20 Star Wars Movie Locations You Can Visit in Real Life

Jonathan Olley // Lucasfilm
Jonathan Olley // Lucasfilm

While most of the Star Wars saga has been filmed on sound stages in England and Australia, the filmmakers behind the ongoing space opera have sometimes traveled to real-life places to create the alien worlds of a galaxy far, far away. Here are 20 Star Wars movie locations you can visit in real life.

1. AJIM, TUNISIA

George Lucas used various locations around Tunisia to film exteriors for the desert planet Tatooine, most notably the ferry port town of Ajim. The town was used for the exteriors of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s home, which was actually an old mosque, plus the Mos Eisley Spaceport in A New Hope.

2. THE HÔTEL SIDI DRISS // MATMATAT-AL-QADIMAL, TUNISIA

The Hôtel Sidi Driss in Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Tunisia was used as the Lars homestead (Luke Skywalker’s childhood home) in A New Hope. The hotel consists of five pits, four of them reserved for lodging and sleeping, the fifth dubbed the “Star Wars pit.” Guests can dine in the Lars family dining room, now the hotel’s restaurant. The set dressings were removed after filming in 1976, but returned in the year 2000 in order to film scenes for Attack of the Clones. Ever since, the decorations have remained. Fittingly, it's more commonly known as the "Star Wars hotel."

3. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

George Lucas used Death Valley National Park for pickup shots after shooting in Tunisia for A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. The area between Sierra Nevada and the Mojave Desert, along with Tunisia, were used to make the desert planet of Tatooine come to life, most notably in the scene when Obi-Wan Kenobi meets Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and R2-D2 for the first time.

For Return of the Jedi, Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley was used to film the scene in which C-3PO and R2-D2 travel to Jabba's Palace.

4. HARDANGERJØKULEN GLACIER, NORWAY

The Empire Strikes Back's snowy opening battle scene on the ice planet Hoth was filmed on the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, the sixth largest glacier in Norway.

5. FINSE, NORWAY

At the foot of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier is the small railroad town of Finse, Norway, which is located between Oslo and Bergen, and was used as the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. While shooting in 1979, a snowstorm hit the small town, allowing director Irvin Kershner to shoot two key scenes: Luke Skywalker's escape from the Wampa cave, as well as the young hero's interaction with the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi before he is rescued by Han Solo. Both scenes were shot just outside of the Finse 1222 Hotel.

6. TIKAL NATIONAL PARK // TIKAL, GUATEMALA

In A New Hope, Lucas used ancient Mayan ruins, located in Guatemala's Tikal National Park, as the exterior of the Rebel Alliance’s Massassi Outpost.

7. YUMA DESERT, ARIZONA

Instead of returning to Tunisia for Return of the Jedi, the film's producers chose to shoot Buttercup Valley in Arizona's Yuma Desert for the Sarlacc Pit sequence. Jabba's Sail Barge and the Sarlacc Pit took more than five months to build, and more than 5500 cast and crew members lodged in Yuma during filming in 1982.

8. REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS, CALIFORNIA

California's Redwood National and State Parks portrayed the Forest Moon of Endor, the Ewoks’ home world, in Return of the Jedi. Several scenes, such as the speeder bike chase and the Ewok ambush, were shot in the parks’ many redwood groves in Marin County, which is close to Lucas’s home at Skywalker Ranch.

9. GRINDELWALD, SWITZERLAND

Most of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were shot at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney using green screen. However, Lucas would occasionally send crews out to capture scenery in various locations around the world for the plate photography used in background shots.

One of the real-life places shot for Revenge of the Sith was the beautiful mountain range of Grindelwald, Switzerland, which was used as the backdrop for the planet Alderaan, Princess Leia’s home.

10. VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO // LENNO, ITALY

The Lake Retreat where Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala go into hiding in Attack of the Clones is located at the Villa del Balbainello in Lenno, Italy. Originally built in 1787, the villa overlooks Lake Como and served as a monastery before it was turned over to the National Trust of Italy in 1988. Villa del Balbainello makes another appearance at the end of Attack of the Clones, as the location for Anakin and Padme’s wedding.

11. ROYAL PALACE OF CASERTA // CASERTA, ITALY


The Palace of Caserta in southern Italy, just northeast of Napoli, was used to shoot the interiors of the Theed Royal Palace on Naboo in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Originally built for Bourbon King Charles III in the 1750s, the Palace of Caserta is also the largest royal residence in the world.

