Almería - surprising movie destination


For decades, Almería has attracted filmmakers seeking breathtaking landscapes and varied settings. With a film production legacy dating back to the 1950s, Almería possesses a captivating heritage and has emerged as a cinematic hub.

Renowned for its rugged desert landscapes, stunning coastline, and ancient architecture, Almería has provided the backdrop for numerous iconic movies. From epic Westerns to exhilarating action films, the region has captivated audiences globally. Today, visitors can discover a multitude of filming sites and delve into cinematic history through various film tours, museums, and events.

Tabernas desert - a unique film backdrop

From 1950 to 2020, over 300 films were filmed in the Tabernas Desert, renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, particularly popularized by the iconic "Spaghetti Westerns" of the 1960s and 1970s. 

At the heart of this golden era of European Western cinema was Sergio Leone, renowned for his iconic Dollar Trilogy. This series, consisting of "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), "For a Few Dollars More" (1965), and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966), propelled Clint Eastwood to international stardom. The success of Leone's films was followed by other notable productions like "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) and "Shalako" (1968) by Edward Dmytryk, "100 Rifles" (1969) by Tom Gries, "El Condor" (1970) by John Guillermin, "Red Sun" (1971) by Terence Young, and various sagas featuring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, among many others. 

The desert has served as the backdrop for several blockbuster international productions, including "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "Cleopatra"(1963), "Conan the Barbarian" (1982), "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade" (1989), and "Exodus: Gods and Kings"(2014). Additionally, popular television series like "Doctor Who", "Black Mirror", and "Game of Thrones" have also filmed scenes in this iconic landscape. 

"Lawrence of Arabia," directed by David Lean and starring Peter O'Toole, stands as a pivotal film in Almeria's cinematic history. With a budget of 20 million dollars, it marked a significant turning point for the region, paving the way for future blockbuster productions.

During the five-month filming period, various locations across the city of Almeria were utilized. Nicolás Salmerón Park doubled as Damascus and Cairo, while the stunning backdrop of Cabo de Gata Natural Park provided the setting for the memorable train bombing scene. To achieve this, elaborate setups were constructed, including the procurement of locomotives and rolling stock from RENFE (Spanish Railways), and the construction of a 4 km track along the beach.

The triangle of filming locations in Almeria was established, comprising the Tabernas Desert (including Mini Hollywood and Fort Bravo), the city of Almeria, and the 'Cabo de Gata' natural park. Within a 30-kilometer radius, these three areas have served as the backdrop for over 400 films.

Almería city

The renowned 1969 film "Patton," which garnered 7 Oscars, was shot in the city of Almeria, involving over 600 local residents in various scenes, including the dramatic entry of the American general into Palermo. Nicolás Salmerón Park provided the backdrop for these stormy sequences.

The cathedral square was transformed to depict the Allied troops in Messina, with trees removed and sand and tanks filling the square. Today, contrasting with its cinematic past, the cathedral stands as a serene and inviting spot, offering visitors a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.

Yet another landmark in the capital that served as a filming site in Almeria is the Alcazaba. Among its many roles in adventure films, it notably featured in "Never Say Never" (1983), with Sean Connery portraying Agent 007 – and Connery returned six years later as Indiana Jones' father. The Alcazaba, Spain's second-largest Muslim structure after the Alhambra in Granada, boasts stunning gardens. Perched atop a limestone hill overlooking the bay, the fort offers breathtaking sunset views reminiscent of those seen on the silver screen.

Cabo de Gata

Midway between the Cabo de Gata lighthouse and the town of San José lies another prime filming location - the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. As you venture down the dusty road from San José towards the picturesque beaches of Monsul, Genoveses, and Playa de Media Luna, you'll be greeted by a breathtaking landscape. To the right, you'll spot a typical Spanish farmhouse, which served as the backdrop for the western film "For a Few Dollars More."

Beyond Playa de los Genoveses, another cinematic setting awaits: Monsúl Beach, with its towering dunes that have graced countless TV commercials, movies, and videos.

On Monsúl, in a scene directed by Spielberg, Indiana Jones' father famously brings down a German plane with an umbrella and scares off a flock of seagulls. This has given rise to an urban legend suggesting that the pigeons seen on the sand dunes today are descendants of the winged stars of the film, replaced by seagulls. Another memorable sequence from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where a plane shoots at a fleeing car, was filmed at Los Escullos, a sandstone dune with fossil deposits. 

Recent productions in Tabernas include films like "800 BULLETS" by Álex de la Iglesia (2002), "BLUEBERRY" (2003) by Jan Kounen, "DALTONI" (2004) by Philippe Haïm, and "THE SISTERS BROTHERS" (2018) by Jacques Audiard.

Tabernas is also home to the Almería Western Film Festival, the only one of its kind in Europe, which annually brings together enthusiasts and professionals with a connection to the western genre. It highlights the desert environment as a prime filming location, attracting both tourists and the film industry.

For a comprehensive list of all films and series shot in the area, visit Wikipedia HERE.

Whether you're a film buff or simply looking for stunning landscapes, Almería promises an unforgettable journey of cinematography.