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MALTA FILM LOCATIONS FOR TV SHOWS AND MOVIES

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Have you seen Gladiator, The Count of Monte Cristo, Swept Away and Coronation Street? Then you have seen movie sets and TV locations in the Maltese Islands.

Aerial view of Valletta and moat
Aerial view of Valletta and moat
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The entire island of Malta is a motion picture studio, studded with diverse locations for film productions and television shows.

Film production in Valletta

Looking for a medieval fortress-city? Consider Malta's capital, Valletta, with its thick walls and bastions rising straight out of the Grand Harbour. The Knights of St. John, who built it in 1565, separated the city from the rest of the island by the deepest man-made moat in Europe.

Inside the ramparts, Valletta could be the setting for a European film. Its ornate auberges, such as the Grand Master's Palace, house treasuries of art and antiques. And at the Caffe Cordina, customers sip cappuccino while watching life scroll by in front of their umbrella-shaded tables.

If, on the other hand, a location scout is looking for the Middle East, Valletta also suits the bill. Its stone buildings, with their enclosed balconies and flat roofs, could be Jerusalem, Jaffa or a North African city.

These impressions are especially strong when viewed from the Vedette (il-gardjola), a lookout tower attached to the fortifications of Senglea (L-Isla) in one of the Three Cities, on the opposite side of the Grand Harbour. Unused barracks in Fort St. Elmo, guarding the tip of Valletta, certainly convinced viewers of Midnight Express that the movie was set in Turkey.

Aerial view of Fort St. Elmo (left), Grand Harbour and Three Cities. The Vedette, on Senglea's fortifications is in front.
Aerial view of Fort St. Elmo (left), Grand Harbour and Three Cities. The Vedette, on Senglea's fortifications is in front.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Movie locations

If a director wants to film a busy port, alive with container ships, ship-building and cranes unloading cargo, he can use the Grand Harbour for movie shoots. The action is best viewed from the deck of one of Captain Morgan's Cruise boats that travel up and down the creeks lining the harbour.

It is Malta's proximity to the Mediterranean that has made it such an ideal movie setting. Measuring only 17 miles (27 kilometers) long and nine (14.5 kilometers) wide, Malta is dominated by the sea. It's not surprising, then, to learn that the movies, Christopher Columbus, Orca, The Killer Whale and Marco Polo were filmed here.

Mediterranean Film Studios

Marsaxlokk buildings, harbor and fishing boats
Marsaxlokk buildings, harbor and fishing boats
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Scenes from the latter movie were actually filmed in a huge water tank bordering the sea, which allowed the director to control wave action, while using the real Mediterranean as a backdrop.

Located on the east coast of Malta, at Rinella, the tanks at Mediterranean Film Studios (formerly called Malta Film Facilities) have also been used for other TV productions and feature films. They include water scenes in U-571, Cutthroat Island and Pinocchio.

Movie props

Movies in Malta include a diverse selection of local props. Want colorful fishing boats, nets spread out to dry and fishermen unloading baskets of seafood? Visit Marsaxlokk.

For a casino, discos, restaurants and a Riviera-like atmosphere, consider fashionable St. Julian's. Need an elegant opera house? Built in 1731, Manoel Theatre in Valletta is a cultural and architectural gem.

Visitors examine a large stone temple at Hagar Qim before Heritage Malta covered the complex with a large protective tent in 2009.
Visitors examine a large stone temple at Hagar Qim before Heritage Malta covered the complex with a large protective tent in 2009.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

For even older film settings, Malta's ancient temples suit the bill. Pre-dating Stonehenge, and the Egyptian pyramids, the Neolithic structures were built from mega-ton rocks before humans discovered the wheel and how to make metals.

Malta's landscape, with its small terraced fields and vineyards separated by rock walls and hedges of prickly-pear cacti, is reminiscent of Greece and Sicily. The historical film, Troy, had several film locations in Malta, including Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara.

Shopping for fruit and vegetables at Tarxien Market
Shopping for fruit and vegetables at Tarxien Market
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Colorful Mediterranean markets abound, filled with pyramids of lemons, fresh green artichokes and ripe red tomatoes. You almost expect Indiana Jones to appear in pursuit of an enemy, upsetting a stack of oranges or releasing some clucking hens from their cages, in the process.

Movie stars in Malta

While Harrison Ford has yet to make a movie here, other film celebrities have, including Roger Moore, in Shout at the Devil, Paul Newman in The Mackintosh Man and Madonna in Swept Away.

Other actor sightings in Malta have included Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and Sharon Stone.

Black Pearl restaurant

Black Pearl restaurant in Ta' Xbiex
Black Pearl restaurant in Ta' Xbiex
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Actor Errol Flynn also had an interesting, but indirect, association with films in Malta. He once owned a wooden trading schooner that had previously sailed the high seas for 70 years. Several years after he sold it, the ship sank in Maltese waters.

In 1979, the vessel was refloated and filmed in Malta for the movie musical, Popeye, starring Robin Williams. Today, the ship is permanently docked in Ta' Xbiex, where you can dine in its beautifully preserved hold at a restaurant called the Black Pearl.

Popeye Village

Stage sets have also been constructed on Malta. If you drive to Anchor Bay, on the southwest tip of the island, you will discover the Popeye film set. It is now expanded into a whimsical village of cartoon buildings in the family theme park, Sweethaven Village.

With landscapes and architecture mimicking so many countries, it's not surprising that Malta also offers television locations for shows, such as the British soap opera, Coronation Street.

St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina
St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Films in Malta

Scenes from The Count of Monte Cristo were filmed on the streets and square beside St. Paul's Cathedral in the fortified city of Mdina, which looks as dramatic as Mont Saint-Michel and Carcassonne in France.

As Malta pursues its role as a European Hollywood, don't be surprised to see more of the Maltese Islands' cities, attractions and seascapes lending their atmosphere to film productions and TV scenes.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Visit Malta: www.visitmalta.com

More things to see and do in Malta:

What to See and Do in Malta

Malta Festas

Maltese Cuisine