12. PHANG NGA BAY // PHUKET, THAILAND

The beautiful island backdrop of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand was used as plate photography for the planet Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s birthplace, in Revenge of the Sith. For certain scenes, shots of Guilin, China were combined with Phang Nga Bay.

13. WHIPPENDELL WOOD // WATFORD, ENGLAND

Lucas used England's Whippendell Wood for two scenes in The Phantom Menace: In the first instance, it's where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet Jar-Jar Binks; the other shows the Wood as a sacred place for Jar-Jar's species, the Gungans.

14. PLAZA DE ESPAÑA // SEVILLE, SPAIN

The beautiful Plaza de España in Seville, Spain was used for the exterior of Theed on Naboo in Attack of the Clones. Anakin and Padme walk through the plaza before the pair go into hiding in the Lake Country.

15. MOUNT ETNA // SICILY, ITALY

Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor in 'Revenge of the Sith'
Lucasfilm

Although Lucas actually didn’t shoot on Mount Etna, his team used Italy’s most active volcano for plate photography for the epic light saber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Mount Etna was actually erupting during filming, so Lucas sent a film crew to capture its flowing lava.

16. SKELLIG MICHAEL, IRELAND

Daisy Ridley in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
Lucasfilm

The island planet of Ahch-To, which the exiled Luke Skywalker called home at the end of The Force Awakens, is actually the island of Skellig Michael, which is located about 7 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland. Around 600 CE, a group of monks built a monastery that sits more than 600 feet above sea level, along with hundreds of rock steps to reach the top. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction for Star Wars fans because it’s where Rey received her Jedi training in The Last Jedi.

17. RUB' AL KHALI DESERT // ABU DHABI, UAE

Daisy Ridley in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Lucasfilm

From Rey’s scavenger marketplace to Poe Dameron and Finn’s crash landing in The Force Awakens, the desert planet of Jakku was filmed in a large section of the Rub' al Khali desert known as “The Empty Quarter,” which is located a few hours away from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The Star Wars cast and crew filmed for six months in the largest contiguous sand desert in the world under the production title “Avco,” named after the L.A. movie theater where director J.J. Abrams watched the original Star Wars for the first time in 1977.

18. SALAR DE UYUNI // POTOSÍ, BOLIVIA

Located near the crest of the Andes is Salar de Uyuni, the Earth’s largest salt flat. It stretches more than 4000 square miles across southwest Bolivia and was used as the filming location for Crait, a mineral planet covered in white salt and red soil where the Resistance held its last stand against the First Order in The Last Jedi. The salt flat was created when prehistoric lakes dried up during the last Ice Age and left more than 10 billion tons of natural salt behind.

19. LAAMU ATOLL, MALDIVES

A still from 'Rogue One'
Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Entertainment

During the climax of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Rebel Alliance, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), breaks into an Imperial Base located on the planet Scarif to steal the top secret blueprints for the Death Star.

Director Gareth Edwards used Gan and Berasdhoo—two very large islands in the Laamu Atoll island cluster in the Maldives—as the filming location for Scarif, a remote tropical planet in the Outer Rim. "Scarif is based on a paradise world, so we had to go to paradise to film it," Edwards said during Star Wars Celebration in 2016.

In addition, the interior of the Imperial Security Complex on Scarif was mostly filmed in the Canary Wharf Underground Station in London, England. Film crews worked on an exciting chase scene through the subway station between midnight and 4 a.m. when it was closed to the public.

20. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

In The Last Jedi, Canto Bight is a casino city on the planet Cantonica, where Finn and Rose embark on a mission to find a master codebreaker to disable the First Order’s new weapon. Director Rian Johnson used the walled seaside city of Dubrovnik, Croatia as the filming location for the lavish city.

Dubrovnik, which is known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” was also used as the filming location for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. So the Croatian city gets double the nerd cred for Game of Thrones and Star Wars fans alike.

Netflix Is Testing Commercials, and Subscribers Aren't Happy

iStock
iStock

Save the occasional "Are you still watching?" message popping up between episodes, it's possible to watch an entire Netflix series in one sitting with little to no distractions. Now, the streaming service is testing something that could upend that: As CNN reports, Netflix has quietly started sprinkling advertisements into its programming, something the subscription-based service has been able to avoid up to this point.

