Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.
Iceland has a rich and varied history when it comes to both the big and the small screen. Many of the world’s favourite films and TV shows over the years have been shot on this mystical island, even though their storylines are not necessarily set in Iceland.
Only a handful of the films’ below have storylines explicitly set in Iceland, such as James Bond’s Die Another Day and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Large parts of Iceland’s natural landscape lends itself to being portrayed as either a primordial Earth or a post-apocalyptic world which explains its prominence among even the biggest sci-fi and fantasy films and TV series, from Star Wars to Game of Thrones.
Below, we’ve listed the top films shot in Iceland, with information on how to get to these stunning locations and relive your favourite scenes first-hand.
Sons of the Soil (1920)
Based on Gunnar Gunnarson’s classic novel of the same name, Danish director Oskar Gislason’s Sons of the Soil tells the tale of Örlygur Borg’s two sons, Ormar and Ketill, as they fight for the love of the beautiful Rúna.
Gislason is considered to have kickstarted Icelandic cinema, as this was the first major feature to be filmed on the island. The silent film was shot in black and white at various locations around Iceland in the summer of 1919.
Upon the film’s non-domestic release in 1921, the world was introduced to a beautiful new filming location in the form of Iceland, one which had been largely underutilized up until that point.
James Bond: View to A Kill (1985)
Although Iceland had to wait more than 60 years for the next ‘big’ movie to be shot on its shores, when it eventually came, it was a Hollywood heavy hitter.
On the 23rd of June 1984, production commenced for the pre-credit sequence of the James Bond movie, A View to a Kill. The second unit began filming this atJökulsárlón, borderingVatnajökullNational Park in south-eastern Iceland. They used three helicopters along with a purpose-built boat to get the elaborate shots that they needed to make the action-packed sequence.
At the end of the scene, James Bond (played by Roger Moore) is chased by a helicopter along a reservoir. In true Bond fashion, he shoots the helicopter, which then instantly bursts into flames before crashing into an iceberg. To evade capture, Bond hides in a submarine disguised as an iceberg – we told you it was elaborate!
The Icelandic section of A View to a Kill’s production was deemed a risky one as the actors, in some cases, had to contend with large icebergs and could have been knocked into the icy cold water at any moment.
Scenes as risky as this almost certainly wouldn’t get made today! So dangerous was the filming that leading man, Roger Moore never actually set foot in Iceland – only his stunt double.
See our selection ofJokulsárlón tours to go on your very own James Bond inspired Arctic adventure!
Judge Dredd (1995)
Upon its release, Judge Dredd was almost universally panned by critics and fans alike. Set in the dystopian future, Earth has been reduced to a barren wasteland, and is now governed by a corporation of “Judges”. These law enforcers combine the role of police officer, judge, jury and executioner and rule with fierce determination.
Starring Silvester Stallone as Judge Dredd, the film’s protagonist is wrongly-convicted of murder and banished to a penal colony.
While filming in Iceland, the Reykjanes Peninsula was used to represent future Earth’s barren environment.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
While the first live-action Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie was panned by critics upon its 2001 release, it still has its fans due to the popularity of the game and of Ms. Jolie herself.
The Icelandic scenes were shot in the same area as Die Another Day, even though the majority of the film’s storyline was set in Serbia.
Director Simon West filmed a three-minute sequence at theJökulsárlón glacial lagoonwhich provided a beautiful backdrop for Lara Croft to make an impressive entrance. Wearing only a thin cotton top and light hoodie, weather-hardened locals, wearing thick fur jackets, woollen gloves and extremely warm looking hats must have thought she was quite ill-prepared for such cold conditions.
Seeing as not everybody is as tough as Lara Croft, we recommend that visitorslayer up in warm clotheswhen visiting the Jokulsárlón region!
Another Bond film, another opportunity for Jökulsárlón to shine! This time though, not only were the scenes shot in Iceland, but the film was set there too – huzzah!
