20 Films shot in South Africa
With South African film studios and locations offering an affordable alternative to other international destinations, Hollywood Walk wannabes have a good chance of seeing their name in the credits of a major film production.
I once had a stint as a wedding guest fleeing the scene of a giant meteor shower in Supernova, a Hallmark made-for-TV movie starring Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. Sadly I didn’t get to meet Luke and the scene was cut from the final edit. But Cape Town was crawling with beanie-clad celebs in oversized shades, and it wasn’t long before I bumped into Colin Farrell (he was filming Ask the Dust with co-stars Salma Hayek and Donald Sutherland) out on Long Street where a single “’ullo luv” left me gushing for days.
If you also suffer from a little star-struck-itis and love seeing Mzansi on screen, check out these films shot (and to be shot) in South Africa:
1. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the highly anticipated sequel to The Avengers – the star-studded, butt-kicking team of Marvel superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and team leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The sequel sees the introduction of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Ultron (James Spader), and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Second unit filming began in South Africa in February 2014.
Release: scheduled for May 2015
2. Tiger House
Tiger House is an upcoming thriller about an injured gymnast who must defend her boyfriend’s house from a gang of armed robbers. Filming took place in February and March this year in Wynberg, Cape Town, which is doubling for parts of Surrey, England.
Release: scheduled for end of 2014
3. The Giver
Filmed in Cape Town, The Giver is an upcoming sci-fi starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Katie Holmes. The film is set in a perfect world where every member of society has a specific role. When 12-year-old Jonas is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, he uncovers the truth behind his world’s past.
Release: scheduled for August 2014
Blended is an upcoming romantic comedy – the third collaboration between the delightful duo, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The story takes place at a family resort and features the beautiful location of Sun City. You’ll also see a cameo performance from South African cricketer, Dale Steyn.
Released: scheduled for May 2014
5. The Perfect Wave
The Perfect Wave is the true story of surfer, Ian McCormack, who sets out on a journey to surf the perfect wave and ends up having an afterlife experience. Having surfed most of South Africa’s coastline, director Bruce Macdonald set out to find the most beautiful spots to shoot. Macdonald says, “The locations are characters in our film and they play a part in the story. Much emphasis was placed on these choices, and how best to exploit each location to make audiences want to travel and explore.”
Released: February 2014
6. Young Ones
Set in the future, when water is hard to find, Young Ones is an American sci-fi about a teenage boy who sets out to protect his family and survive. Young Ones was filmed in South Africa’s arid Namaqualand.
Released: January 2014
7. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom chronicles Nelson Mandela’s journey from his rural childhood village to inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. It broke box office records as it raked in R20,643,236 (almost $2 million) in just over 5 weeks – out grossing the entire run of multiple Oscar-winning biopics. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song -Motion Picture.
8. Safe House
It’s a good thing I didn’t know that Ryan Reynolds was in South Africa otherwise I might have a restraining order against me. As if you didn’t know, Safe House saw Reynolds teaming up with Denzel Washington for an action-packed thriller on the streets of Cape Town. The original script saw the film set in Rio de Janeiro, but riots in the flavelas during pre-production made it too risky for the insurance companies. The script was re-written to the locations to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Dredd was the first project to be filmed at the Cape Town Film Studios. Filming also took place on sets and locations in Johannesburg. Based on the Judge Dredd comic strip, Dredd is a sci-fi action film set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Chronicle is a sci-fi film about 3 high-school students who gain telekinetic abilities from an unknown object. Two of the 5 filming locations included the Artscape Theatre and Cape Town Film Studios.
Who could forget the patriotic spirit that followed the release of Invictus in 2010 – just in time for the Soccer World Cup?! Based on the events surrounding the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted during the early days of post-apartheid South Africa, Invictus is one of the biggest international films to be made in South Africa. It’s also one of the first films with decent South African accents, thanks to the acting talents of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
12. District 9
District 9 is the highest grossing movie to be made in South Africa, bringing in over $210 million! Inspired by the events that took place in District Six during the apartheid era, this independent sci-fi action film explores themes of humanity, xenophobia, and social segregation. The film was shot on location in Chiawelo, Soweto. In order to capture the deserted, bleak atmosphere of the film, director Neill Blomkamp chose to shoot during the dry winter months when Johannesburg “actually looks like Chernobyl”, a “nuclear apocalyptic wasteland”. District 9 received 14 awards and 4 Oscar nominations.
13. The Last House on the Left
The Last House on the Left is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, based on a book by Wes Craven. The thriller takes place at a holiday house – filmed on location in the Helderberg Nature Reserve – where a mother and father take revenge on a gang who brutally assaulted their daughter.
14. 10,000 BC
10,000 BCis a prehistoric epic that follows the journey of a young mammoth hunter who must charter new territory to secure the future of his tribe. The feature was shot in South Africa, Namibia, and New Zealand.
Although based in futuristic Scotland, thesci-fi Doomsday was mainly filmed in Cape Town – with some scenes shot at Ratanga Junction! Aside from economic reasons (it cost a third of estimated production in the UK), director Neil Marshall said of South Africa, “The landscape, the rock formations, I thought it was about as close to Scotland as you’re likely to get, outside of Ireland or Wales.”
16. 24: Redemption
The made-for-TV film 24: Redemption is based on the popular series 24. The film is set in the fictional African country of Sangala and the majority of filming was done on location outside Cape Town. 24: Redemption was nominated for a Golden Globe as well as 5 Emmy Awards.
17. The Deal
Co-starring William H. Macy and Meg Ryan, The Deal is a satirical comedy about a struggling Hollywood film producer who sets up production in South Africa…where his lead actor is abducted by terrorists (this happens all the time in Mzansi, right?). The film was shot in Cape Town and other locations around South Africa.
18. Blood Diamond
Leonardo Dicaprio may arguably be the first American actor to pull off a decent Southern African “ja” in his role as a Rhodesian gunrunner who is caught for smuggling diamonds into Liberia. Set during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 1996–2001, Blood Diamond was shot in Mozambique and South Africa, specifically in Cape Town and Port Edward. The conference held at the end of the film refers to a meeting that was held in Kimberley in 2000, which resulted in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that seeks to certify the origin of rough diamonds.
19. Lord of War
Lord of War is a gripping illegal arms dealer movie starring Nicholas Cage, Ethan Hawk, and Jared Leto – and it brings back cutting memories. Not only did I narrowly miss meeting the blue-eyed Mr. Leto during a road trip in Plettenberg Bay, but a very oblivious friend had dinner at a table to the Cage man in Camps Bay and didn’t bother getting an autograph…because she didn’t know who he was.
20. Homeland Season 4
It’s not a movie, but get your binoculars ready anyway, because word is out that Season 4 of the Emmy Award winning TV series Homeland is to be filmed in Cape Town from mid-June to November 2014. In the latest season, CIA Operations Officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) continues her fight against terrorism by taking up the position of station chief in the Middle East – aka. Cape Town. Expect to see many B-roll mosque shots for stylistic effect.
Talking about Cape Town lookalikes
Cape Town has also been used to represent
- Chicago in Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)
- post-apocalyptic Columbia in The Lost Future (2010)
- early 1930s Los Angeles in Ask the Dust (2006)
Of course there are many more Hollywood movies that have been filmed in South Africa, as well as South African-based flicks like Spud, Tsotsi, U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, Catch a Fire, The Gods Must be Crazy, and Cry, the Beloved Country to name a few. And with our exquisite variety of landscapes and value for money, I’m certain we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mzansi on the big screen.
What’s your favourite filmed-in-SA movie?
Feature image: Blended wallpaper download