Leave it to director Michael Cacoyannis to successfully capture the beauty and lifestyle of Crete even in a black and white movie. Based on Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel, Zorba the Greek (1964) was shot in Chania, Akrotiri and Apokrounas and portrays Anthony Quinn as Zorba, who teaches a young British man to enjoy life. The movie’s famous sirtaki dance scene, featuring music composed by Mikis Theodorakis, was shot on the beach of Stavros.
Known as Greek blues, rembetiko is a style of music and dance born when Greeks from Turkey and Asia Minor were forced to relocate to Greece in 1923. Living in harsh conditions far from everything familiar, these used music to express their feelings of nostalgia, exile and despair – rembetiko’s main themes. Costas Ferris’s 1983 movie is set during those troubling times and portrays the life and rise to fame of Marika Ninou while offering a glimpse into the country’s modern history.
An ode to the deep blue Greek seas, Luc Besson’s The Big Blue (1988) is a fictionalised account of the lives of free divers Jacques Mayol (played by Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (Jean Reno). While most of the film was shot in Amorgos, some scenes were also filmed in Managari, Ios, and extensive underwater scenes showcase not only the wonders of the Aegean Sea but also the beauty of Amorgos.
Set on the islands of Skopelos, Skiathos and Pelion, this 2008 romantic comedy musical starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan was responsible for putting Skopelos on the map. In fact, in the years after the movie’s release, the island was a popular summer destination among travellers.
Based on Willy Russell’s 1986 one-character play of the same title, the 1989 movie follows a middle-aged Liverpool housewife stuck in a rut who embarks on a soul-searching adventure when her friend wins an all-expenses-paid trip to Greece (and even find romance along the way). The movie was partly filmed on the island of Mykonos.
Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin (1957) was one of the first international movies to show the world the beauty of Greece. Starring the beautiful Sophia Loren, the movie was mostly filmed in the Saronic island of Hydra, although it also includes establishing shots of Athens, Delos and Rhodes. The movie is considered a Hollywood classic to this day.
Director Jules Dassin brings us Never on Sunday (1960), in which American scholar Homer Thrace comes to Greece to try understand its decay from its rich past. He meets Ilya, a self-employed fille de joie from Piraeus; while he tries to save her from her immoral life, she tries to loosen him up a bit, all the while giving the viewer an insight into life in Greece in the ’60s. Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis received an Academy Award for Best Original Song, featured in the film.
Far from the images of exotic beaches, sun-bleached houses and island fun, Arcadia Lost (2010), a drama directed by Phedon Papamichael, is set in the mountains of Arcadia and on the Peloponnesian coast. It depicts two American teenagers stuck in a rural area after a car accident. They encounter older vagabond philosopher, Benerji, who serves as their guide as they wander through the region, trying to reconcile their painful pasts. The movie fetures splendid photography throughout Arcadia and the Peloponnese.