Many movie fans, moviegoers and cinephiles worldwide have seen a considerable portion of Moroccan territory and landscape in Hollywood films. The country has become a major movie set—it is everywhere in American films.
Orson Welles’ film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello is one of the earliest classics filmed in Morocco. The film opens with a scene in Essaouira, combining fortresses and strongholds with fortified walls and ramparts. The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice includes other scenes that were shot within the labyrinthine alleys and narrow passageways of this popular coastal spot. Today, one of the city squares is named after the famed director; there is even a plaque in the middle of the square dedicated to his memory.
England’s best director, Alfred Hitchcock, opens his suspenseful film The Man Who Knew Too Much with a scene of a bus entering Bab Doukkala gateway, a historical landmark within the city of Marrakech. Hitchcock shows the same bus coming through Bab El Khemis, a very lively flea market full of a load of old junk and hidden treasures. During their stay, Dr. Benjamin (James Stewart) and his wife Josephine “Jo” (Doris Day) stay in the luxurious hotel, La Mamounia. (Winston Churchill always stayed at this hotel and spent considerable time in Marrakech.) The “master of suspense”, Alfred Hitchcock, also used the enchanting Jemaa el-Fnaa square as backdrop for his film. The movie shows how the McKenna family stumbles accidentally on an assassination in the world-renowned and bustling square.
Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. The film is directed by David Lean and stars the two legendary actors, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif. Some of the scenes in the movie were shot in the stunning Moroccan village Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another epic scene filmed in Morocco is the massacre of the Turkish army.
The Man Who Would Be King is John Huston’s 1975 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s eponymous novella. The film stars Sir Sean Connery, the best James Bond of all time, and the British movie icon, Sir Michael Caine. This extraordinary film was shot mostly in Morocco. The scene where Danny and Peachy offer their services as counselors to the leader of the fictional ‘Er-Heb’ village was filmed in Tagadirt n’Bour, a village in Al-Haouz region. The battle with the ‘Bashkai’ village takes place in Tifoultoute, a desert arena near Ouarzazate.
The Jewel of the Nile is an adventure, action, romance and comedy film starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Some of the scenes from the movie were shot in Meknes city and in places surrounding Ouarzazate. The F-16 fighter jet that Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) and Al-Julhara (Avner Eisenberg) use as a way to flee into the desert, still exists on display at the Atlas Corporation Studios in Ouarzazate. The jet scene was filmed in a fortified village at Ait Benhaddou.
The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, is a remake of the 1932 classic horror film of the same name. The movie is set in Egypt, but filmed mostly in Morocco. In the southeastern Moroccan desert, an entire set was built for the fictional Egyptian city, Hamunaptra. The set for this fictional city was constructed in a dormant volcanic crater close to the real-life oasis town, Erfoud. Fast-forward, two years later, “The Mummy Returns” to Morocco again as the sequel to Stephen Sommers’s 1999 blockbuster film. Not far from Erfoud, the Erg Chebbi desert dunes are used as a double for the Egyptian desert.
Oliver Stone’s Alexander is a historical drama starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto and Val Kilmer. Areas around Essaouira provided a picturesque backdrop for the Macedonian mountains, small basins, agricultural lands and rivers. The scene in the Macedonian horse market where young Alexander (Connor Paolo) surprises everyone by taming and subduing Bucephalus, was shot near Essaouira. The great Battle of Gaugamela where Alexander (Colin Farrell) defeats the Persian Emperor Darius III was filmed in a desert outside Marrakech. The majestic gates through which Alexander the Great makes his triumphant entry into Babylon were built in Marrakech.
Babel is a multi-narrative drama directed by Academy Award winner Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga. It stars an eclectic mix of actors from different parts of the world; Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adriana Barraza, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi, Koji Yakusho and Driss Roukhe. The film production is itself a kind of Babel tower shot in many locations around the globe. Part of the film was shot in Morocco, in a distant Berber village situated in the Atlas Mountains called Taguenzalt.
Sex and the City 2 is a 2010 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis. The Abu Dhabi part in Sex and the City 2 was shot entirely in Morocco—the scene where Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes upon Aidan Shaw (John Corbett) was filmed in the vibrant medina souks of Marrakech. The desert scenes were shot in the heart of Erg Chebbi’s ergs and dunes. The hotel where Carrie and Aiden have dinner is the luxurious Amanjena Hotel—David Beckham celebrated his 40th Birthday with his family and friends, including the Spice Girls, in this breathtaking hotel outside of Marrakech)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is directed by Mike Newell and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Penny Rose, who was also the costume designer for Pirates of the Caribbean, worked on this video-game-franchise adaptation. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. The spectacular scenery of the Moroccan mountains, valleys and deserts served as the background for a greater number of scenes. A good deal of the movie set was built in locations around Morocco including Merzouga, Erfoud, Ouarzazate, Tameslouht, Oukaimeden and Marrakech. Many local craftsmen and artists helped in the creation and making of props and costumes, including the dagger that releases the sands of time and Prince Dastan’s armor.
Christopher Nolan’s science fiction blockbuster, Inception, is a mind-blowing as well as a mind-boggling “dream within a dream” thriller. Nolan assembles a very remarkable cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine. The foot chase sequence with Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) was filmed in the narrow alleyways and bustling souks of Tangier. The northern Moroccan city doubled as Mombasa, Kenya.
American Sniper is a 2014 biopic based on the memoir of the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military History. This highest-earning war movie of all time was directed by Clint Eastwood and starred Bradley Cooper as the late Chris Kyle. The scenes in Iraq are actually filmed in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. Parts of they city’s neighborhoods are transformed to resemble the devastated and dilapidated Iraqi city Fallujah, as it was too dangerous for the production team to film in Iraq.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is an action, adventure and spy film starring Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt. The film has some spectacular sequences shot in numerous locations throughout Morocco. The chase scene where agent Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Benji (Simon Pegg) are driving a BMW M3 and pursued by Syndicate members was shot near the Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, a 12th century monument. The pursuit continues through the narrow streets of Derb Sultan neighborhood in Casablanca and ends with a BMW M3 backflip right across the street from the iconic Hassan II Mosque, the largest one in Morocco. The other scene where Ethan Hunt chases Ilsa onto the highway was filmed on the A7 Autoroute Casablanca–Agadir expressway and through the sharp curves of the Atlas Mountains near Marrakech.