Five Hollywood Movies That Were Filmed In the Middle East

The Middle East is quickly becoming a hotspot for shooting big Hollywood movies, as grand and gorgeous as Los Angeles or New York City. From sandy adventure pictures to science fiction blockbuster, its regions can serve as anything from a lavish set piece of a futuristic city to the dunes of another planet. Here are five big Hollywood movies that have filmed in the Middle East.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The first third of The Force Awakens takes place on the sandy planet of Jakku, making Abu Dhabi the perfect location for shooting such scenes. For seeking to make a more practical Star Wars, director J. J. Abrams commissioned sets to be build around the desert, including starships and a marketplace filled with all sorts of alien creatures and tech. Explosives were also used to create a realistic blast crater. It was a process that echoes that of the first Star Wars from 1977 that built sets in Chott el Djerid and Tozeur.

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The globe-trotting Transformers films featured the heroes traveling to Egypt in the second entry of the series. The film featured plenty of footage of iconic ancient monuments, many of which became reduced to rubble in the movie’s loud action sequences of Autobots versus Decepticons. Thankfully, these destructive scenes were achieved either through computer graphics or special sets built outside the country. So, relax, the Pyramid of Khafre was not blown up by a giant robot. Michael Bay doesn’t have that much influence. The only thing that actually blew up were a handful of computers trying to render such detailed computer graphics.

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The fourth Mission Impossible film featured Tom Cruise scaling Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest tower. It’s an amazing shot for both the scale of the tower itself and Tom Cruise actually climbing it without a stunt double. Though Cruise wasn’t only attached to the building with special grips, having been secured with cables that were digitally edited out in post, it’s still an amazing scene for peering down on Cruise climbing at such a height. The traffic can be seen on the streets below and the warping of glass is real when Cruises presses down on the windows. Of the film’s many locations that included Prague and Moscow, Dubai sticks out as a centerpiece of the picture, so much so that the scene has been featured as the movie’s poster shot.

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Star Trek Beyond
For the futuristic space colony of YorkTown, downtown Dubai became the perfect landscape for such a vision of an elaborate city built within a Federation StarBase. Several of the city’s massively tall structures can be seen in various shots, including some of the most unforgettable shots where Kirk chases the villain through gravity streams. Though the location did have to be retooled with computer graphics to create the illusion of a space colony, with its circular structure and windows out into space, most of Dubai’s commercial wonderment remain on screen.

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Lawrence of Arabia
Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, Lawrence of Arabia made great use of its desert scenes in Jordan and Morocco. A perfect example is the scene where Lawrence meets Sherif Ali near a desert well, with Ali slowly approaching from such a great distance to showcase how vast such a location could be. It’s an impressive feat for director David Lean to film such a grand epic in such an amazing location, considering the tough shooting conditions and the impatience of dozens of actors in the many army sequences.

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