The promotional content Netflix is experimenting with differs from conventional cable commercials in some fundamental ways. The promos won't be advertising third-party brands, Netflix promises: Rather, they'll exclusively show off Netflix original content, like seriesGlow and Stranger Things (though one Reddit user did report seeing an ad for Better Call Saul, which Netflix licenses from AMC). And instead of inserting ads throughout the program, as some non-subscription streaming services do, Netflix will only include them at the end of some episodes with a "skip" button similar to the one that allows viewers to bypass a show's opening credits. And each promo subscribers see will be personalized based on their viewing habits, hopefully turning them on to new shows and not just annoying them in the middle of their binge-watching sessions.

Despite these assurances from Netflix, viewers aren't happy. Many customers have taken to social media threatening to cancel their service if the promos become the norm, which likely may not happen: They've only been shown to a select number of test viewers so far, and based on user response, Netflix may decide to pull the plug on the experiment.

The good news is that as long as the ads are still in the test phase, you can choose to opt out of them. Just go to Netflix.com/DoNotTest and toggle off the switch next to the words "Include me in tests and previews." Now you're ready to resume your binge-watching marathon without interruption.

[h/t CNN]

10 Things You Might Not Know About Columbo

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

For more than 40 years, Peter Falk entered living rooms around the world as Lieutenant Columbo, an unconventional L.A. homicide detective known for his ruffled raincoat and trademark cigar. The actor would go on to win four Emmys for the role, while the series itself remains a benchmark for television crime dramas. But if series creators William Link and Richard Levinson went with their initial choice, the iconic role of Columbo would have gone to a syrupy-smooth crooner rather than the inelegant Falk. Get familiar with one of TV's most unique heroes with facts about Columbo.

1. BING CROSBY WAS ORIGINALLY EYED FOR THE ROLE.

Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link's first choice to play their low-key detective was crooner Bing Crosby. Der Bingle loved the script and the character, but he feared that a TV series commitment would interfere with his true passion—golf. It was probably providential that Crosby turned the role down, since his death in 1977 occurred while the series was still a solid hit on NBC. 

2. PETER FALK WAS AN UNEXPECTED SEX SYMBOL.

Peter Falk in 'Columbo'
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Character actor Lee J. Cobb was also considered for the role, until Peter Falk phoned co-creator William Link. Falk had gotten a copy of the script from his agents at William Morris and told Link that he’d “kill to play that cop.” Link and Levinson knew the actor back from their days of working in New York, and even though he was the opposite of everything they’d originally pictured for Lt. Columbo, they had to admit that Falk had a certain likeability that translated to both men and women. Falk was described by a certain female demographic as “sexy,” and males liked him because he was an unthreatening, humble, blue-collar underdog who was smarter than the wealthy perps he encountered.

3. FALK WAS A GOVERNMENT WORKER BEFORE BECOMING AN ACTOR.

Peter Falk wasn’t too far removed from the character he played. In real life he tended to be rumpled and disheveled and was forever misplacing things (he was famous for losing his car keys and having to be driven home from the studio by someone else). He was also intelligent, having earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, which led to him working for the State of Connecticut’s Budget Bureau as an efficiency expert until the acting bug bit him. He was also used to being underestimated due to his appearance; he’d lost his right eye to cancer at age three, and many of his drama teachers in college warned him of his limited chances in film due to his cockeyed stare. Indeed, after a screen test at Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn dismissed him by saying, “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

4. COLUMBO'S DOG WASN'T A WELCOME SIGHT AT FIRST.

Columbo's dog
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Columbo was renewed for a second season, NBC brass had a request: they wanted the lieutenant to have a sidekick. Perhaps a young rookie detective just learning the ropes. Link and Levinson were resistant to the idea, but the network was pressuring them. They conferred with Steven Bochco, who was writing the script for the season opener, “Etude in Black,” and together they hatched the idea of giving Lt. Columbo a dog as a “partner.” Falk was against the idea at first; he felt that between the raincoat, cigar, and Peugeot his character had enough gimmicks. But when he met the lethargic, drooling Basset Hound that had been plucked from a pound, Falk knew it was perfect for Columbo's dog.

The original dog passed away in between the end of the original NBC run of the series and its renewal on ABC, so a replacement was necessary. The new pup was visibly younger than the original dog, and as a result spent more time in the makeup chair to make him look older.

5. FALK'S REAL-LIFE WIFE PLAYED A ROLE IN THE SERIES.

Falk first met Shera Danese, the woman who would become his second wife, on the set of his 1976 film Mikey & Nicky. The movie was being filmed in Danese’s hometown of Philadelphia, and the aspiring actress had landed work as an extra. They were married in 1977, and she was able to pad out her resume by appearing on several episodes of Columbo. Her first few appearances were limited to small walk-on parts—secretaries, sexy assistants, etc. By the time the series was resurrected on ABC in the early 1990s, she was awarded larger roles.

