Stepping Into the Screen – Oscar winning movies whose locations you can visit

With the approach of the 92nd Academy Awards, as with every Oscar season, our cinemas have become inundated with some of the year’s greatest achievements in cinema. Stories that inspire awe, wonder and a sense of artistry in all who love the film industry and a vital part of any film that wishes to reach these heights is the setting. So often the most spectacular films capture the very essence of the location in which they are set to such a degree that you gain a familiarity with the setting as much as you do the characters whose stories unfold there.

Here is our list of Oscar winning pictures whose locations can be visited, offering the chance to further immerse yourself into the magic of your favourite movies.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Petra, Jordan

One Oscar: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan

The third instalment of Steven Spielberg’s iconic film series featuring the swashbuckling archaeologist sees Indiana Jones seek the location of the Holy Grail before it falls into the hands of the Nazis. In a storyline that is as gripping from start to finish as it is endearingly far fetched, the protagonist eventually discovers the grail inside the walls of a beautiful building within a canyon near the ancient city of Alexandretta, Turkey.

Whilst the closing chapters of the movie were set in Turkey, the scenes were in fact filmed in Petra, Jordan. The rose-toned facade of Petra’s “Treasury” proved the perfect place to film the scenes, adding a sense of genuine historical wonder to the movie. The authentically mystical aura that surrounds the ruins of Petra have caused it to become increasingly popular in recent years. Approaching the ornate structures via a natural rock corridor evokes a sense of true adventure to all who step foot here, making each individual embrace their inner explorer.

Visit Petra on our Journey to Jordan Tour.

Lost in Translation – Tokyo, Japan

One Oscar: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

View of Tokyo with Mt Fuji in the background

Sofia Coppola’s full directorial debut about two lost souls that cross paths in the manic urban landscape of modern day Tokyo was lauded for its touching storyline and artistic direction. The film may depict a sense of loneliness in its two main characters but it also brings the Tokyo landscape to life in a manner that was unprecedented prior to its release. Spanning shots of the city’s ultra-modern urban skyline outline the vastness of the city along with quite how different it is to the western world that the two protagonists, and indeed most of the audience, are used to.

Japan is fast becoming a popular destination to explore amongst travellers and Tokyo lies at the very core of everything that makes this eastern kingdom so enticing. Like taking a glance into the future whilst appreciating the foundational history on which it has grown, Tokyo fuses past and future with masterful ease. Tranquil temples lie mere metres from glimmering skyscrapers that push the boundaries of modern architecture in an inexplicably complimentary manner. Exploring this capital gives travellers a new appreciation for the kind of awe inspiring experience an urban landscape can provide.

Explore Tokyo as part of our Japan Discovered Tour.

The Pianist – Warsaw, Poland

Three Oscars: Best Actor in a Leading Role; Best Director; Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay

Warsaw architecture

The Pianist is a powerfully sombre film that depicts the harrowing yet inspirational true story of Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman’s survival in the darkest of times during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II. The depiction of war torn Warsaw provides an almost tangible sense of despair and destruction, from the stunning architecture reduced to rubble to the inexplicable treatment of the Jewish people. The extent of despair felt when watching this cinematic masterpiece is a nod to its accurate depiction of the horrors of the holocaust.

The effects of this abhorrent era of history can still be acknowledged throughout Warsaw at sites such as the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, acting as an important reminder of the result of losing our grasp on humanity. Despite the fact that the war resulted in the destruction of much of Warsaw’s city centre, much of the medley of historic architecture still stands as a physical metaphor to the stoic resilience of the Polish people. Reminders of the city’s violent past let one fully appreciate the serene streets of this beautiful city that stand today.

Discover more about the history of Warsaw on our Central Europe Highlights Tour.

Roma Mexico City, Mexico

Three Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year; Best Achievement in Directing; Best Achievement in Cinematography

Black and white shot of Roma neighbourhood, Mexico City

The stunning story of a maid’s life whilst working for a middle class family in 1970s Mexico City was deemed by many to be a shoo-in for the ceremony’s best picture award. Despite not winning the most coveted Oscar of all, Alfonso Cuaron’s atmospheric drama still received plaudits aplenty for its artistic cinematography, tender storyline and often absurd comedic relief from the deeply emotional performances of its cast. The director is said to have based much of the film on his own childhood in the city.

Roma perfectly depicts the derelict charisma of the Mexico City neighbourhood of the same name, which has become an artistic haven in recent years. The sense of community in times of hardship and passionate tradition that can be felt in the film is a potent reflection of events that have shaped much of Mexico City over time. The city is lively and colourful (a feature unapparent in the film due to its monochrome styling) with a deep rooted sense of heritage and togetherness that can be felt throughout, whether it be in the delicious food, the antiquated structures or the welcoming populous.

Explore Mexico City and beyond on our Highlights of Mexico Tour.

Slumdog Millionaire – India

Eight Oscars: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Original Music Score; Best Cinematography; Best Sound Mixing; Best Film Editing; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Sound Editing

View of the Taj Mahal from the river

Danny Boyle’s modern classic follows the story of Jamal, a young man from Mumbai, who is accused of cheating on India’s version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’. Through a series of thrilling life stories the audience becomes connected to Jamal and absorbed by his endearing story of true love. Primarily based in Mumbai, the story also sees Jamal travel to Agra to work illegally as a guide at the Taj Mahal. The story is equal parts thrilling and heart warming, beautifully depicting India’s gritty yet endearing character – the ideal backdrop for such a tale. Boyle manages to capture the very essence of India through his direction, combining a deep, spiritual passion with a rough and ready exterior.

