Lights, camera…pack your bags!
While some movies and TV shows are filmed entirely on Hollywood sets, others feature magnificent real world locations that you can visit for yourself.
Imagine walking the same streets that Cersei Lannister strode in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” or roaming the deserts of Tatooine like C-3PO did in the “Star Wars” franchise, or exploring the ancient lost city featured in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
If you’ve always dreamed that one day your life might feel like a Hollywood blockbuster, don't miss out on these iconic filming locations across the globe.
Matamata, New Zealand — 'Lord of the Rings'
Inspired by the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, the “Lord of the Rings” film franchise raked in nearly $3 billion globally. Its enormous success had a major impact on New Zealand, where it was primarily filmed, boosting tourism arrivals to the country by an estimated 50 percent.
There are many spectacular LOTR filming sites to explore in New Zealand, but few can beat the area just southwest of Matamamta that was transformed into Hobbiton for the films. Iconic scenes from the start of Bilbo and Frodo’s adventure with the ring were shot in this picturesque haven about two hours south of Auckland.
The best part? Even though filming is over, you can still experience this slice of Middle Earth for yourself, as the Hobbiton film set has been preserved for tourists to explore. Peer into more than 44 unique hobbit holes, including the one belonging to Bilbo himself, and grab a pint at the Green Dragon Inn, the hobbits’ beloved watering hole.
Dubrovnik, Croatia — 'Game of Thrones'
Not only is Dubrovnik a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also one of the main filming locations for the HBO megahit series “Game of Thrones.” Thanks to the popularity of the show based on George R. R. Martin’s books, this coastal Croatian city has been transformed into a popular tourism destination. (Perhaps a little too popular; the town has set limits on the number of outsiders who can visit, thanks to GoT fever.)
The city stands in for King’s Landing, the fictional capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and has been featured in several pivotal scenes from the show. Perhaps most famously (spoiler alert!), Cersei Lannister took her naked walk of shame through the city’s streets in the show’s fifth season.
Fans of the show are particularly keen to visit the Dubrovnik City Shop, which houses the iconic Iron Throne used in the filming of the series. Aspiring leaders of the Seven Kingdoms are allowed to sit in the throne for the ultimate photo-op.
Death Valley National Park, California — 'Star Wars'
As it turns out, Star Wars isn’t set in a galaxy far, far away, but in a national park in California. With a little movie magic, Death Valley was transformed into the deserts of Tatooine in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” and “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.”
Fun fact: The park is featured in a scene where a Tusken Raider rides a bantha, a massive creature used as a beast of war in the films. That bantha was played by an elephant, borrowed from a California amusement park, that George Lucas famously bonded with. The director even visited the animal after shooting wrapped.
Want to walk in the footsteps of your favorite "Star Wars" characters? Head south of the park's Visitors Center near Golden Canyon, Desolation Canyon and Artists Palette, where most of the scenes were filmed.
Kauai, Hawaii — 'Jurassic Park'
As John Williams’ sweeping score plays, a lush landscape comes into view. If this scene feels familiar, it’s because it’s straight out of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.”
The wrath of Hurricane Iniki caused production to move to Oahu for a few of the film’s final scenes, but the majority of the first film, and some of the subsequent sequels, feature outdoor shots from Kauai.
While many memorable scenes were shot on private property, other locations are accessible to the public — if you’re feeling a little adventurous. The towering Jurassic Park gates were removed after filming, but you can stand in the place where they once stood at the base of Mount Wai’ale’ale, accessible via an eight-mile hike. Or you can enjoy a breathtaking helicopter tour of Manawaiopuna Falls, the waterfall featured in the beginning of the film.
Christ Church College, Oxford — 'Harry Potter'
Is there a more iconic filming location than the place where Harry Potter is named a Gryffindor? We don’t think so.
While the UK is full of Hogwarts filming locations, Christ Church College is one of the most recognizable. Founded in the 1500s, Oxford’s Christ Church College showcases an ornate architectural style that has inspired the design of dozens of other academic institutions, both real and fictional (including schools in “X-Men” and “Young Sherlock Holmes”).
The prestigious college’s grand staircase was featured in both “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and its Divinity School serves as the infirmary in four separate Harry Potter films. Additionally, Christ Church’s own great hall directly inspired the design of the Great Hall at Hogwarts.
