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Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

12 Abandoned Movie Sets You Can Actually Visit

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although movie productions often film scenes on location, sometimes a real-life location doesn’t offer all of the right places that are called for in the script. So they build it! But taking that set back down isn’t always a top priority. Whether it’s because the property owner wants to keep the space intact for tourism purposes or because it’s simply cheaper to leave the set behind instead of cleaning it up, there are pieces of cinematic history in every corner of the world. Here are 12 of them.

1. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)

Although the cargo ship, originally named “The Livingston,” was built in 1912 for the East Africa British Railways company, director John Huston spotted the vessel on the Ruki River in the Democratic Republic of Congo and wanted to give it the titular role in his Oscar-winning film, The African Queen. After the film grew in popularity, a San Francisco businessman bought the ship—now renamed after the movie—and transported it to the United States to attract tourists and movie fans. Throughout the decades, the steamboat changed hands a few times before finding its way to an attorney based in Florida in 1982, who owned (and sailed) it until his death in 2001.

In 2012, Suzanne and Lance Holmquist leased “The African Queen” and completely restored it with a new interior steel-hull frame and replacement boiler, but kept its rustic and worn-out charm. The ship now offers daily tours and dinner cruises on the Port Largo Canal.

2. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Located in the middle of the Tabernas Desert in Almeria, Spain, you’ll find a large abandoned Western frontier that was the shooting location for Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name Trilogy: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; and Once Upon A Time in the West. The movie set featured Old Mexico-style churches, a saloon, and a hangman’s noose in its public square, and was used for many other Spaghetti westerns in the 1960s and ’70s. Since the genre’s decline in popularity, the movie set has since been abandoned, but fans still flock to what has become known as Fort Bravo/Texas Hollywood.

3. POPEYE (1980) 

In 1979, Paramount Pictures and Disney co-produced Popeye with Robin Williams as the titular sailor man and Shelley Duvall as his main squeeze Olive Oyl. The live-action musical was filmed in Malta, where director Robert Altman and his crew spent seven months building a full-scale Sweethaven on the island’s coast, then another seven months shooting the film. When production wrapped, the Sweethaven set remained in Malta and was converted into Popeye Village, which is now a family resort.

4. FULL METAL JACKET (1987)

Stanley Kubrick hated to travel, even if a film’s script dictated it. Which meant he had to get extra creative on occasion. Case in point: Full Metal Jacket, which required the director to transform the East London borough of Newham into Vietnam. Thousands of palm trees and plastic tropical plants were imported from Spain and Hong Kong to re-dress the abandoned Beckton Gas Works manufacturing plant in London into the bombed out movie set of the ruins of Huế in Vietnam. Beckton Gas Works is still standing and a popular tourist attraction with Stanley Kubrick fans.

5. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

While a majority of Schindler’s List was filmed at the true story’s actual locations in Poland, a replica of Kraków-Płaszów was the only movie set built, which is located in Liban Quarry, about four miles away from Kraków. The film’s production team built barracks, watchtowers, and a road leading into the Nazi labor and concentration camp from the original blueprints and plans. A replica of Amon Goeth’s (Ralph Fiennes) villa was also built above the labor camp site.

6. THE FUGITIVE (1993)

At the beginning of The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble narrowly escapes from a prison transport bus that collides with a speeding freight train. The debris from the iconic scene is still located near the Smoky Mountain Railroad in Dillsboro, North Carolina. The collision scene alone cost a whopping $1.5 million and was filmed in only one take. The remains of the bus and train were abandoned after production wrapped because it was cheaper to simply leave them behind rather than clean it up. Today, it’s one of the many points of interest on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion.

7. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001-2003) AND THE HOBBIT (2012-2014)

Located in Matamata, New Zealand, Peter Jackson picked an area of farmland as the filmsite for Hobbiton and The Shire for his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Construction on building Hobbit Holes, gardens, a double arch bridge, and a small mill began in early 1999 before shooting started at the end of the year. When the first film in the trilogy became a runaway success, tourists and J.R.R. Tolkien fans began to flock to the movie set, despite it being abandoned after production wrapped a year earlier.

