10 Hollywood Movies Shot in Stunning Indian Destinations
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
With beautiful architecture, deep history, multiple cultures, and natural beauty, India is a mix of different people and locations, providing a great background for different movie scenes and shootings.
The people are loud and welcoming, the places historic and awe-inspiring. Many directors from the US, Canada, and Australia, among various other countries, have chosen India for the scenes of their movies due to the contrasts, history, and rich cultural background it provides. Some directors may play up this and make it a big part of their movies, others yet may choose to let the richness of the setting be, framing the characters well.
"India is a curious place that still preserves its past, religions, and history. No Matter how modern India becomes, It is still very much an old country."
We've picked some of the best movies shot in India, some you may not have heard about and some you never knew were shot in India. Either way, we recommend you watch all of them, if not for their fabulous storylines then for the stunning Indian destinations they feature!
1. Salaam Bombay
Features - Outskirts of Bombay, Bombay city
Year - 1998
This highly acclaimed popular film directed by Mira Nair broke many hearts and garnered international praise for her risky choice of plot and sensitive topics touched upon with all the expertise of brilliant direction. The film follows a little boy, Krishna, who is taken into the chaotic, brutal, and unforgiving slums of Bombay following a string of unfortunate events. Nair introduces a range of characters to the setting, centering them around the city's brothel, touching upon topics such as poverty, prostitution, child rape, enslavement, drug addiction, and child labor.
Although she does so smoothly, incorporating them into the setting, viewers get a brutal glimpse of the unforgiving streets of Bombay and its state in the 80s - 90s. The movie captures the rush and adrenaline of Bombay, its old streets, older monuments, and the ever-present poverty. This movie will give you shots of what Bombay is, and make you see the glamorous city in an entirely different light.
2. The Namesake
Features - Calcutta, Agra
Year - 2006
The Namesake directed by Mira Nair is a movie that touches upon Indian-Americans and the cultural identity crisis that is often experienced by them. The movie, screened in India, Japan, US, and Canada, did well in theatres and received praise for the topics it tackled. The story follows Gogol, a man born and brought up in the US and estranged from his Indian heritage unlike his parents, who then goes on to explore and understand his culture through the city of Calcutta/Kolkata where his parents lived before moving to America.
The movie captures the contrasts of both cultures, depicting scenes of the beautiful, messy streets of Kolkata, with a focus on Howrah station and Shantiniketan. The scenes range from Gogol exploring the old city streets of his hometown to getting off an auto near the busy Howrah station. It also has short depictions of the city of Agra (filming the iconic Taj) and its busy streets, along with the older tuk-tuks used in some parts of Kolkata. The movie succeeds in capturing the best parts of Calcutta - its people, its culture, its language, and its history. Visit the locations of Kalighat, Howrah station, Howrah Bridge, Shantiniketan, Bengal markets, and the winding, rich streets of the city of Calcutta for a feel of the movie and the culture that eventually sways all Indians back.
3. Eat Pray Love
Features - New Delhi, Pataudi, Mirzapur, bits of Gurgaon
Year - 2010
Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love was a game-changer for many readers across the globe and adapted into a film four years thereafter. Directed by Ryan Murphy, the blockbuster follows the journey of Elizabeth (played by Julia Roberts) across a journey of self-discovery where she 'Eats' in Italy, 'Prays' in India, and experiences the balance of 'Love' in Indonesia.
What we loved about this movie is that the director and producer chose locations, people, and lines with care while filming in India, not wanting to get details wrong or offend the culture in any way. Elizabeth sees in her journey Delhi, a city which's speed and chaos she is fascinated by. You'll spot famous places like the India gate and bustling Hauz Khas market, but only for a short time as Gilbert moves to the quiet village of Pataudi, Haryana, where she has her real spiritual experiences, exploring the town and its devoted residents, the famous Hari Mandir ashram, and other spiritual locations. The filming places special emphasis on the ashram, its quietness, the history of the architecture, and the beliefs of the people, respecting the details and importance of each. Some shots are also taken in the town of Mirzapur (yes, like the show) in Uttar Pradesh, showing its small local eateries, the chai stalls, and its small colorful buildings. We highly recommend you visit Delhi with its bustling markets and streets, then on to Pataudi, exploring the quaint town and the famous ashram, and Mirzapur, with its unique layout, busy roads, and colorful buildings for the complete Eat Pray Love experience.
