Ever since the 1950s glory days of the silver screen, film producers and directors such as Don Boyd (Elephant Rock, 1977) have raved about how the beauty, light, and variety of the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka make it a perfect outdoor film set.
It was acclaimed author Arthur C Clarke who said the island was a “small universe” and contained “as many variations of culture, scenery, and climate as some countries a dozen times its size.” Visit these Sri Lanka film locations and you’ll understand what they mean.
One of the reasons that Sri Lanka has always been a favorite among filmmakers is that the country is one of those places that has “everything” needed to make a film. The jungles are thick, the mountains are beautiful and the beaches are idyllic. Here’s a round-up of some iconic films and music videos that used Sri Lanka as their stage.
Some of the notable international films at top tourist destinations were shot in Sri Lanka.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Harrison Ford as “Indy”, an archaeologist/explorer/saviour of the world. Instead, the crew went to Sri Lanka, where they filmed the shrine in the jungle and the hanging rope bridge scenes. Both were filmed in the Kandy highlands. The rope bridge isn’t there anymore, but movie buffs can hike all the way to the edge of the cliff and photograph the big rock wall that is a huge part of the bridge scene
- Perhaps the classic Sri Lanka-based film, the 1957 David Lean directed World War II epic featuring Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and William Holden, tells the story of a group of Japanese prisoner of war captors forced to build a bridge over the River Kwai that once completed will help the Japanese connect Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). A makeshift bridge was built over the Kelani River; the scene in which it explodes is one of the most famous in cinematic history. The real bridge over the Kwai is in Thailand, and is a popular tourist spot. There is nothing left of the filming location now, but film buffs sometimes make the trip there.
- Tarzan the Ape Man- Much of the film, which won seven Academy Awards, was filmed in Kitulgala on the western edge of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. It’s said that during a break from filming, Lean nearly drowned in the fast-flowing river that flows through Kitulgala.
- The Road from Elephant Pass recounts the civil war years and the battle for the Elephant Pass, a narrow strip of land that links the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka. The 2008 film, which was Sri Lanka’s Academy Award entry under foreign films, was based on the novel by Nihal de Silva. The Brief Gardens is a beautiful garden complex in the middle of paddy fields and tea plantations.
- The Jungle Book. If you’ve never heard of the film then you’re in good company. Much of the filming took place in Kandy’s Udawattakele Sanctuary, a forest park just beyond the city centre that has lots of monkeys but not so many (in fact, zero) tigers.
- Tarzan The Ape Man, is a remake of the legendary 1932 film of the same name. The 1981 version was largely filmed in different parts of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country but a visit to the Sinharaja reserve should provide plenty of chances to swing, Tarzan style, on vines.
Sri Lanka has attractive and beautiful locations. This is a great opportunity for Sri Lanka because this is the way of going to the international market & making competition with them. As a result, the local film industry can earn a lot of money through it. Most international filmmakers try to make films regarding those natural locations.