Over the years, the dazzling scenery of Thailand has featured in countless movies. And a host of international A-listers have travelled to Thailand to film including Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sylvester Stallone, Roger Moore, and Renée Zellweger. From James Bond to Bridget Jones to Rambo, Thailand features in some stellar films. The film industry has been an important source of revenue for Thailand and also showcased the outstanding beauty of the country and the culture of the people who live here. Listed here in chronological order is our pick of 40 of the best movies filmed in Thailand. They might not all be classics (we’re talking about you, Cutthroat Island!), but they do all feature fabulous footage of Amazing Thailand.
1) The Ugly American (1963)
This Marlon Brando movie is notable for a couple of reasons. Although much of the filming for The Ugly American took place in Hollywood, Thailand also featured as the fictional South-East Asian country of Sarkhan with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok one of the prominent locations used. Art imitated real life with the Thai statesman who played the prime minister of Sarkhan, Kukrit Pramoj, elected as the Prime Minister of Thailand in 1975. If you are in Bangkok, a visit to the elegant traditional Thai house where he lived, MR Kukrit’s Heritage Home, is highly recommended.
The Ugly American (1963)
2) The Big Boss (1971)
Bruce Lee’s classic martial arts film, The Big Boss, follows the fortunes of a young fighter from China who emigrates to Thailand to be with his family. He finds work in an ice factory only to discover it is a front for a drug operation. The movie features Pak Chong district in Nakhon Ratchasima, North-East Thailand.
The Big Boss (1971)
3) The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Undoubtedly one of the most famous films shot in Thailand, The Man with the Golden Gun features a number of locations in and around Bangkok including Ratchadamnoen Avenue (near the Grand Palace), Ratchadamnoen Muay Thai Stadium, Muang Boran (Ancient City), and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (Ratchaburi). Bangkok’s sumptuous Mandarin Oriental Hotel also features as the setting for James Bond (Roger Moore) dining with Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). But the movie is probably best remembered for the incredible scenery of Phang Nga Bay. The hideout of Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee) is the island of Ko Khao Ping Gan. This is the island that is now known as ‘James Bond Island’ and features on tour itineraries from Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga. Standing isolated in the sea just beyond James Bond Island is the needle-shaped limestone karst of Khao Tapu (Nail Mountain). In the movie, this is where Scaramanga housed the solar panels which powered his laser weapon. When Scaramanga and Bond duel on Ko Khao Ping Gan, it is Khao Tapu which can be seen in the background.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
4) The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter is one of many Vietnam War movies that uses Thailand in place of its near neighbour. The multi-Oscar winning film features a host of stars including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. The Russian roulette bar scene where Walken shoots himself was filmed in Bangkok’s Patpong nightlife area and the POW camp with cages in the river was filmed in Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
5) The Killing Fields (1984)
The moving story of The Killing Fields and the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge uses a number of locations in Thailand as stand-ins for the actual locations in Cambodia. The Railway Hotel in Hua Hin (now the Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas) was used as the Hotel Phnom Penh and locations in Bangkok and Phuket also feature.
The Killing Fields (1984)
6) Rambo (1985, 1988 and 2008)
Three movies from the Rambo franchise – First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rambo (2008) – were partly filmed in Thailand, but we’re lumping them all together as one (no offence, Sly!). The Chiang Mai countryside features frequently and in Rambo III the mountain temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is shown as too is Wat Phra Tak Pha in Lamphun. During filming of Rambo in 2008, Sylvester Stallone apparently spent a lot of time in Chiang Mai city and was reported to be a regular at The Duke’s restaurant near the Iron Bridge on the Ping River.
7) Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam used Bangkok as a substitute for Saigon with rooms in the Malaysia Hotel in the Thai capital transformed into the radio station where Williams’ character, Adrian Cronauer, would broadcast from. Thai actress Jintara Sukapat plays the love interest in a movie which was also filmed in Phuket.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
8) Kickboxer (1989)
9) Air America (1990)
The gorgeous scenery of Mae Hong Son province in North Thailand stands in for Laos in Air America, the story of a covert CIA operation in Laos during the Vietnam War. In one of the movie’s most iconic scenes, Mel Gibson’s character takes an unsuspecting Robert Downey Jr. for a helicopter ride with a difference over Chong Kham lake in Mae Hong Son town.
