Which international films and TV shows have been filmed in Iceland? Why do producers choose to film in Iceland?
Photo above from Game of Thrones Location Tour
Quite a lot of international films have been shot in Iceland, besides the Icelandic film industry that's growing each year. Iceland has an incredibly varied nature and can stand in for other countries and the country has, in fact, become Hollywood’s new favourite playground!
Most films that have been shot in Iceland are not supposed to take place in Iceland, only a handful of movies mention Iceland in the film, such as James Bond’s Die Another Day and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Iceland is very popular with sci-fi and fiction as it has portrayed a post-apocalyptic world, beginning of the world, alien planets etc. Good examples are as North of the Wall in Game of Thrones or as alien planets in Prometheus and Interstellar, just to name a few! As well as one of the planets in the newest Star Wars film Rogue One. Besides being popular for sci-fi and fiction as some ‘other-worldly’ location, Iceland is used as a stand-in for other countries, including Japan, Norway, Greenland, Russia and even Italy!
And Iceland's landscape also plays a big role in Bollywood romance Dilwale, which we wrote a whole article about.
Producers and filmmakers choose Iceland because the country is so varied in nature – but still, the distances are short, so the country can represent a variety of places or countries. Additionally, you can get a highly professional Icelandic production crew and the country has good infrastructure.
Iceland is also easily accessible from both the US, the UK and the rest of Europe, i.e. only a 5-hour flight from New York or 2,5-hour flight from London.
Here are a few examples of films and TV shows that have been filmed in Iceland – and the locations of the filming as well. These are locations that are absolutely stunning – and shouldn’t be missed by any film buff!
Even before Rogue One was released, it was obvious from the trailer that scenes were shot on the South Coast of Iceland. We recognise those black sands and mossy green mountains at the beginning of the trailer instantly!
Iceland is portraying the planet Lah'mu in the film, where Jyn Erso and her parents are in hiding at the very beginning of the film. Those black, sandy and alien-looking beaches can be found in the South of Iceland. This is Mýrdalssandur, and those pretty green mountains are Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey, located just east of Vík.
An incredible amount of footage from Game of Thrones is shot in Iceland. Everything that happens North of the Wall is filmed in Iceland. The scene where the wildlings attack a village is shot in Iceland.
A lot of the footage of Arya and the Hound is shot in Iceland, such as when they come to Vale of Arryn and when the Hound and Brienne fight. These scenes are filmed in and around Þingvellir national park, on the South Coast of Iceland near Mýrdalsjökull glacier and around the Lake Mývatn and Dimmuborgir area in the northeast.
The scene where Jon Snow breaks his vow with Ygritte inside a cave is also shot in Iceland, in the cave Grjótagjá near Lake Mývatn. Note that it's forbidden to bathe inside this warm cave hot spring and that the waterfall that's pictured is not real but done in CGI.
As if that doesn’t make the series Icelandic enough, then additionally, the Mountain is played by an Icelandic man, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, in season 4 and 5 and the Icelandic band Sigur Rós plays in Joffrey’s wedding in the famous episode The Lion and the Rose (Purple wedding).
Photo by Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson
Another popular TV show that's recently been filmed in Iceland is one of the episodes of Black Mirror, namely the third episode of season 4, otherwise known as Crocodile. Iceland is a stand-in for a bleak view of the future (one of the bleakest episodes of Black Mirror some might say), and Iceland's dark and moody landscapes aid the story.
Shot of Reykjavík City Hall, with Tjörnin in its background, still from S04E03 of Black Mirror by Netflix
Reykjavík's City Hall, where you will normally find a large 3D map of Iceland, stands in for a hotel reception. You can also see glimpses of Reykjavík's City Pond Tjörnin and Harpa Concert and Conference Hall - all major sights within downtown Reykjavík.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Alexander Grebenkov. No edits made.
Outside of Reykjavík, most of the shots are from Reykjanes peninsula, just between Reykjavík and Keflavík international airport. You don't need to travel far to find some stunning landscapes!
Kleifarvatn lake and Grænavatn lake both feature heavily in the episode, which was filmed in Iceland in February and March 2017.
Máfabót and Svínafellsjökull glacier represent two different planets in Interstellar. Both locations are in the South-East of Iceland, a stone throw away from each other (or about an hour's drive). Máfabót is not far from Kirkjubæjarklaustur and is a low land between the open sea and a river.
Svínafellsjökull glacier is nearby, also in the South-East of Iceland, and this glacier represents Mann’s ice planet in the movie. You’ll feel like you’re exploring alien territory yourself by hiking on Svínafellsjökull glacier.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty takes place in the US, Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. In fact, it’s only shot in the US and Iceland as Iceland represents Greenland and the Himalayas as well. This is one of the few films that credits Iceland as itself (as well as making Iceland stand-in for other countries).
Ben Stiller traveled and filmed across Iceland, from Stykkishólmur on Snæfellsnes peninsula (representing Greenland), as well as Reykjavík and Reykjanes peninsula, in the South of the country and South East around Vatnajökull glacier (representing Nepal) and all the way east in Seyðisfjörður (with the erupting volcano) and Borgarfjörður Eystri (where he skateboards on the road). You can find more details on the filming locations of Secret Life of Walter Mitty here.
One scene was shot on Bláfjöll, the Blue Mountains, on the way to Hveragerði (about a 20-minute drive from Reykjavík).
Greenland in the movie is actually shot in the town Stykkishólmur on Snæfellsnes peninsula:
Photo by Stephen Kraakmo
The scenes said to be Nepal also utilised a diverse range of landscapes.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Unukorrno. No edits made.
This glacier from near Fjallsárlón is recognisable from the movie.
