The capital of Hungary has long been the go-to location of Hollywood, with films being shot in Budapest thanks to its dreamy atmosphere, timeless beauty and stunning attractions. Many stars have fallen in love with the city during filming, with names such as Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. Budapest has also inspired some of the most unique directors and movies, including Wes Anderson’s Academy Award-winning film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (although the film itself was set in the fictional country of Zubrowka). Read on to find out more about Hollywood film spots in Budapest, and a fun fact for all film fanatics: it’s possible to visit all the key locations…
Love and Death
The 1975 comedy by Woody Allen, considered one of his funniest films, is just the start of a long list of many films shot in scenic Budapest. Allen used the Hungarian State Opera House building to double as the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, and he was one of the first directors to see the potential Budapest holds for Hollywood productions, due to its unique locations and atmosphere.
Evita (1996), the Golden Globe-winning musical drama, starring Madonna as the Argentinean president’s wife, has many ties to Budapest, including the renowned Hungarian producer Andrew G. Vajna. Based on the 1976 concept album produced by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the film was a box office hit, grossing $141 million worldwide. A huge portion of the film was shot in Budapest, where 23 locations were used to represent Buenos Aires, Argentina. An extensive five weeks of shooting was spent in the city, featuring the Museum of Ethnography, Liberty Square, Oktogon, and also the square in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
The Phantom of the Opera
The 1998 classic, “The Phantom of the Opera” film was shot in Budapest, and was also influenced by producer and co-writer Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on his musical of the same name. Once again, Budapest was chosen as a filming location, and the stunning building of Hungarian State Opera House was used – loved by Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg alike.
Blade Runner 2049
The 2017 sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic „Blade Runner” starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford was also filmed in Budapest, receiving five nominations at the 90th Academy Awards. Shooting mainly took place at Korda Studios and Origo Studios in Budapest, however the iconic building of the Budapest Stock Exchange (which was later used by the Hungarian Television and then left eerily deserted) at Liberty Square, was used as the set of a traditional casino. The area is surrounded by monumental buildings, including an uncanny giant Soviet War Memorial, which is just a short walk away from the Parliament, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
The Martian was another big-budget Hollywood film featuring Budapest. Matt Damon plays the role of a lost astronaut, with the Balna Events Centre – “Budapest Whale”, a futuristic building on the Danube shore starring as NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Further shooting was completed at the Korda Studios film complex in Etyek, one of the best film studios in the world. It’s worthwhile taking a trip to the Budapest Whale, as just next door is the Central Market Hall, where you can dive into Hungarian gastronomy.
Another American film shot in Budapest is “I Spy”, with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. This time around, the Hollywood feature counts as a Budapest movie, as the 2002 comedy film is set in Budapest in the film too. The city’s most beautiful backdrops where used as locations, including the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, the Chain Bridge, and the majestic, Gothic building of the Hungarian Parliament.
Budapest has also been the set for action-packed American comedy films, including Spy (2015), starring Jude Law and Jason Statham. Once again Budapest was the main star, with shooting primarily taking place in the versatile city, as the location was able to portray a number of places at once, including Paris. Several Budapest locations were used, such as the beautiful Párisi Udvar shopping arcade (now functioning as a hotel lobby) at Ferenciek Square, Deák Ferenc Street – also know as Fashion Street with high-end fashion stores, and also the famous Gundel Restaurant, the stunning Hungarian State Opera House, and Lake Balaton too!
Again, Budapest seems to to be the capital of spy films when it comes to Hollywood, with Atomic Blonde’s filming location also set in the heart of Europe, although in the film, Budapest portrays Berlin. The capital of Hungary has the perfect, dense noir feeling suited well for the American action thriller spy film starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.
One of the more recent Hollywood blockbusters is Red Sparrow (2018) starring Jennifer Lawrence, and this film has truly crowned Budapest as the capital of Spy-films. The diverse attributes of the city have been used well, with Budapest replacing both Helsinki and Moscow, portraying all sorts of unique locations. From the Semmelweis University tower, the New York Café to shots from above Gellért Hill, and glimpses of the Parliament and the Hungarian State Opera House this movie is basically a highlight reel of Budapest.
A Good Day to Die Hard
The 2013 Americal action thriller “A Good Day to Die Hard” was also filmed in and around Budapest, with the city representing Moscow in the fifth installment of the Die Hard film series. Heroes’ Square – one of the major (and largest) squares in Budapest featuring an iconic statue complex – was used extensively in the footage. The military shooting range close to Hajmáskér was also used, and vehicle stunts were shot in Mogyoród at the Formula One racing circuit Hungaroring.
In other exciting news: Filming is still going strong in Budapest, with Denis Villeneuve’s Dunes being shot at Origo Film Studios with a release date of 2020, and the production of the Marvel film, Black Widow is also underway in the capital.