Five of the Most Fascinating Historical Sites used in Movies


Many big screen Hollywood movies are made with elaborate sets constructed specifically for the film, but some films throughout history have used more permanent structures for their filming, sometimes historic structures that have already existed for hundreds of years.  While historic settings are widely present throughout films, the producers and directors of some films have looked at historic sites and used them to represent a fictional setting for their movies.  Here’s a list of 5 of the most fascinating of these historic sites:

1.)Al Khazneh, Petra, Jordan- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, viewers are treated to a spectacular site of a temple carved into sandstone rock.  This site, however, is no man-made movie set and the building itself is around 2000 years old.  The name Al Khazneh means “treasury” and it gets it’s name from a legend that bandits and pirates hid their loot in the building.  Another theory suggests that it was used as an official government treasury during ancient Egyptian times.  In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the site is depicted as the location of the Holy Grail.

2.)Mayan Temple Complex, Tikal Guatemala- Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

When Star Wars director George Lucas set out to make the first Star Wars movie, his project was limited financially as the Star Wars series had yet to grow into the modern success it is today.  The rebel forces, depicted in the movie as often on the run from the galactic empire, perhaps were financially limited as well and used their resourcefulness by making their base on the planet, Yavin 4 in the Massassi Temple, an ancient Sith Lord site.  In reality, the temple complex in the movie stands as the largest of ancient cities from the Mayan civilization.  It’s believed that construction on the site began as early as the 4th century B.C. and ruled as a politically significant city for over a thousand years.  However, the site lay abandoned by the 10th century after years of invasion and population decline.  Today Tikal stands as a testament to the great innovation of pre-columbian civilizations.

4.)Doune Castle, Doune, Scotland-Monty Python and the Holy Grail(1975)

In 1974, the producers of the comedy film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail were given permission by the Nation Trust of Scotland to film some of the scenes for the movie at Doune Castle, a site built by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany around 1400 A.D.  Aside from standing as a stronghold, Doune Castle also served as a retreat and hunting lodge for royal monarchs.  Today the site stands as a popular tourist destination and as a monumental symbol for the history and culture of Scotland.

4.)Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich, Scotland- The World is Not Enough(1999)

Aside from being featured in the popular James Bond movie franchise, Eilean Donan Castle has also been featured in other movies such as Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Highlander, and Made of Honor.  This probably makes Eilean Donan one of the most widely used historical sites for the film industry.  The castle itself was constructed on the small Island of Eilean Donan in early 13th century against the threat of Viking invasion.  Over the years, the castle changed rule many times after different battles.  Today the castle stands as a popular tourist attraction and is one of the most photographed locations in Scotland.

5.)Pasadena City Hall, Pasadena, CA- The Great Dictator(1940)

In Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 comedy satirizing nazism and Adolf Hitler, Pasadena City hall was used as the great dicator Hynkel’s palace.  Aside from Chaplin’s classic, the site has also been used in other movies including Beverly Hills Cop, A Walk In the Clouds, and Butterfield 8, starring Elizabeth Taylor.  The building was constructed in 1927 and today is listed on the U.S. National Historic Registrar of Historic Places.  It’s also a great example in the history of architecture, exemplifying the City Beautiful movement.

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