Whenever a friend who lives abroad comes to visit the island and asks us for some of the best information about Malta, it’s inevitable that at a certain point, the discussion turns to films shot here. But where do you begin? Which films should you mention, and which ones should you perhaps stay away from?
Well, we’ve gone and done all the research for you! From 1925 to 2016, there have been at least 110 films that were either shot or set in Malta, and nearly half of them were all from 2000 onwards. And that’s not even counting the 30+ Maltese films that have also been released.
What we’ve done to organise all of this for you is sift through each and every one of those films, checked out reviews from critics and review sites worldwide (most notably IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, because that’s what most of us use when we want to convince ourselves to watch a film anyway).
Before starting off, we’d just like to make some notable mentions that did not make the list due to the harsh axing by some of the world’s top critics: By the Sea (34%), The Da Vinci Code (25%), Alexander (14%)
So, without further ado, let the binge watching commence!
25. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (50%)
Kicking off the list with a ton of lens flare and twenty-five tons of explosive is Michael Bay’s take on the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Libya. If you want to watch a lot of buildings around the island getting shot up to oblivion, then there’s no better film to watch.
24. Risen (52%)
One of the most recent flicks on this list, Risen gets the double relatable edged sword over the local public for being shot in Malta and being about Jesus. Score.
23. Agora (53%)
The story of astronomer-philosopher Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) and all the failed romantic advances by slaves, Christians and pagans alike. The film was entirely shot on our island, so run and tell that!
22. Troy (54%)
Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean and Blue Lagoon? Not to mention the Photoshop hoax of an airplane in a shot that everyone took to be an actual mistake? Yep, Malta’s famous baby!
21. The Devil’s Double (56%)
A film filled with Maltese locations—from Portomaso Tower to the University of Malta—all standing in for 1980s Iraq. Also featuring Dominic Cooper being a total badass as both Uday Hussein and his body double Latin Yahia.
20. Popeye (59%)
Frequently regarded as one of the flops to be shot in Malta, Popeye still just about makes our list. And with the legacy left behind thanks to Popeye’s Village and Robin Williams’ irresistible charm, we’re glad it does.
19. Simshar (60%)
The only Maltese film to make it on the list is actually one worthy of the hype surrounding it. Based on the true events that had the whole country at a standstill for a couple of days back in July 2008, Simshar was the first film that Malta ever submitted as an entry for The Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards.
18. Sinbad & The Eye of the Tiger (63%)
If it’s classic 1970s fantasy films you’re looking for, then this is the one for you. The third and final Sinbad film by the legendary Ray Harryhausen using his “magical Dynarama” method of filming, but spoiler alert – not the last one on this list!
17. Battle of Britain (63%)
As epic as historical war films go. Back when trailers were nearly as long as the films themselves.
16. Never Say Never Again (64%)
For those who believe that 80s Bond was the best Bond, you’re in luck! Watch Sean Connery beat up baddies in beautiful Maltese palaces.
15. Clash of the Titans (66%)
No, not that horrible 2010 CGI fest of a film (which actually got 28% on Rotten Tomatoes), but the original 1981 stunner. Back when the GIF above was still scary. Who are we kidding, it’s so well-made, it’s still terrifying!
FUN FACT: The internationally-famous scene of the Kraken emerging from the depths was actually shot at and around the Azure Window / Fungus Rock!
14. Pulp (67%)
Michael Caine in a comedy thriller from the 70s? Sign us up. Oh, and the whole film is available on YouTube. Shh, you didn’t hear it from us.
13. World War Z (67%)
Say what you want about the movie adaptation of the popular book series starring Brad Pitt (again), but this one deserves to be on the list just because of the zombie-pileup-tumbling-down-Valletta scene.
12. U-571 (68%)
Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton in a submarine hunting down Nazi subs. That would be all well and good, but the film goes and outdoes itself by actually starring Bon Jovi. It’s like they knew back in 2000 how GIFable it was all going to be.
11. The Emperor’s New Clothes (72%)
In the same year that the first Lord of the Rings film came out, Ian Holm played not only Bilbo Baggins, but Napoleon Bonaparte in a film that imagines what would happen if instead of dying in exile, the French emperor would’ve actually escaped and tried to regain the throne. Funnily enough, this isn’t the last time that we’ll see the island of St. Helena portrayed by Malta on this list!
10. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (73%)
The second in the Sinbad trilogies and another Harryhausen masterpiece. I mean, that animation is now forty years old!
9. The Count of Monte Cristo (74%)
A great rendition of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel and one that constantly features Malta. From the Comino Tower standing in for the Château d’If (France’s answer to Alcatraz), to Valletta as Marseille, to Imdina as Venice, Malta’s best is showcased in this darling of a film featuring Jim Caviezel (who two years later played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) and the amazing Puerto Rican Luis Guzmán as the faithful Jacopo.
8. Gladiator (76%)
You’ve probably heard of a couple of films on this list, and they’re bound to get even more familiar as we go on, but this is definitely one that doesn’t need introduction for anyone. Winner of 11 awards (five of which were Oscars, including Best Picture), Ridley Scott’s 2000 mainstream masterpiece still has locals nowadays boast Malta’s piece of the cake. Not to mention that the film’s soundtrack is still used in pretty much every school play curtain call around the country. And hey, what with the film having pre-stand-up Omid Djalili and with him now being a superstar comedian who’s coming to our island for the second time, it’s beautifully coming full circle now isn’t it?
7. Munich (78%)
While most film directors are pretty hit and miss, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Steven Spielberg historical / political drama that isn’t a winner. The 2005 film about the secret government retaliation against the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and their coach at the 1972 Olympics is one of Spielberg’s lowest-grossing films, and yet it still garnered positive reviews and five Academy Award nominations. Also featuring Bugibba, the Sliema Promenade, and a whole lot of Maltese balconies.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me (79%)
Yep, another James Bond film! This time featuring Roger Moore as 007 and that amazing Bond car that could actually drive underwater…under the Mediterranean Sea in Malta, that is!
5. Kon-Tiki (85%)
Another great recent flick, this time from 2012. The film recounts the amazing 4,300-mile journey on a balsa-wood raft across the Pacific Ocean in 1947 led by a Norwegian explorer and writer who wanted to prove a point about the colonisation of Polynesia. The film was actually shot twice—once in Norwegian and once in English—since that was the only way the directors could convince certain financiers from the seven different nations they went to. The final Norwegian product was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a colossal feat that couldn’t be marketed for the English version due to Oscars regulations!
4. Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre (86%)
Perhaps coming completely out of left field, the 2003 French adaptation of the famous comic books had critics worldwide laughing and giving it a seal of approval. While the bulk of the film was actually shot in Morocco and only some scenes were shot at the Rinella water tanks, 25% of the film’s crew, its production manager and many of the pirates in the movie were all Maltese. An entertaining film from start to finish, if you also count the who’s-who name-spotting during the credits!
3. The Bedford Incident (86%)
A Cold War film directed by Stanley Kubrick’s producer, based on a 1963 book that was patterned after Moby Dick? We honestly can’t think of any more amazing things to squeeze into one sentence. Perfectly capturing the harrowing tension of American-Russian post-war relations and filmed in gritty black and white, The Bedford Incident was also instrumental in putting Rinella on the film production map, especially of course when it came to filming sea scenes.
2. Captain Phillips (93%)
Fast-forward a whole half a century, and the Mediterranean Film Studios in Kalkara are now more than ever instrumental in the churning out of big blockbusters. While the MFS stage and water tank facilities are truly among the best in the world, the bulk of filming for this critically-claimed piracy drama based on a true story actually took place at sea around our island onboard the Maersk Alexander, which was a perfect match for the original ship. Various famous critics around the world named the Tom Hanks masterclass one of the best films of 2013, and we’re pretty sure that we’ll be mentioning it to future generations of tourists. “Look there ara, that is where they were, you see? I’m the Captain now hehehehe”
1. Midnight Express (95%)
The 1978 classic that won over a dozen awards, including the legendary soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder that was the best 80s song before the 80s even started. Features what is probably the most famous and perfect line by a Maltese actor to date, in Maltese no less! “Din x’inhi?!”
BONUS: The Maltese Falcon (100%)
Highly regarded as the first major film noir (and to this day one of the best), the 1941 Humphrey Bogart mystery drama was actually entirely shot in America (mostly San Francisco), but we’re willing to close an eye on this one seeing as the whole premise is a hunt for the jewel-encrusted Golden Falcon that the Knight Templars of Malta gave to Charles V of Spain as a tribute for the islands. And hey, our country’s name is half the title of one of the most highly acclaimed movies ever made – score!