The Philippines, a country located in Southeast Asia, is known for its lush forests, beaches, and over 7,000 islands making it a popular filming location.
In this article, we’re going to talk about famous films that were partly or fully shot in the Philippines. We’re going to talk about films that were actually shot in the country, as well as those that represent Philippine locations.
We’ll talk about iconic films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which was shot in a Philippine beach town. There’s also the popular Hollywood franchise The Bourne Legacy, which was filmed in the busy streets of Manila, the country’s capital. We’ll discuss the films’ stories and talk more about the locations—why they’re popular, and their significance.
Table of Contents
Famous Movies Filmed in the Philippines
This is one of the most popular films that used the Philippines as a filming location. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now is a war drama that is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The film tells the story of how Captain Benjamin Ward (Martin Sheen) travels from Vietnam to Cambodia, on a mission to assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a renegade Army Special Forces officer.
The Philippines was a popular location for films set in Vietnam because of the restrictions brought about by the war. It’s a convenient location for war films because of its access to military equipment from the American military bases in the country.
The film is set in Vietnam and Cambodia, but was shot in the Philippines. Coppola originally planned on shooting in military locations in the United States but decided on doing it in the Philippines instead, because of the country’s access to American military equipment and cheap labor.
The film was mostly shot in the town of Baler, in the southern Philippine province of Aurora. It popularized surf culture in the town (now a popular vacation spot), where many surfing scenes and attacks were filmed.
2h 27 min | R
Directed by Oliver Stone, Platoon is a 1986 film about the Vietnam War. It is the first of a trilogy by Stone and stars Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Keith David, and Kevin Dillon. The film follows the story of a US Army volunteer serving in Vietnam–based on Stone’s experiences in the war.
The film was shot on the Philippines for 54 days in 1986. It was filmed in Luzon, the country’s largest island, in the capital of Manila, and in the provinces of Laguna and Cavite.
The filming was almost canceled because 1986 was the year of the EDSA Revolution, a political upheaval that overthrew former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. While shooting in the Philippines, Stone put the cast in an intensive training and a month-long military-style regimen to break them down and “mess with their heads” for the roles.
Born on the Fourth of July
This film is the second installment of Oliver Stone’s trilogy about the Vietnam War. It is based on the 1976 autobiography by Ron Kovic. The film stars Tom Cruise, who plays a character based on Kovic, who was in the military.
Ron Kovic joined the US Marine Corps in 1961. He was a marine sergeant in Vietnam who mistakenly kills Vietnamese villagers, and accidentally kills a private from his own platoon. After a few years, he was critically wounded and paralyzed from the chest down. The film tells his story of recovery, alcohol abuse, and eventual involvement in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Parts of the Philippines were used for filming the battle sequences, standing in for scenes that were set in Mexico and Vietnam. Other filming locations include Texas and California.
2h 25min | R
Man on the Moon
Man on the Moon, a biographical comedy-drama directed by Milos Forman, is about the late performance artist Andy Kaufman. The film stars Jim Carrey, who plays Kaufman, as well as Danny De Vito, Courtney Love, and Paul Giamatti.
The film is about Kaufman’s life, from childhood to his career performing in comedy clubs and TV shows. In the final parts of the movie, Andy reveals that he has a form of lung cancer. As his health deteriorates, he decides to go to the Philippines to get psychic surgery which later proved to be a hoax. According to the film’s IMDB page, the crew shot scenes in Baguio City, an urbanized city known as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”
This really happened to Kaufman. After undergoing procedures like radiotherapy, he and his girlfriend Lynne Marguiles flew to Baguio City, Philippines where he got the pseudoscientific procedure.
1h 58min | R
The Bourne Legacy
Directed by Tony Gilroy, this is the fourth installment of the film series adapted from the Jason Bourne novels written by Robert Ludlum.
The main character Jason Bourne, who has appeared in previous movies, is not in this installment. This film stars Jeremy Renner, who plays black ops agent Aaron Cross. The film also stars Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton. The film follows the story of how the previous events from the three Bourne films affect t Aaron’s missions.
The film was filmed in a number of locations in Asia and the United States. In the Philippines, the crew went to El Nido Palawan, a popular destination known for its beaches and reefs. There are also scenes in Manila, such as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Manila Yacht Club, and the train station in the city of Pasay. Other filming locations include New York City, South Korea, and Canada.
2h 15 min | PG-13
The Year of Living Dangerously
This is a 1982 Australian romantic drama film directed by Peter Weir and stars Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. It tells the story of a group of foreign correspondents in Jakarta, Indonesia during the attempted coup by the 20 September Movement, an organization of the self-proclaimed Indonesian National Armed Forces members who staged a coup d’etat, which assassinated six Army generals.
The film was shot in Australia and the Philippines. The filmmakers originally set the shooting in Jakarta but their proposal was denied. Some of the filming locations include the Quiapo district, known as the Old Downtown of the capital of Manila; and the Banaue Rice terraces (in the mountains of Ifugao province), which is dubbed the “Eight Wonder of the World.”
The shooting needed to stop in the Philippines after the crew found out that there were death threats against the cast and crew–there were reportedly Muslims who believed that the film was anti-Islam.
1h 55min | PG
A movie starring Kate Beckinsale and Claire Danes, Brokedown Palace is a story about two best friends who go to a holiday in Bangkok, Thailand.
Best friends Darlene (Beckinsale) and Alice (Danes) go to Thailand after their graduation. They face their worst nightmare in the country when the man they meet in Bangkok uses them to smuggle drugs into the country. The two were sentenced to 33 years in prison.
Because of the negative portrayal of the Thai justice system, the film was shot in the Philippines instead of Thailand. The prison scenes were shot in a mental asylum in Manila, where the real inmates were reportedly crammed in one area of the asylum during the shoot. Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport was used for scenes showing Thailand’s Don Mueang International Airport.
Danes also faced controversy after the film’s release, when she said that the Philippines was “ghastly and weird” and “smelled like cockroaches. Because of the comment, the government declared her a persona non grata, and banned her films in Manila. The film was also banned in the country.
1h 40min | PG-13
We talked about Samsara in our article on 15 Top Movies Filmed in Egypt. Released in 2011, this American documentary took scenes of international imagery from 25 countries around the world. The film was shot in a span of five years in a 70mm format, which was later released as a digital.
The film, described on its website as work that “transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders,” is directed by Ron Fricke and written by Fricke and Mark Magidson, who were the same people behind Baraka, a film released in 1992 that explores life, natural events, and technical phenomena.
The Philippines is one of the 25 countries included in the film. It was a scene from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, located in the Philippine province of Cebu, a place also known for its Spanish-century colonial past.
1h 42min | PG-13
In Anthony and Joe Russo’s The Avengers: Endgame, a film released in 2019 Thanos (Josh Brolin) is an alien warlord whose goal was to eliminate half of the life in the universe using the powerful Infinity Stones. Warning: spoilers ahead.
In the final scene of the movie, Thanos retires to a quiet place to retire and reflect. While it was not mentioned that a scene is a place in the Philippines, the scenery shown in the film is that of the Banaue Rice Terraces, a Philippine location that is under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The film was not shot in Banaue—it was footage obtained from an international production studio, which confirmed that the scene was, indeed, from the popular rice terraces.
3h 1min | PG-13