The Best Blockbuster Movies Filmed in the Middle East

By Sean Williams
12 September 2018
Movies, Films, Middle East, Wadi Rum
20th Century Fox
Inspiration for your next streaming session.

With vast deserts, impressive rock faces and (almost) guaranteed dry weather, it’s easy to see why this region is full of popular filming locations. Here we round up the blockbuster movies filmed in the Middle East and North Africa to put on your must-watch list.

The Martian
When a movie has name like Ridley Scott on the director’s credits, you know it’s going to be big. The Martian tells the story of every astronaut’s nightmare, when his crew leave him behind on a mission. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars and must find a way to make contact with Earth and let his team know that he’s alive. Wadi Rum in Jordan served as the backdrop for the red planet – the steep sandstone mountains and desert wilderness is spectacular.
Location: Wadi Rum, Jordan

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise is famous for doing his own stunts, but this movie is the product of one of his most famous. The daring actor dangled from the side of the Burj Khalifa (aka the tallest building in the world) for one of the scenes – he also swung around it and launched himself out of a window… Now that’s what we call dedication to the job.
Location: UAE

Inception
This reality-bending film is one of Christopher Nolan’s masterpieces. The story centres on Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is able to enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets. Six different countries are featured – Morocco’s Tangier was used as a stand-in for Mombasa in Kenya.
Location: Tangier, Morocco

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
This big budget movie has a list of impressive filming locations all over the world. However, Wadi Rum in Jordan (where The Martian was filmed) was used as the fictional planet Jedha. Producers on both movies obviously agreed that the Jordanian desert has a sci-fi feel. The film, which follows a group of rebels as they try to steal plans for the Death Star, grossed over $1 billion worldwide.
Location: Wadi Rum, Jordan

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Abu Dhabi set the scene for the planet “Jakku” in this instalment of the Star Wars franchise. The Liwa desert was transformed with huge set builds, including a market place where UAE twin sisters Liana and Thea Shengelaia had a walk-on role.
Location: The Empty Quarter, Abu Dhabi

Furious 7
The seventh installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise packs in as much action montages and cheesy one-liners as its predecessors. Several cities were used as filming locations, including Los Angeles, Colorado, Tokyo and Abu Dhabi – the film showcases some of the UAE capitals most iconic buildings.
Location: Abu Dhabi

Gladiator
In this Ridley Scott movie, a former general is sold into slavery and trained as a gladiator, where he becomes an instant celebrity in the arena. You’d think that Gladiator would be filmed in Rome, but Morocco and Malta were staged to look like the ancient Italian city. Atlas Studios in Ouarzazete, Morocco, was a major filming location, and it has become known as “Hollywood in the desert” since being featured in the likes of The Mummy and Game of Thrones.
Location: Ourzazete, Morocco

Star Trek Beyond
Dubai’s skyline is so impressive it could be straight out of a sci-fi movie, so it’s no wonder the city was chosen as a major location for Star Trek Beyond. At a press conference shortly before filming began, the movie’s executive producer, Jeffrey Cernov, said: “We came searching for the future and we found it in Dubai.” You’ll notice JLT, Meydan Racetrack, The Burj Al Arab, Sheikh Zayed Road, and even the Dubai Metro make an appearance.
Location: Dubai