The Iceland scene involves Mr Bond (Pierce Brosnan) engaging in a high-speed car chase across a frozen lake. Four Aston Martins and four Jaguars, all converted to four-wheel drive, were used in this difficult to film sequence.
According to reports, several expensive cars were wrecked during filming. Stunt drivers did all the driving, and Pierce Brosnan, who played Bond in this movie, didn’t set foot in Iceland, much like his contemporary Roger Moore in A View to A Kill.
Die Another Day’s infamous car chase scene was only made possible by the construction of a dam, which blocked the lagoon’s exit to the sea. The still water froze over the course of a few days, making it possible for the stunt team to drive and shoot on the water.
Once the filming ceased, the film crew removed the blockage and the tides and sea salt soon melted the surface ice. Natural order was resumed without any long-lasting damage caused to the local environment.
If you want to experience Jökulsárlón lake, you’ll have to do so by boat unless you’re part of a Hollywood film crew with millions of dollars to burn. There are however, plenty of other excitingtours in the Jokulsárlón regionwhich Arctic Adventures can take you on.
True Love (Once Removed) (2002)
Released in 2002, True Love (Once Removed) tells the story of Steven, a fisherman living in an isolated village. Earning very little, Steven spends his meager earnings on viewing his future on illegal time machines, which have been outlawed because of the unintended consequences they cause.
Steven regularly visits his future, where he learns that he will be loved by a woman who works as a psychiatric nurse. The woman in question is currently an 8-year old girl, Byrony Lafferty.
Steven had fallen in love with adult Byrony and must wait until she comes of age to pursue any romantic feelings. Determined to make sure his predicted future comes true, Steven makes choices in the present which he believes will ensure his future comes true.
Primary filming for the movie was done across a number of locations in Iceland, which helped create the movie’s often wild and rugged atmosphere.
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman begins filmed in Iceland
Batman Begins is Christopher Nolan’s epic reimagining of the origins of The Dark Knight. In the film we see the caped crusader’s journey in Tibet, and subsequent training with the League of Shadows. One of the most famous scenes in the film is the training scene, which shows Christian Bale and Liam Neeson engaged in a sword fight.
Meant to be a reflection of Tibet’s cold and mountainous landscape, this scene was actually shot on the Svinafellsjokull Glacier inVatnajokull National Park. The stars later revealed that while filming the scene, they could hear ice cracking beneath their feet – a job not for the faint-hearted!
Beowulf & Grendel (2005)
Beowulf and Grendel is set in Denmark during the 6th Century and is a story of revenge. After the death of his father by Danish King Hrothgar and his warriors, Grendel plots his revenge.
Released in 2005, the movie was filmed in numerous locations throughout Iceland. The harsh weather conditions lent an authentic atmosphere to the production. As scenes were filmed in severe weather conditions, which couldn’t have been recreated by special effects, actors gave genuine reactions and responses when faced with the weather.
A Canadian and Icelandic co-production, the film was directed and produced by Sturla Gunnarsson, whose works include the Oscar-nominated documentary After the Axe.
Flags of our Fathers (2006)
‘Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima’, is an iconic photograph captured by Joe Rosenthal, which depicts the US flag being raised after the Battle of Iwo Jima. Initially published in the Sunday papers, the photo quickly earned a legendary status and was reprinted countless times over.
The novel Flags of our Fathers, which is based on the historic event, is the basis for Hollywood blockbuster. Directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood, the film details the battle of Iwo Jima and the story of the six servicemen who raised the American flag after the island’s capture.
Iceland played a pivotal role in the production, as its black volcanic sand beaches stood in for the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The Reykjanes Peninsula was one of the major filming locations, with Sandvik beach being used to shoot many of the battle scenes.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Billed as a sister film to Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima, but from the Japanese point of view.
Showing what life was like for Japanese soldiers, much of the scenes detail the caves and tunnels, which imperial soldiers fought and lived in.
Like Flags of our Fathers, Sandvik beach was used as a stand in for Iwo Jima island. The black volcanic sand is a close replica of the volcanic sand found on Pacific islands.
