One of the most famous Brazilian films among English-speaking audiences to have ever been produced, City of God portrays the growth of organized crime and drug trafficking in this notorious suburb. The film itself was actually filmed just outside of the real City Of God (as it would have been too dangerous to film inside), yet the whole film was based in Rio. While there are favela (shanty towns) tours within Rio, the City of God is not included as it still struggles with social issues. President Barack Obama did visit in 2011, but for the average tourist, it is not recommended. However, nearby Barra da Tijuca is a neighborhood that is safe and close to this film set.
Another successful Brazilian film, Elite Squad is based loosely on true events, showing how the BOPE (a special police force in Rio) cooperated with drug lords in Rio in the 90s through periodic bribes that paid for freedom. This film is based in 1997 and offers an intense glimpse into the volatility of the favelas during these years by exploring the web of corruption in the city and the vast, sprawling network between police and villains. The film is based in Morro da Babilônia, a favela in Leme. This favela has long been pacified and is safe to visit. There is a hostel at the top that is popular among tourists and a bar that often has all night parties with astonishing views across Leme and Copacabana.
The eleventh spy film from the series starred Roger Moore as James Bond and the beautiful Lois Chiles as the famous Bond girl. As a backdrop and part of the story itself, Rio de Janeiro was used in some of the dramatic fight scenes when Agent 007 met his nemesis, Jaws, a steel-toothed bad guy. What makes these scenes particularly inspiring are the views of Guanabara Bay and the famous Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Relive these James Bond scenes with a trip on the cable carts up to Pão de Açúcar and see exactly the same views seen in the film. The cable carts are open every day and an evening trip comes highly recommended to see both the film set and wonderful sunset at the same time.
The Incredible Hulk 2 was partly filmed in Rochina, one of Rio’s largest, yet safest favelas. Bruce Banner is hiding low in Rochina in the film, working in a bottling factory, where viewers can see incredible aerial views over one of Brazil’s largest favelas. Rochina welcomes foreign tourists with many guided tours through the favela, which not only shows the realities of life there, but also exposes tourists to the Incredible Hulk film set. When Banner flees into the Guatemala jungle, the filming actually took place in Rio’s Tijuca rainforest at the 30 meter tall Taunay waterfall, which also can be visited.
For all those Twilight fans out there, some scenes of Breaking Dawn were shot in Rio and can be visited. The honeymoon hideaway of Bella and Edward was filmed in Paraty, a small colonial town just south of Rio de Janeiro. The luxurious house they stayed in is so private that it can only be reached by boat or helicopter; plus, it is accepting rentals at a cool $7,000 – $15,000 a night, so isn’t one for the budget traveler. Some scenes were also shot in Lapa, where Edward and Bella danced. The streets used were Avenida Mem de Sa, famous for its rows of bars and clubs, and Rua do Lavradio, known for its monthly antique fair. Residents, bar and restaurant owners were paid to remain indoors and close their venues for one night while filming took place.
The famous and lovable animation film was largely based on Rio de Janeiro and showed some of the city’s key famous places, such as Copacabana and Tijuca forest, as well as the world-known street party Carnival. The animation is about a blue macaw named Blu that cannot fly and is happily domesticated in the U.S. after being smuggled there. An ornithologist invites Blu and his owner to Rio to study him and puts him on a mating program, as he is the last male of his species. The story and the adventures of Blu then begin in Rio. The film was well received and premiered in Rio’s stunning Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a lake in the south zone of the city that is popular for its outdoor leisure activities during the day and for its many bars and restaurants at night.