Time and time again, international movie-makers decided to use the beautiful landscapes of the Greek islands as a setting to super-hit movies. It has for years been a win-win situation: both for the box-offices as much for local tourism promotion.
Let’s remember a few of those!
Hydra for Sofia Lauren (1957)
Boy On a Dolphin was the first international film ever to be made in Greece, starring Sofia Lauren, Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb. As a poor diver in a fishermen’s island, Lauren sings in Greek (dubbed) the Takis Morakis super-hit Ti ine afto pou to lene aghapi (What’s this thing they call love) and causes international fans to sing along. Elite artists and intellectuals soon chose this Saronic Bay island as their favorite holiday destination all through the 1960’s, eventually followed by Leonard Cohen who even bought a house on Hydra.
Amorgos for Luc Besson’s Blue (1988)
The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) is a magical French movie praising friendship among two divers. All diving scenes were shot in the deep blue waters of Amorgos island off rocky Ayia Anna beach, still a favorite experience for diving visitors. A visit to Amorgos numerous bars named after the movie is maybe inevitable; one of them near the Katapola harbor even hosts multilingual screenings of the movie every afternoon!
Kastelorizo is in the Mediterraneo (1991)
This bitter-sweet Oscar-winning Italian movie features the story of a stranded group of Italian soldiers in 1941’s Kastelorizo island in the Dodecanese. In the movie one of them falls in love with a local Greek beauty and stays there forever. WW 2 is long over but thanks to this movie a mass tourist invasion of Italian tourists in Kastelorizo still continues!
Kefalonia in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
Another WW 2 Italian soldier (Nick Cage) falls in love with a Greek girl (Penelope Cruz) in the Ionian island of Kefalonia, making this island even more popular for regular Italian tourists (the island is not even as far from Italy as Kastelorizo is). Plus it introduced Kefalonia’s spectacular natural beauties to a more international crowd.
Crete for Zorba the Greek (1964)
An Oscar-winning performance for Lila Kedrova, a famous dance scene on a coast…and probably the movie that was most identified with Greek free-spirited lifestyle, together with (also Oscar-winning) Dassin’s Never on Sunday (1960). Anthony Quinn as Zorba and Alan Bates as author Kazantzakis’ alter ego star in the movie filmed around Chania region of Crete. Nowadays in Crete you can find a super-fun “Best Syrtaki Show” near Platanias (Chania’s most popular night-life location) and watch live reproductions of the movie’s scenes, of course under the soundtrack of Mikis Theodorakis.
Shirey Valentine’s Mykonos (1989)
Bored by her life and husband in Liverpool, this middle-aged English housewife (Pauline Collins) finds romance by a be-moustached Greek tavern-owner (Tom Conti) on a holiday to Mykonos. The movie won an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA award. And it made the island’s Agios Ioannis location (and its tavern) a spot to visit for thousands of tourists each year!
The Rhodes of Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck and David Niven (1961)
British troops fighting the Nazis try to blow up the Guns of Navarone (actually the Dodecanese capital, Rhodes). Meanwhile, the movie features some of Rhodes’ most celebrated cultural sites. There is still a popular beach named after Anthony Quinn on the island (even though the actor himself never managed to buy this public beach as he had wished).
Rhodes continues to be a top-tourist destination and movie location. Since Navarone, countless Greek and international movies have been shot there featuring a fair amount of international stars such as Roger Moore, Telly Savalas, Claudia Cardinale, Jaqueline Bisset, Ben Kingsley and Hellen Mirren.
James Bond drinks Corfu wine (1981)
The 12th James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was partly filmed in Corfu (and Meteora). Britain’s most famous secret agent falls for Melina, another Greek beauty. She contemplates her life from the terrace of Empress Sissy’s Corfu Palace (Achilleion) where Roger Moore orders, surprisingly, not 007’s regular shaken-not-stirred Martini but one…Theotokis wine. The winery actually exists but was never as famous as in the Bond movie! On the contrary, Corfu has always been a favorite for the Brits (not least those playing cricket in Corfu’s immense central square).
Santorini’s Summer Lovers (1982)
Santorini was just becoming super-popular among Greek tourists when an American erotic trio movie boosted the island’s reputation as Island of Romance – in a belated hippie style. The movie itself was also filmed in Mykonos, Delos and Crete but Santorini won the heart of the “lovers” Peter Gallagher, Darryl Hannah and Valerie Quennessen who in reality hung around partying there with various Greeks on holiday. The lovers’ house in Oia village featuring in the movie is nowadays a gift shop called (what else?) Summer Lovers!
Mamma Mia! It’s really Skopelos! (2008)
Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan star in this ABBA-nostalgic musical movie about summertime love adventures for both mother and daughter. The producers came up with a new discovery: pretty Skopelos island in the central-Aegean archipelago. Nevertheless, in the movie the island goes by the Greek name for Summer (Kalokeri). The island’s Kastani beach probably never expected to become so connected with ABBA music, yet its one and only beach bar now plays their (immortal) songs every day!