Top Ten Landscapes of the Silver Screen

Every so often there comes a movie that is an instant classic and a landscape forever reminiscent of its moment on the big screen. Completely parti pris, though open for dispute, here is our list of the top ten iconic landscapes of the silver screen.
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Petra, Jordan
'X' MARKS THE SPOT: The ruins of Petra are so surreal it could be mistaken for a man-made movie set  (Andrea Pistolesi)

You've seen every motion picture on the America Film Association's Top 100 list, memorized all of your favorite lines. Now it's time to go on location. While famous filming sites span the globe from Bangkok to NYC, it's beyond the urban areas that these places most inspire. Here are just ten of the thousands of must-see locations forever linked with their movie roles.

10. Location: Jordan's Ancient City of Petra

Movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Once Harrison Ford arrived at Petra in his quest for the Holy Grail in 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, tourism to the ancient city soared, and with good reason: Jordan's "Rose Red City" is an architectural marvel of intricately-carved sandstone temples, streets, and tombs shrouded in history and unlike any other place on earth.

Established by the Nabataean people as their capital city more than 2,000 years ago, Petra remained unknown to the western world until Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt introduced it in 1812. Today the World Heritage Site is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction, making sustainable tourism a must.

Visitors to Petra arrive through the Siq, a narrow gorge no more than ten feet wide and flanked by towering cliffs soaring more than 600 feet high. It's after traveling through this main entrance that Ford's Indiana, accompanied by both his father and his good friend Sallah, first catch sight of Al Khazneh, or "The Treasury." One of Petra's most elaborate structures, it's also the site that Indiana and his companions enter to find the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

9. Location: Greater Salzburg, Austria

Movie: The Sound of Music

Though The Sound of Music received mixed reviews from critics upon its 1965 release, the film was an undeniable box office success, becoming one of the highest grossing films of its time. Today the movie is both a perennial and cult classic, not to mention one of Austria's top tourism draws. Most of Sound of Music's indoor scenes were filmed on sets constructed at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles, but the exterior shots are entirely Western Europe—notably the baroque city of Salzburg and its surroundings. Footage of the country's mountainous lake district, Salzkammergut, was used for the picture's open aerial shots and again when Julie Andrews first appears on Mellweg Mountain, just across the German border in Bavaria. Another notable site is tree-lined Hellbrunner Allee, the lane where Maria and her guitar make their confident and musical march toward the Villa Von Trapp. The Villa footage combines two filming locations: the Mozarteum Music Academy appears as the villa's formidable front gates, and the private college Schloss Leopoldskron stands in for its lakeside terrace.

The real Villa Von Trapp, where the family lived from 1923 to 1938, is now a boutique hotel.

8. Location: The Chattooga River, Georgia

Movie: Deliverance

Georgia's remote wilderness is the perfect setting for one of the most disturbing films in movie history. John Boorman's 1972 adventure thriller, Deliverance is a story of four businessmen who embark on a river rafting trip that turns into a living nightmare. The cinematic feature brought both fame and notoriety to the state's natural assets, especially the free-flowing Chattooga, a Wild and Scenic River that served as stand-in for the film's fictional Cahulawassee. The 57-plus-mile-long waterway boasts Class III and IV rapids, including a stretch of Class IV rapids called Deliverance Rock. The river's drop-pool style means raging waters are interspersed with sections of calm, providing ample downtime to sit upon the film's more unsettling scenes.

Nearby Tallulah Gorge State Park is home to the spectacular Tallulah Gorge, the two-mile-long natural crevasse that Jon Voight's character scales to kill the last of the movie's mountain men.

7. Location: Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Movie: The African Queen

In 1951's The African Queen, director John Huston brought the scenery of central Africa to thousands of moviegoers and scored a hit not just for cinema, but also for travel agents. The film stars Kathryn Hepburn as British missionary Rose Sayer and Humphrey Bogart as the steamer captain who accompanies her to both find and sink the German gunboat Louisa in retaliation for her brother's death. Though the film is set in WWI German East Africa, its on-location scenes were shot along the border of Uganda and what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC's curvy Ruiki, a source of the river Nile, stands in for Tanzania's Ulanga River; areas near its banks sub for East Africa's wildlife-heavy landscape.

Huston employed a small offshoot of Lake Albert (one of the African Great Lakes) for the film's pivotal scene in which Bogie's African Queen is sent on a collision course with the Louisa. It's located along the Nile at Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalego Falls, within Murchison Falls National Park.

6. Location: Halona Cove, O'ahu

Movie: From Here to Eternity

You don't have to be a romantic to appreciate the splendor of Hawaii's Halona Cove, setting for the unforgettable and often imitated kissing-in-the-surf scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the 1953 WWII-era drama, From Here to Eternity. The small, secluded beach is a mere ten miles west of Waikiki and neighbors one of the area's most visited attractions, the Halona Blowhole.

Halona Cove, which is also called "Eternity Cove" and "The Peering Place," is located at the bottom of a steep, rocky path. Surrounded by lava cliffs, the sandy beach is a good spot for swimming and snorkeling, as well as romancing when the water's calm.

The beach also appears in Adam Sandler's 2004 romantic comedy, 50 First Dates.

Published: 21 Feb 2011 | Last Updated: 31 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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