You might not expect it but one of the busiest movie studios outside of those in Hollywood is located in Morocco, which helps to explain why so many movies are set in Morocco. Not to mention that if you’ve watched any movie taking place in the desert lately there’s a big chance it was filmed in Morocco.
Over the last few decades, Morocco has transformed itself into one big movie set for an array of both national and international films. Moroccan landscapes serve as the backdrop for movies set in places like the Middle East and North Africa.
Arguably the most famous movie to shoot in Morocco is the classic Casablanca (1942), but it does not end there. There is a long list of movies set in Morocco, where filmmakers have been drawn to its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and the ease of filming in one of the world’s major film-shooting sites, many of which have successfully immortalized the spirit of Morocco.
We love this because one of the reasons why we watch movies is that they are an excellent way to travel to different places while staying at home – and to determine if a destination elicits that oh-so-important spirit of wanderlust in us before ever investing in a ticket there.
This cinematic wanderlust is what first motivated us to visit Montana, Boston, and Scotland – among many other places. Then there were those times we were chasing the glorious high you get from stepping out in a real-world location and feeling spontaneously transported back inside to an iconic movie scene (thus the abiding popularity of visiting Middle Earth / New Zealand or James Bond’s Skyfall).
In Morocco, of course, such magical places exist too, many of which are on full display in these movies set in Morocco. In the following paragraphs, we will take a dive into some of Morocco’s best films and the incredible places where they take place.
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
The Old Guard is an American superhero film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, and Matthias Schoenaerts.
The movie tells the tale of female warrior Andy (Theron), who leads a secretive select band of immortal mercenaries with the mysterious ability to heal themselves. For centuries they have protected the mortal world while trying to stay under the radar. When their team is hired to rescue a group of kidnapped children in South Sudan, their special gifts are suddenly exposed.
While The Old Guard takes place in many countries, it was only filmed in two: The United Kingdom and Morocco. Shooting in Morocco took place mostly in and around Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country one of the four Imperial cities, and the capital of the Marrakesh-Safi region.
The busy market square in the opening scenes of the film is Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square, and marketplace in Marrakesh’s old city region called Medina quarter. It’s the main square of Marrakesh and is used by both locals and tourists. Scenes taking place in South Sudan, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Somalia were also filmed in various locations in Morocco.
Babel is a psychological drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael García Bernal. It is a co-production among the United States, Mexico, and France and is still considering one of the best movies set in Morocco to these day.
In the movie, two teenagers in Morocco set out armed with their father’s shotgun to escort their herd of goats. Along the way, they decide to test the rifle and this has disastrous consequences. The lives of four groups of people are directly related to this incident. We see the story of an American tourist couple, a Mexican nanny who smuggles two children across the American border, and a Japanese deaf teenager and her father. Their lack of communication skills with those around them means that, despite an incident that unites them all, they remain completely isolated.
A large part of Babel’s storyline takes place in Morocco, and was also filmed on location there. Filming was done in and around Ouarzazate, a city and the capital of Ouarzazate Province, located in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet. Other scenes were shot at Taguenzalt, a small village located in the region of Souss-Massa-Drâa. Cameras also rolled in and around Casablanca, Morocco’s largest and arguably most famous city, located on the Atlantic coast of the Chaouia plain.
Alexander is a historical drama film based on the life of the ancient Macedonian general and King Alexander the Great. It was directed by Oliver Stone and stars Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie and Val Kilmer.
The movie is an international co-production among the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy. The film revolves around Alexander the Great, a Macedonian warlord who conquered ninety percent of the then known world by having his army cover 22,000 miles in eight years. Alexander traveled through the Persian Empire to Egypt and from there to India in the East. This movie focuses on these eight tumultuous years and Alexander’s relationship with his childhood friend and comrade-in-arms Hefaistion.
A lot of scenes in Alexander were filmed in the Moroccan region of the Atlas Mountains. Filming was also done in and around Aït Benhaddou, a historic fortified village located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Other scenes were filmed in Ouarzazate, a city and the capital of Ouarzazate Province, located in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet.
The cities of Marrakesh and Essaouira, located in the western Moroccan region of Meṛṛakec-Asfi, were also part of the shooting schedule.
Close is an American / British action thriller film directed by Vicky Jewson and starring Noomi Rapace, Sophie Nélisse, and Indira Varma.
The movie is about Sam (Rapace), the world’s top female bodyguard and counter-terrorism expert. She takes a job where she has to protect a wealthy heiress. But after a violent kidnapping attempt, they both must flee to stay alive.
While a good portion of Close was filmed in the United Kingdom, using green screens and CGI trickery to make the sets look like Morocco, a reasonable portion of the film was also shot on location in Morocco. Cameras on Close rolled in Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country one of the four Imperial cities, and the capital of the Marrakesh-Safi region. And in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city located on the Atlantic coast of the Chaouia plain.
Zoe’s fortified mansion is located in the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakesh and is called Villa E. If you are interested in visiting it, or even staying there, you are in luck. Because the villa is listed on several villa rental websites. Be ready to pay a steep price though because they charge around $ 1100 per night.
Othello is a tragedy film directed and produced by, and starring Orson Welles. The film is a co-production among the United States, Italy, France, and Morocco and is based on the Shakespearean play. It also stars Micheál MacLiammóir and Robert Coote.
When a secret marriage is planned between Othello (Welles), a Moorish general, and Desdemona, the daughter of Senator Brabantio, her old suitor Roderigo takes it hard. He allies himself with Iago, who also has a grudge against Othello. The two conspire to bring Othello down by having him accused of witchcraft. When this first plan fails they plant evidence intended to make him believe Desdemona is unfaithful.