Hostel Part II (2007)
It’s not often a sequel surpasses or equals its predecessor but Hostel Part ll is one of the few films to achieve this.
Directed by Eli Roth, the plot follows three female American students, living in Rome, as they travel to Slovakia. It’s only after they’ve checked into their hostel that they rrealizethey’ve inadvertently checked into a house of horrors.
The majority of Hostel Part II was shot in Prague, but one scene was filmed in one special Icelandic location –The Blue Lagoon. Did you know that Hostel Part II was actually the first non-Icelandic film to be given permission to film at the Blue Lagoon? The scene shows one of the students going for a swim, before being chased by a group of men into a forest –creepy!
A magical fantasy film with a hint of romance, Stardust is a guilty pleasure and feel-good film all wrapped into one.
The fictional English village of Wall borders the magical kingdom of Stormhold. A magical stone wall keeps the two worlds apart but a tryst between a princess and village results in a love-child named Dunston. Left in the care of his mortal father, and now an adult, Dunston sees a star fall from the sky and lands beyond the wall.
Our hero vows to retrieve the star for his love Victoria and uses a magical candle to transport him to the world, where adventure awaits. While principal photography took place in Pinewood Studios, some scenes were shot in Iceland, most notably on location in Stokksnes, south-east Iceland.
The peninsula is home to some of Iceland’s most breath-taking mountains, which can be seen in the background of some scenes.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
Filmed in Iceland
Based on the science fiction book of the same name, Journey to the Center of the Earth tells the story of a man determined to find out what happened to his missing brother. This leads him, along with his nephew and mountain guide, to discover a lost world in the center of the earth.
Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson and Anita Briem, the film received mixed reviews upon its, release but is a great light-hearted action film – perfect for family movie nights.
Snæfellsjökull Peninsulawas immortalized in both the novel and film versions of the story and can be easily visited with Arctic Adventures.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Part of Iceland’s great appeal to filmmakers is that much of the island remains relatively untouched by humans, so it looks as natural as anywhere you will find in the world.
That’s why Terence Mallick chose to film the “young Earth” scenes of his philosophical drama The Tree of Life at the lava fields of Krafla. These scenes showed the creation of the planet Earth, as well as the birth and evolution of life on our planet, right up to the emergence of the dinosaurs.
Using Icelandic regions to film recreations of a primordial Earth is very appropriate as the island itself is no more than 18 million years old. Geologically speaking, this makes Iceland a very young land mass.
Ironically though, because the island is so new, dinosaur fossils will never be found in Iceland as they are much older, dating back to more than 60 million years.
While you won’t find dinosaur fossils in Iceland, there is still plenty to do on Arctic Adventures’North Iceland Volcano Tourwhich explores the region near Krafla.
Nova Zembla (2011)
Released in 2011, Nova Zembla is a Dutch historical drama and has the prestige of being the first ever Dutch film to be presented in 3D.
Two explorers, on a quest to discover the Northeast Passage to the Indies, travel through ice seas before becoming stranded on Novaya Zemlya – an Arctic Archipelago. Using Iceland as a filming location allowed the film’s directors to easily mimic the arctic conditions of Russia.
The production team, filmed on a remote glacier and had to spend a week opening the roads before the 14-day shoot could begin
Filmed in Iceland
Much like The Tree of Life, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus also used Iceland to depict an ancient Earth. In the film’s visually-impressive opening, we are taken back in time to the seeding of life on Earth.
Starring none other than Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction film with major star-credit. Released in 2011 but set in 2077, Oblivion details Earth’s demise at the hands of extra-terrestrials. Ongoing wars have led humans to abandon Earth and move to Saturn’s moon, Titan.
Cast and crew spent 10 days filming in Iceland, where the country’s rugged terrain was used as a substitute for a post-apocalyptic east coast of America. Filmed during the summer months, when Iceland boasts 24-hour sunlight, the director sought to take advantage of the waning light at night time.
