We’ve all been there. We’ve all sat down in front of the cinema screen, or the television, gazed in awe at a particularly breath-taking scene, and made a mental note to visit that idyllic beach, quaint city or historic fort. While making those mental notes, Malta would have probably been far from your mind for places to visit.
But it shouldn’t have been. Disguised as the south of France, Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and a myriad of other locations, Malta has featured far more than you think in films. With its blend of a rugged coastline, ancient majestic buildings, and picturesque beaches, it has been a prime location for film makers for decades.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, and relive some film scenes and their locations.
World War Z (2013) , Valletta
World War Z, an American action horror film directed by Marc Foster features a zombie pandemic that Gerry, a retired United Nations investigator is trying to put a stop to. One of the most vivid scenes of the film is when Gerry visits Jerusalem and encounters a crowd of people inside the walled city chanting and singing. The noise attracts the walking corpses and they pile themselves on top of each other until they manage to jump over the wall into the crowd. As the zombies fall over the wall by the dozens, into the midst of the crowd, the panicked crowd starts running down the strangely familiar narrow streets filled with wide shallow steps. It is not Jerusalem, but none other than Malta’s very own capital city, Valletta. Some scenes also feature Fort St Elmo in Valletta, a fort which had a crucial role in the Great Siege of 1565. Valletta is set to be European Capital of Culture in 2018, which means that there currently are various cultural events happening in the city, making it a great location to visit (or revisit).
By the Sea (2015), Mġarr ix-Xini
Described as a romantic drama, the film featuring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did not get rave reviews from film critics, who lambasted the film for its narrative shortcomings. What definitely cannot be criticised is their choice of filming location, putting a spotlight on one of the best beaches in Gozo. Mġarr ix-Xini, disguised as the south of France in the film, is truly idyllic, situated in a deep valley and has crystal-clear water. Since it is more difficult to get to than other beaches such as Ramla l-Ħamra, it is usually peaceful, with only a few locals in the area, along with some divers. Now that the weather is cooler, it is ideal to combine the trip to the beach with a walk to Mġarr ix-Xini tower, which is the largest of the coastal watchtowers that the Knights of Malta erected on the island of Gozo.
Troy (2004) , Blue Lagoon
Troy, the epic adventure war film released in 2004 is loosely based on Homer’s Iliad. Also starring Brad Pitt, it was definitely a far more successful film than By The Sea, reaching the top box office hits and was the 8th highest-grossing film of 2004. The set for the city of Troy itself was built at Fort Ricasoli, which was built by the Knights of St John in the 17th century. However, some of the most memorable scenes were shot in one of the top tourist spots in Malta : The Blue Lagoon. Situated on the tiny island of Comino, the long and narrow bay is ideal for a number of activities like swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, and it is only 25 minutes away by boat from Ċirkewwa.
Game of Thrones (2011), Azure Window
The first season of the wildly successful HBO series was shot in Malta, with locations ranging from historic buildings such as Fort St Angelo and Fort Ricasoli, to convents and private gardens. A particularly important location for this series was Mdina, with its gated entrance being highly visible during some of the scenes. Lord Peter Baelish’s brothel is also a building that you can find tucked away in a corner while walking the streets of Mdina.
However, the most memorable location of all was the Azure Window in Dwejra, Gozo that featured as a backdrop to the Dothraki Wedding. The setting crimson sun behind the Azure Window as Khal Drogo and Daenerys hold their wedding ceremony is truly impressive, to the point that fans of the series have flocked to the sister island of Malta to use the same backdrop for their wedding photos. If you also want to frame the perfect wedding picture best be swift about it. Experts are saying that it won’t be long before the eroding window collapses. While you’re there, you can make your way to the other side of Dwejra, known as the inland sea. For just 4 euros, you can take a boat ride that passes near the Azure Window, giving you a great view of the majestic formation up close.