Christ Church College
Petra, Jordan — 'Indiana Jones'
While the ancient city of Petra, Jordan has served as the backdrop for countless Hollywood films, the most well-known is the 1989 classic “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” The former “lost” city was left empty and abandoned for hundreds of years before it was rediscovered by Western explorers. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and became one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007.
The fictional Canyon of the Crescent Moon in the third installment of the Indiana Jones franchise was closely modeled after Petra’s eastern entrance, a 250-foot-high sandstone slot canyon. While the film’s conclusion features Harrison Ford and Sean Connery exploring the depths of the Treasury at Petra, those scenes involve a little extra movie magic: In reality, the ornate exterior carved into the sandstone hill is a facade with only a small burial area behind it.
Timberline Lodge, Oregon — 'The Shining'
While the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the original inspiration for Stephen King’s novel, that's not where the movie version of “The Shining” was filmed.
When it came time to shoot the film adaptation, director Stanley Kubrick didn’t believe that the Stanley Hotel was the right fit for the iconic Overlook Hotel. Instead, it’s the rustic Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon that so many equate with the classic horror flick.
Those who step inside might be surprised by how little they recognize, though. Many of the film’s interior scenes, as well as the climactic hedge-maze sequence, were shot in a studio in England.
Central Park, New York — Multiple Films
While New York City is no stranger to the silver screen, possibly the most popular filming location in all of Manhattan is Central Park. In fact, it’s even been named one of the most-filmed destinations in the world, with more than 350 movies shot somewhere in the park, from romantic comedies to fast-paced thrillers and everything in between.
Comedic classics like “Elf” and “Home Alone 2,” as well as on-screen love stories like “Serendipity” and “When Harry Met Sally,” all take advantage of Central Park’s 864-acre green space.
The park’s Bethesda Fountain and Tavern on the Green are particularly sought-after filming sites; you may have spotted the iconic fountain in “Enchanted,” “Annie Hall” or “Elf,” and the Tavern on the Green in “Ghostbusters,” “Hitch” and “Wall Street,” among others.
Angkor Thom, Cambodia — 'Lara Croft'
Constructed in the 12th century, the ancient Cambodian city of Angkor Thom includes the Bayon Temple, with its many carved faces, as well as the Buddhist monastery Ta Prohm. While these beautiful historic sites have drawn curious visitors for centuries, their popularity was catapulted into the mainstream with the 2001 release of “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie.
The video-game adaptation was one of the first to shoot in Cambodia since the 1960s and has helped lure visitors to the country since its release. After seeing the film’s striking shots of tree roots spilling over the ancient temples, it’s little wonder why.
Dyersville, Iowa — 'Field of Dreams'
“If you build it, they will come,” the famous line from the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” applies also to the place where it was filmed. In the small town of Dyersville, fields around the Lansing Family Farm were transformed into the diamond that Shoeless Joe Jackson emerged from the cornstalks to play ball on — and today, tourists come to the site in droves.
Fans of the baseball weepie can take a peek inside the original farmhouse featured in the film, or hit a few balls into the outfield. During the summer, the site also hosts pickup games with “ghost” players who emerge from the towering corn stalks to entertain the movie-loving crowds.
Torrance High School, California — Multiple Films & TV Shows
The exterior and interior of this school have been featured in more than a dozen beloved movies and TV shows.
Not only did Torrance High School brave the Hellmouth to serve as Sunnydale High in the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but you also might recognize it as West Beverly High School from the original “90210.” Movies like “She’s All That” and “Bruce Almighty” also filmed scenes at the school.
Why the love? In addition to its location convenient to Hollywood, the high school is one of the most photogenic around, with stunning Mediterranean Revival-style buildings and abundant palm trees.
You can join film fanatics by making a pilgrimage to the site; just keep in mind that it is also an active high school.
Torrance High School
Highclere Castle, England — 'Downton Abbey'
Located on 5,000 acres in the countryside of Hampshire, Highclere Castle is the Jacobian country house of any history lover’s dreams. Coincidentally, it was also the main filming location for the Emmy Award-winning series “Downton Abbey.”
The castle’s stately great hall, dining room, library, music room, drawing room, saloon and even several bedrooms were all used for filming during the show’s six-season run.
Today the castle is open to visitors who want to relive their favorite parts of the much-loved historical drama. It’s not hard to imagine servants scurrying up and down the castle’s ornate halls to serve their lords and ladies.