European cities have a grand cinematic tradition. Home and hideout to spies, fugitives and crime lords, the narrow cobbled streets and crowded piazzas provide the perfect backdrop to some of the most iconic moments in cinema. Here we take a look at some of the great crime and espionage film locations from across the continent.
The Da Vinci Code – Paris, France
The film adaptation of the mega-popular Dan Brown novel plays almost like a tourist’s guide to Paris, and the French capital duly obliges by looking stunning throughout. The intrigue unfolds at the Louvre, Paris’s iconic, palatial museum – an ideal setting for the dashing Robert Langdon’s international adventures to begin.
In Bruges – Bruges, Belgium
The picturesque beauty of Bruges in Belgium is almost a running joke in this darkly comic crime caper, where much of the story plays out in the Grote Markt, or market square. The towering, medieval Belfry of Bruges looms sinisterly over proceedings and provides the setting for a particularly grizzly ending.
The Third Man – Vienna, Austria
The cobbled streets and dimly lit alleys of Vienna provide the setting for this classic British film noir, but the film’s most iconic scene is played out high above the city, on the infamous Riesenrad, a 115-year old ferris wheel originally built to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef I’s golden Jubilee.
The Bourne Supremacy – Berlin, Germany
The Bourne films are amongst the best at capturing beautiful European cities in the style of old spy films and noir thrillers – using the historic settings as a playground for Matt Damon’s amnesiac spy to play out his international espionage antics. Berlin’s Alexanderplatz provides one of the more unusual settings in the second instalment, a symbol of the socialist character of old Eastern Germany.
Casino Royale – Loket, Czech Republic
Bond films have taken in a variety of glamorous locations over the years, but this is perhaps the one that symbolised that Bond was back, with a bang. Loket castle in the Czech Republic (posing as Montenegro), provides one of the many beautiful European locations in Daniel Craig’s first outing as the debonair British spy.
Ronin – Villefranche-Sur-Mer, France
Historic European cities have always been the ideal setting for destructive car chases, and Ronin packs in a few crowd-pleasing set-pieces in various glamorous locations. The beautiful seafront village of Villefranche-sur-Mer in France is the location for one of the most memorable scenes in the film, a daredevil dash through the narrow streets of this idyllic town on the French Riviera.
The Italian Job – Turin, Italy
Turin is the setting for the infamous, and perfectly choreographed, Mini chase scene in this Michael Caine ‘60s classic. The Minis take in all the sights of this beautiful city in Northern Italy, and many of the locations remain unchanged to this day. The weir beside il ponte di piazza Vittorio is where the cars take an impromptu dip in the river Po.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stockholm, Sweden
This modern noir based on the novel by Steig Larsson bucks the trend for films set in European cities: it takes a stunning location – much of the film was shot in the capital Stockholm – and turns it into a nightmarish, dark, dirty underworld. Suffice to say, in real life, the city bears little resemblance to its portrayal in this disturbing thriller.
The Godfather – Savoca, Sicily
Though largely set in America, the European scenes in this epic tale of organised crime provide a welcome change of pace and surroundings. The perfect hideout for fugitive Michael Corleone, the ancient hillside village of Savoca in Sicily is where Al Pacino’s Godfather-in-waiting chooses to lay low following the murder of a corrupt New York police chief.
The American – Abruzzo, Italy
George Clooney’s hitman on the run chooses Italy’s beautiful Abruzzo region as a setting to go incognito, posing as a travel photographer while he waits for the heat to die down. The winding streets and historic architecture perfectly compliment this old-fashioned thriller, while the epic landscapes hint at the isolation of this stunning part of Italy.