Travel, done right, feels like you're starring in your own film. Close your eyes in Prague and a stroll along medieval streets becomes a scene from a black-and-white thriller you’ve set yourself in.
Actually, it's probably not a great idea to shut your peepers when negotiating the road! And it's not necessary. If you want to put yourself in the picture, all you need to do is visit some of the world's greatest movie sets. Here are five destinations that will have you calling 'action!'
It’s cheesy and obvious but anyone who’s seen An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle or King Kong must start with a trip up the Empire State Building’s observatory deck to see the city at night. The building has appeared in over 100 flicks. And that’s just the start of it. Beyond that, Woody Allen is perhaps Manhattan’s most famous mythologiser, recording its streets and people in a huge body of work that includes Annie Hall (1977) and its classic NY pastimes: making fun of passersby from Central Park benches and trips to Coney Island’s Boardwalk. And who could forget Manhattan (1979), particularly that foggy view of Queensboro Bridge? If you want to step outside the celluloid, catch the real-life Woody Allen who plays every Monday at The Carlyle with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band.
Like New York City, this one isn’t really fair, as Paris as been the setting for as many films as any city. The City of Light played host to the groundbreaking gangster film A Bout de Souffle (1960); the tragic love triangle of Jules et Jim (1962); the futuristic thriller Alphaville (1965); the saccharine shenanigans of Amélie (2001) and the musical Moulin Rouge (2001). This kind of genre-hopping makes sense: there’s so much to see and do in Paris, with its glorious architecture, its sweeping avenues and its wonderfully rich cultural life, that the city simply becomes all things to all people.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Not only is this where the epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was shot, but it’s also where the real-life Lawrence led the famous ‘Arab Revolt’ campaign in 1917. As you explore Wadi Rum’s desert interior, marveling at the moonlike landscapes, contemplating the ancient carved inscriptions and sipping tea with Bedouin locals, you might just give a whoop and a yell, Peter O’Toole style, and wish you had a fine Arab charger at your disposal rather than that boring old Jeep.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Hit the silver screen with Angelina Jolie - or at least one of her most notable characters. The 12th-century temples at Angkor Wat, or what remains of them, starred in the smash-hit actioner Tomb Raider: their labyrinthine, decrepit mazes, shrines, platforms, alcoves and spires provided the perfect backdrop for Jolie’s gyrations as curvaceous archaeologist Lara Croft. In real life the majesty of this mystical location is even more overwhelming than in the movie, and you might be moved to ponder the fact that a greater intelligence than even Hollywood was behind it all, some 900 years ago.
You know I had to go there, right? Peter Jackson’s mega-successful Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) really put New Zealand on the world stage. It’s no accident that the land of the Kiwi was chosen to portray the land of the hobbit: Jackson, a Kiwi himself, knew that places like Twizel and the south of the South Island, with their mountainous, rolling fields of green, would provide the perfect setting for Middle Earth. Of course, the locations were digitally enhanced for the final product, but there will still be enough verisimilitude to provide kinky thrills for any LOTR fan. Check out Tourism New Zealand for the many LOTR-themed options available to those seeking their inner hobbit - or dwarf.
This article was updated in June 2012.