Othello is one of the earliest classic films shot on location in Morocco. Filming took place in Essaouira, a city in the western Moroccan region of Meṛṛakec-Asfi, located on the Atlantic coast. Additional filming was done in Safi, a city in western Morocco located on the Atlantic Ocean, and in the city of Agadir, located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean near the foot of the Atlas Mountains.
Fun fact: There is a square in Essaouira named after Orson Welles, and there is a plaque in the middle of that square dedicated to his memory.
Mosul is an Arabic-language American war action film written and directed by Matthew Michael Carnahan and starring Waleed Elgadi, Hayat Kamille, and Thaer Al-Shayei.
It tells the tale of a group of men fighting to take everything back after IS occupied their homes, families, and city. Based on true events, this is the story of the Nineveh SWAT team, a renegade police unit who conduct a guerrilla operation against IS in a desperate battle to save their hometown of Mosul.
Mosul is a Netflix original and the first all-Arabic film in the streaming service’s history. It was filmed mostly on location in Morocco, specifically in Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country and one of the four Imperial cities and the capital of the Marrakesh-Safi region. And in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city located on the Atlantic coast of the Chaouia plain. There are a few aerial shots of the actual damaged city of Mosul.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is an American suspense thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring James Stewart, Doris Day, and Bernard Miles.
The movie revolves around a typical, somewhat naive American family who are on vacation in Morocco with their ten-year-old son Hank. They accidentally become involved in an international conspiracy and their son is kidnapped to keep them quiet. This suddenly entangles them in a net of intrigue and murder.
This classic flick by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock was mostly filmed in Morocco, in and around Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country and the capital of the Marrakesh-Safi region. A lot of well-known locations of the city can be seen in the movie. Like Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square and marketplace located in the old city region called Medina quarter. And the luxurious palace hotel La Mamounia is located close to Bab El Djedid.
Another very famous building that appears on-screen twice is the Kutubiyya Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakesh. Additional scenes were shot at the Saadian Tombs, a historic royal necropolis located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque.
The Man Who Would Be King is a British / American adventure film directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Christopher Plummer. One of the best movies set in Morocco, the film was adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name published in 1888.
The film revolves around Daniel Davrot and Peachy Carnehan, two ex-sergeants of the British army, who now lead an adventurous and very irregular life. But their existence isn’t adventurous enough for them, and they want to spice things up with a venture as ambitious as it is bold. They want to penetrate the inhospitable and unapproachable realm of Kafiristan. Since Alexander the Great, they would be the first Europeans to enter this unknown land. They also immediately want to become Alexander’s successors: to become king of Kafiristan and to appropriate immeasurable riches.
This classic film was shot almost entirely on location in Morocco. The scenes where Danny and Peachy offer to be counselors to the leader of the Er-Heb village was filmed in Tagadirt n’Bour, a village located in the region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz. Other scenes were filmed at the Todgha Gorges, a series of limestone river canyons located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains, near the town of Tinerhir.
The battle with the inhabitants of the Bashkai village takes place in Tifoultoute, a desert arena near Ouarzazate. The Ouzoud Falls can also be spotted in the movie. They are several waterfalls that empty into the El-Abid River’s, located near the Middle Atlas village of Tanaghmeilt, in the province of Azilal.
Lawrence of Arabia is a British historical drama film directed by David Lean and starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness. The movie is based on the life of British archaeologist T. E. Lawrence and his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom published in 1926.
The year is 1935 when Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence gets killed on his motorcycle. At his memorial service, every guest has a different opinion about him. The story then flashes back to 1916 when England and France fight against Germany in World War I. Turkey, which dominated the Middle East for centuries, is joining the German side. It appears vital to British strategy to unite the Arab tribes under Turkish rule into one Arab army in order to defeat the Turkish Empire. Young Lieutenant Lawrence is sent to Arabia and decides to lead the Arab uprising on his own initiative.
Lawrence of Arabia was filmed on location in many countries, including the United States of America, Jordan, Spain, and Morocco, which we will be focusing on for the sake of this article. Filming took place in and around Aït Benhaddou, a historic fortified village located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech.
The scenes depicting the massacre of the Turkish army were filmed in the desert region located south of Ouarzazate. Moroccan army troops participated in the filming of these scenes, but they were generally impatient and uncooperative making for a hard shoot.
The Jewel of the Nile is an American adventure film directed by Lewis Teague and starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito.
The movie is about Jack and Joan, who have a nice boat and a quiet life, but are getting tired of each other and their way of living. Joan accepts an invitation to go to a country in the Middle East as a guest of the sheik. Once there, she is kidnapped and forced to find a jewel. Jack decides to rescue her with his new partner Ralph.
The Jewel of the Nile was filmed mainly in the United States, France, and Morocco. The Moroccan locations include Meknes, one of the four Imperial cities, located in northern central Morocco. The final scenes of the movie take place on royal palace square located in Meknes. The plane crashing scenes were filmed at Aït Benhaddou, a historic fortified village located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Additional filming was done in the Ouarzazate desert and at the Atlas Corporation Studios close to the city of Ouarzazate. The F-16 fighter jet that is seen in the film is still on display there.
This includes our list of the best films set in Morocco. We hope our list will inspire you to gather your friends and family and plan a Moroccan movie night. Watching these movies might even inspire you to make the trip there to enjoy the paradise beaches, sweeping expanses of desert, and big impressive mountains Morocco has to offer.