We have looked at Greek music on soundtracks for international films, now we’re going all in and exploring the productions that chose Athens as a film location.
Most films that shoot in Athens feature the iconic Acropolis hill and the surrounding district of Plaka – arguably the most touristic and picturesque places of the city – but the selection below show an Athens that can’t be found in the pages of a guidebook. Enjoy!
Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
“Boy on a Dolphin” is a romance/adventure film about a newly discovered treasure. Phaedra (Sophia Loren) finds an ancient Greek statue in the sea off the island of Hydra and finds herself caught between an archaeologist (Alan Ladd) who wants to turn it over to the Greek authorities and an unscrupulous art collector (Clifton Webb) who wants to it for himself.
It was the first major American production granted a permit to shoot on the Acropolis. The success of this film persuaded the Greek Tourism Organization to base its tourist campaign on images resembling the ones that appeared in this movie.
Le Casse (The Burglars) – 1971
This French-Italian heist film concerns a team of burglars, led by Jean-Paul Belmondo, who arrive in Athens to steal emeralds from a businessman. A policeman, played by Omar Sharif, notices them and a frenzied car chase starts in the streets of Athens. To date, this remains the only time that the authorities gave permission to a director to film a car chase sequence under real traffic conditions in the center of the city.
Despite the presence of the film’s compelling stars, it is the city of Athens that manages to steal the show. The scenes shot in the hills of Piraeus, on the coastal road, and along Syngrou Avenue offer a unique view of Athens in the 1970s, during the dictatorship.
My Life in Ruins (2009)
After the worldwide success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Nia Vardalos came to Greece to star in the romantic comedy “My Life in Ruins.”
Vardalos plays a tour guide named Georgia who has lost her mojo and her zest for life, her “kefi” as we say here in Greece. Everything seems to go wrong for her, and her tours seem uninspired, until she meets a bus driver called Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis).
With scenes filmed in the district of Plaka, on the Acropolis and at various archaeological sites across the country, the film is something of a guilty pleasure, and the perfect treat for a chilly winter evening.
The Two Faces of January (2014)
The film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s suspenseful novel of the same title features Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of the Rings”), Kirsten Dunst (“Marie Antoinette”) and Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”).
Set in 1962, the film starts with a sunny walk on the Acropolis. The film, the directorial debut of Hossein Amini, was generally praised by the critics.
An American tourist (Denise Gough) visits Greece and meets an American expatriate (Sebastian Stan). After an intense summer spent on the Greek islands, they decide to become roommates, taking an apartment in the Kypseli neighborhood of the capital, close to pedestrianized Fokionos Negri. Parties in this area of town, scooter rides down Panepistimiou Street and endless nights of clubbing constitute a pre-COVID Athenian lifestyle that perhaps we all miss.
For director Argiris Papadimitropoulos, this is his welcome return to the screen after his festival hit “Suntan” (2016).