When travelling to a new place, we tend to immerse ourselves in travel blogs, travel guides and YouTube videos to search out the best places to visit. We look for monuments, museums and natural landscapes to discover for ourselves. Food blogs are poured over to find the best deals in town or the best location for a local dish. Sometimes though, the real excitement for a trip comes not from the research, but from watching a movie set in the location you are heading to or inspired by stories from its past.
Greece is a country steeped in mythology and ancient history, but many of the incredible Greek movies set there focus more on the more recent past and present. This shows viewers a more accurate representation of where they are heading while showcasing some of the best locations, talent and scripts that Greece has to offer. Here are 20 Greek movies not to be missed before you travel to Greece.
- Greek Movies
- 20 Movies About Greece You Need To Watch Before Visiting
- 1- Mamma Mia! (2008)
- 2- Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
- 3- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
- 4- Arcadia Lost (2010)
- 5- My Life in Ruins (2009)
- 6- Zorba the Greek (1964)
- 7- Before Midnight (2013)
- 8- The Big Blue (1988)
- 9- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- 10- Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003)
- 11- The Two Faces of January (2014)
- 12- Shirley Valentine (1989)
- 13- High Season (1987)
- 14- Opa! (2009)
- 15- The 300 Spartans (1962)
- 16- Troy (2004)
- 17- Alexander (2004)
- 18- Politiki Kouzina (2003)
- 19- Cheap Smokes (2000)
- 20- The Other Me (2016)
- 20 Movies About Greece You Need To Watch Before Visiting
20 Movies About Greece You Need To Watch Before Visiting
1- Mamma Mia! (2008)
While the movie is set on the fictional island of Kalokairi, Mamma Mia! was actually filmed on the island of Skopelos during the summer months.
Mamma Mia! is based on a musical of the same name, which launched in theatres in 1999.
The musical features songs from ABBA throughout and had ABBA member Benny Andersson compose the additional music used.
Mamma Mia! is a feel-good rom-com about a young girl who invites three men to the island for her wedding, with the hopes of finding out which man is her father.
It’s a must-view for ABBA fans and those who dream of a Greece filled with sun, blue seas, and white sands.
2- Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
Boy on a Dolphin is an American adventure-romance movie set in Greece.
The story centres around Sophia Loren, acting in her first English-language movie as Phaedra, a sponge diver based on the island of Hydra.
This stunning island is in the Aegean Sea and gets its name from the number of natural springs on the island.
There is plenty of mythology in this Greek classic.
Phaedra finds a statue of a boy riding a dolphin at the bottom of the sea.
A competition between an archeologist who wants the statue to go to the people of Hydra and a dealer of historical artefacts who is only interested in money ensues, but who will be victorious?
3- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a movie based on a 1994 book by British author Louis de Bernieres.
The book and film are set on the idyllic island of Cephalonia during the Italian and German occupation of WWII.
The film centres around a fisherman and his girlfriend, who falls in love with an Italian commander when he departs to fight for Greece.
To ensure the book was accurate, de Bernieres spoke to locals from the island and visited regularly.
The same level of care and detail was taken with the movie, which is still recognisable when visiting today despite being set in the 1940s.
4- Arcadia Lost (2010)
Arcadia Lost is an American Drama set in a small village named Poulithra in the Arcadia region of Greece.
The movie centres around two teenagers stranded in central Greece following a car accident.
When the teens meet an American ex-pat named Benerji, they head towards the sacred Mount Parnonas searching mystic waters.
Arcadia Lost explores more of rural Greece through its locations, however, it is dotted with calls to Greece’s ancient past.
Scenes filmed in Poulithra are some of the most beautiful in the movie, with its cliffside houses surrounded by rocks, green shrubbery and of course, the glistening sea.
5- My Life in Ruins (2009)
My Life in Ruins is a romantic comedy surrounded by the ancient ruins of Greece.
The story follows Nia Vardalos, star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, as a tour guide in Greece.
