13 Filmmakers Who Have Been Inspired by Cape Town's Landscape

Cliched South African scenes like this were common in the movie Invictus
Cliched South African scenes like this were common in the movie Invictus | © Warner Bros.

Freelance Writer - instagram.com/andrewthompsonsa

Cape Town has become the film capital of the country. Creative elements aside, there’s a world-class film studio located close to all facilities, and the locations are diverse and inspirational. As a result, many renowned filmmakers have chosen to shoot their movies in the city, even if the plot doesn’t require it. Here are 13 popular films shot in Cape Town.

Dark Tide / John Stockwell

Cape Town was understandably an easy location choice for shark movie Dark Tide. The Cape’s waters are already populated with Great White sharks, and director John Stockwell decided to take advantage of this. He shot the film, starring Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez, on a small boat in False Bay using real Great White sharks. After six weeks on the waters, they returned to the United Kingdom to put the finishing touches on the film.

Scene from Dark Tide featuring Cape Point
False Bay

Safe House / Daniel Espinosa

In late 2011 Cape Town was abuzz with sightings of film stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, who were in the city shooting big budget action film Safe House. The film took place in key locations throughout the city, often shutting down busy inner city streets to allow Washington to do his thing. According to Washington, director Daniel Espinosa visited South Africa and liked what he saw, ultimately choosing the city of Cape Town over his second initial choice, Rio de Janeiro.

Lion’s Head and the Cape Town CBD in Safe House
View of Signal Hill from Lion’s Head

Black Butterflies / Paula van der Oest

Black Butterflies tells the true story of South African poet Ingrid Yonker. The iconic poet, who was famous for her outspokenness and disobedience during Apartheid, grew up in Cape Town, and thus filiming in the city was a natural decision for Dutch director Paula van der Oest.

Cape Town’s scenery features heavily in Black Butterflies, including this view from Chapman’s Peak Drive.
Hout Bay with Chapman’s Peak on the right

Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove / Will Geiger

This straight-to-DVD film about the famous whale Free Willy was shot in, and centred around, Cape Town. The plot involved Australian teenager Kirra visiting her uncle in a failing Cape Town amusement park. Though the film didn’t make a huge mark on the international scene, director Will Geiger featured several iconic shots of the city.

Iconic shots of Cape Town feature heavily in Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove /
Many scenes in the movie understandably include lots of ocean shots

The Cape Town Affair / Robert D. Webb

The Cape Town Affair was one of the first international films shot in South Africa, back in 1967. The glamorised spy movie was a remake of Pickup on South Street, and it included several famous Cape Town locations. Long Street, Mouille Point, Green Point, and the now V&A Waterfront all had some screen time during the film.

Scene from The Cape Town Affair, featuring a 1960s Sea Point Promenade /

Zulu / Jérôme Salle

Much of this French-produced crime movie, featuring the likes of Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, takes place in Cape Town. Director Jérôme Salle tells the story of two detectives in a post-Apartheid South Africa, still grappling with the country’s legacy. The film featured several epic locations in the Mother City, including a dramatic aerial shot right at the outset.

Beach scene from Zulu /
A more colourful version of Cape Town’s beach huts

Chronicle / Josh Trank

Much of the 2012 found footage sci-fi Chronicle was shot in Cape Town. Though the American movie actually takes place in Seattle, they chose to shoot in Cape Town primarily for budgetary reasons. Even so, many exterior shots feature flashes of the city, from shopping malls to schools and famous roads.

Cape Town was reimagined, and digitally enhanced, to look like Seattle in Chronicle

Dredd / Pete Travis

Dredd is another science fiction film shot in Cape Town. Though the crew primarily used the facilities at Cape Town Film Studios to recreate the vast metropolis, there are glimpses of the city’s influence throughout. All of the dystopian cityscapes, however, were either digitally rendered or based on models created in the studios.

To the familiar eye, parts of Cape Town’s CBD stand out in Dredd
Cape Town’s CBD is a far-cry from the digitally altered version in Dredd

The Perfect Wave / Bruce Macdonald

The Perfect Wave tells the true story of Ian McCormack, who grew up surfing in New Zealand and decided to take a trip around the world in search of the best breaks. Cape Town’s scenic beauty and world renowned surf made this an obvious location and inspiration for the film, and many shots include recognisable views of the city, beaches and nightlife hotspots.

Popular Cape Town bar and nightclub Aces and Spades gets a cameo in the movie The Perfect Wave

Long Walk to Freedom / Justin Chadwick

Long Walk to Freedom tells the remarkable story of world icon Nelson Mandela, who rose from humble beginnings in Apartheid South Africa to become the first democratically elected president. The big budget biographical film raked in 27.3 million at the box office, and understandably featured many iconic shots of Cape Town – where Mandela was imprisoned.

Robben Island understandably features regularly in the Long Walk to Freedom
Entrance to the Robben Island Prison – now a museum © April Killingsworth

Invictus / Clint Eastwood

This biographical sports drama tells another South African story with two big name American actors, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Based on the remarkable events surrounding the end of Apartheid and the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the film features shots from across the country, including several sweeping views of Cape Town.

Cliched South African scenes like this were common in the movie Invictus

The Odyssey / Jérôme Salle

French director Jérôme Salle recently returned to Cape Town to shoot The Odyssey, a film about the life of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This is the second movie that Salle has shot in the city, and according to an interview with Channel 24, he appreciates the country’s landscape and people. The period film features a variety of Cape Town locations, including scenic water shots locals might recognise.

Keen eyes will spot landmarks like Signal Hill and the V&A Waterfront in many scenes of The Odyssey
V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Tomb Raider / Roar Uthaug

The cast and crew of the new Tomb Raider reboot, originally made famous by Angelina Jolie, have recently finished shooting in Cape Town. The new version of the franchise, starring Alicia Vikander, is due for release in early 2018, but stars have already taken to social media with various iconic shots of Cape Town.

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