Top 12 Movies Shot in Iceland

Top 12 Movies Shot in Iceland

22.07.2018 | Camille Beuvard

Over the last decade, Iceland has become Hollywood’s backlot, having played host to dozens of blockbusters including Batman Begins, Noah, Prometheus, and more recently Star Wars. Forged by harsh weather and angry volcanic forces, Iceland keeps inspiring movie directors for its hostile terrain, somehow evocative of other planets. Iceland has played every part imaginable from Greenland, to Nepal, Japan, often extra-terrestrial planets, due to its science fiction, near post-apocalyptic landscapes. Its haunting beauty and roughness has been praised by all movie directors and cast coming to Iceland. Here is our selection of the best movies shot in Iceland. Click the links in the article to visit these locations!

1. Batman Begins (2005)


Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

DC Comics superhero Batman made it to Iceland in the first film of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight. The movie tells the story of young Bruce Wayne, from his parents’ death to him becoming Batman. After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight against crime and corruption, to prevent the villains Ra's al Ghul and the Scarecrow from plunging Gotham City into chaos. The training sword session between Liam Neeson and Christian Bale was filmed on Svínafellsjökull Glacier, an outlet stretching out from Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, part of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. The Icelandic landscapes stood in for Bhutan, in the Himalayas!

Batman Begins - Scenes from Iceland © Truenorth

2. Flags of our Fathers (2006)


Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford

Flags of our Fathers is a war film directed by Clint Eastwood and adapted from the book written by James Bradley and Ron Powers about the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. The film follows the five US Marines and one Navy corpsman who were involved in raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, one of the most influential photographs of all time, taken by Joe Rosenthal. Not an American war propaganda film, the film denounces the hypocrisy of nations that create heroes when they need them and forget them when they don’t anymore. About one third of the movie was shot in Sandvík on Reykjanes Peninsula, chosen for its similarities with the Japanese volcanic island, long stretches of black sand beach.

Joe Rosenthal - Raising the Flag in Iwo Jima

© Joe Rosenthal - Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, 23 Feb 1945

Flags of Our Fathers in Iceland

© Warner Bros

3. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)


Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara

While Flags of our Fathers is taken from the American viewpoint of the battle, Letters from Iwo Jima presents the side of the Japanese who were faced with the impossible task of defending the small island. The overwhelming numerical advantage of the Americans, 100.000 soldiers versus 21.000 Japanese troops, and complete aerial superiority led to the US victory. The two movies were released only two months apart in year 2006 to provide spectators a full insight. Letters from Iwo Jima was largely shot in Southern California, forcing the crew to cover the beach with black sand to make it look like Iwo Jima Island, but all the explosion scenes were filmed in Sandvík.

Clint Eastwood on the set of Letters from Iwo Jima

© Warner Bros

4. Prometheus (2012)


Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba

In 2093 (where did the time go?!), a team of searchers seeking the origins of mankind discover a threat that could lead to the extinction of the human species. Aboard the spaceship Prometheus, the crew embarks on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe, where they will have to fight for the future of humanity. Exterior shots of the alien world were shot in Iceland. While Morocco was initially decided for these scenes, Ridley Scott had to review his plans following the Arab Spring protests and picked Iceland because “it is so rough and Jurassic-like”. The filming of the opening scene showing the origins of times occurred at thundering Dettifoss Waterfall, while other scenes were filmed at the base of Hekla active Volcano, interesting for its “rocky surface and strange lava pinnacles”.

Prometheus Opening Scene at Dettifoss in Iceland

© Twentieth Century Fox

5. Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)


Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch

Another Sci Fi movie, the twelfth installment in the Star Trek film franchise but the first episode to be ever filmed outside the US. While the Enterprise is called back home, Captain Kirk and his crew discover the presence of terror forces within their own organization. In the sequence in which McCoy and Carol Marcus open a prototype torpedo, the planet featured is the result of a scene shot on a black gravel patch, and the magic of special effects integrating a bunch of photos of Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. “The mood of the Iceland reference was really stark, and we kept referring back to that as we designed the loop of the scene’s environment” told Kevin Baillie, the visuals effects supervisor.

Star Trek - Into the Darkness in Iceland

© Paramount Pictures

Star Trek - Into the Darkness in Iceland

© Paramount Pictures

6. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)


Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Ben Stiller’s adaptation of James Thurber's 1939 short story. Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller himself, is a negative assets manager at Life magazine soon to be converted to an online magazine. For the final print issue’s cover, the renowned photojournalist Sean O’Connell sends Mitty a very special negative that soon goes missing. The search of the negative and race against time takes Mitty to the most extraordinary places in the world. The scenes set in Greenland were actually filmed in Stykkishólmur, on Snæfellsnes peninsula, and Höfn, in the East. The aweinspiring skateboarding session was filmed in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland. The scenes where Mitty follows Sean to the Himalayas and Afghanistan were filmed at Skógafoss Waterfall and in Vatnajökull National Park. Grundarfjörður also makes an appearance in the boat Erkigsnek docking scene.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Longboard Scene © Truenorth

7. Oblivion (2013)


Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo

Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie, starring Tom Cruise as Commander Jack Harper. In 2077, humanity has relocated to Saturn's moon Titan after a war with aliens has devastated Earth, and the extraction of the Earth’s last resources is near completion. In the movie, the ten-thousand old crater Hrossaborg, located right by the main road 30 minutes East from Lake Mývatn, acts as the remains of a giant baseball stadium. Additional locations include Drekavatn in the highlands and Jarlhettur, on the root of Langjökull Glacier. The most difficult scene to film was to have Harper, Tom Cruise, sitting by a 240-meter edge at the top of Jarlhettur, the Earl's Peak, a location only accessible by helicopter. “There is a beauty in desolation there and that seemed to kind of fit the aesthetic I wanted for Oblivion” Joseph Kosinski told.

