Lights, camera, action. Phuket and Krabi have captured the imagination of filmmakers for many years. The island and its surrounding areas have played host to a number of films that have gone on to achieve great commercial success and critical acclaim. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous movies that were made in or near Phuket.
The Meg 2: The Trench (2023)
Unreleased as yet, again starring (an apparently reluctant) Jason Statham and ‘Meg’ the gigantic shark. It’s set 4 years after the first film. People in the know who were locally involved in the production say its even worse than the first film but is scheduled for release in August this year – then you can decide for yourself.
The Hangover II (2011)
One of the most famous films to be shot in and around Phuket is The Hangover II. This film, which was a sequel to the original Hangover movie, starred Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Ken Jeong. The film was filmed almost entirely in Bangkok and around Phang Nga Bay, which includes Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton in Krabi.
While the film gives you the impression that you turn left in Bangkok, travel an hour or so, and arrive in Phang Nga Bay, the reality is that you would have to travel all the way south, around Singapore, and then north through the Malaca Straits, a journey of three or four days! Despite the geographical inaccuracies, the film was a box office hit and grossed nearly $600 million worldwide.
The plot of the film revolves around a group of friends who wake up after a wild night in Bangkok to find that the groom is missing. The film follows their attempts to find the groom and piece together what happened the night before.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Two of the most iconic James Bond movies were filmed in and around Phuket. The first is ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, which starred Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. James Bond sets out to stop a media mogul’s plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. The film was partially shot in Ho Chi Minh City, which was actually filmed in Bangkok and Phang Nga Bay, pretending it was some other Asian location.
The second Bond movie filmed in Phuket was ‘Man with the Golden Gun’, which starred Roger Moore as Bond. Many of the extensive sequences in this film were filmed in and around Phang Nga Bay. Ko Tapu, a limestone monolith standing all by itself, has become a major tourist attraction in the bay and has even been renamed James Bond Island in honor of its backdrop performance in the movie.
Heaven and Earth (1993)
Heaven and Earth is a 1993 American biographical war drama film written and directed by Oliver Stone. The movie featured a stellar cast, including Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen, and Hiep Thi Le. It is the third and final film in Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.
The film was shot in Thailand as the Vietnamese government had decided that Oliver Stone liked to depict their country in a negative light. Town shots were filmed around Old Phuket Town, and many of the wider shots of open paddocks and fields were filmed around Krabi.
The film was based on the books When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, which Le Ly Hayslip wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, the film was a box office flop, earning only $5.9 million on a budget of $33 million.
Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)
The author walked out on this one but tried to watch it again on TV – this time fell asleep. Assuming Jason Statham just likes coming to Phuket and figures he has to pay for the airfare somehow, he walks and snarls through this tawdry sequel. This time, Bishop’s most formidable foe kidnaps his love interest in order to make him complete three impossible assassinations and make them look like accidents.
The Impossible (2012)
Shot in 2012 and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Hard to leave out this one out as the story was about Phuket, Khao Lak and the Andaman Sea’s largest natural disaster – the Asian tsunami of 2004. The story revolves around a British family staying in Khao Lak for their Christmas holidays.
The movie starred Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Many Phuket extras were enlisted as extras for the movie. If we had one criticism about this film it would be the focus on the single family whilst the disaster killed up to 250,000 who were never referred to in the film.
The Beach (2000)
The Beach, a 2000 adventure drama film directed by Danny Boyle and based on Alex Garland’s 1996 novel of the same name, tells the story of Richard (played by pre-dad-bod Leonardo DiCaprio), a young American backpacker searching for adventure in Thailand. Along the way, he meets a French couple, Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Étienne (Guillaume Canet), and together they set out to find a secret beach paradise.
The film was partly shot on location around Phuket Town and Koh Phi Phi Leh in Phang Nga Bay. However, the producers faced backlash from local environmentalists who were upset by the bulldozing and landscaping of sections of the Koh Phi Phi Leh beach to make it more “paradise-like”, including clearing some of the coconut trees and grass.
The lawsuits dragged on for years, and in 2006, Thailand’s Supreme Court ruled that the filming had harmed the environment and ordered damage assessments to be made.
While the producers had made allowances for repairing any damage caused, the 2004 Asian tsunami ended up doing its own “alteration” of the beach. The natural disaster caused significant damage to the area, and the beach, as seen in the movie, no longer exists. Then again, it could be argued that the millions of tourists that have trampled the ‘beach’ after being drawn to Maya Bay in the wake of the movie, have caused a lot more damage than the movie.
Interestingly, Ewan McGregor was initially cast as the main character, but he left the production due to disputes with the director. It was later speculated that Director Danny Boyle was offered additional funding under the condition that DiCaprio be cast and that Richard’s British character be turned into an American, which might have been more fun to hear DiCaprio attempt a British accent.
The ‘crappy old’ On On Hotel in Phuket Town, which was depicted in the movie, has undergone a major renovation and is now a swish boutique hotel worth visiting.
Despite the controversy surrounding the film’s production, The Beach remains a beloved classic, known for its stunning visuals and exploration of youth, adventure, and the search for utopia.
The following two films had small sections filmed in or around Phuket or Krabi.
‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’ (2005)
Shot in 2005, directed by George Lucas, the finale of the original six Star Wars episodes. There were a few scenes filmed around Krabi Province to represent the Wookie home planet ‘Kaashyyk’. By the time the CGI crew got their hands on the original footage you’d be hard pressed to recognise the scenery.
‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ (2004)
A 2004 sequel of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and directed by Beeban Kidron that reunites the same cast members: Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver. This time, the movie’s plot takes them to Bangkok (some scenes were shot along the infamous Soi Cowboy), to Phuket International Airport, Nai Yang Beach, and Panyee Island in Phang Nga Bay.
Fast and Furious 9 – The Fast Saga (2021)
The first part of the film was shot in and around Krabi under tight security. From there the film just became increasingly silly. So watch the first half hour and enjoy the Krabi landscape… good luck with the rest.
Here’s a more complete LIST.