Air America (1990)
10) Heaven & Earth (1993)
Directed by Oliver Stone, Heaven & Earth is another of the Vietnam War movies that uses Thailand as a backdrop with Bangkok and Phuket featuring. The beautiful Sino-Portuguese building of Baan Chinpracha was one of the locations used in Phuket Town.
Heaven & Earth (1993)
11) Cutthroat Island (1995)
Arguably the worst of the movies on this list, but notable for the stunning locations used. Five years before Maya Bay was featured in Danny Boyle’s, The Beach, the Phi Phi Islands were seen on the big screen in Cutthroat Island, a pirate romp starring Geena Davis. Other locations in Krabi province featured in the movie include Ko Poda and Phra Nang Beach.
Cutthroat Island (1995)
12) Mortal Kombat (1995 and 1997)
Mortal Kombat (1995) was partly filmed around the ancient temples of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai Historical Park. The 1997 follow-up, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation featured a young Tony Jaa who worked as a stunt double on the film which again used Ayutthaya as one of the locations. In the clip below, The Temple of Light in China is in fact Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya.
Mortal Kombat (1995 and 1997)
13) Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Pierce Brosnan plays 007 in the 1997 Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies. Bangkok stands in for Ho Chi Minh and Phang Nga Bay makes an appearance too. In the clip below, Bond abseils down the Banyan Tree Hotel in Bangkok before going on a motorbike chase in the Thai capital.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
14) The Beach (2000)
Filming of The Beach took place at a number of locations around Thailand, but it is most closely associated with Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh. Filming here was controversial and the subsequent surge in tourism to the Phi Phi Islands also created environmental concerns for Maya Bay.
In Alex Garland’s novel, Ang Thong Marine Park near Ko Samui was said to be the inspiration for the story. But in the movie version, it is Maya Bay on the opposite Andaman Coast which is used as the hideaway beach. Khao San Road in Bangkok features as the backpacker hub, the waterfall jump takes place in Khao Yai National Park, and the On On Hotel in Phuket Town also makes an appearance.
The Beach (2000)
15) Beyond Borders (2003)
Beyond Borders (2003)
16) Belly of the Beast (2003)
Steven Seagal stars in Belly of the Beast as a former CIA agent who searches for his kidnapped daughter in Thailand. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but you will get to see a lot of Bangkok during the movie.
Belly of the Beast (2003)
17) Beautiful Boxer (2004)
Based on a true story, Beautiful Boxer won international acclaim for its sensitive portrayal of transgender Muay Thai boxer, Parinya Charoenphol (aka Nong Toom) who used her winnings from the sport to pay for her sex change operation.
Beautiful Boxer (2004)
18) Two Brothers (2004)
Set in 1920s Indochina, Two Brothers is the story of two tiger cubs who are taken into captivity. Starring Guy Pearce, the movie was filmed in Cambodia and Thailand with the Ancient City (Muang Boran) near Bangkok one of the locations used.
Two Brothers (2004)
19) Alexander (2004)
Starring Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great, Thailand might not be an obvious choice for filming. But for Alexander, Oliver Stone used locations along the Mekong River in the north-east province of Ubon Ratchathani province instead of India. Saraburi province in Central Thailand was also used with soldiers from the Royal Thai Army helping out as extras.
20) Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
This remake of the 1956 film (which also featured Bangkok) stars Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan. Much of the filming for Around the World in 80 Days took place in America and Germany, but Thailand also makes an appearance with Krabi used as a substitute for a rural village in China (shown at the end of the trailer below).
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
21) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant headed to Thailand to film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Locations included Bangkok and Phuket with the clip below showing Phang Nga Bay and Ko Panyee as well as Nai Yang Beach in Phuket.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
22) Into the Sun (2005)
Steven Seagal returns to Thailand for Into the Sun, the story of a man protecting his family from the Yakuza. Filmed mostly in Tokyo and Bangkok, a few scenes were also filmed in Chiang Mai.
Into the Sun (2005)
23) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Another unlikely, but welcome appearance for Thailand on the big screen, takes place in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Two different film crews were on location in Guilin in China and Krabi and Phuket in Thailand with the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay featuring in post production filming for the Battle of Kashyyyk, the home of the Wookies.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
24) Stealth (2005)
Amongst the locations used for Stealth were Krabi, Phi Phi and Chiang Mai. In fact, during filming of this high-speed action thriller, actor Jamie Foxx was so taken with Chiang Mai that he light-heartedly suggested in an interview that he might retire to North Thailand in the future.
