Morocco has become one of the world’s favorite sets for films that have a desert feel. In one of the regions most stable countries and with an affordable cost of doing business, more and more directors and producers are choosing Morocco. Check out some of these movies filmed in Morocco!
The Hollywood of Morocco
Ouarzazate was once a small desert outpost and today is known as the Hollywood of Morocco. It was a small trading post for traders who came through the Sahara. During the French protectorate it was a military outpost and customs depot. It rose to prominence in 1983 with the creation of Atlas Film Studios. This studio is the largest in the world (based on acreage) and an estimated 75% of films shot in Morocco are done in this area.
But, not all films shot here, in fact most films, are not meant to portray Morocco. Instead the country stands in for other destinations around the world that are much harder to access either due to geography or safety concerns. As much as Morocco is proud to host film crews there also is a sense that it would like to portray itself. There are many concerns that come from being the placeholder, and people are beginning to challenge the portrayal of the country. It’s a double edged sword (you can read more in this great article from The Guardian).
I’ve rounded up ten films and episodes of series you can stream on Netflix right now (July 2016) that were filmed in or set in Morocco. Not all of these titles will stream in all Netflix locations and there may be more titles available in different countries. I’ve based this list off of what is available in the United States. There are dozens more and I’ve also put together many of those that you can find on Amazon.
Set in Morocco
Admittedly there are few movies or series available on Netflix that portray Morocco as Morocco. However, I did find three!
Horses of God. Directed by controversial film maker Nabil Ayouch. “Two brothers growing up in brutally harsh slum in Morocco are ensnared in a web of poverty, injustice, and violence spawned by fundamentalist Islam.” Ayouch takes on controversial subjects and was the director of “Much Loved” and “Ali Zaoua” both films take on major social issues in Morocco; prostitution and street children.
The Time in Between is a film adaptation of the book by Maria Duenas. “With Spain on the brink of civil war, a Madrid dressmaker follows a lover to Morocco, loses a fortune, and ends up a spy for the allies.” The movie takes place in a time that is not often portrayed on film with a strong female character.
Cooked Episode 3: Air This series of episodes narrated and led by Michael Pollan is a Netflix documentary (meaning no matter where you are in the world, if you have access to Netflix you’ll be able to stream). Episode 3 focuses on air and is largely set in Morocco featuring the importance of bread + air.
Filmed in Morocco
The Mummy + The Mummy Returns Both the original and the sequel of this series are available now on Netflix. A hit movie at the turn of the century it was filmed entirely in Morocco, between Marrakech and the Sahara. The sequel was later also filmed in Morocco. “When an American archeology team unwittingly resurrects a cursed mummy. It’s up to an adventurer and clumsy Egyptologist to stop the evil spirit.”
Black Hawk Down “When US forces attempt to capture two underlings of a Somali warlord , their helicopters are shot down and the Americans suffer heavy casualties.” It was filmed in Rabat, Morocco but doesn’t portray Morocco at all – it’s a stand in for Somalia. The film won two Oscars.
Spy Game – This is one of my all time favorite movies, that I loved before I even visited Morocco. I love the story lines and plot not to mention the various places around the world the story goes. “With a comrade facing execution in a foreign land, this CIA officer has one last mission to complete before retirement.” The scenes from “Vietnam” and “Beirut” are actually in the Fint Valley and Casablanca, Morocco respectively.
Gladiator – It was this film that put Morocco as a film studio on the present-day cinema map. It was one of the first major blockbuster films to see success and several other Hollywood directors began using the Moroccan studios in following years. The African town where Maximus is sold is Ait ben Haddou just outside Ouarzazate. “Once a triumphant general. Now a forsaken slave. One heroic man finds a way to alter the course of an empire.”
Sahara. “A real treasure hunter doesn’t look for gold in the obvious places. Like a shipwreck…in the desert?!?” The backstory of this film and the story following its release may be more interesting than the movie itself. While it preformed incredibly well it had a huge production cost and faced several legal hurdles as well. Watch the film but do some digging to find out the story surrounding it as well.
The Bible Miniseries. “Murder, betrayal, miracles, resurrection – the beginning of the beginning gave life to juicy drama.” This 2013 miniseries aired on The History Channel and broke a lot of viewership records and was filmed between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. A.D. The Bible Continues was a follow up miniseries that aired on NBC and was also filmed in Morocco.
Two of my favorites that aren’t available to stream on Netflix but can be found else where are Game of Thrones and Queen of the Desert with Nicole Kidman and Robert Pattison. I caught Queen of the Desert on an in-flight movie and was completely engrossed. An excellent film! The TV mini-series based off the book by the same name, The Red Tent was filmed in Morocco as well as blockbuster film Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. There’s been a slew of new films and TV series that have been filmed in Morocco including;
- The Yellow Birds (2016)
- Damascus Cover (2016)
- Watch Them Fall (2016)
- War Dogs (2016)
- Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
- 13 Hours (2016)
- A Hologram for the King (2016)
- Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
- Prison Break (TV) (2016)
- Tyrant (TV) (2016)
- Spectre (2015)
- Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
- Rock the Kasbah (2015)
Watch for several of these to come out in coming months!
For even more movies that aren’t available on Netflix, you can find DVD’s on Amazon that are worth a watch. I’ve collected several here to make them easier to find.
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