Behind the Scenes with Oblivion - Earl's Peak © Truenorth

8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)


Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba

In Thor: The Dark World, Thor heads to Asgard prison to deliver his adopted brother, Loki, so together they can fight Malekith, the villain. Asgard is a fictional realm inspired from the Norse Mythology appearing in the Marvel comic books. In the film, Iceland stands in for Asgard, the mythical home of the gods, providing mountains, lakes and waterfalls. During the filming, an aerial camera crew flew over Dettifoss Waterfall, capturing it from every angle to use it as a base for Asgardian waterfalls. Landmannalaugar’s desolate, barren landscapes stood for Svartalfheim, the Dark Elves realm, while other scenes set in outer space were filmed at Skógafoss Waterfall.

Behind the Scenes with Thor: The Dark World - Iceland © Truenorth

9. Interstellar (2014)


Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine

Second time filming in Iceland for movie director Christopher Nolan and another prominent role for Vatnajökull Glacier. As natural calamities have made the Earth uninhabitable and humanity is on the brink of extinction, a team of space travellers plunges through a space wormhole to find another planet to ensure humanity’s survival. Interstellar features the diversity of Icelandic landscapes, through two extra-terrestrial planets: one covered in ice (Mann), the other one in a seemingly endless ocean, defying the laws of physics (Miller). Main locations are Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Máfabót close to town Kirkjubæjarklaustur, and Orrustuhóll in the Eldhraun Lava Field, all three are in South Iceland. Anne Hathaway will long remember the water scene when she almost suffered hypothermia: “I wasn’t sure if I could feel my toes, or they started to tingle, and then I was feeling all sorts of weird flashes and things were getting a little hazy around the edges”.

Mann, the Ice Planet in Interstellar

© Warner Bros 

Anne Hathaway on Planet Miller in Interstellar

© Warner Bros 

10. Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015)


Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega

Star Wars director J.J. Abrams is a return visitor to Iceland. His 2015 Episode VII of the epic space opera film saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought him to Eyjafjallajökull Ice Cap, in South Iceland, where some of the snow scenes and battles on the surface of Starkiller Base ice planet were filmed. Starkiller planet is armed with a terrifying weapon capable of destroying multiple planets halfway across the galaxy.

Star Wars - The Force Awakens in Iceland

© LucasFilms / Walt Disney Pictures 

Star Wars - The Force Awakens in Iceland

© LucasFilms / Walt Disney Pictures 

Star Wars - The Force Awakens in Iceland

© LucasFilms / Walt Disney Pictures 

11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)


Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk

In Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, Reynisfjara’s Black Sand Beach and the active volcanic region of Krafla, in Lake Mývatn, in North Iceland, stand in for the eerie planet of Eadu. Planet Lah’mu is represented by Mýrdalssandur Black Sand Beach and the vibrant green mountains Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey, only 20 minutes East from Vík. In the film, this is where Galen Erso, the mind behind the creation of the Death Star, is hiding with his family.

Rogue One - A Star Wars Story in Iceland

© LucasFilms / Walt Disney Pictures 

12. Captain America: Civil War (2016)


Directed by: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle

Captain America: Civil War is the second Marvel film to be filmed in Iceland, after Thor: The Dark World (2013). This time, the superheroes Captain America and Iron Man headed to the South Coast, near Vík, whose cliffs, snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes are recognizable from the first seconds of the movie official trailer. In the movie, Iceland doubles as the Winter Soldier’s land, Bucky Barnes, from when he was a Soviet agent.

Captain America: Civil War in Iceland

© Marvel Studios 

Iceland doubles as Winter Soldier's, Bucky Barnes, land

© Marvel Studios 

If we were to add two movies to our selection above, the first one would be The Fifth Estate (2013), a political thriller in which Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Julian Assange, telling the story of the creation of Wikileaks in the peaceful city of Reykjavík. The second one would be Noah (2014), for the expansive filming in Iceland, from places like Hafursey, Reynisfjara, Mælifell, Kleifarvatn, to Raufarhólshellir Cave. Many other movies used Iceland as their backdrop, making Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Mývatn Lake the scene of frantic car-chases-on-ice (James Bond – View to a Kill, 1985; James Bond – Die Another Day, 2002; The Fate of The Furious, 2017) or using Krafla and Námafjall to represent the beginning of Earth (The Tree of Life, 2011). Perhaps you’ve spotted Iceland too in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), or more recently in Justice League (2017)?

Worth mentioning that one of the very few movies where Iceland actually acts as Iceland is Journey to the Center of the Earth, released in 2008, whose journey begins at Snæfellsjökull Glacier.

Next article… TV Series filmed in Iceland?

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