Star Wars is by far the most recognizable movie franchise of all time.
Inviting a large-scale movie or TV production to your state or country will not only put you on the map; the economic trickle-down effect is tangible. A movie production brings with it a welcome influx of paying customers for local hotels, catering, laundry, security, local trades, security, and even education.
There are several states across the U.S. that now offer competitive tax breaks to domestic movie productions. For years, most productions stayed in-house and were shot on California sound stages or maybe on-site wherever the film was set. This has changed in recent years, with states like Louisiana and Illinois offering up to 45 percent tax refunds for all crew members.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the rest of the world is now opening its doors to Hollywood. Foreign countries are competing with similar, refundable tax incentives. This also means production companies are finding new, exotic locations for movies and TV series. With the emergence of Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max, there has never been a better time to offer these incentives.
Star Wars provided a wonderful opportunity for location scouts and media across the U.S. but it appears that Disney (no stranger to state tax incentives) now is firmly in the international locations camp.
A Wonderful World
With their acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012, Disney’s production schedule was about to go stratospheric with the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy and several spin-off movies and TV series. Disney would always need a fresh list of epic filming locations to sate the new Star Wars demand.
The Star Wars Universe feeds the imagination like no other movie dynasty. From the original film, later subtitled A New Hope, and onwards, George Lucas knew that he would need to find some epic places to serve as a backdrop to his new fantasy world.
The iconic deserts of Tattooine put Tunisia firmly on the map in 1977; since then, Wookie lovers have been embarking on pop-culture pilgrimages to the valley of the Tuskan raiders, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s troglodyte cave-house, or the great dunes of the east, famous for C3PO’s “Over here!” moment.
Meanwhile, the sweeping pine forests of California’s Redwood National Park doubled as the Ewok stronghold of Endor in Episode VI; the Mayan temples of Tikal, in the Guatemalan jungle, are famous for doubling as the rebel base, or ‘the Massassi stronghold on the fourth moon of Yavin’ in Episode IV.
However, since Lucas’s epic original trilogy, the new movies went further afield in their quest to find even more epic locations. This only increased after Disney’s acquisition, and the rest of the world is now part of Star Wars legend.
Here is a list of incredible Star Wars shooting locations.
Eyjafjallajökull National Park, Iceland. Episode VII
In 2014, Icelandic news reported that a certain Wookie was seen filming in the glaciers around the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. This would later be revealed as the grand-scale First Order Starkiller Base on the ice planet of Ilum, supposedly rich in kyber crystals.
The First Order set up their base on this planet for its energy-transmitting crystal deposits. They use the planet as the site for their star system-destroying superweapon, which harnessed energy from suns across the galaxy. We see it during Chewy, Han, and Finn's rescue mission after Rey falls into the hands of the First Order. It is also famous for its active volcano's eruption in 2010, which grounded much of the world's air traffic for some time.
Rub' al Khali Desert, Abu Dhabi. Episode VII
The connection is strong between A New Hope and Tunisia's inner deserts. Tattooine still remains the go-to wallpaper for most Star Wars fans' minds: Luke's coming-of-age adventure starts in this fabled sand-scape. However, the new trilogy opted for alternative desert scenery when it chose Abu Dhabi's Rub' al Khali.
This part of the Arabian Peninsular lies at the top of the world's largest uninterrupted mass of sand dunes — 250,000 square miles, to be exact. Finn's shipwrecked deserter marks the opening shot of that famous trailer, and the scale of the dune sea around him is quite unnerving.
Skellig Michael, Ireland. Episode VII and Episode VIII
An iconic shot in Star Wars movie canon is when Rey hands Luke back his lightsaber (spoiler alert: it's all downhill from there). The backdrop in this scene is the stuff of fantasy: emerald-covered granite islets out in the middle of the ocean and draped in sea mist — the perfect hiding place for a beleaguered Jedi master.
Unfortunately, finding this mystical place is easy, visiting it – not so much. These Unesco-protected islands only allow 180 visitors per day, all of whom have just 2.5 hours before they are whisked away. Now, with the added burden of enthusiastic Star Wars pilgrims to accommodate, the waiting list must be long.
Phang Nga, Thailand. Kashyyyk, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
It is common in movies to fake locations: Downtown Toronto often doubles as New York — in the TV series Suits, for example. However, it is uncommon for more than one location to double as another location. In this case, Phang Nga in southwestern Thailand has the same limestone rock structures that make Guilin in China such a great place for filming.