When Warner Bros. announced that Peter Jackson would make a film adaptation of The Hobbit, a permanent and operational Hobbiton was rebuilt at the same location in Matamata for production in 2011. Once filming wrapped, the Hobbiton set was turned over to the farmland’s owners, who included a detailed replica of the interiors of the movie sets that were filmed at Wellington Stone Street Studios. Additionally, The Shires Rest Cafe and The Green Dragon Inn bar are included as part of the two-hour guided tours of the movie set.

8. BIG FISH (2003)

The fictional town of Spectre, Alabama in Tim Burton’s Big Fish was an elaborate movie set built on the Alabama River near the city of Montgomery. During the course of Big Fish, the town of Spectre increasingly gets more rundown with wear and tear through the decades, as the character of Edward Bloom (played by both Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney) returns to it throughout his life. Some of the set’s buildings and storefronts have now collapsed from decay, exposing Styrofoam trees and moss. The movie set is located on private property, but $3 can get you access inside.

9. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003)

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was mainly filmed on location at Wallilabou Anchorage on the main island of St. Vincent on the Caribbean Sea. Disney built elaborate pirate ships, replica cannons, and authentic period docks and marketplaces for the 2003 sequel. Production abandoned a majority of the movie sets on Wallilabou Anchorage, turning it into a very popular tourist attraction.

10. THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

Director Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes was filmed on location in Morocco. Gas Haven, a 1950s-style gas station, was built specifically for the horror movie, but was abandoned once production wrapped. It remains in the province of Souss-Massa-Draa, about 20 minutes outside of Ouarzazate, so feel free to visit the deserted movie set (but watch out for crazy mutants).

11. THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

While The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, Henry River Mill Village in Burke County, North Carolina was used to film the very poor District 12. The small village was home to North Carolina’s once-thriving textile industry during the early 20th century, but has since become a ghost town due to the sharp decline in manufacturing in the state. It found new life as District 12 in 2011, as The Hunger Games production team re-fashioned Henry River Mill Village’s buildings, storefronts, and abandoned homes to match the film’s tone. Henry River Mill Village is located on private property, but there are tours and photo opportunities available.

12. ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012)

The war-torn backdrop featured in Zero Dark Thirty was not entirely filmed on location in Afghanistan; some of it was shot at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita Valley, California. The movie set remains unused, but the film’s props—such as a downed helicopter—are still scattered around. The owners of the ranch call it, “an Afghanistan-town set that is so real the U.S. military uses it for training purposes.”

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
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Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.

MAY 1

27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Amelie

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls

Darc

God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2

Shrek

Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors

Sometimes

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

MAY 2

Jailbreak

MAY 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

Anon

Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2

Manhunt

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1

MAY 5

Faces Places

MAY 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

MAY 8

Desolation

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives

MAY 9

Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16

89

Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom

Wanted

MAY 18

Cargo

Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23

Explained

MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25

Ibiza

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

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20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
Netflix

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.

1. WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)

What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. FLINT TOWN (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA (2013)

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.

Where to watch it: Makers.com

4. THE JINX (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO

5. MAKING A MURDERER (2015)

The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. WORMWOOD (2017)

Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. FIVE CAME BACK (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011)

If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

9. UGLY DELICIOUS (2018)

David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. JAZZ (2000)

A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.

Where to watch it: Amazon

11. THE STAIRCASE (2004)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

12. PLANET EARTH II (2016)

The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.

Where to watch it: Netflix

13. THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009)

The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. CONFLICT (2015)

Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. LAST CHANCE U (2016)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. VICE (2013)

Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.

Where to watch it: HBO

17. CHEF’S TABLE (2015)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. NOBU’S JAPAN (2014)

For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

19. THE SYSTEM (2014)

Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

Where to watch it: Al Jazeera and Sundance Now

20. BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT (2018)

It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix

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