Anyone lucky enough to have been to the idyllic Greek island of Rhodes, or even those who have read about the island will know about its amazing history.
But what many people don’t realise is that Rhodes also has a fascinating cinematic history. Over the years, the island’s beautiful setting has made it as popular a choice for film directors as tourists, and some of the world’s most famous actors have travelled to Rhodes for filming. This is perhaps unsurprising, as Rhodes’ pretty harbour and dramatic location by the coast makes it a visually powerful choice.
Used a location for everything from Bollywood smash hits to famous film stars’ debuts to Hollywood classics, Rhodes has a fascinating movie history.
Here we count down our top ten movies filmed in Rhodes…
10. Swing Away (2016)
This recent Greek-American film follows the story of Zoe, a golf superstar, who flees to the safety her grandparents’ village in Greece to escape the spotlight and fame. There, she meets a young girl who is determined to become the next golfing sensation and who reignites Zoe’s passion for the sport. Zoe is played by Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie, Love Actually) while John O’Hurley (Seinfeld, Spongebob Squarepants) also stars.
9. O Jerusalem (2006)
A French drama based on a best-selling novel, O Jerusalem explores the friendship between two men – one Arab and the other Jewish – as the country of Israel is being created. It was directed by the Jewish French director Elie Chouraqui.
8. Peter and Paul (1981)
Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal, Thor) stars in this American biblical drama, which re-enacts various passages from the Bible. The film depicts Peter (Robert Foxworth) and Paul (Hopkins) in their leadership of the Church and their struggle with the backlash against Christian teachings. José Ferrer (Lawrence of Arabia) also features.
7. High Season (1987)
This romantic comedy starring Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Henry V) follows Katherine (Jacqueline Bisset), an English photographer who moved to Rhodes with her husband (James Fox). They have since divorced, but are forced to meet again when her ex-husband, a sculptor, is commissioned to create a statue to encourage tourism to the island. Filming was carried out in the beautiful village of Lindos.
6. Pascali’s Island (1988)
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Starring iconic British actors and Oscar-winners Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren, this film is set in 1908 on a fictional Turkish-ruled Greek island. Kingsley plays the lead character Pascali, a spy based on the island, who has to investigate a suspicious British arrival played by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones).
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Barry Unsworth, who also set several of his other books in Greece.
5. Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
Notable for being the first Hollywood movie to be filmed in Greece, as well as the English debut of iconic Italian actress Sophia Loren. She plays Phaedra, a poor underwater diver who one day discovers an ancient statue of a boy riding a dolphin at the bottom of the sea. The statue attracts two bidders, both of whom try to win Phaedra’s heart in order to convince her to give the valuable statue to them.
4. Escape to Athena (1979)
Despite its name, this British war adventure was filmed on Rhodes and followed prisoners of war trapped in a Nazi camp on the island. It stars the late Roger Moore, known worldwide for his roles as James Bond, as the Nazi camp commander. As the title suggests, the prisoners attempt to escape their camp while trying to protect ancient Greek artefacts which the Nazis are trying to steal. David Niven (The Pink Panther, Around the World in 80 Days) also features, though as we will see, this is only the second most famous movie filmed in Rhodes that he starred in…
3. Wanted (2009)
A huge Bollywood box-office hit, filming for this movie was split between Rhodes and India. The action film follows the story of a hitman with a mysterious past. As gangsters try to hire the hitman to kill their enemies, authorities become involved and chaos ensues. Wanted was the second-biggest Bollywood hit of 2009 and was nominated for several International Indian Film Academy awards.
Some of the film’s key scenes were shot at Mandraki Harbour and in Rhodes’ Old Town Square.
2. El Greco (2007)
A multiple award-winning Greek film, El Greco follows the story of the famous Spanish renaissance painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco (Spanish for ‘the Greek’). The painter overcomes various challenges as he grows as an artist and moves around the world.
1. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Considered the first blockbuster to be filmed in Greece, this classic movie has to be our number one because it boosted Rhodes’ popularity around the world. An action-packed war film, it depicts Allied soldiers’ efforts to avoid invasion by the Axis forces. It stars David Niven, who almost died after falling ill during filming. The film was intended to be an anti-war message, though this was apparently missed by many viewers. The movie’s budget of $6m made it one of the most expensive films ever made at the time, and it grossed a whopping $30m at the box office.
The Guns of Navarone was a huge hit and went on to win a Golden Globe. Unsurprisingly, news of a blockbuster being made in Rhodes was big news in Greece, and several members of the Greek royal family visited the set during filming and even appeared as extras.
Anthony Quinn, who plays a Greek colonel in the film, loved Rhodes so much that once filming was completed he decided to buy his own bay on the island and name it ‘Anthony Quinn Bay’. His plan was to create an international centre for film-makers and artists, and the Greek government was initially open to the idea due to Quinn’s role in boosting Rhodes’ reputation worldwide and making it a popular tourist destination.
However, legal complications meant Anthony Quinn Bay never came to fruition, much to his disappointment.
The Guns of Navarone may be the most iconic movie to be set in Rhodes, but newer movies such as Swing Away show that the island remains a popular choice with directors today. Next time you’re watching a film keep an eye out for some of Rhodes’ iconic monuments in the background…
About the author:
A lover of European travel and culture, Dan regularly writes about the beautiful island of Rhodes for the Autorhodes car hire blog. He is currently planning his next Mediterranean trip for summer 2018.