Known as the ‘magic hour’, this dim light gives off an eerie feel, making it a perfect addition to any sci-fi film. Reportedly the most difficult scene to shoot throughout the production was one where Harper pauses to admire the view and water a flower – a simple concept that actually required Cruise to sit next to an 800-foot (250 meters) drop at the top of Iceland’s Jarlhettur mountain.
Fans of the film can visitDettifoss Waterfall, which was used as a filming location during production.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
The twelfth instalment of the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Into Darkness sees the crew of the USS Enterprise return to earth after an act of terrorism destroys most of Starfleet’s command. Determined to capture the perpetrator and settle an old score, Captain Kirk leads his team on a dangerous mission to apprehend a one-man weapon of mass destruction.
Reynisfjara Beachwas used a filming location for the movie. The area’s otherworldly appearance and volcanic black sand, made it an ideal stand-in for planets light years away.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Filmed in Iceland
Iceland has long been used as a stand in for post-apocalyptic worlds and a land before time, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of the few films that celebrates Iceland for being Iceland.
Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, the filmmaker lets the viewer fall in love with Iceland and its beautiful scenery at the same time as the main character.
Scenes were shot in a multitude of locations around Iceland, with each corner of the island being represented. Seyðisfjörður, in the east fjords, was used as part of a thrilling and beautiful-shot skateboarding sequence and was also the scene of a volcanic eruption.
The Reykjanes peninsula also features in the film and is part of the coastline sequence where Mitty jumps into the North Atlantic Ocean. Stykkishólmur was used to represent Nuuk, Greenland and is where Walter meets a karaoke-loving helicopter pilot played by famed Icelandic actor, Olafur Darri.
As well as doubling as Greenland, Iceland was also used to represent Afghanistan. Vatnajökull National Park and the Falljökull glacier, were used to film the scene where Walter finds photo-journalist Sean O’Connell in remote Afghanistan.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
No discussion of Iceland’s history would be complete without discussing ancient Norse mythology, and no discussion of Norse mythology would be complete without mentioningThor, Iceland’s favourite hero.
The first Thor film (released in 2011) was a surprise hit for Marvel’s movie studio, so they released a sequel, The Dark World, in 2013. The Dark World brought Thor back to his roots, somewhat literally, with scenes shot around both Iceland’s capital ofReykjavikand the visually stunningSkógafoss Waterfall.
One particularly striking sequence depicts Thor and his brother Loki – another well-known God of Norse mythology – battling the sinister Dark Elves, including their champion, the mighty Kurse, in an epic showdown in an ash-ridden plane surrounded by volcanic smoke.
While much of the smoke was added in with special effects, it gives us a great impression of what certain areas of Iceland are like during intense volcanic activity.
If you are interested in seeing the sights that inspired the stories of Thor and following in the Thunder God’s footsteps, be sure to take Arctic Adventures’2-Day Skógarfoss to Thorsmork Valley Trekking Tour. To find out more about what you will see oninhe Valley of Thor Tour, read ourGuide to Trekking in Thorsmork.
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine star in Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic, Interstellar. Set in a dystopian future, Earth has been ravaged by blight and dust storms, which threaten humanity’s very existence.
Tasked with finding a new home for humanity, a team of astronauts travel through a wormhole in search of an appropriate planet.
Máfabót and Svínafellsjökull were used to represent two different planets in Interstellar. Both found a stone’s throws from one another in South-East Iceland, Máfabót was a filming location for the water planet, while Svínafellsjökull served as the landscape for the ice planet.
Land Ho! (2014)
Land Ho! is a heart-warming road trip comedy about two ex brother-in-laws who want to reclaim their youth with a trip to Iceland. The film showcases everything that’s great about Iceland, from the lively nightlife to the beautiful natural landscape.
Upon its release, the film received positive reviews with critics lauding the movie’s endearing feel-good factors.
Cast and crew spent 16 days filming in Iceland, with some of Iceland’s top tourist attractions and sites, namely the Blue Lagoon, Skógar, Jökulsárlón, Landmannalaugar, Gullfoss and Strokkur, being used as filming locations.