This transition between the distinctive karst mountains in Phang Nga Bay and the landlocked mountains in China is seamless. The Battle of Kashyyyk's opening moments begin over the Straits of Malacca and end in Guanxi Province, some 1500 miles away.
Jandia National Park, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. Solo: A Star Wars Story
For some reason, the movie was marginalized by most critics and considered by many to be a poor spin-off.
This is an unfair criticism of a film that is essentially just a simple origin story with no other function. In the film, Han, Chewy, Lando, and his droid L3-37 escape an Imperial blockade after stealing coaxium from the mines of Kessel, landing on the planet of Savareen to process the bounty. The script details this planet as a post-industrial landscape reclaimed by the desert, which works perfectly with the island's rugged look.
Laamu Atoll, Maldives. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
When fans watched the excellent Rogue One, they were treated to views of Scarif, filmed on the Laamu Atoll, one of the Maldives' 26 islands in the Indian Ocean. From above, and in reality, Scarif fits the description of a tropical paradise. However, according to canon, it has a pleasant, temperate climate.
Being deep in the Outer Rim Territories meant Scarif was a prime spot for the Empire to work on nefarious projects, such as the Death Star. As a result, the beach scenes in Rogue One remain some of the best live-action Star Wars battles in memory.
Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i. Nevarro, The Mandalorian
The lava fields on the volcanic planet of Nevarro are the backdrop for the show's inciting incident. Din Djarin frequents a cantina, meeting with his agent from the Bounty Hunter's Guild, Greef Karga. Nevarro is another planet on the Outer Rim Territories (this is becoming a theme now) where nefarious characters get up to no good.
However, the stark topography and background make this landscape ideal for shooting a movie. With the monochrome atmosphere, any color stands out. Visitors can find this region easily and even go up to the edge of the caldera.
Little Marlow Readymix Site, Little Marlow, England. Obi-Wan Kenobi/Andor
The little town of Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire, England, is a sleepy home-counties town like many others in the U.K. However, locals became incensed in 2021 when a production company turned an abandoned quarry into a full-scale outdoor film set that was earmarked to stay for some time.
It is hard to tell exactly which town was recreated here, and the suggestions are that it is a multi-use outdoor set.
However, from a bird's eye view, it appears to be Kenobi's workplace town of Anchorhead, on Tattooine. Obi-Wan Kenobi fans will like this location, though getting to it may prove difficult; it is surrounded by a lake and behind locked gates. According to reports, this site also doubles as the Andor city of Ferrix.
The Travertines of Pamukkale, Turkey. Tattooine, The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian was the first Disney+ spin-off TV show — and the most successful. This series used locations from all over the planet, though the actors stayed put. Jon Favreau filmed his characters using a new technology called Stagecraft, in which a full 360-degree semi-circular digital screen surrounds the actors.
This game-changing development means that productions no longer need to take actors, trailers, craft services, et al. across the planet anymore. Jon Favreau said: “The actors aren't brought on location; the location is brought to the actors.”
In “Chapter 10”, we see the Frog Lady taking a thermal bath in travertine pools. This was shot in Pamukkale, Turkey. The place is frequented by tourists for a good reason. It features stunning hot springs on terraces surrounded by verdant mountain valleys — unlike the harsh, rocky features added in the show.
Cassiobury Park, Watford, England. Naboo's Forests, Episode I
It is remarkable how Lucasfilm can find a conspicuous outdoor spot and transform it into a fantasy world (see Little Marlow). No place typifies this more than Cassiobury Park in Watford, north London. This simple nature reserve looks like a nice enough place in everyday life.
The park serves as the Naboo forest in Episode I. Naboo plays a prominent role in Star Wars, as Princess Amidala leads her people through the Trade Federation blockade.
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia. Crait, Episode VIII
The Last Jedi received so much criticism from hardened Star Wars veterans that it was hard to focus on the positives. One such benefit of this movie is the great showdown between the First Order and the Resistance on the salt-covered planet of Crait in the Outer Rim Territories.
The remnants of a vast prehistoric lake system, Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat. The last battle in Episode VIII is epic. The blood-red soil beneath the sodium top layer adds dramatic visual impact as the Resistance (and Luke's hologram) defends its old base from the might of the First Order.