Her personal life takes an unusual turn whilst comedic situations happen to her and the tourists as they tour around some of Greece’s most famous ruins.
Famous Greek landmarks are taken in during the movie, including the Parthenon, which sets the scene for an unusual fight between a rival tour guide and Nia’s group.
This is certainly the film to choose for a more light-hearted approach to movies set in Greece, with a healthy handful of landmarks thrown in for good measure.
6- Zorba the Greek (1964)
Michael Cacoyannis wrote, produced, edited and directed Zorba the Greek, a Greek comedy-drama.
This Greek movie is based on a 1946 novel called The Life and Times of Alexis Zorba, written by Nikos Kazantzakis.
In the movie, Greek-British writer Basil has grown up the perfect English gentleman.
He heads to the island of Crete to reopen a lignite mine owned by his father.
On his travels to Crete, he meets the enthusiastic Zorba.
As the two travel to the island together and work there together, they find themselves in unusual situations with the locals.
Despite the many highs and lows in the movie, the film closes on a beautiful scene of Zorba and Basil dancing on the most perfect of Greek beaches.
It’s a true masterpiece that shows off the beauty of the island.
7- Before Midnight (2013)
Before Midnight is part of the Before trilogy is the third instalment, following Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
The story follows now couple Jessee and Celine as they holiday in Greece with their children.
Much of the film is set on the Peloponnese peninsula.
Despite the film, like its two predecessors, not having much of a plotline with most of the events centred around characters in conversation, the film does open up the peninsula’s beauty.
8- The Big Blue (1988)
While not solely set in Greece, The Big Blue will undoubtedly make you long for its tranquil blue waters.
The Big Blue is set in Peru, Sicily, France and of course, the Greek Islands.
The movie follows two champion deep-water free divers who are friends and, of course, rivals.
While the film is spectacular in its rawness and emotion, keep your eyes peeled for the scenes shot on the island of Alonissos.
The island is remote and is only reachable via ferry.
What it offers is unrivalled deep blue waters filled with incredible sea life.
Those who watch The Big Blue before heading to Greece are bound to want to search out snorkelling or scuba diving equipment to see this incredible site for themselves.
9- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Starring Roger Moore as the famed MI6 agent James Bond, For Your Eyes Only was filmed between England, Italy and Greece.
The movie’s plot centres around Bond, who is trying to locate a missile command system.
With a Greek businessman adding to the tangled web of deception, and a woman seeking revenge for the death of her parents, this Bond classic has it all.
Filming locations included Meteora and Achilleion. In Meteora, a Greek bishop permitted scenes to be to filmed within the monasteries, much to the dismay of the local monks inhabiting it.
While the Greek locations in the movie are small, their appearance on screen certainly adds to the wanderlust of those wanting to travel to the country.
10- Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003)
Angelina Jolie returns as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life. The film is set on Santorini, an island in the Aegean Sea.
Following an earthquake on the island, the Luna Temple is discovered.
Built by Alexander the Great to house his treasures, the temple is, of course, raided by Croft and her team.
A rival team appears, and a deadly fight ensues.
Following her escape from the fight, Croft is approached by MI6 to locate Pandora’s box, which is hidden in the Cradle of Life. But Croft must find it before the rival team do.
While the movie is set between Africa, China and Greece, the locations on the island of Santorini are precisely how we imagine treasure hunting in a land so rich in ancient history as Greece.
11- The Two Faces of January (2014)
The Two Faces of January is an exciting thriller set in 1962 and was filmed between Greece and Turkey.
Like any good thriller set in the 60s, The Two Faces of January follows three people, a conman and his girlfriend and an American who has alienated himself from his family and has resorted to cheap scams on tourists.
While the story twists and turns, and characters are involved in deception, cons and even murder, the viewer is treated to stunning shots in Crete’s capital Irklion and incredible ruins at Acropolis and Knossos.
12- Shirley Valentine (1989)
Shirley Valentine was filmed on the island of Mykonos, an idyllic island filled with perfect white houses set against rich azure skies.
