The beautiful cities of Europe have long been popular with Hollywood directors, screenwriters and beloved film stars, providing a wonderful backdrop to their latest silver screen works. And whilst Hollywood may be the home of the global film industry, many of the great pieces of big screen genius have been set and filmed on our doorstep. With an eclectic mix of cities, Europe has provided plenty of inspiration for filmmakers looking for their next blockbuster.
The evolution of Europe over the last 1,000 years has led to an array of amazing cultures, and innumerate unique cities boasting wonderful architecture and world-famous landmarks. From the timeless romance of Paris to the historic wonder of Rome; European cities can help filmmakers add true atmosphere and intrigue to their works.
So, combining our passion for exploring Europe’s great cities with our love of classic films, we’ve picked a few of our favourite European classics. These are our seven classic films set in European cities.
Vienna – The Third Man
Hugely divisive among cinema-goers upon its release in 1949, The Third Man was, however, a huge favourite with critics – who were, over time, proved right. Carol Reed’s film noir masterpiece is rightly seen as a hugely influential work of art, exploring new and unexpected filming techniques and surprising camera angles.
Starring Joseph Cotten, Valli and Orson Welles, the film is set in post-war Vienna where Holly Martins (Cotten) is given a job by friend Harry Lime (Welles), but arrives to find his friend dead. What then follows is a crime thriller in which Cotten attempts to identify the guilty party in Lime’s suspicious death.
The film explores Vienna in one of its most intriguing periods, following WWII when the city is split into four sectors, each controlled by a member of the occupying Allied forces: American, British, French and Soviet. For those of us who are used to only seeing Vienna in its Renaissance pomp, it is a truly fascinating spectacle.
As well as the filmography and star performances, the film is also notable for the excellent soundtrack, which helped to provide the eerie atmosphere. Upon the soundtrack’s release in the US, it spent 11 weeks at number one in the Billboard Best Sellers list.
Amsterdam – Diamonds are Forever
Sean Connery’s return to the timeless tux saw him earn a record sum for an actor, with the film studio desperate to see the enigmatic Scot as Bond once again. The 1971 film splits Bond fans, with its slightly camp tone throughout, however, it has a special place in history, boasting some of the Bond franchise’s most famous scenes, not least when Bond escapes Blofeld’s men in a moon buggy.
But, perhaps more famous than any scene in the film, the real star of Diamonds Are Forever is Shirley’s Bassey’s massive soundtrack. The most iconic of all Bond songs, Diamonds Are Forever goes down as one of the great movie soundtracks, and one of Bassey’s greatest moments.
Diamonds Are Forever is set in a number of locations across the globe, but our favourite scenes all take place around the beautiful canals of Amsterdam. The hovercraft sequence, in particular, is an exciting exchange which sits apart from the more peaceful surroundings of the Dutch capital.
Munich – The Devil Makes Three
Starring Gene Kelly in the lead role, The Devil Makes Three was an ambitious thriller set in Munich, chronicling an underground Nazi revival movement. Kelly portrays Captain Jeff Eliot, a form Air Force bomber crewman who returns to Germany, two years after WWII to visit the family who hid him from the Nazi forces when his plane was shot down over Munich.
Here, he befriends Heisemann, a comic with ties to the underground Nazi movement. One of the best chase scenes of the 50s takes place when Heisemann’s identity is outed, taking the film’s two main characters past the ruins of Adolf Hitler’s former house in the Berchtesgaden region south of Munich.
Belgrade – Undercover
One of the largest films of the 1940s in terms of budget, ambition and influence, Undercover was another film concentrating on WWII. Based in the beautiful Serbian capital, Belgrade, the Ealing Studios film was actually shot in Wales, due in part to restrictions in movement during a time of war.
The film centred around the Yugoslav guerilla movement in Belgrade and focused on the Petrovitch family. Two brothers of the family start the movement, with Milosh Petrovitch moving to the Serbian mountains to form a guerilla group, whilst Stephan Petrovitch uses his position as a physician to obtain information for the guerrillas.
A real David vs Goliath tale, the plucky guerrillas plan and execute ambushes, strikes and pitched battles against the occupying German forces. An exceptional piece of wartime filmmaking, for which Ealing Studios were particularly known for during the early 40s.
Paris – The Pink Panther
Peter Sellers’ turn as Inspector Clouseau is routinely voted as one of film history’s great comedic performances. The 1963 original, The Pink Panther, was more of an ensemble effort with Sellers sharing screen time with David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine and others – remaining one of the most star-studded bills in filmmaking history.
Many of the most memorable scenes in the film were shot in Paris, as the inept French Sûreté, Clouseau attempts to determine the whereabouts of the film’s eponymous diamond, the Pink Panther.
One of the biggest films of the 60s, and still routinely shown on television every year here in the UK, The Pink Panther spawned 10 sequels, with five starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. Sadly, few of these measure up to the original.
Salzburg – The Sound of Music
Winner of five Academy Awards, two Golden Globes and an exhaustive list of other honours, it’s no exaggeration to say that The Sound of Music is absolutely one of history’s best-loved films. Based upon the Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name, the 1965 film is set in the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg.
The beautiful music, stunning scenery, star turn by Julie Andrews and charming performances of the von Trapp children have made The Sound of Music a timeless classic. Incredibly rewatchable, and always entertaining, the film held the title of the highest-grossing film of all time for five years, and broke box office records in 29 countries following its release.
As much as Andrews, Salzburg was an undoubted star of this film. With the rolling hills and quaint buildings of the city providing a wonderful setting for the most joyous of stories.
Rome – La Dolce Vita
Few films capture the romance and allure of Rome quite like La Dolce Vita, the 1960 winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Journalist, Marcello Rubini explores the furthest stretches of the Italian capital in search of the good life. A humorous journey through the city introduces Rubini to Rome’s most beautiful nightclubs and incredible women.
Perhaps the most iconic film to come out of Rome, La Dolce Vita inspired a certain wanderlust in the audiences of the 1960s desperate to investigate the highlights of Rome for themselves. We believe that few films sell a holiday destination quite as well as La Dolce Vita, an endless pursuit of Roman perfection.
And we think that this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of a good film, being transported to an intriguing, beautiful part of the world – and providing a little holiday inspiration.
Not only do we take you through the most beautiful cities of Europe, many members of the Emerald Waterways fleet play host to an on-board cinema, giving you a chance to watch classic films and feature lengths inspired by the regions we sail through. For more information about an Emerald Waterways cruise, and for booking, visit our homepage or call our friendly sales team on 0808 301 4705.