Photo from WIkimedia, Creative Commons, by Bernd Thaller. . No edits made.
Skogafoss also featured in the movie.
It is instantly recognisable as a major feature of the South Coast of Iceland.
The film also has two known Icelandic actors, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (the helicopter pilot) and Gunnar Helgason (the guy driving away from the volcano). As well as a theme song from the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men.
Here you can find some of our Snæfellsnes tours and Reykjanes tours. You might want to rent a car and drive around the country if you want to visit all the locations! Here you can customise your self-drive tour. And this 7 day Northern Light self-drive tour in wintertime covers most areas the film was shot in, so you can see what the country looks like during wintertime as well.
Vatnajökull glacier is a popular filming destination to substitute more inaccessible mountains, such as the mountains in Tibet. All of the above footage is from Skaftafell in Iceland (with a computer made temple). The training scenes are also shot in this area. Here you can find all of our tours from Skaftafell.
Another popular filming location, right by Vatnajökull glacier is Jökulsárlón, or the glacier lagoon. The Bond film also credits Iceland in its film, although in the film they go to a non-existent ice hotel. Iceland has never had an ice-hotel, as it simply isn’t cold enough to keep one throughout the winter!
For the car chase in this film, the production team had to freeze the lagoon, which doesn’t always freeze since it’s connected to seawater and the weather changes rapidly so the ice often thaws quickly. The production team got lucky though and got thick enough ice to film the car chase on ice, in amongst giant blocks of ice!
Join a glacier hike and Jökulsárlón boat tour for your chance to feel like an undercover spy!
Another Bond film, made 17 years earlier had the same idea to film a chase at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Vatnajökull glacier – except this time on skis. Here Iceland represents Russia.
Yet another film that decided to film at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon was Tomb Raider. Again Iceland represents the frozen tundra in Siberia. If you feel like going on a boat ride of the lagoon in the same type of car/boats as you can see in the film, then you can! They depart various times each day and if you join this tour of the South Coast you go on a boat tour as well.
It’s not all ice and glaciers when it comes to filming in Iceland. For his sequel to Hostel, director Eli Roth decided to film his spa sequence that’s supposed to be in Italy in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. If you feel like pampering yourself in a lovely spa (and replace a massacre for a massage) then check out our Blue Lagoon tours.
Another film that uses the Blue Lagoon as a backdrop is The Fifth Estate. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his colleague also stroll the streets of Reykjavík and Iceland gets to be Iceland, as they bring down an Icelandic bank.
(Photo credit IMDB)
The engineer sequence from Prometheus shows some of Iceland’s stunning nature in the North-East of the country. The waterfall is Dettifoss, the country’s most thundering waterfall. Here you can find various Dettifoss tours.
Clint Eastwood figured he could replicate Iwo Jima in Japan by filming in Reykjanes peninsula. This is the area you will see from your airplane as you land in Iceland, the black sandy beaches – but no army.
In the classic novel by Jules Verne, the entry point to the centre of the Earth is through Snæfellsjökull glacier/volcano, so it was fitting to film there for the movie - and use an Icelandic actress, Aníta Briem. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t quite as classic as the book – but the scenery is breathtaking!
If you want to hike up to the entry point to the centre of the Earth, then join this hiking tour up Snæfellsjökull glacier/volcano.
Or if you'd rather want to see what the insides of a volcano REALLY look like, then you can go on a tour inside a volcano!
The above scene from the star-studded Stardust is shot in the South-East of Iceland, in Stokksnes. It's very near to one of Iceland's most beautiful mountains, Brunnhorn.
The TV series Fortitude are entirely filmed in Reyðarfjörður in the East fjords of Iceland. If you want to witness the Northern Lights yourself, take a look at our Northern Lights tours.
The producers of Noah felt that Iceland's relative newness played well to their setting: the beginning of the world. The black sandy beaches you can see in the film are at Reynisfjara in the South of the country. They also filmed at Reykjanes peninsula at Lake Kleifarvatn and in Raufarhólshellir cave – as well as around Mývatn in the North. Here is a tour to Raufarhólshellir cave. And this South Coast tour takes in Reynisfjara, glacier hiking and a couple of waterfalls.
Again, Iceland provides the perfect canvas for a post apocalyptic universe in this sci-fi movie with Tom Cruise. The movie was filmed at Hrossaborg crater in North-East Iceland, as well as at Jarlhettur (Earl's Peak) and Drekavatn in the interior of the country. You can see Hrossaborg crater on this tour to Askja from Akureyri.
Here is Hrossaborg crater as it appeared in the film:
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Evgeniy Metyolkin. No edits made.
See more shots here.
Not many films are filmed within Reykjavík – but this romantic comedy takes place at a G8 summit in Reykjavík. Here you can find a Reykjavík sightseeing tour.
Reynisfjara in the South of Iceland serves as a black beach with some stunning rock formations in a scene in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Here you can find tours that go to the South Coast of Iceland.
It is fitting that Thor is partially filmed in Iceland, as Thor comes from the Nordic religion. Thor was filmed both in the interior of Iceland as well as at Skógafoss in the South of Iceland. Skógafoss is featured on any South Coast tour of Iceland.
It’s not all sci-fi that’s filmed in Iceland, as this philosophical drama from 2011 shows us. The epic scene showing the beginning of Earth is shot around Krafla and Námafjall, with a number of bubbling hot springs in the area.
This Mývatn hot spring tour takes you around the area where some scenes from Tree of Life were filmed.
So as you can see, pretty much anywhere you go in Iceland, you might recognise the landscape from one film or another - especially since this is not an exhaustive list! Which film locations have you spotted in Iceland - and which ones are your favourite?