It might be small, but Malta’s landscapes are incredible, with rugged coastlines, bright blue skies and medieval towns everywhere you look. If the island is breath taking in person, it definitely sparkles on screen. It’s been a popular Hollywood filming location since as long ago as 1925, when it starred in the silent movie, Sons of the Sea. Fast-forward almost a hundred years, and just over the same number of movies have been made in the Maltese archipelago.
Malta’s coastal position and golden tones means it often stands in for other locations. Over the years it has featured as everywhere from Ancient Rome to the modern day Middle East, so chances are, you’ve seen the island in a lot more movies than you realise.
You can find one of the country’s most popular filming spots just across the Grand Harbour. The 17th century Fort Ricasoli served as an Ancient Roman backdrop for Russell Crowe’s beefy centurion in Gladiator (2000), and later as Ancient Greece in Troy (2004) and Egypt’s Alexandria in Agora (2009).
Game of Thrones fans will recognise locations all over the island from Season One of the series. The hilltop city of Mdina, with its familiar Old Gate and labyrinth of honey-coloured cobbled streets, is as close as you can get to Kings Landing in real life (though thankfully a less mucky version). The Red Keep featured Fort Ricasoli, St. Dominic’s Priory in nearby Rabat, and parts of San Anton Palace and Gardens in Balzan.
Malta has also starred in a number of movies set in more contemporary times. Bond lovers can visit Valletta to see scenery from the Roger Moore and Sean Connery movies, including The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Munich (2005), the story of the aftermath of 1972’s Black September, transforms Malta’s cities into modern day Athens, Cyprus and Rome. Even the Academy Award-nominated thriller, Captain Phillips (2013) was shot off the coast of the island – though admittedly the ocean in the movie looks a little less pleasant!
Hollywood’s crush on Malta doesn’t end there. 2016 brought a succession of action-packed movies filmed across the mainland. Look out for Valletta’s Basilica of St Dominic and Grand Master’s Palace – both posed as a dingy 15th century Seville in the Assassin’s Creed movie starring Michael Fassbender. Kevin Reynolds used the island’s sun-baked plains for his all-star Biblical epic, Risen, while the town of Mosta became modern Libya in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
It isn’t just Hollywood that has taken advantage of Malta’s ancient beauty; the island’s own small movie industry has also made use of its landscapes. 2014 marked one of Malta’s highest-profile releases to date with Simshar. The country’s first independent feature film for a global audience, Rebecca Cremona’s movie recalls the fishing boat disaster that tainted the pretty Maltese fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
With its photogenic good looks, Malta is a director’s dream. See the island shine on the silver screen, then visit yourself to check out the filming locations from your favourite movies.