Derwent Water and Thirlmere, Cumbria, England. Takadona, Episode VII
Cumbria contains England's only mountain range. The Lake District is popular with tourists, though small and mostly covered in grass. This sets the scene for Maz Kanata's castle hideaway.
Neighboring lake Thirlmere makes trailer gold when Poe Dameron and his X-wing squadron swoop in over the lake to aid the Resistance in their battle against the First Order. The Lake District is no stranger to fighter pilots; the Royal Airforce uses the tight, glacial valleys to hone pilots' aerial skills.
Mount Etna, Sicily. Mustafar, Episode III
Mount Etna is the highest point on the island of Sicily at 11,010 feet tall. It is an active volcano, bringing in millions of tourists yearly to marvel at its dominant peak. Those who make the trip may witness the occasional smoke stack and rumble — it erupted as recently as June of this year.
So, it became the birthplace for a dark Sith knight, heralding the dawn of Darth Vader following his infamous battle with Kenobi. The volcano erupted during the shoot for Revenge of the Sith, so the film crew caught real footage of the eruption and lava flows, which they used in the final cut.
Playa Veril, Fuerteventura. Savareen, Solo: A Star Wars Story
Another location Solo used for its sweeping vistas of sand and sea, Veril Beach in the Canary Islands, is not for the faint-hearted. A huge stretch of sand dunes that cascade into the forbidding oceans below; a gnarled, black volcanic underbelly gives it a dystopian menace — it isn't Big Sur, that's for sure.
Therefore, it's unsurprising that 20th-Century Fox chose it as the backdrop for Planet of the Apes in 1968. A local Canarian's tweet in 2018 advertised crew spots for anyone willing to work on the set for $450 a week, with photos revealing a construction that looks like Enfys Nest's headquarters on Savareen.
Guilin, China. Kashyyyk, Episode III
Another World Unesco Site on the list is the exquisite limestone mountain range in Guilin, Guanxi Province. The Li Jiang River flows through the mountains, which rise suddenly like misty spires from the dense sub-tropical forests beneath.
Famous for being the home planet of the Wookies, Kashyyyk appears in Revenge of the Sith when Yoda joins the Wookies in their defense against the Separatist Droid Army during the Clone Wars. The defining feature of Kashyyyk is the huge wroshyr trees, supporting great Wookie cities kilometers above the ground and being wide enough to house entire families within their trunks.
Kashyyyk definitely looks cooler in “real life” than it did in the Warner Bros. sound stage for the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.
Glen Tilt, Scotland. Alderaan, Obi-Wan Kenobi
Older Star Wars fans were pleased to see Disney's Obi-Wan Kenobi series finally giving Alderaan some screen time. Leia Organa's home planet is decimated by the Empire in A New Hope, so it is good to see the place in its full glory. Some external scenes filmed in the Scottish Highlands gave Ewan McGregor a chance to return to his roots. Obi-Wan also met the future Resistance commander for the first time.
A petition in Scotland began some time ago. Its purpose? To erect a man-sized statue of Kenobi on the summit of Scotland's highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Some even wanted the mountain renamed Ben-Kenobi-Nevis!
Ksar Ommarsia, Tunisia. Mos Espa, Episode I
Mos Espa is the iconic home of young Anakin and his mother, where the storyline begins for the entire saga. Ksar Ommarsia is in southeastern Tunisia and meets the criteria for being a Star Wars setting. Disney may pay a visit if your country has a volcano, lots of sand, interesting mountains, or a stunning piece of ancient architecture.
Tunisia makes many appearances in Star Wars folklore, so the force is strong with this country. Ksar Ommarsia is a 19th-Century fortified granary village that doubles as the slave market where Qui-Gon Jinn wins a bet on the Jedi-in-waiting's future.
Canary Wharf Tube Station, London. Imperial Military Base, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
This list is packed with far-flung destinations that may require the pilgrim to cover several ‘parsecs' before catching a glimpse of the sacred site. Therefore, an easy-access location must be welcome.
Canary Wharf is the banking hub of London and where the great London Docks once sat before going to ruin in the mid-20th century and being reclaimed in the '90s. The modern, gray concrete aesthetic of the modern brutalist architecture, with stainless steel and harsh lighting, makes this the perfect headquarters for the Empire.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.