Lights, Camera, Action! Movies on Tenerife

Being a bit of a movie buff, when we first moved to the island I was thrilled to read in my Rough Guide to Tenerife that Star Wars had been filmed in Teide National Park.

Thereafter just about everything I read about Teide National Park told me Planet of the Apes had been shot in that amazing volcanic wilderness as well.

It didn’t take too long before I discovered both were Tenerife myths, of which there are quite a few.

Building Clash of the Titans set, Teide National Park, Tenerife
Building Clash of the Titans set in Teide National Park

Researching a short article about film locations on Tenerife revealed the Star Wars and Planet of the Apes claims were tall tales, probably spun by tour guides. The surreal scenery made the claims seem plausible. But a couple of easy-to-check facts exposed them. The first was there is absolutely no mention of Tenerife as a location in the credits of either film. Secondly, and more damning, Tenerife has a film commission. It’s very easy to check officially what movies have been shot on the island. Guess what?

Until recently Tenerife has been somewhat overlooked by Hollywood as a location for top movies. To show how overlooked it has been, people are still referencing One Million Years B.C.

Apart from a film featuring Raquel Welch in a rather fetching fur two piece and a few rubbery dinosaurs, there have been quite a few Spanish movies, shorts and a couple of Spaghetti Westerns featuring C list actors shot on Tenerife. There have also been some obscure and quite disturbing sounding European movies. Film fans will recognise German director Werner Herzog’s name, but you’d have to be seriously specialist to remember the film he shot on Tenerife – Even Dwarves Start Small.

The most familiar movie titles tended to belong to fantasy and sci-fi, such as When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, The Land That Time Forgot and a few episodes of Doctor Who.

Base for In the Heart of the Sea, Playa Santiago, La Gomera
Base for In the Heart of the Sea, Playa Santiago, La Gomera

Moby Dick with Gregory Peck is credited as being filmed in the Canary Islands but it’s unclear if Tenerife was a location. Interestingly, history has repeated itself with Ron Howard’s men v big whale story In the Heart of the Sea filmed on location in the Canary Islands last year. Due for release in December 2015, the film, starring Chris Hemsworth and Peaky Blinders Cillian Murphy and Paul Anderson, was shot in and around La Gomera.

In short, Tenerife’s fantastical and diverse landscapes weren’t as sought after by Hollywood as they should have been.

That was possibly changed by a 2001 Spanish film by Tenerife born Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Intacto, starring Max Von Sydow, might not be familiar to many people but it was a critical success. Number one movie magazine Empire described it as ‘truly original’ and ‘satisfying throughout’. It was so well regarded that a Hollywood remake was expected. That still hasn’t happened, but its high impact scenes (you’ll know why ‘high impact’ if you’ve seen the movie) shot in Las Cañadas, Masca, Puerto de la Cruz and Taganana wouldn’t have gone unnoticed in the film world.

Dense forest, Teno, Tenerife
Tenerife forests – a key location in Intacto

At last there was talk of ‘big’ movies being filmed on Tenerife. A remake of Papillon starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr. sounded like just the sort of heavyweight fare that would put the island on the map as a sought after film location. It fell through, with rumours of negotiations being incompetently handled.

What we did get though was Clash of the Titans, a big budget tale of men, gods and mythical monsters. It might not have been particularly good but it was certainly high profile, bringing the likes of Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton to Tenerife.

Clash of the Titans set, Teide National Park, Tenerife
Greek Mythology comes to Teide National Park for Clash of the Titans

There’s no doubt the fantastical scenery showcased in Clash of the Titans and sequel Wrath of the Titans got more film-makers to sit up and take notice. Before long Vin Diesel and The Rock were racing around the island for the sixth instalment of Fast and Furious, making good use of the Anillo Insular ring road near Guia de Isora and also San Juan de la Rambla.

The Fast and Furious films are more escapist fluff, but they are highly successful and being a location in one did the island’s profile as a film star no harm at all.

This year Doctor Who returned to Tenerife with the good doctor and his assistant (Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman) filming in Teide National Park and Garachico.

Anillo Insular, Ideal for Fast and the Furious, Tenerife
The unfinished Anillo Insular, perfect for the Fast and Furious crew.

September 2015 sees the finest moment in Tenerife’s film career. Jason Bourne has arrived. The Bourne series starring Matt Damon has not only been immensely popular, the movies have received critical acclaim, even prompting a reboot of our favourite spy, James Bond. Favourite that is until Jason Bourne was pulled from the sea by fishermen.

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass’s Bourne is top drawer quality. It is a real cinematic coup to have a film of such a high calibre filmed on the island.

Tenerife has finally joined the Hollywood A list.

I just hope that as Santa Cruz, where Bourne is being shot, is standing in for Athens in the film, people know it is Tenerife.

And as a bonus tour guides can finally drop the bogus Planet of the Apes and Star Wars references and instead proudly mention the blockbuster movies that really were filmed on Tenerife.


Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

About Jack 434 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Facebook

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