Directors love to shoot films in the Mediterranean—and it’s no wonder.
The stunning island vistas, rugged terrain, white sand beaches, idyllic towns, and endless blue seas of the Mediterranean provide the perfect backdrop for any film.
Greats like Hitchcock and Rossellini along with modern icons like Wes Anderson have consistently lured A-list celebrities including Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Bill Murray and Matt Damon to this cinematic corner of the world to shoot some of the most visually stunning and iconic films ever made.
Luckily, outdoor movie season in New York is in full swing, so pack some hummus, grab a blanket and find one of these classic Mediterranean-set films playing in a park near you to experience these films the way they were meant to be seen—outside with delicious Mediterranean food on your blanket.
Here’s a list of our Top 5 Classic Films set in the Mediterranean:
To Catch a Thief (1955)
This classic Hitchcock film stars cat burglar John Robie (Cary Grant) trying to clear his name while falling in love with Riviera socialite Francie, (Grace Kelly). It’s Hitchcock, so there’s plenty of suspense, innuendo, and artful cinematic suggestion—including a fireworks display that abruptly cuts away so suggest the passion between the Grant and Kelly.
Shot off the coast of Nice, this film was one of the earliest examples of the brilliant hues Technicolor could bring to the big screen, making the Mediterranean coast the obvious setting for this visual masterpiece.
When a woman goes missing off the coast of the Aeolian Islands—an archipelago north of Sicily—two friends search for her. What ensues is an atypical mystery set amidst the stunning beauty of the Mediterranean sea.
This arthouse film is the essence of controversial—it was actually booed at the Cannes Film Festival for its languid insistence that “some mysteries don’t need to be solved.” However, the lingering pans and overwhelming ennui have made it a classic. A genre defining landmark film, but maybe not the best first date idea…
Zorba and the Greek (1964)
The trailer for this three-time Academy-award winning film says it all:
“When Zorba talks, you listen. When Zorba drinks, you taste it. When Zorba loves, you feel it, because this is a man who devours life as if it were a beast. A man who never puts off til tomorrow what he can enjoy today.”
Starring Anthony Quinn as the titular Zorba, this film is a Mediterranean voyage across the sand, sea, culture and people of Greece. Full of romance, action, revenge, and passion—50 years later, Zorba the Greek is still captivating.
Le Mépris (1963)
French New Wave filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard is perhaps best known for his raw sensuality. Le Mepris (Contempt), is a film about a film—an ancient Greek epic—set on the island of Capri. Conflict arises between the writer and producer amidst the lush backdrop of Casa Malaparte—a stunning modernist villa overlooking the azure sea.
If you’re a fan of Journey to Italy (1954), it’s a must watch. Honestly, the long shots in this film read like tourism propaganda.
The Life Aquatic (2004)
The only modern film on this list, Wes Anderson’s kitschy look at Jacques Cousteau-esque marine conservationist and filmmaker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is too good to ignore. This modern day Moby Dick narrative pits one passionate man against the entire Mediterranean—complete with jaguar sharks, pirates, storms, and more. Driven by stunning visuals, and Anderson’s unique brand of comedic storytelling, this film reimagines the classic vengeance narrative.
If you haven’t seen this film yet, find an outdoor screening somewhere near you immediately. It’s a popular choice for summer screen NYC.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
- Pink Panther
- The 300
- Jason and the Argonauts
- Mamma Mia!
- Count of Monte Cristo
- The Sea Hawk (a 1924 silent film about pirates. Watch it.)
At Nanoosh, we’re all about healthy wholesome food that complements whatever you want to do outside—even if it’s just watching a movie under the stars. For the best possible moviegoing experience, grab your blanket, pack a Mediterranean picnic, and enjoy any of these Mediterranean films to the fullest at your next outdoor movie.