Malta is an island steeped in history and culture, with steep cliffs tumbling into the sea, golden beaches and a sea that’s a dazzling aquamarine, just like in the movies. Infact, the sea that you have seen on the screen could well be that surrounding Malta, as many feature-films have been made on the island, using the dramatic landscape as a backdrop for several blockbusters.
Film producers have been using Malta as a location for the past four decades for two main reasons: The Mediterranean Film Studios at Rinella has a purpose-built, 300-foot wide water tank blending with the horizon.
At the Rinella movie park, there is also a deep water tank which are often used to shoot scenes “at sea”, and Malta’s unspoilt scenery can, in effect, “double” as many different countries. In the late 1970s, Alan Parker’s epic, Midnight Express was filmed partly on Malta, with the barracks at Fort St Elmo doubling as a Turkish prison. In 1980, the film Popeye starring Robin Williams was shot on location at Anchor Bay, with the “village” of Sweethaven being purposely constructed for the set. Sweethaven still stands to this day, and has become a children’s theme park called “Popeye Village“.
Other movies filmed in Malta include Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning Gladiator, which was filmed over a 3-month period using a replica of the Colosseum which was specially built at Fort Ricasoli in 1999. Actors Russell Crowe, Joaquin Pheonix, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed starred in the massive production, with Reed sadly passing away in a bar in Valletta during a break in filming. Birgu’s Couvre Port was also used whilst filming night-time scenes close to the climax of the storyline.
In 2003, work on a vast set for the film Troy began with the building of the “city”, the “gates” and the “King’s palace” constructed at Ricasoli using hundreds of Maltese craftsmen. Actors Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Saffron Burrows, Eric Bana and Peter O’Toole starred in the movie which had a budget of $150 million and was one of the most popular films of 2004. As well as using the specially built sets, scenes for the film were recorded at Golden Bay, Mellieha, The Blue Lagoon and Riviera Beach.
The Mediterranean Film Studio’s water tank was used for a number of movies including:
- U-571 starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Jon Bon Jovi;
- Raise the Titanic starring Alec Guinness;
- Swept Away produced by Guy Ritchie and starring Madonna;
- Cuttthroat Island, a pirate adventure starring Geena Davis.
In the past few years, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Count of Monte Cristo were filmed on Malta’s sister islands of Gozo and Comino. The most recent blockbuster to be filmed in Malta was Agora in 2009.
If you happen to know about more movies filmed in Malta, please leave a mention below, thanks!