The Getaway
Set Your Sights on These Remarkable Former Movie Sets

Whether it turns out good or bad, a lot of work goes into making a movie. Searching for suitable filming locations and creating dazzling sets are some of the earliest steps in the process, and they're crucial ones.

Sometimes, when everything's said and done and the entire crew departs, they leave behind props and places that become destinations for the movie's devotees. Some of these spots have stood the test of time, so switch that camera on and get ready to explore.

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01 Popeye Village, Mellieha, Malta

In 1980, Robin Williams starred in a musical version of the beloved comic Popeye. The film was shot on the gorgeous Mediterranean island of Malta. Production built a charmingly colorful town over seven months and abandoned it when the movie wrapped. Today, it's a resort and theme park with boat rides and restaurants that serve a lot more than just spinach.

Popeye Village in Malta ewg3D / Getty Images

02 Western Leone film set in Andalusia: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You can pretend you've traveled back in time to the Wild West in this bone-dry nook of southern Spain. Play Ennio Morricone's familiar theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly to round out your spaghetti western fantasy. The sets constructed in the '60s and '70s still stand, and they feature a hangman's noose, saloons, and churches.

Western Leone film set in Tabernas Desert, Andalusia Chiara Salvadori / Getty Images

03 Sibley, Louisiana: Year One

You might remember the bawdy 2009 comedy Year One starring Jack Black and Michael Cera. The actors play hunter-gatherers who encounter biblical figures and places, and you can still find Sodom in northwest Louisiana. At the time, the ancient villages were some of the largest sets production designer Jefferson Sage had ever worked on.

A scenic river flowing in Webster Parish in Louisiana Norm Lane / Getty Images

04 Atlas Corporation Studios, near Ouarzazate, Morocco

At 30,000 sq meters, Atlas Film Studios in the Moroccan desert is the biggest studio on the planet and has been home to some equally epic period and modern movies. Think Gladiator, The Mummy, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, and Babel, for starters.

When you visit, be sure to hit the permanent Egyptian temple. About a half an hour's drive away from Ouarzazate, you'll find the gas station from the 2006 horror The Hills Have Eyes.

Permanent Egyptian Temple set at Atlas Studios, Morocco James Strachan / Getty Images

05 Montgomery, Alabama: Big Fish

The award-winning 2003 film Big Fish was shot on a purpose-built set on Jackson Lake Island. You could visit it right now if you wanted to. Nature has had its way with the buildings and streets (they survived a tornado in 2021) and the ghost town vibes might make you a little edgy, but there's plenty of fun to be had if you're keen on reenacting your favorite scenes.

Make friends with the resident goats and sheep, and bring $15 if you'd like to camp.

06 Plaszow Camp in Krakow, Poland: Schindler's List

Head to Krakow for a heartbreaking reminder of World War II and a slice of cinematic history. When the Oscar-winning movie, Schindler's List, was made, Plaszów labor camp no longer existed. The production team used original blueprints to build a replica in the Krakus Quarry. There's also a replica of Goeth’s villa.

Old quarry and Krakus Mound in distance, Krakow, Poland Pawel Wewiorski / Getty Images

07 Former Harrisburg State Hospital, Pennsylvania: Girl Interrupted

Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for her role as a sociopath who grew up in a psychiatric hospital. The movie featured a hospital that was a real mental institution until 2006. If you visit, you can still see the movie's "Administration" sign because hospital staff never got rid of it. Now that the building is solely offices, the memorabilia may be on its way out.

08 Smurf-Blue Town in Júzcar, Spain

This spot isn't a deserted film set, but it is a movie promotion relic. When the Spanish PR team for the 2011 Smurfs movie was bouncing ideas around, they came up with one to transform the village of Júzcar in Malaga. Cue a smurf-blue town and character-covered walls.

While the once-white town is no longer allowed to market itself as Smurf Village, it stuck with its new tourist-attracting blue color and the spectacle has been delighting visitors ever since.

Smurf Blue Town in Júzcar _548901005677 / Getty Images

09 Cinecittà, Rome, Italy: The Borgias and Rome

If you thought Gangs of New York was filmed in NYC, here's a little factoid for you. It was actually shot in Rome, at Europe's biggest film studio, Cinema City, aka Cinecittà. Set designer Ferretti built a section of 19th century New York from the ground up. Most of it is gone, but you'll be able to see sets from the 2005 TV series Rome, and The Borgias too.

ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 31: The 'Ancient Rome' set built for the HBO series 'Rome', which is the biggest set at Cinecitta Studios on January 31, 2018 in Rome, Italy. Simona Granati - Corbis / Getty Images

10 Blue Cloud Ranch, California: Zero Dark Thirty

Blue Cloud Ranch in greater LA is a popular place to make movies and includes Marvel blockbusters and award season favorites on its resume. Pop by and see how the Santa Clarita Valley stood in for Afghanistan in Zero Dark Thirty and Iron Man.

11 Tataouine, Tunisia: Star Wars

We're heading to an otherworldly place. Anakin Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine gets its name from the Tunisian desert town that brought it to life.

The Berber caves and Hotel Sidi Idriss are huge, well-preserved drawcards for franchise fans. Five hours away, the city of Tozeur also served as a filming location, and you can stop by to make the most of your Star Wars pilgrimage.

Underground Berber Caves In Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia Slimstyl / Shutterstock

12 Wallilabou Bay, St. Vincent: Pirates of the Caribbean

Wallilabou Bay in Saint Vincent got a makeover to become Port Royal in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean. Stay over at Wallilabou Anchorage, and you'll get a surreal glimpse of props and parts of the set. Just don't be caught stealing anything or getting drunk like Jack Sparrow.

Skeleton props in coffins in Wallilabou Bay, Saint Vincent thierry64 / Getty Images

13 Cypress Gardens, South Carolina: The Notebook

'It wasn't over. It still isn't over!' Before Noah uttered this iconic line in The Notebook, there was a lot of gentle rowing through a beautiful swamp. That swamp is Cypress Gardens, a stone's throw away from Charleston, and unsurprisingly, it's super popular with young lovers.

You'll also spot this nature preserve in The Patriot, and Cold Mountain. After being closed for over three years in the wake of floods, Cypress Gardens is open to the public once more.

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

14 Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina: The Hunger Games

Henry River Mill Village harks back to the early 20th century when textiles made North Carolinians a fair amount of money. But times change. Location scouts found an abandoned and decaying place east of Asheville and thought the town looked just as down-and-out as District 12 should.

You can book accommodation and chat with fellow Hunger Games fans because they're the only other people you're likely to see here since the last residents moved away in the '80s.

Abandoned houses in the old mill village of Henry River Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

15 Hobbiton, New Zealand: The Lord of the Rings

Ah, Hobbiton. This well-maintained piece of the Shire will have you grinning from ear to ear. During a day trip to Matamata's impossibly green countryside, you'll get the complete tourist experience, including drinks at The Green Dragon Inn and all the selfies you want in front of quaint hobbit holes. Abandoned movie sites don't get better than this.

Hobbit house in Hobbiton. New Zealand Svetlana Orusova / Shutterstock
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