The movie tells the story of Shirley, a frustrated housewife who heads to the island to find herself. Here she falls in love.
The island has seen an enormous increase in tourism thanks to the movie.
To recreate its romantic splendour for yourself, head to Ai Giannis for its beach bars and restaurants.
13- High Season (1987)
British romantic comedy High Season is set on the Greek island of Rhodes and has an eclectic mix of characters.
The nine main character’s time on the island intertwines, however is centred around Kath and Patrick, a divorced couple still living on the island.
As the stories progress and the nine principal characters get embroiled in each other’s lives, the stunning surrounding of Rhodes completes this British rom-com, transforming it into a must-watch before heading to Greece.
14- Opa! (2009)
Opa! is set on the island of Patmos.
In the movie, archeologist Eric discovers that an incredibly important artefact may be buried underneath a restaurant owned by the woman of his dreams, Katerina.
While the characters explore archeology, history, and love, the viewer is whisked to a romantic corner of Greece filled with ancient wonder, calm blue seas, and postcard-perfect coastal towns.
15- The 300 Spartans (1962)
The 300 Spartans were shot in the village of Perachora in Peloponnese.
The filmmakers gained the permission of the Greek government to use the village as the location.
The movie follows the tale of the 300 Spartans in their epic fight against a seemingly unlimited army of Persians.
As the movie builds up and tensions rise between the two rivals, the 60s views of Perachora offer nothing aside of wanderlust for those watching.
16- Troy (2004)
When thinking of Greece and its incredible array of ruins and mythology, Troy is always at the top.
The 2004 reimagining of the movie is an epic undertaking, loosely following the Iliad by Homer. The film focuses on the decade long Trojan war and the heroes depicted in the Iliad.
Despite the film not being set in Greece, with much of the filming on a gigantic set built on the island of Malta, Troy is still a must-watch before heading to Greece.
The movie condenses a decade long war into scenes spanning a mere few weeks and gives the viewer an understanding of one of Greece’s most powerful and important tales from its ancient history.
17- Alexander (2004)
Alexander is an epic three-hour-long movie that follows the life of Alexander the Great.
The movie features incredible costumes from Ancient Greece and some familiar names from Ancient Greek writings.
Sadly none of Alexander was filmed in Greece, with much of the filming undertaken in Thailand.
That being said, this epic movie offers an insight into one of the greatest war-minds in history, and for those interested in Ancient Greece and the landmarks now in ruins to be explored, this film cannot be missed.
18- Politiki Kouzina (2003)
Translating to A Touch of Spice, Politiki Kouzina is a Greek film directed by Tassos Boulmetis.
The story is moving and follows a professor reminiscing on his childhood growing up in a Greek community in Istanbul.
Following riots and deportation, the lead character Fanis finds himself struggling to adapt to life in Greece.
This movie is a heartfelt reflection on Greece’s troubled history and its impact on its citizens, who are nostalgic for the past whilst optimistic for the future.
19- Cheap Smokes (2000)
Set in Athens during the summer, Cheap Smokes is a powerful Greek language film that cannot be missed before heading to Greece.
We follow Nikos, an out of work poet, and Sophia, a fashion stylist who meet in the still of the night by a phone booth.
The film follows the pair throughout the night as they open up to each other and wonder what changes their lives should take.
Despite the film being set in Athens at night, the romance and allure of the city oozes from the screen.
20- The Other Me (2016)
A movie with contention around its release is The Other Me. Sotiris Tsafoulias directed the crime film.
The plot is inspired by Pythagoras’ amicable numbers and sees a serial killer use 220 as their calling card.
Criminologist Professor Dimitris Lainis is called in to help police catch the killer before more people die.
The movie is powerful and is set in varying locations across Greece.
While the movie has strong ties to Greece’s mathematical history, it was withdrawn from cinemas following the death of a taxi driver, which was believed to be inspired by the movie.
The movie has since been released online by the director.