wars fans, as some of the franchise’s most iconic scenes were captured in the eastern California desert valley. Along with Tunisia in North Africa, Death Valley was used by George Lucas to portray Tatooine, the homeworld of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Yellowstone National Park, USA (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Unsurprisingly, beautiful Yellowstone National Park has been used as the setting for countless movies, perhaps most famously in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Minerva Terrace, the main attraction of the Mammoth Hot Springs Area, was used to bring the planet Vulcan to life.
Lake Powell, Utah (Planet of the Apes)
At the beginning of the film, we see the astronauts’ spaceship semi-submerged in a lake somewhere in the middle of the desert. That scene was filmed in Lake Powell, Utah. While most of the desert scenes were shot around Arizona, filming for the ape village took place in Malibu Creek State Park, in California.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)
The massive trees and unique flora of California’s redwoods made it the perfect location to shoot the Endor scenes in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Legend has it that many of the close-up shots were taken in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, while Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park served as the setting of that famous speeder bike race.
Waipio Valley, Hawaii (Waterworld)
This Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic film about a world almost entirely covered by water is considered one of the biggest flops of all time. Throughout the film, the characters are in pursuit of the mythological “Dryland,” which turns out to be none other than gorgeous Waipio Valley on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Soweto, South Africa (District 9)
Director Neill Blomkamp cleverly uses aliens as a metaphor to explore the themes of racism and xenophobia in this critically acclaimed sci-fi. The film was shot on location in Soweto (which stands for South West Township), South Africa, which, as the New York Times explains, “was established by the white government in the 1930s as a black ghetto on the southwestern fringe of Johannesburg.”
Dallas City Hall, Texas (RoboCop)
With its inverted-pyramid design, Dallas City Hall indeed looks like something from the future, which is probably why it was used for the exterior shots of the headquarters of the Omni Consumer Products (OCP) megacorporation in 1987’s RoboCop. Special effects were used to make the building look bigger than it actually is.
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (Terminator)
L.A.’s Griffith Observatory marks the spot where the T-800 Terminator arrives from the future to hunt down and kill Sarah Connor in Terminator. Opened in 1935, “Griffith Observatory is an icon of Los Angeles, a national leader in public astronomy, a beloved civic gathering place, and one of southern California’s most popular attractions.”
BMW Headquarters, Munich (Rollerball)
Located in Munich, the world headquarters for the German automaker was designed to look like the four cylinders of a car engine. In 1975, the company’s blue and white logo was replaced with an orange ball in order to serve as the Energy Corporation building in the Norman Jewison sports sci-fi flick Rollerball, starring James Caan.
Kauai, Hawaii (Jurassic Park)
In reality, you won’t find any de-extinct dinosaurs roaming the Hawaiian island of Kauai, though you’re sure to find miles upon miles of gorgeous beaches and breathtaking mountains. Visitors can take a helicopter ride over the island, where they’ll even get to stop off at the famous Manawaiopuna Falls (otherwise known as Jurassic Falls), which fans will no doubt recognize from the opening scenes of the film.
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