25) The Elephant King (2006)
The Elephant King (2006)
26) Rescue Dawn (2006)
Rescue Dawn is based on the true story of American fighter pilot, Dieter Dengle, who was shot down in Laos in 1965 while carrying out a secret mission during the Vietnam War. Christian Bale plays the role of the pilot with filming taking place in the remote jungles of north-west Thailand close to the Myanmar border.
Rescue Dawn (2006)
27) American Gangster (2007)
Based on the true story of American criminal Frank Lucas, American Gangster stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. During his criminal career, Lucas smuggled heroin from Vietnam to New York. Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas with parts of the action taking place in Chiang Mai, both in the city itself and in the countryside to the north. Look carefully and you may spot Waworot Market (Kad Luang) and John’s Place (renamed Blue Bros Bar for the film) near Thapae Gate.
American Gangster (2007)
28) Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
Professional hitman Joe (Nicolas Cage) breaks his own rules in Bangkok Dangerous when he falls for a Thai woman during one of his jobs. Filmed on location in Bangkok and also features the cave at Tham Luang in Phetchaburi.
Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
29) Pai in Love (2009)
Filmed over a decade ago, this Thai movie continues to inspire domestic tourism to Pai in Mae Hong Son province. The story in Pai in Love might be twee, but it does a great job in highlighting the charm of this beautiful part of North Thailand.
Pai in Love (2009)
30) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
When Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 it became the first Thai film to win the prestigious Palme d’Or. Filmed in and around Nakhon Phanom in Isaan, the movie was written, produced, and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
31) The Hangover Part II (2011)
Not everyone’s cup of tea, The Hangover Part II takes some liberties with the geography of Thailand (speedboat from Bangkok to Krabi anyone?) and relies on a number of tired cliches. But there are some epic shots of Thailand in the movie including the wedding scenes at Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton in Krabi and the Skybar at Lebua at State Tower in Bangkok. The film also helped to coin the phrase, “Bangkok has him now”.
The Hangover Part II (2011)
32) The Impossible (2012)
The Impossible (2012)
33) Lost in Thailand (2012)
Lost in Thailand is a Chinese film which became an unlikely box office sensation in China and subsequently led to a huge surge in Chinese visitors to Chiang Mai.
Lost in Thailand (2012)
34) Only God Forgives (2013)
Starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas, Only God Forgives is a lively crime thriller filmed on location in Bangkok.
Only God Forgives (2013)
35) The Railway Man (2013)
Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman play the main roles in The Railway Man. Firth plays the role of a former British Army officer tortured as a prisoner of war while forced to work on the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi. When he discovers that the Japanese man responsible for much of his mistreatment is still alive, he sets out to travel to Thailand to confront him.
The Railway Man (2013)
36) No Escape (2015)
No Escape is set in a generic South-East Asian country which changes from a country of peace to one of danger following a violent coup. Starring Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan, the movie was filmed in locations around North Thailand including Chiang Mai and Lampang. Those of you who have been to Chiang Mai before may recognise the mountain backdrop of Doi Suthep, the Imperial Lotus Hotel, Chiang Mai Airport and the streets near Waworot Market.
No Escape (2015)
37) The Cave (2019)
The Cave retells the remarkable true life story of the Wild Boars youth football team in North Thailand. The world was gripped by the international rescue effort to get the youngsters safely out of the flooded cave at Tham Luang in Chiang Rai.
The Cave (2019)
38) Changeland (2019)
Seth Green’s directorial debut, Changeland, was shot on location in Thailand with Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga all featuring. The story was inspired by Green’s own real-life trip to Thailand a decade before the release of Changeland.
39) Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Directed by Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods is a movie about four African American army veterans who return to Vietnam (Thailand was used for filming) in search of the remains of their fallen squadron leader. The film features Chadwick Boseman who passed away in August 2020. The movie was filmed in the jungles of North Thailand with locations including Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, and Chiang Dao.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
40) F9 (Fast and Furious 9) (2021)
Filmed in Krabi and originally scheduled for a 2020 release, Fast and Furious 9 was rescheduled for release in April 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fast and Furious 9 (2021)