Watch Before You Go: 10 Movies Filmed in Romantic Locales

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Feb 9, 2011
St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
St. Regis Bora Bora Resort / Photo courtesy of the property

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It may only be entertainment, but the settings of movies and TV shows do have the power to transport. So it made me think that with the Oscars just a few weeks away, I should share my picks for the top 10 movies that capture both the romance and beauty of a place – and are actually fun to watch.

Bora Bora: Couples Retreat Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau may be the stars of this 2008 comedy, but Bora Bora steals almost every scene. Filmed at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort (doubling as the fictitious Eden Resort – and shown above at left), the movie is not as winning as Wedding Crashers, but it will make you want to raid your bank account and fly off to this ridiculously romantic paradise.

New York City: When Harry Met Sally I live in New York City and this 1989 romantic comedy nails what I love most about my hometown – winter, spring, summer, and fall. With scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Central Park Boathouse, Yankee Stadium, and Katz’s Delicatessen (a sign still hangs above the seat where Sally showed Harry how to fake it), this Nora Ephron-written, Rob Reiner-directed classic is like calling a dear friend who lives here each time you watch it.

Hawaii: Forgetting Sarah Marshall What do you get when you mix a dejected Jason Segel, a rebounding Kristen Bell, a rascally Russell Brand, and a sexy Mila Kunis with a beach resort in Hawaii? Pure hilarity, bolstered by cameos by Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jack McBrayer, and a certain part of Segel’s anatomy. Filmed at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, this 2008 comedy seduces you with its surprisingly sentimental mash-up of crudeness and charm.


Venice: Summertime The first movie to show Venice (shown at right) in all its Technicolor glory, this 1955 David Lean-directed romance stars Katharine Hepburn as a middle-aged spinster who falls head over heels (literally) for Rossano Brazzi’s dashing Venetian shopkeeper. It’s so visually mesmerizing that you’ll forgive the sometimes corny and overly dramatic dialogue (“Oh, Renato!”), and unlike with 2010’s The Tourist, find yourself invested in this retro-chic love story and wanting to recreate it yourself.

Vienna: Before Sunrise Spend a soulful day and sensual night in Vienna with a rumpled but endearing Ethan Hawke and a maddeningly intellectual Julie Delpy as they meet on a train and make the Austrian capital their own in this 1995 Richard Linklater-directed indie sleeper. From Vienna’s famed cafes to its historic Prater ferris wheel, wander with this engaging duo as they converse non-stop about life, love, and the “little space in between.”


Paris: Before Sunset This 2004 sequel, set in Paris (shown at left), finds Hawke and Delpy a decade older and wiser but still getting to know one another – and again with just one day to do it. As they wander along the Seine and through a maze of side streets to assorted cafés, we eavesdrop on their dialogue (much of it improvised) and realize that the hopeful optimism of their 24 hours in Vienna has morphed into uncertainty – and regret over a promise that seemingly went unkept.

Barcelona: Vicky Cristina Barcelona Javier Bardem got Penelope Cruz, Penelope Cruz got an Oscar, and photogenic Barcelona got fabulous publicity as a result of this 2008 Woody Allen-directed comedy. Also starring Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall, it tells the tale of two young Americans summering in Spain who are seduced by a rakish painter, who is, in turn, tormented by his tempestuous ex-wife.

Monaco: To Catch a Thief What better backdrop than Monaco for the most glamorous of movie stars, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, to heat up the screen in this 1955 Alfred Hitchcock caper classic. Everything from the wardrobes to the cars to the casinos looks fabulous as Grant tries to outrun his jewel-heist past and Kelly attempts (and fails) to resist his innumerable charms.

London: Love, Actually It’s a month before Christmas in London and eight couples are falling in and out of love amid cups of tea on frosty mornings and holiday party cheer. Starring everyone from Colin Firth and Hugh Grant to Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley – not to mention a delightful soundtrack – this 2003 comedy gives the gift of laughter, lavish locations (including a few in France), and a whole lot of heart.

Hotel Del Coronado

San Diego: Some Like It Hot If you’ve never seen this 1959 cross-dressing Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon comedy, co-starring a deliciously ditzy Marilyn Monroe as “Sugar,” Netflix it now. Forced to go undercover as members of an all-girl band after witnessing a mob hit, the coiffed and girdled leading men do madcap battle for Sugar’s affections amid the sunny splendor of San Diego’s iconic Hotel Del Coronado (shown at right; courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado).

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