With its beautiful natural landscapes and exotic charm, the Philippines looks great on the big screen. And it has, in fact, made its way onto international cinemas through various films through the decades. Here are some Hollywood movies that used the archipelago as a backdrop for their storylines.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
The fourth film to come out of the Jason Bourne novel series, The Bourne Legacy follows the story of black ops agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who escapes to Manila along with a Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in pursuit of a virus needed for him to maintain his genetically enhanced IQ. Here, they are tracked down and chased by an assassin and authorities who want them killed. The major chase scene was shot through the streets of Manila, and also featured the local police.
Thirteen Days (2000)
A movie about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that could have easily started the Third World War, Thirteen Days presents just how close the world was to such a catastrophe. The scenes taking place in Cuba were actually filmed in the Philippines, and they used the Clark Air Base in Pampanga for air base scenes. Though no longer operational at the time of filming, the 1960’s F-8 seen in the film were the actual aircraft formerly used by the Philippine Air Force.
Brokedown Palace (1999)
Brokedown Palace had to be filmed in the Philippines, as opposed to Thailand where the story is set, because of its negative portrayal of the country. The movie is about fresh high school graduates (played by Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale) who take a trip to Thailand and end up in Thai prison for possession of drugs. Unfortunately, shortly after filming, Claire Danes gave an interview with Vogue in which she spoke ill of the Philippines and its people. This upset the Philippine government and consequently, Danes was declared “persona non grata”, prohibiting her from returning to the country henceforth.
This movie is best known as a horrible hodgepodge of Predator, Alien, and Jurassic Park. What’s amusing however, along with the elements it obviously imitated from the aforementioned films, is that it was just so bad, it was almost good. In the film, an extinct creature’s bones are found in the jungles of North Borneo. The creature is then brought to life in the hopes of making it a lucrative project, but it ends up getting free and attacking everyone in its path. The depictions of the North Borneo jungle were actually locations in the Philippines.
Platoon was the first of three Vietnam war films directed by former Vietnam war veteran Oliver Stone. Starring Willem Defoe, Tom Berenger, and a young Charlie Sheen, the movie went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards of its release year. Due to shaky US-Vietnam relations of the time, filming took place in the Philippines instead. They filmed scenes around Luzon, in Cavite, at Mt. Makiling, and in the Villamor Air Base in Manila. The beginning of production actually coincided with a momentous time in the country’s history – the massive EDSA Revolution which soon after drove then dictator Ferdinand Marcos to flee the country.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Alongside Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July was the next Vietnam War movie by director Oliver Stone. It stars a young Tom Cruise, who later received his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination for the film. Stone, on the other hand, won his second Academy Award for Best Director. Taking after his previous piece, Stone decided to shoot the action scenes in the Philippines again in place of Vietnam. The film’s scenes set in Mexico were also shot in the Philippines, particularly in the historical city of Vigan.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
This well-received romantic drama starring Richard Gere included scenes shot in the Philippines as part of the lead’s backstory. After his mother’s death, he goes to live with his father, a Navy chief stationed in the Philippines. He travels to his father who lives in Olongapo, where U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay then stood.
The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Another romantic drama, this next film stars Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. Though the story was set in Jakarta, Indonesia, the team behind the movie resorted to filming in the Philippines as requests to film in the actual country were denied. This becomes more noticeable in some scenes where English isn’t spoken. To the familiar listener, it becomes evident that the characters aren’t speaking an Indonesian language but are instead speaking Tagalog (Filipino).
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Interestingly, one of the stars of this Vietnam-war movie was Martin Sheen, real life father of Charlie Sheen who starred in Platoon, another Vietnam-war movie released nearly a decade later. For the same reasons as those mentioned in the similar films above, filming of Apocalypse Now took place in the Philippines instead of Vietnam due to the United States’ still unfavorable post-war relationship with the country. Scenes were instead shot all over the archipelago, including the provinces of Laguna, Aurora, and Zambales.
The Boys in Company C (1978)
And finally, The Boys in Company C was shot mostly, if not entirely, in the Philippines. The film features the lives of five young, new US Marine Corps recruits, from training to deployment in Vietnam. Only of course, as you’ve probably already guessed based on every other aforementioned war movie, they weren’t really in Vietnam.
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