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Top Films Set in the Greek Islands

Friday 27th May 2022

A cruise around the Greek Islands is the best way to see the traditional towns, perfect beaches and archaeological treasures of this beautiful area. Greece has provided the ideal scenic backdrop for many a famous film – see if you can spot the different locations used in our pick of the top films set in Greece!

Kefalonia - Captain Corelli's Mandolin Skopelos - Mamma Mia Mykonos - Shirley Valentine Hydra - Boy on a Dolphin Amorgos - The Big Blue Rhodes - The Guns of Navarone Santorini - Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
  1. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Kefalonia, 2001

    Everyone remembers this dramatic, but ever-so-slightly over the top film, with British and Spanish actors playing Greeks, and most notably, American actor Nicholas Cage playing the Italian Captain Corelli, complete with interesting accent. However, as a spectacle it cannot be beaten, with the beautiful island of Kefalonia managing to take centre stage. Although the town of Argostoli was recreated for the film near Sámi, some places were true to life. The Feast of St Gerasimos was filmed at the ruined monastery of Agios Fanentes – a protected archaeological site on a promontory above Sámi. The 11th century monastery, with its medieval architecture and Byzantine frescoes, can be reached on a path through the ancient Acropolis, immediately east of Sámi. Scenes were also filmed at Myrtos Beach, an arc of dazzling white pebbles cutting deep into sheer cliffs, regarded as the most beautiful beach on the island.

  2. Mamma Mia - Skopelos, 2008

    Love them or hate them, the songs of ABBA made this movie a massive hit. However, we think a lot of the credit also has to go to the stunning island of Skopelos, part of the Sporades Islands, located in the western Aegean Sea. Many outdoor scenes were filmed on different parts of the island, especially at the beaches. Most scenes used the Kastani beach as setting, where a beach bar and jetty were built along the beach and removed after production wrapped (the ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ and ‘Does Your Mother Know’ numbers were filmed there). Sophie’s wedding procession was filmed at the Agios Ioannis Chapel near the village of Glossa, and a cliff on the Glysteri beach on the island’s east coast, was used for the cliff jumping scene with Sophie, Sam, Bill, and Harry (during the ‘Our Last Summer’ number).

  3. Shirley Valentine - Mykonos, 1989

    This much-loved film from the screenplay by Willy Russell was set largely in Liverpool and London, but is most memorable for the scenes filmed in Mykonos, one of the most glamourous and easily-recognisable Cyclades Islands. Different locations around the island were used to create Shirley’s holiday, including local beaches, tavernas and hotels. The Sunset Tavern where bored Liverpudlian housewife Shirley (Pauline Collins) meets Greek Costas (Tom Conti) is in Agios Ioannis, and is still there, if slightly modernised! Just around the corner is the famous ‘Shirley Valentine beach’, where Shirley reflects on her move to Mykonos, which is still recognisable even now.

  4. Boy on a Dolphin - Hydra, 1957

    Starring Sophia Loren in her first English-language film, even she cannot compete with the spectacular backdrop of the Greek islands. The first Hollywood movie ever filmed in Greece, scenes were shot in Mykonos, Delos, Corinth and Rhodes, but the main setting is the exquisite island of Hydra. Loren plays a sponge-diver who discovers a sunken ship off the coast of the Aegean Sea filled with priceless treasures, including an ancient gold statue of a boy on a dolphin. It’s not hard to recognise the Hydra from the film today, as cars are banned on the island, giving it an authentically Greek, timeless feel. The charming atmosphere of the island has seduced many international jet setters and has been a retreat for famous personalities, such as Leonard Cohen, Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis.

  5. The Big Blue - Amorgos, 1988

    Directed by Luc Besson, this ‘based on true life’ story follows two freedivers who broke the world record of diving to depth without any equipment. Although their achievements are somewhat exaggerated for the film, that does not make the film any less attractive to watch. Most of the scenes were filmed in the waters near Amorgos Island in Greece, a location chosen for the stunning and unusual shade of the sea, creating beautiful diving scenes.

  6. The Guns of Navarone - Rhodes, 1961

    With a star-studded cast including David Niven, Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn, this WW2 epic based on the book by Alistair Maclean was set on the fictional Greek island of Kheros, but was actually filmed in various locations on Rhodes. Although the plot is fictional, the story takes place within the real historical context of the Dodecanese Campaign, the Allies’ campaign to capture the Italian-held Greek islands in the Aegean Sea in 1943. Although obviously a war film, there are some beautiful vistas of classical ruins and rocky beaches to tempt travellers to Greece. The most notable of these is the town of Lindos, an important and impressive archaeological site on Rhodes, overlooked by the mighty cliff-top Acropolis. Other scenes were filmed at St Nicholas Bay, and Mandraki Harbour, where the Colossus of Rhodes statue once stood. Anthony Quinn loved filming on Rhodes so much that he bought some land there in an area now known as Anthony Quinn Bay.

  7. Tomb Raider: The Cradle of life - Santorini, 2003

    On an entirely different note, Angelina Jolie returned as Lara Croft for the follow-up to the original Tomb Raider hit, in this slightly far-fetched film about the search for the long-lost treasures of Alexander the Greek. However, it’s worth watching simply for the stunning backdrop provided by the unique island of Santorini. The film makes use of Santorini’s unparalleled volcanic beauty, not only with panoramic shots and the Cycladic scenery, but also with some underwater scenes shot in and around Santorini’s deep caldera. It is mostly set in the town of Oia, with its world-famous sunset above the caldera and surrounding ‘moonscapes’.

Blue Water Holidays offer a wide selection of Greek Islands Cruises featuring these beautiful locations and many more for you to discover!

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