The glitz and glamour of the French Riviera has been caught a number of times on film and the South of France has been a popular destination for filming since the early days of cinema. Boasting both a fantastic natural beauty that is difficult to match in Europe, and a highly desirable climate, it is little wonder that Provence and the French Riviera have found themselves the set for numerous popular titles. While on your holiday, why not follow in the footsteps of some of the most iconic film stars and try your own film set tour? From oldest to more recent releases, we take a look at five of the most popular films shot in the local area.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this classic starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly is set in many locations around the Alpes-Maritimes region. Grant plays a retired jewellery thief named John Robie who tries to track down another jewellery thief who appears to be setting him up. While attempting to clear his name he meets Francie (Grace Kelly). The film features sweeping views of the coastal roads around the French Riviera and a particularly memorable car chase with a Jaguar E-Type in Beausoleil. The road is Route de la Turbie and you can still drive around its curves and overlook the Mediterranean Sea and Monaco’s Port Hercule to this day. Closer to our villas, the Sanford Villa in the film is in Grasse and the car chase begins in the charming village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup. Other important locations in the film are Nice and Cannes. An map of every filming location can be found here.
Le Grand Bleu (1988)
It would be a shame not to include a French film in the list and despite being in English Le Grand Bleu has a major French influence, including a leading role by Jean Reno and direction by Luc Besson. The story is about the rivalry of two competitive divers and follows them as they try to break the world record for the deepest dive. The film was the most financially successful French film of the 1980s and is memorable for the quality of the screenplay. Many of the scenes were shot in the sea around Antibes and scenes filmed in the aquarium were filmed in Marineland, which is also around Antibes and one of our recommended days out for those travelling with kids.
Goldeneye was not the first Bond film to use the French Riviera as a location, with Sean Connery visiting the Cap d’Antibes in Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Monaco and surrounding towns of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu in Never Say Never Again (1983). It was however Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond and shows the truly spectacular side of the South of France. Whilst many of the scenes were again filmed in Monaco and in particular around the casino, it also features a car race between Bond’s Aston Martin and a Ferrari which passes through Grasse, Gréolières and some of the most spectacular roads in the Alpes-Maritimes. The race can be seen here.
A Good Year (2006)
Cruel critics may have portrayed this film as Russell Crowe playing Russell Crowe, yet what is undeniable is that the film set shows the best of Provence. With several scenes set in Gordes and Lacoste, just a 30-minute drive from Domaine de Cabannes and Villa Claire, guests who are staying in one of our western Provence villas can easily find the location for some of the most important scenes in the film. The film follows Crowe as he returns to his beloved uncle’s house in Provence with the goal of getting the best price for the villa before returning to his high-powered job in London. He falls in love with the surrounding area (who couldn’t) and a waitress played by Marion Cotillard (again who couldn’t) and realises there is more to life than money. Settings include lovely sleepy Provencal villages and sweeping views over typically stunning vineyards.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
Moving back to the east, a movie about a perfume manufacturer could only be set in Grasse, perfume capital of Europe. Starring Ben Whishaw (now himself of James Bond) as a precociously talented 18th Century perfume maker, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille with a supernatural sense of smell. The story of Jean-Baptiste is told as a flashback as to how the young man came to be a perfume maker and ended up in Grasse looking to make the world’s finest scent, though it ends with a dark twist. If you visit Grasse you can try your hand at making perfume, though we wouldn’t recommend following some of the methods seen in this film.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of every film shot in the French Riviera and Provence and we have no doubts that directors will continue to use the region as a backdrop to their films for centuries to come.