Top International Movies shot in Thailand
Written by Marco Neveu
| 10 MIN READ |
- In the Mood for Love
- Only God Forgives
- The Beach
- The Hangover Part II
- The Deer Hunter
- 007 Franchise
- The Killing Fields
- Good Morning, Vietnam
- Rambo Franchise
In the Mood for Love
Possibly the acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai’s magnum opus, this romance drama feature film is set in 1960’s Hong Kong. Many of its exterior scenes were shot in Bangkok’s own Chinatown, that unlike the rapidly modernizing Hong Kong landscape kept much of its vintage Chinese look and heritage that reminded the director of his youth. It stars Hong Kong leading man Tony Leung opposite Maggie Chung as two lonely souls who find a connection in some of their worst times. A delicate but emotionally charged film that deals with intimacy, connections, and loneliness it’s considered by many critics one of the greatest films of all time.
Only God Forgives
This intense crime feature film very much follows the stylistic language, hyper-violence, and raw emotion Refn’s previous film Drive, which also starred as the leading man a smoldering yet quiet Ryan Gosling. This polarising film saw both a standing ovation and boos at its Cannes screening. It is set in a corrupt and crime-filled underbelly of Bangkok, decked out with neon lights, drugs, underground Muay Thai fights, and violent murders. Described as a “fairy tale” by the director: it’s thematic choices, often called stale by many critics, might captivate some audiences all the while making others react in disgust and horror.
Of all feature films shot in Thailand, this drama thriller might be the most recognizable out of all of them. Shot and set in Thailand, it popularizes locations like the idyllic and white sandy beaches of Koh PhiPhi or Khao San Road. The film follows Richard, played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio and his adventures dealing with violent drug gangs and secretive beach communities. Director Danny Boyle brings, again, a deeply troubling human drama to the screen.
The Hangover Part II
First, it was “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, now they’re up to new shenanigans in Bangkok. While we concede that The Hangover Part II is in no way a masterpiece of cinema it nevertheless is a cultural icon, made a lot of money and probably inspired a whole generation of tourists looking for misadventure. Again the main trio (+ Ken Jeong’s remarkable Leslie Cow) embark on an adventure to find another missing person, before another wedding no less. Not the groom this time though: only the future brother-in-law!
The Deer Hunter
After the end of the Vietnam War, The Deer Hunter was the first major foreign film to see Thailand’s potential in film production and especially to serve as a stand-in for scenes set in Vietnam. Some of this film’s most intense and memorable scenes were shot in Thailand, most notably the Russian roulette scene that had casting directors scramble for an extra willing to slap American Hollywood stars.
Two Bond films and two Bonds have had scenes shot in Thailand. The most memorable is the 1974 classic, The Man With The Golden Gun starring Roger Moore as 007 opposite Christopher Lee as the assassin Scaramanga. Many locations from the film have stayed with popular culture inspiring many tourists to visit the sights, much like The Beach did a few decades later: notably the James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay.
The other, more recent Bond film is Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierse Brosnan as 007 and Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin, a Chinese spy, and this film’s Bond girl. Parts of the film is set in Vietnam and was supposed to be shot in Vietnam, but visa complications made the production switch to Thailand at the last minute. Remarkable is the motor bike chase scene, considered one of the best action sequences ever.
The Killing Fields
An award-winning feature film that is a must-see for anyone interested in the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s “killing fields”, which gave the name to the movie. It follows the lives of two journalists during and after the Fall of Phnom Penh. Locations in Hua Hin and Phuket stood in for Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Another Vietnam War-era film that uses Thailand as a stand-in, this one though follows the story of Adrian Cronauer, a DJ for the US Military and loosely based on real events. Adrian is portrayed by an ever funny, charming and charismatic Robin Williams. This film shows an amazing mix of war and comedy, an all-around beautiful and humanizing film that showcases the amazing power of the late Robin Williams.
While very little of this film’s production was done in Thailand it is still worth a mention for the scale of the one battle scene shot in Ubon Ratchathani and Saraburi. The scene in question is director Oliver Stone’s rendition of the Battle of Hydapses, which pitted Alexander’s Hellenic troops against Indian Princes. This large battle scene features War Elephants and extras from the ranks of the Thai Royal Army, showing the possible scale of film production in Thailand.
Our eponymous American action hero has found himself in Thailand on many occasions, and as such many of the films were actually shot in Thailand. In Rambo: First Blood II, Thailand served as a stand-in location for Vietnam, as the country did for other Vietnam War movies. By the end of the film, the protagonist remains in Thailand. Rambo III opens in Thailand and again, he ends up staying in the country by the ending. Rambo from 2008 is a direct sequel and is set in Burma, as such locations in Chiang Mai served as a stand-in again.
This French feature film takes the ingredients for a successful comedy based on misadventure and made it very French. The story basically follows the misadventures of three friends from the French “banlieues” during their stay in Pattaya. Full of slapstick and street humor, the film quickly reached a cult-like status for inner-city guys in France. It holds a special place in our hearts as UMOON Productions served as production service for all scenes shot in Thailand.
If you want to know more about the film industry in Thailand then you must read our Film Industry in Thailand – A Producer’s Guide article.
In The Mood for Love photos from SCMP, BFI
Only God Forgives photo from Le Journal International
The Beach photos from The Rolling Stones, WhatCulture
The Hangover Part II photos from Haphazarard Stuff, Letterboxd
The Deer Hunter photo from Filmlinc
007: The Man with the Golden Gun photo from Empire Online
007: Tomorrow Never Dies photo from The Secret Agent Lair
The Killing Fileds photo from LA Times
Good Morning, Vietnam photos from Metro, MoMa
Alexander photos from David Plantiga, Quiz Bliss
Rambo First Blood II photo from Wallpaper
Rambo III photo from Haphazard Stuff
Rambo (2008) photo from IMDb
Pattaya photo from Mouv