She originally auditioned for the role of the titular rock star in 1991’s “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star,” but her husband adamantly refused, since the role included a scene of her in bed making love to a much younger man. She instead played the role of a co-conspiring attorney, and was also allowed to sing the song that was the major hit for the murdered star.

6. THE CHARACTER'S TRADEMARK RAINCOAT CAME FROM FALK'S CLOSET.

The initial wardrobe proposed for Columbo struck Peter Falk as completely wrong for the character. To get closer to what he wanted for Columbo, the actor went into his closet and found a beat-up coat he had bought years earlier when caught in a rainstorm on 57th Street. And he ordered one of the blue suits chosen for him to be dyed brown. The drab outfit would become one of the trademarks of the character for decades.

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG GOT AN EARLY BREAK ON COLUMBO.

“Murder by the Book” was the second Columbo episode filmed, but it was the first one to air after the show was picked up as a series. Filming was delayed for a month, though, when Falk refused to sign off on this “kid”—a 25-year-old named Steven Spielberg—to direct the episode. Finally he watched a few of Spielberg’s previous credits (all of them TV episodes) and was impressed by his work on the short-lived NBC series called The Psychiatrist. Once filming was underway, Falk was impressed by many of the techniques employed by the young director, such as filming a street scene with a long lens from a building across the road. “That wasn’t common 20 years ago,” Falk said. He went on to tell producers Link and Levinson that “this guy is too good for Columbo."

8. COLUMBO'S FIRST NAME WOUND UP THE SUBJECT OF A LAWSUIT.

Fred L. Worth, author of several books of trivia facts, had a sneaking feeling that other folks were using his meticulously researched facts without crediting him. He set a “copyright trap” and mentioned in one of his books that Lt. Columbo’s first name was “Philip,” although he had completely fabricated that so-called fact. Sure enough, a 1984 edition of the Trivial Pursuit board game listed the “Philip” Columbo name as an answer on one of their cards, which led to a $300 million lawsuit filed by Mr. Worth.

The board game creators admitted in court that they’d garnered their Columbo fact from Worth’s book, but the judge ultimately determined that it was not an actionable offense. By the way, years later when Columbo was available in syndicated reruns and HD TV was an option, alert viewers were able to freeze-frame a scene where the rumpled lieutenant extended his badge for identification purposes in the season one episode “Dead Weight” and determine that his first name was, in fact, “Frank.”

9. THE SERIES DIDN'T FOLLOW A STANDARD MYSTERY FORMAT.

The premise of Columbo was the “inverted mystery,” or a “HowCatchEm” instead of a “WhoDunIt.” Every episode began with the actual crime being played out in full view of the audience, meaning viewers already knew “WhodunIt.” What they wanted to know is how Lt. Columbo would slowly zero in on the perpetrator. This sort of story was particularly challenging for the series’s writers, and they sometimes found inspiration in the most unlikely places. Like the Yellow Pages, for example. One of Peter Falk’s personal favorite episodes, “Now You See Him,” had its genesis when the writers were flipping through the telephone book looking for a possible profession for a Columbo murderer (keep in mind that all of Columbo’s victims and perps were of the Beverly Hills elite variety, not your typical Starsky and Hutch-type thug).

A page listing professional magicians caught their eye, and that led to a classic episode featuring the ever-suave Jack Cassidy playing the role of the former SS Nazi officer who worked as a nightclub magician. When the Jewish nightclub owner recognized him and threatened to expose him, well, you can guess what happened. But the challenge is to guess how Lt. Columbo ultimately caught him. 

10. THERE WAS A SPINOFF THAT KIND OF WAS BUT THEN WASN'T.

The 1979 TV series entitled Mrs. Columbo was not technically related to the original Peter Falk series. In fact, Levinson and Link opposed the entire concept of the series; it was NBC honcho Fred Silverman who gave the OK to use the Columbo name and imply that Kate Mulgrew was the widowed/divorced wife (the series changed names and backstories several times during its short run) of the famed homicide detective. The “real” Mrs. Columbo was never mentioned by her first name during the original series, but actor Peter Falk possibly slipped and revealed that her name was “Rose” when he appeared at this Dean Martin Roast saluting Frank Sinatra and asked for an autograph.

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