To anyone who has visited the city, it will come as no surprise to find out that Bangkok has been used as a movie location on more than one occasion. With its blend of modern skyscrapers and beautifully preserved buildings it’s no wonder that Hollywood often look towards Thailand. Films made here range from large comedy blockbusters to small art house thrillers. James Bond has visited on more than one occasion and there are times when Bangkok stands in for other famous cities in Asia. In 2012 over 636 foreign language movies were filmed in Thailand, and the industry is well established making it hassle free for directors to shoot scenes here.
The beaches of the south may offer a more glamorous location for producing films, but Bangkok gets its fair share of movie crews too. We’ve put together a list of our favourite movies filmed in Bangkok starting with 70s classics right up to modern day motion pictures.
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Tour
- Banyan Tree's Apsara Dinner Cruise
- Vertigo & Moon Bar Rooftop Dining
- Ayutthaya Ancient Capital Tour with River Cruise
- Shangri-La Hotel's Buffet Dinner Cruise
- Bridge on the River Kwai & Historic Railway Tour
- Siam Niramit Dinner Show
- Calypso Bangkok Cabaret Show
- Chao Phraya River Dinner Cruise
- Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha Half-Day Tour
Deer Hunter (1978)
When location scouts came to Bangkok in 1978, they were hoping to recreate Vietnam for their anti war movie Deer Hunter. Patpong Road might be one of the more infamous streets in the city, known for its colourful nightlife, but 30 years ago it was a quieter neighbourhood with fewer go go bars and more greengrocers. However, one bar was already entertaining westerners’ visiting on R&R. The Mississippi Queen was about to become even more famous, when the venue and its dancers appeared in the scene after Nick’s release from the military hospital. The infirmary scenes, which producer Mike Deeley believed help secure the 1979 Academy Award for Best Picture and Supporting Actor, were shot at the Sunanthalai Building in Rajinee School near the river. Although the bar no longer exists, the stunning pale yellow colonial building that doubled as the hospital can still be seen.
Hangover 2 (2011)
One of the more recent films shot in the city, the second outing of a stag night gone wrong needed a backdrop as big and loud as Las Vegas – where better than Bangkok? Chinatown, with its beautiful shophouses and busy streets was a significant location with the Song Wad Road roundabout used for the drug dealing smoking monkey scene, causing animal rights group PETA to protest against the film. The sight which most people visit from Hangover 2 is the Sirocco restaurant on the 64th floor of the Lebua Hotel, which has arguably one of the best views in Bangkok. The bar was already pretty busy before the film was released, but now movie fans and panorama enthusiasts stand almost cheek to cheek, sipping on Hangovertinis: a blend of whisky, green tea liquor and apple juice with a dash of rosemary honey, which was created in honour of the film.
Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The first James Bond to be made in Thailand was filmed in 1973 with most notable scenes being filmed near Phuket – in fact there is even a James Bond Island at the spot where the gun duel was held. But Bangkok also makes a few appearances, with the multi vehicle chase being the most notable. It actually starts at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – where Bond is being chased by a boat load of baddies with a speciality in martial art – twists down Klong Dan and ends up with everyone but James Bond in the water. The follow up sees cars careering past Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing. Lumpini Stadium appears in an early scene, and although it has retained the same look as it had in The Man with the Golden Gun, it’s still a very authentic experience. If you want to stay in the same hotel as Bond, then check into the Mandarin Oriental, where he takes Mary Goodnight for dinner and a martini.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
A different decade and a different actor, James Bond returns in the form of Piers Brosnan in 1997. At the last minute, negotiations to film in Vietnam fell through, so filming was moved and, in this movie, Bangkok stands in for another Asian city: Saigon. Now many pages on the internet incorrectly state that the building that Bond and Wai Lin abseil down during an escape (using a banner of the nemesis’s face) is the Banyan Tree. But anyone familiar with the city’s skyscrapers and the film will know that isn’t the case. The scene was actually filmed a kilometre down the road, in the 44 floor Sinn Sathorn Tower on Krung Thonbrui Road. Unfortunately you won’t be able to re-enact the jump scene yourself, as the building is used as an office, and they probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Shame.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Let’s be honest, this extremely violent film is unlikely to bring extra tourists flooding to the city to visit the locations. The stunning, almost pictorial images of Bangkok that appear in the movie gives the city an edgy look, hard enough to recognise for those who live here. Probably the most easily recognisable part of the city is the chase on foot through Nana, which is easily recognisable because of its preponderance of neon signs. The opening scenes give a stylised view of Chinatown and the old tenements blocks that can be found in this area, and thanks to a clever use of coloured light it looks more like theatre than genuine Bangkok. The city definitely looks more real and gritty in the Muay Thai fights filmed at Rangsit Boxing Stadium. At the other end of the spectrum is Emporium Suites, with the penthouse suite used in a number of key scenes, including a clichéd shot of the city skyline.
The Railway Man (2013)
When some of the staff here at Bangkok.com found out that Colin Firth was going to be in Bangkok, there may have been some swooning. Released in 2013, this film follows the tale of a POW who worked on the death railway that ran from the city into Myanmar. Some of the scenes were filmed at the picturesque Hua Lamphong Railway Station, which feels like a step back in time even today, with many of the original fixtures and fittings making it an easy set up for the production team. A greater number of scenes were filmed at Bang Sue train yard, using many extras to give an idea of scale of the labour force. If you have the time whilst in the city, then it’s worth heading to Kanchanaburi to visit the famous bridge over the River Kwai and the peaceful cemeteries nearby, which also appear in The Railway Man.
The Beach (2000)
When most people think of films made in Thailand, they think of The Beach. Bangkok appears right at the beginning and the portrayal of a newbie backpacker discovering Khao San Road is very realistic, even though the film is now over a decade old. Although it may seem that Leo actually wandered along this famous street himself, the main scenes were actually filmed in Krabi Province in southern Thailand rather than Bangkok, because moving thousands of travellers would have been impossible. But to get a realistic impression of how busy and chaotic this small road in the old city is, some of the shots where Leo is shown from behind looking down the street were filmed by his double in Bangkok. As the starting point for many visitors to South East Asia, Khao San Road might only appear briefly in The Beach, but triggers a whole host of memories for those who have visited it.