Whether it’s the streets of London, Las Vegas’ legendary Strip or the Hollywood sign set high in the hills above Los Angeles, we’re more than used to seeing iconic city landmarks brought to life on the silver screen. And yet the quiet, unassuming Mediterranean islands of Malta, Comino and Gozo have long served as a most beautiful of backdrops to some of the greatest Hollywood blockbusters.
Troy is perhaps amongst the most famous of films shot on Malta; much of it was shot at the large 16th-century Fort Ricasoli, built by the Knights of Malta on the promontory known as Gallows Point, and at Mellieha, a small town to the north of the island, as well as on Camino. Fort Ricasoli also played a prominent role in Ridley Scott’s 2000 multi-award-winning Gladiator, where a replica Coliseum was constructed for the filming of the scenes set in Ancient Rome at a cost of an estimated $1 million.
Filmed in the same year as Troy (2004), Oliver Stone’s Alexander recreated the ancient port city of Alexandria in Valletta’s Grand Harbour. Despite being largely set in Turkey meanwhile, Midnight Express was almost entirely filmed at Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta, as was the 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo, which also used St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina and St Mary’s Tower on Comino as film locations.
Malta also served as the principal backdrop for Munich whilst Sean Connery’s 2003 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was shot at Xlendi on the island of Gozo. Brad Pitt’s latest release, World War Z, includes scenes set in Valletta and the Three Cities, a collective description for Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa, whose waterfront also features heavily in both the pirate adventure Cutthroat Island (along with Mdina, Fort St Elmo and the Dingli Cliffs), in addition to Madonna’s Swept Away, in which she also swims at the Blue Lagoon on Camino.
And last but not least, no overview of Malta’s movie locations could fail to mention Robin William’s Popeye, the set for which was built near Mellieha and today remains as Popeye Village, a popular family attraction.