If you’ve always wanted to visit Greece or have recently returned from a trip to the land of azure waters and ancient gods, here are ten must-see films shot on the Greek islands that will transport you there.
Let the white sand beaches and clear blue skies surrounded by crystal waters and ancient buildings take you to the Greek islands in an instant. The glimpses offered in these films, some set in entirely one location and others combining a hodge-podge of imaginary villages or islands to conform with the plot line, demonstrate through film the beauty of the Greek islands’ geography and culture.
Ruins from the time of Greek mythology and sunny skies offering beautiful natural light have been attracting producers to film in the Greek islands since the late 1950s. And, as the Greek Film Commission has fast-tracked the process of issuing permits, offering incentives and simply making it much easier to film in Greece, filming in breath-taking locations available in the Greek islands is even more attractive.
1. The Big Blue (Le Grande Bleu) (1988) Amourgos, Ios
The emotional intensity of the film experience and mystical themes of the story have made this a cult phenomenon. The Greek locations were filmed on the islands of Amourgos and Ios. This is the heavily fictionalized story of two free diving friends raised in Greece in the 1960s trying to dive to depths of over 400 meters (1,312 feet). It features gorgeous underwater photography and spectacular location shooting.
(Director: Luc Besson; featuring Jean Marc Barr, Jean Reno)
2. Shirley Valentine (1989) Mykonos
Shirley Valentine, a fed up English housewife with a penchant for talking to walls, jumps at the chance of a holiday in Greece; when her friend drops out, Shirley travels to Mykonos alone. The Greek locations were indeed filmed entirely on the island of Mykonos. She begins a passionate holiday love affair with a Greek waiter named Costas. And so begins Shirley’s life in Greece.
(Director: Lewis Gilbert; featuring Pauline Collins, Tom Conti)
3. Mamma Mia (2008) Skopelos, Skiathos
More than any other, Mamma Mia! inspired innumerable vacations after being filmed on the Greek islands. The modern musical, based on ABBA songs, has a bit of fun with a single American mother who made Greece her home. A daughter about to get married at their small hotel on a Greek island and no father to give the bride away makes for fun surprises.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the 2018 sequel to the original movie, did not return to film in the Greek islands because of the complications created by Greek bureaucracy. The producers moved the filming location to a remote Croatian island although the story was still based in Greece. The bad press for Greece at least prompted the Greek Film Commission to streamline the process of filming in Greece and on the Greek islands.
(Directors: Phyllida Lloyd, Ol Parker; featuring: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth)
4. Kings of Mykonos: The Wog Boy 2 (2010) Mykonos
This Australian romp was filmed entirely on the Greek island of Mykonos. Steve Karamitsis of The Wog Boy and his best buddy, Frank, are both defined by their love for cars and love for women, respectively. Steve discovers he inherits a taverna and a beach from an uncle he’s never met on the Greek resort island.
(Director: Peter Andrikides; featuring Nick Giannopoulos, Vince Colosimo
5. Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003) Santorini
Angelina Jolie returns as Lara Croft in this action-packed movie. Greek archaeological authorities are sticklers at preventing the theft of Greece’s cultural heritage. But now there is one “tomb raider” that is being welcomed with open arms for the movie filmed on the Greek island of Santorini.
(Director: Jan de Bont; featuring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler)
6. The Greek Tycoon (1978) Mykonos
The Greek Tycoon was based on the life of wealthy Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and his rocky marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy, the former wife of John Kennedy, the President of the United States. The film used New York and Athens as locations but was also filmed on the Greek island of Mykonos.
(Director: J. Lee Thompson; featuring: Anthony Quinn, Jaqueline Bisset)
7. D’Agostino (2012) Santorini
Allan leads a sedentary life until he finds a clone to mold into his new best friend. The film was shot overlooking the caldera of the Greek island of Santorini. Some scenes were shot beachside on the cliffs below. The script is minimal, so there are many pretty shots of Santorini with scenic vistas, chickens, donkeys, shops, markets, and, of course, the obligatory “on the balcony with a glass of wine” scene.
(Director: Jorge Ameer; featuring: Keith Roenke, Michael Angels)
8. Summer Lovers (1982) Santorini, Mykonos, Crete
A guilty pleasure involving three locations, this light-on-substance movie is filled with shots of Darryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher, an irresistibly upbeat soundtrack, and glorious shots of Greece. They combine several locations filmed on the Greek islands to create one fictional super-island.
(Director: Randall Keiser; featuring: Daryl Hannah, Peter Gallagher, Valerie Quennes)
9. For Your Eyes Only (1981) Corfu
While trying to locate a missile command system, James Bond becomes entangled in a web of deception, spun by dodgy Greek businessman Aris Kristatos. The Bond adventure, filmed on the Greek Island of Corfu, has our number one British spy falling for beautiful Melina, who is out to get revenge for the murder of her parents, both marine archaeologists.
(Director: John Glen; featuring: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet
10. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) Kephalonia
A loosely fact-based, action-romance filmed on the Greek island of Kephalonia, this story is set in the time of World War II. It prompted a tourist deluge for the island. Corelli is the leader of the Italian invasion force that controls the Greek island of Kephalonia. Billeted with the local doctor, he falls in love with his daughter even though she is engaged to resistance fighter Mandras.
Slowly, his feelings are returned, but their life and love is disrupted when the Italians surrender to the Allies. Corelli and his men are faced with the dilemma to join in with the Germans or continue to resist.
(Director: John Madden; featuring: Nicholas Cage, Penelope Cruz)