Whilst Mumbai is the perfect stage from which to portray such an idiosyncrasy, India as a whole carries the same raw, mysterious personality at its very core. Every element of the country remains untamed and unhindered, providing a sense of real freedom to all who visit. The gigantic Asian country is home to landscapes that vary from some of the planet’s tallest mountains to some of its most pristine beaches and giant metropolitan cities to tranquil temple complexes. It is an absolutely fascinating melting pot of cultures that is sure to surprise and inspire all who venture onto its terrain.

Delve into the spirit of India on our India in Depth Tour.

The Motorcycle Diaries – South America

One Oscar: Best Adapted Screenplay

The Andes in Patagonia

A coming of age story that leads to the making of one of Latin America’s most iconic individuals. The Motorcycle Diaries depicts the road trip taken by Che Guevara from Argentina to Venezuela, which in turn introduced him to his life’s calling. It is an epic that sees the protagonist and his friend journey to some of the continent’s most iconic locations, including Patagonia and Machu Picchu. Along the trail, a soulful story of friendship and character evolution develops within the setting of some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. It is a film that travellers can truly gorge on.

The notion of releasing the shackles of society and departing on a journey of discovery lies at the heart of this film and nowhere can better depict such a journey than South America. The continent gives all who travel there an impression of untapped beauty, such is the dramatic vastness of its natural splendour. Colossal mountain ranges, miles upon miles of rugged wilderness and areas of deep historical intrigue lie along the path taken by the film’s two main characters, summarising the treasures that await in this simply stunning section of the world.

Get a real taste for South America on our South America Express Tour.

The Lion King – Africa

Two Oscars: Best Music, Original Song; Best Music Original Score

Male and female lion in Kenya, Africa

Arguably the ultimate family movie, The Lion King is charming, humorous and at times tragic, with a powerful message at its core. Set in the wilds of an unspecified African country, the movie was lauded for its original storyline, spectacular music scores and excellent animation. One of the greatest features of the film is the ensemble of whimsical characters, comprised of various members of Africa’s spectacular animal kingdom.

Whilst it may seem strange to compare an animated film with a real life experience, The Lion King perfectly captures the atmosphere that can be felt throughout the African wilderness. Pride Rock itself may not exist, but the landscape created by the film’s animation team is instantly imaginable for anyone who has scoured the savannah in search of the thrill of spotting one of its many wild inhabitants. Particularly Kenya’s Hells Gate National Park, which is said to have been a gigantic influence on the design of The Lion King’s setting. There is a sense of pure adventurous excitement when on safari in Africa that engrosses the attention of everyone trying to catch a glimpse of the Big 5.

Search for African wildlife on our Mara & Serengeti Tour.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Eastern Europe

Four Oscars: Best Original Music Score; Best Production Design; Best Costume Design; Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Architecture at the Old City square in Prague

This quirky, star-studded movie follows the story of Gustave H, concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and his ventures through the fictional nation of Republic of Zubrowka with his lobby boy between the first and second World Wars. After the death of one of the hotel’s regular patrons, a string of mysterious events regarding her will lead to the main characters going on the run as they decipher what is truly happening. As with all of Wes Anderson’s movies, The Grand Budapest Hotel was praised for its eccentric set designs and unusual characters.

In a similar theme to The Lion King, The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t set in a particular place but instead takes inspiration from locations and pockets of history to create an original setting that accurately resonates with much of Eastern Europe. Similarities in architecture and colour scheme have seen parallels drawn between the film’s setting and cities like Prague, where stunning, symmetrical, pastel coloured facades are the norm. Wandering the streets of Prague, around the Old Town Square in particular, will expose travellers to a plethora of architectural delights that are at once quaint and awe-inspiring.

Get a taste for Eastern Europe on our Tallinn to Prague Tour.

Jurassic Park – Costa Rica

Three Oscars: Best Sound; Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing; Best Effects, Visual Effects

Volcano in the Costa Rican jungle

This action-packed prehistoric frightfest captured the imagination of audiences at the time of release with its ground breaking use of animatronics and special effects. The iconic film follows the storyline of a dinosaur filled theme park off the coast of Costa Rica where things inevitably go wrong and chaos ensues. Jurassic Park remains a classic to this day thanks to its intense setting and use of visual effects that still meet the sky high standards of modern cinema.

Whilst a trip to Costa Rica won’t result in any dino sightings, the opportunity to explore the dense jungle thicket in search of the rare creatures that call it home, as steaming volcanoes loom overhead, will have you convinced that you have set foot in a land long lost to time. The untouched emerald thicket of jungle and pristine coastline of this wonderful nation give it a sense of truly belonging to nature. The effects of this are particularly potent in a day and age that is seeing environmental issues piling up day by day. Its renown for having some of the most spectacular national parks on earth as well as being one of the planet’s most environmentally responsible countries has seen Costa Rica’s popularity soar in recent years.

Venture into the wild depths of Costa Rica on our Nature Trails Tour.

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