A Guide To Hollywood Movies Filmed In Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Jessica Milek

When in need of wide open deserts, astounding architectural landscapes and luxurious settings, more and more filmmakers are choosing to shoot in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So pop some popcorn and get comfy, as here are the top blockbusters filmed in the UAE.

Syriana (2005)

Syrianna weaves together several stories set in the world of petroleum politics. A veteran CIA agent, Bob Barnes (George Clooney), discovers a twisted assassination plot, while Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright), an American lawyer is setting up suspicious mergers. Meanwhile, Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), a Switzerland-based energy analyst, visits Arabian royalty and finds opportunity as well as tragedy in his wake. This major blockbuster film was shot in 15 different locations, including the USA, Morocco, Egypt, Switzerland and Dubai. The desert scenes are based in Iran but many of them were actually shot in the Dubai desert. Watch the trailer below.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Michael Douglas reprises his role as Gordon Gekko in the Wall Street sequel. Gordon Gekko mentors his son-in-law Jake (Shia LaBeouf), while trying to gain back his fiscal empire. Backstabbing for monetary gain is the name of the game, and the game is just as fun of to watch as the prequel. Fun fact: Shia LaBeouf was so enthralled by the world of investing that he earned his broker’s license after this film. Most of the movie was shot in New York, but some of the more luxurious scenes were filmed in Dubai.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

The infamous Mission Impossible franchise returned with front man, Tom Cruise, as the unstoppable agent Ethan Hunt. The IMF agency are disavowed by the U.S. government and the ‘Ghost Protocol’ is launched. On the run, Ethan Hunt and a band of IMF fugitives must clear the agency’s name while completing an impossible mission that takes them around the globe. Shooting locations included the USA, Mumbai, Prague, Moscow, Vancouver, Bangalore and Dubai. Tom Cruise is known for doing his own stunts, and Ghost Protocol is no different. During filming, Tom Cruise climbed to the top of the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa. Check out the video below to see how this stunt was made possible. Other locations in Dubai include, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai International Financial Centre, and Satwa.

Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

The much anticipated Star Wars Episode 7 saw new characters and some old favourites battle the dark side once again. Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are joined by a mysterious new Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a runaway stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) on a mission to defeat The First Order. We are introduced to Rey on the planet of Jakku, a wasteland that was filmed in the Abu Dhabi Rub’ al Khali desert. During the film Rey mentions the Liwa outpost – a nod to the Liwa desert in the UAE. Check out the video below to catch a glimpse of behind-the-scenes action in Abu Dhabi.

Fast & Furious 7 (2015)

Tragically Fast & Furious 7 halted filming after Paul Walker passed away. In an effort to complete the film, CGI was used in conjunction with Walker’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, to bring the face we all knew and loved back to the silver screen. The Furious 7 all-star cast included Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, and Djimon Hounsou. International terrorists are hungry for revenge, and the crew come out of retirement when they strike a deal with a government agent to rescue a kidnapping victim, in exchange for help in taking care of the terrorists. Fast & Furious 7 was partially shot in Abu Dhabi, and includes the infamous stunt portraying a jump between the Etihad Towers (watch it in the video below). Other shooting areas included Yas Island, the Liwa Desert and the Emirates Palace hotel.

Star Trek – Beyond (2016)

Based on the television series by Gene Roddenberry that first aired in 1966, the franchise reboot has proven to be a sensation amongst fans. In Star Trek Beyond, The Enterprise ship and its team, including Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana)and Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) are left stranded after a rescue mission goes awry. Dubai became the backdrop for the futuristic starbase Yorktown – shown at the end of the movie (view the CGI landscape of Dubai below). According to Cinema Blend, the producer Jeffrey Chernov said they they were searching for the future and they found it in Dubai. Pine further commented that Dubai is a “futureland.” The script co-writer Pegg elaborated beyond the architectural wonders of Dubai by describing the city as “a gateway to new cultures”, a place that suited an imagined conflict-free world that they wanted Star Trek to portray. Shooting locations in Dubai included Meydan Racetrack, The Burj Al Arab, Sheikh Zayed Road, JLT and Downtown Dubai.

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