Sri Lanka, the tropical island, with its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and unique blend of influences from South Asia and beyond, has long been a popular destination for filmmakers from around the world. Over the years, many international movies filmed in Sri Lanka, showcasing its diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and colorful traditions. In this blog, we will explore some of the most memorable films that have been shot on location in Sri Lanka.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is a classic adventure film that was released in 1984, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The movie takes place in 1935 and follows Indiana Jones as he travels to India to retrieve a sacred stone from an evil cult that has enslaved a local village.
While much of the film was shot on location in England, the United States, and Macau, several key scenes were filmed in Sri Lanka, which was used as a stand-in for India. The most notable scene that was shot in Sri Lanka is the iconic bridge-crossing sequence, which takes place over a deep gorge. The bridge-crossing sequence was filmed at a location called Kitulgala, which is situated in the central province of Sri Lanka.
The location is known for its lush tropical island forests, verdant hills, and scenic rivers, making it the perfect backdrop for the thrilling action sequence. To film the scene, the filmmakers built a replica of a suspension bridge over a 200-foot drop, which was later destroyed in the movie’s dramatic climax.
In addition to Kitulgala, the filmmakers also shot several other scenes in various locations around Sri Lanka, including the stunning Kandy Lake, which was used as a backdrop for a romantic scene between Indiana Jones and his love interest, Willie Scott.
The decision to film key scenes of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in Sri Lanka was a smart one, as the tropical island’s natural beauty and unique cultural heritage provided the perfect backdrop for this classic adventure movie. The film went on to become a box office success and a beloved cultural icon, solidifying Indiana Jones’ status as one of cinema’s most iconic heroes.
“Water” is a critically acclaimed drama film that was released in 2005, directed by Deepa Mehta.
The movie takes place in 1938 and follows the story of a group of widows who are forced to live in poverty and isolation in an ashram in Varanasi, India. While the film is set in India, it was actually shot in Sri Lanka, which was used as a stand-in for the Indian city of Varanasi. The decision to film in Sri Lanka was made due to political and cultural obstacles that the production faced while trying to film in India.
The filmmakers selected a location in Sri Lanka called Bentota, which is a picturesque coastal town located in the southwestern part of the country. The town is known for its tropical island feel, stunning beaches, palm trees, and tranquil lagoons, making it the perfect backdrop for the film’s serene and contemplative tone.
The filmmakers also used various locations around the town, including a 100-year-old mansion that was converted into the ashram where the widows reside. The mansion’s ornate architecture and lush gardens provided a perfect setting for the film’s story of female oppression and empowerment.
“Water” went on to receive numerous awards and nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, solidifying its status as a cinematic masterpiece.
The English Patient (1996)
“The English Patient” is a romantic war drama film that was released in 1996, directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Juliette Binoche.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje and tells the story of a critically burned man who recounts his life and love affairs in the days leading up to the end of World War II. Although the story is set in Italy and North Africa, much of the filming for “The English Patient” took place in Sri Lanka, which was used as a stand-in for the other locations.
The filmmakers chose this tropical island for its stunning landscapes, which closely resemble the sandy deserts and rugged mountains of North Africa. The most notable filming location in Sri Lanka for “The English Patient” was the town of Sigiriya, located in the central part of the country.
Sigiriya is home to a towering rock fortress that was used as the backdrop for several key scenes in the movie, including the flashback scenes that take place in the desert. In addition to Sigiriya, the filmmakers also shot several other scenes in various locations around Sri Lanka, including the lush tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
The film went on to become a critical and commercial success, winning nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche.
The tropical island of Sri Lanka has played a vital role in the world of cinema, serving as a breath-taking backdrop to many iconic films over the years. From Hollywood blockbusters to critically acclaimed independent films, the country’s rich cultural heritage, stunning natural beauty, and unique blend of influences continue to captivate audiences around the world.