Upon its release, one critic described Noah as “an unholy mess drowning in unbiblical detail”. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, and starring Russell Crowe, the flood blockbuster had all the Hollywood credentials it needed to be a success.
Despite its critics, the film went on to break box office records, grossing $43.7 million during its opening weekend and becoming one of the most successful films for both director and cast.
Most of the filming took place in Iceland, with the island’s rugged terrain and unique landscape being the perfect stand-in for a biblical land. A number of sites were used during filming, namely Dyrhólaey, Fossvogur andReynisfjara.
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (2014)
An Icelandic-Norwegian horror comedy – the perfect movie genre! Dead Snow: Red Vs Dead is the sequel to 2009’s Dead Snow. Released in 2014, the story picks up where it left off and follows Martin, the sole survivor of an attack by Nazi zombies, as he battles to defeat the undead.
Filming took place in Iceland, with the movie being shot in both Norwegian and English. Many of the zombies were trained mixed martial artists, who happily performed the movie’s death-defying and show stopping stunts.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
The story begins thirty years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire and seeks to destroy Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi. Lead by General Leia Organa, the Resistance is determined to find Luke before the First Order.
Both original and new cast members joined forces to make this film the most entertaining and memorable Star Wars film in years. Like almost anything Star Wars-related, filming was shrouded in secrecy, however, we know filming took place in numerous locations across Iceland.
Lake Mývatnand Krafla, a volcanic caldera which features a 2,600-foot peak, boiling mud pools and steam rising from the ground were used to film an intense battle between the Empire and Rebels.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The Avengers are thrown into crisis when an argument between Iron Man and Captain America results in a civil war. In the film, the United Nations (UN) prepare to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will establish a UN panel to oversee and control the Avengers and other super-powered people.
Tony Stark supports this decision because of his role in Ultron’s creation and Sokovia’s devastation, while Rogers, aka Captain America, has more faith in his own judgment than that of a government.
The opening shot of the trailer offers the first glimpse of Iceland. Filmed near thetown of Vik in South Iceland, fans are greeted to stunning shots of snow-capped mountains and frozen, snow-covered water.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Set immediately before the events of the original Star Wars film, Rogue One is the first of the Star Wars standalone films. The adventure film depicts a group of unlikely heroes banding together to steal the plans to the Death Star – the evil Galactic Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.
A quick glance of the trailer reveals numerous shots of Iceland. Filming took place inReynisfjara, and around the mountains of Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey at Mýrdalssandur. The land surrounding the mountains was used to represent the planets of Lah’mu and Eadu.
As we’ve seen previously, Iceland’s unique landscapes means it’s often the first choice for directors looking for another-worldly filming location.
Star Wars fans can easily visit the movie’s filming locations, by simply booking asouth coast tourwith Arctic Adventures.
Justice League (2017)
Iceland is clearly a popular filming destination for superhero films. As well as featuring in Thor: The Dark World, Iceland’s stunning scenery also features in a couple of short, but important, scenes in Justice League. These significant scenes were shot in the Strandir region of Northern Iceland’s Westfjords and show Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) attempting to recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa) into his world-saving super squad.
As a fellow volcanic islander – he’s from Hawaii – Jason Mamoa made himself at home and took a bath in one of the local geothermal pools. This sparked controversy however, as the actor was unaware that one needs permission to take a dip into the geothermal pools.
However, most Icelanders forgave Momoa, as his shirtless antics have brought the area lots of publicity. You can retrace Jason Mamoa’s footsteps in Arctic Adventures’6-Day Hornstrandir Hike tour.
Released in 2017, Fast and Furious 8 is the latest installment of the hugely popular action franchise. Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Michelle Rodriguez, motorheads across the world rejoiced when production on a new film was announced.
In their 8th outing, the team are living a relatively normal life with Dom and Letty married, and Brian and Mia retired from the game. That is until a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom to betray them all. This event forces the team to reunite once more to bring home the man who made a family and stop Cipher in her tracks.
