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YYou’ll find unique, picturesque backdrops in every corner of South Africa, which is why this beautiful country has been a chosen location for many big screen productions. The craggy, oceanfront city setting of Cape Town has been a hit location for many major films, as well as the diversity and buzz of the City of Gold and the vast, arid landscapes of The Karoo and Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Here, we bring you some of the best on-screen locations that you can experience on your next trip to South Africa – and which films to watch before you visit!
CCape Town & surrounds
This award-winning movie was filmed entirely in South Africa to reflect the authenticity of this heart-warming story, which featured Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and is set in 1995 – the year South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, which the country hosted during the early days post-Apartheid. Scenes were shot in various places throughout the Mother City, including Robben Island; the desolate prison where Nelson Mandela was captive before becoming president in 1994. Just a short ferry ride from Cape Town, the prison is a popular tourist attraction, rich in history and offering tours led by ex-prisoners.
Cape Town’s beautiful Hout Bay was transformed into Hong Kong for the 2018 Tomb Raider movie, complete with floating restaurants and walkways. When not in action, Hout Bay is a quaint fishing town with popular weekend markets that offer arts and crafts, as well as gourmet bites and live jazz music. This is also the spot to try ‘snoek’ and chips, the South African version of the traditional British battered cod and chips – we highly recommend a taste! It’s also the perfect pit-stop on route to another must-visit Cape Town attraction: famous Boulder’s Beach, home to a large colony of adorable African Penguins.
If you can’t get enough of these adorable little birds, there’s even a documentary on Netflix that follows the lives of these endangered African penguins that call isolated Boulder’s Beach, located in Simon’s Town, home. Find out more about the show here!
This big-budget action film starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds was predominantly shot in several hotspots in Cape Town. You’ll spot panoramic scenes of Lion’s Head, the fine white sands of Clifton Beaches, the grounds of the Cape Town Stadium and the Langa Township throughout this film. The diversity of communities and scenery, as well as the Mediterranean climate, was a big selling point to the producers whilst choosing locations for this blockbuster.
My Octopus Teacher
This award-winning documentary follows the relationship of local, Craig Foster, and an octopus coming together in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of False Bay, close to Cape Town. Find out more about this fascinating documentary here!
The Last House on the Left
The 2009 re-make of this thriller-horror movie was shot throughout Cape Town, South Africa. As well as featuring the sweeping views of The Mother City, scenes were also shot in the luscious Helderberg Nature Preserve, located in Somerset West on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain.
TThe Dark Tower
Parts of the movie adaption of Stephen King’s novel saga The Dark Tower, featuring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, was filmed in the depths of the vast Karoo. Christopher Glass, responsible for the film’s South African production design, said “In South Africa, we found otherworldly deserts – it was almost like being on Mars. The horizon just kept going; I’ve never seen anything like that before. I think that’s the romance and a certain sense of adventure that goes into filming in Africa.” We couldn’t agree more
JJohannesburg & surrounds
This well-made sci-fi drama was filmed throughout the winter months in Johannesburg, to create a purposefully moody, bleak atmosphere. District 9 is not only a well-made sci-fi drama; it uses the element of sci-fi as a commentary on the apartheid era of South Africa and many locations that inspired the events of District 9 can be visited in real life.
The Apartheid Museum documents the history of apartheid through 22 individual exhibits and is a must-visit, eye-opening experience when in the City of Gold. Constitution Hill, formally a prison during the apartheid era where prisoners who rebelled against this act, including Nelson Mandela, were housed, is now an informative and insightful museum.
The vibrant township of Soweto was a main hub for filming District 9 and can be spotted in many scenes throughout the film. With the acting hat removed, Soweto is an impressive, vibey suburb of South Africa and is a must-visit when in Joburg. You’ll be greeted by friendly faces and the heavenly smell of shisa nyama (barbecue) whilst you explore this buzzing township by bicycle or tuk tuk. A particular highlight when exploring Soweto is visiting Vilakazi Street, a momentous location during apartheid and the only street in the world that has been home to two Nobel Peace Prize Winners: Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
AAvengers: Age of Ultron
Johannesburg’s city centre takes on an almost sepia, old world appearance in a fight sequence between the Hulk and Iron Man in the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron. Those with an eager eye will spot the old Rissik Street Post Office and the fountains at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. “Johannesburg has a very particular look and style to its architecture that I really liked,” said director Joss Whedon. “It has very much its own rhythm, its own feel, its own tones, and there’s an earthiness to the way it looks. It is very different from the other locations we shot. You know immediately you’re not in North America.”
This Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore rom-com was filmed at the family-friendly Lost City at Sun City Resort, located just 2 hours from central Johannesburg. Scenes were shot at the resort’s animal park, within the Palace of the Lost City hotel, on the hotel’s pool terrace and in the Crystal Court restaurant. The Lost City is made up of 4 large resorts and amenities include a number of swimming pools, a manmade lake where guests can surf, jet ski or relax on a boat cruise, a waterpark, 2 casinos and 2 golf courses. Day and night safari drives can also be enjoyed at nearby Pilanesburg Game Reserve, home to the impressive Big Five.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Venture into the diverse Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State and you’ll be entering Wakanda territory, with many of the Black Panther aerial shots taken here. You can soak up the panoramic views of wide-open wilderness on a hike, by bike or by horse through the foothills of the dramatic Maluti Mountains. Discover the local culture at Basotho Cultural Village; be taken on an incredible journey where a chief offers you mqombothi (sorghum beer), his wives offer you the fruits of their labour and a traditional healer offers you insight into African spirituality.
Although the story of Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone, the quaint resort town of Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal, featured in a pivotal scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou running from RUF insurgents. The town on the border of the Eastern Cape is a perfect starting point to explore the epic Wild Coast. Enjoy unspoiled, rugged coastal views and natural wonders such as The Hole in the Wall, and be astounded by the warmth and hospitality of the Xhosa people. To discover the Wild Coast, meet Siseko Yelani; the coastal wanderer.