When I found out I would be traveling to Jordan on a Cinematic and Cultural Tour… You can imagine my excitement! To say I love movies is a bit of an understatement. I’m not the biggest movie fan I know, but I can certainly hold my own. It’s a movie nerd’s dream come true to visit Jordan film locations!
As promised, Jordan delivers on all counts. It is stunningly beautiful, and it’s easy to see why so many directors and location scouts love with shooting here. The landscape as a setting for powerful stories. The two most popular filming locations in Jordan are Petra and Wadi Rum. As you’ll see from each of the movies filmed in Jordan that I detail below, Wadi Rum is one of Hollywood’s favorite places to film in the past decade.
Feast your eyes on these Jordan film locations. These 8 movies filmed in Jordan include some of the most iconic movies in film history, set in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
I’ll admit it: I’ve never made it through the 228-minute behemoth that is Lawrence of Arabia. But even I must acknowledge that Lawrence of Arabia is truly one of The Greats. (It has a 100% rating on Metacritic!).
In Lawrence of Arabia, the titular character leads struggle for Middle Eastern independence and the Arab revolution. The drama is set against the backdrop of Jordan’s most dramatic landscapes. These locations include Wadi Rum (also featured on Lawrence’s own Seven Pillars of Wisdom book), the deserts of El Jafr and Jebel Tubeiq, and Maan near Petra.
Lawrence of Arabia Photo/Screengrab © Howard Terpning, Wikipedia, Deep Focus Review
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
If only Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had been the final one, we might have ended on such an epic note that few trilogies would have been able to compete for decades to come. Instead, let’s pretend Hollywood isn’t continuing to propagate other films with the namesake character.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is also the movie that put Petra on the collective bucket lists of Western audiences. In fact, many people aren’t aware that The Treasury is one of dozens of buildings and sites in the historic Nabatean city.
In real life, Petra is nothing like what you’d expect. It’s a breathtaking collection of architectural and natural wonders that is bigger, wider, and more impressive than you can imagine. Go see it for your Indiana Jones moment, stay and explore because you may never go back again (though you’ll want to).
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Poster/Screengrab © Drew Struzan, Paramount Pictures
As with many movies on this list, I was late to the game on Prometheus. I had heard good murmurs from friends, but didn’t actually see it until 2013. Now, both the nerdy outer space alien storyline and the awesome film-making in a cool country high on my list of personal faves.
You might have a hard time recognizing Jordan if you didn’t know the movie was filmed there. Director Ridley Scott clearly had a vision for the otherworldly rock formations and wide sandy expanses of Wadi Rum. The visual effects team transformed the red and orange tones into moody indigo, but the elements are still there. If you visit Wadi Rum, you won’t feel like you’re standing on planet LV223 – but you can get a sense for it.
Prometheus Poster/Screengrab © 20th Century Fox
Some people love foreign language films. If you’re one of them, Theeb is definitely worth adding to your list, especially before a trip to Jordan. For what it’s worth, the movie has earned 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics raved about it.
Theeb was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards, and is set in the same era as Queen of the Desert and Lawrence of Arabia. Set against the stark background of Jordan’s driest regions and starring Jordanians and Bedouin, the movie gives stunning insight into what life in Jordan was like during the struggle for independence.
Theeb Poster/Screengrab © MAD Solutions
Queen of the Desert (2015)
I watched Queen of the Desert on the plane to Amman. Afterward I was blown away that it had slipped past my radar. To be fair, I have never been a big fan of Nicole Kidman (and the movie scores abysmally on critic and audience ratings with scathing reviews). However, her portrayal of Gertrude Bell has sparked a passionate interest for me. Now I’ve read a biography of Bell, and she was so much more impressive than the movie portrays.
When it comes to experiencing Jordan through this film, I personally fell in love with the historical context the movie provides. Most people called Bell both “Queen of the Desert” and “Shaper of Nations” for her influential role in drawing the international borders in the region. It might be difficult to pull up the exact film locations (Petra definitely, and a few other anonymous desert scenes), but it’s hard to escape the sense of place you’ll experience watching Queen of the Desert.
Queen of the Desert Poster/Screengrab © Atlas Distribution Company
The Martian (2015)
You might dismiss when I say that The Martian is my favorite movie on the list. Maybe I’ve just had a subconscious love of movies filmed in Jordan.
Filmed primarily in Wadi Rum, The Martian hits all the right notes for both mass appeal. The Martian is brilliantly adapted from the book of the same name. Director Ridley Scott (back after Prometheus) helms the film to successfully blend drama, science, humor, and ethics against a stunning backdrop.
Visiting Wadi Rum, I actually saw several of The Martian filming and production locations; the driver of my 4×4 tour pointed them out. It’s not hard to picture Wadi Rum as Mars because they map so closely together, but it’s a little more pleasant for those of us who visit (and sleep in plush tents) than astronaut Watney during his stay on the red planet.
The Martian Poster/Screengrab © 20th Century Fox
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2017)
If you’ve seen it, you already know: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was filmed in amazing locations around the world. My favorite by far is the chapter in Jedha, worship and pilgrimage site of Jedi and those who believe in the Force. It’s clearly Wadi Rum – and it underscores how many amazing space/sci-fi movies see the otherworldliness of this destination.
While Jedha meets an unfortunate end in Rogue One, there are sweeping views of Wadi Rum to appreciate whether you’ve visited Jordan or are still dreaming of it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Poster/Screengrab © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm
Say what you will about Disney’s persistent desire to butcher, I mean, remake every classic animated movie… It was good to see Wadi Rum get extensive screen time in the 2019 remake of Aladdin.
From the scenes where Jafar tricks Aladdin to enter the Cave of Wonders to the scenes where Aladdin and the Genie design their great plot to win Jasmine’s heart, it’s easy to spot the distinctive rock formations in the background. Whether you are seeking the Cave of Wonders or just to stare in wonder at this obviously breathtaking scene, Wadi Rum is a must-visit place on your Jordan itinerary!
Aladdin Poster/Screengrab © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Filmed in Jordan: Movies Coming Soon!
While I was researching to update this post, I discovered that in addition to Aladdin in 2019, there are two more movies filmed in Jordan that will be released in the next year:
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The final Star Wars movie in the newest trilogy will be released in December 2019. It was filmed in Wadi Rum, just like Rogue One!
- Dune – The highly anticipated remake of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic will be released in 2020. Unsurprisingly, Jordan is an ideal film location since it is so visually similar to the titular planet, Dune.
I’ll be sure to update this post with more info once these two movies come out! If you love movies and want to see these Jordan film locations, now is the perfect time to go!
This post was originally published in August 2016, and was updated in September 2019.