One of the movie’s most prolific chase scenes was actually filmed on Lake Myvatn. Shot in the depths of winter the frozen ice managed to hold all of the vehicles which were needed for the scene. Watch the film’s trailer, to catch glimpses of supercars speeding across the ice.
If you’re interested in visiting Lake Myvatn, Arctic Adventures offer aguided tour of North Iceland, where you can visit the lake,Godafoss Waterfalland Askja crater in one day.
Frozen II (2019)
The surreal beauty of Iceland is so magical it has even been used in animated films. While Frozen 2 wasn’t filmed in the country, the creators did use the island as a source of inspiration. During a Nordic scouting trip, the filmmakers were amazed by the “stark beauty” of the landscapes.
“Iceland really felt mythical. It felt like nature was so awesome and powerful,” said Marc Smith, Director of Story, to Oh My Disney. Even before the film was released, the Disney Frozen 2 trailer provided some pretty obvious clues that it was inspired by Iceland. Audiences can see Elsa standing on a black sand beach, an iconic Icelandic highlight. In an interview director, Chris Buck confirmed that the coal-colored beach was in fact, inspired by Djúpalónssandur Beach.
The scenery wasn’t the only role Iceland played in the film. Founded by Scandinavian settlers, their folklore inspired the characters. In one scene, Elsa must battle a Nokk, or Nykur in Icelandic, a water spirit that takes the shape of a horse. And we can’t forget recurring character Grand Pabbie, a troll who conjures the Northern Lights. Trolls and giants are found throughout Icelandic lore, yet another bridge between the film and the country.
Frozen fans who want to follow in the footsteps of Anna and Elsa can book the Frozen 2 tour. A guide will take you to some of the highlights that inspired the movie!
Love on Iceland (2020)
With the release of its new movie “Love on Iceland,” Hallmark ventured to Iceland for the first time to shoot scenes for this romantic comedy starring Kaitlin Doubleday and Colin Donnell.
Most of Hallmark Channel’s movies are filmed in Canada, but “Love on Iceland” sets a new precedent.
The story revolves around podcast producer Chloe (played by Kaitlin Doubleday), who decides to visit Iceland with a group of friends to recharge her batteries. The outstanding beauty of the country and its magical ability to help people discover themselves are the major themes of the film.
As the plot unfolds, Chloe unintentionally meets her former lover Charlie (played by Colin Donnell). As they explore epic landscapes together, they discover a new spark. Watch the film’s preview below.
The “Love on Iceland” cast was completely enchanted while shooting the movie in Iceland.
“You couldn’t recreate this place or this experience anywhere else in the world. When we first started our drive out to the glacier where our first location was going to be, it was like my head was snapping back and forth inside of the car, just taking in all the amazing sights that were along the way,” said Colin Donnell during Hallmark Channel’s interview.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
Iceland takes center stage in the Netflix comedy 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.' The film follows aspiring Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams) who are given the opportunity to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. The musical duo, who goes by the name Fire Saga, are proud Icelanders who hail from the fishing village of Húsavík. The small town, with just a population of above 2,000, was historically a fishing village then became a popular tourist stop on self-drive tours for its whale watching opportunities and geothermal baths.
Húsavík was excited to welcome the film crews and the Icelandic government even paid close to a million dollars, as a part of the country's movie production incentives. Most of the film shots took place in the charming Húsavík Harbor, however as the son of a fisherman Ferrell's character did take to the sea. The crew filmed in Skjálfandi Bay and Ferrell said the boat was tossed around in the rough waves. There are many cultural references in the movie that delighted Icelanders. In many scenes you see Sigrit ask the elves or “hidden people” (huldufólk) of Icelandic folklore to help them win the contest, and locals now plan to build a replica of the elf house. Fans who visit the town can also visit Jaja Ding Dong-bar, an outdoor pop-up bar inspired by the local pub in the film.