We recommend you read this blog by Breathe Dream Go on her take on the movie, the story of Julia Roberts' amazing experience in India, and what the film stands for.
4. Viceroy's House
Features - Jodhpur
Year - 2017
Viceroy's House is a British-Indian historical film with multiple storylines running in its midst, following the last British Viceroy and his family as they oversee the separation and independence of the Indian states. Although its depiction of the painful separation of India-Pakistan and the cultural clashes still remaining today are well done, many criticize the depiction of the role of the British government in the same.
We picked this movie for its beautiful depiction of Rajasthan, mainly Jodhpur. The Umaid Bhawan was the palace used for filming, centered in most of the movie. Some old Jodhpuri courtyards and forts (such as Mehrangarh) were used for filming and multiple structures were recreated to resemble the architecture of that time period. The movie captures the beauty of the historic city perfectly, not playing down the many scars of the city and its structures either. Watch the movie for a look at what the past was like for this beautiful location, and visit Jodhpur, a stunning, historical, and sprawling city to know more about India's fight and the monuments that make it so majestic.
5. The Darjeeling Limited
Features - Jodhpur, Udaipur
Year - 2007
The movie is chaotic, wonderful, and a humorous take on traveling in beautiful and confusing India. Directed by Wes Anderson, the movie follows the journey of 3 brothers across India (mainly Rajasthan) in a train (The Darjeeling Limited) as they travel, live, and explore together, mending a broken relationship.
Their journey takes us through the temples of Rajasthan, the stunning endless deserts of Jodhpur, and the streets of Udaipur. Although many scenes were supposed to be shot in Himachal Pradesh they were instead filmed in Udaipur, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. The way the movie depicts the rural parts of the sprawling state in contrast to the tighter, narrower roads of the metropolitan cities makes us want to take a trip to Rajasthan and stand in the endless dirt fields under the sun, the horizon stretching out of the eye. We hope you give this movie a watch and get inspired by the depiction of the chaotic culture, kind people, and stunning landscapes of Rajasthan, specifically the historic Udaipur and royal Jodhpur.
Features - New Delhi, Vrindavan
Year - 2013
Jobs is a movie based on the life of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, directed by Joshua Michael Stern. The movie is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, taking a dramatic look at the life of Jobs. In the movie, we see snippets of the many parts of his life, including a spiritual trip to India that Steve Jobs had taken in the 1970s, influenced by the writings of Indian authors and spiritual leaders and the apparent experiences from taking LSD.
The movie covers a short period of a long trip, going between New Delhi and the city of Vrindavan, where Jobs had spent quite a few weeks. Multiple famous locations of Delhi featured in the movie, including Hauz Khas, Jama Masjid, and Safdarjung Tomb. The movie is great for a look at some of the best spots in the city, and the reactions of someone completely new to the chaos, confusion, and vibrancy that is India.
Features - Jaipur, Mumbai
Year - 2011
Trishna, directed by Micheal Winterbottom, is the splendid adaptation of Thom Hardy's classic novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, set in modern-day India. The movie follows the story of Trishna, a girl swept away from her small town and into the big city by a dashing man, who soon turns out to be someone controlling and abusive.
The movie drives a hard point home about the duties of an Indian woman, and how she can never really escape them or society and its many expectations. We see the best of the two cultures of Rajasthan and Bombay, two states completely opposite to each other, in the movie, understanding Trishna's difficult transition from a meager life of hard work in sprawling, beautiful Jaipur to a fast-paced one in Bombay, a completely modern city. The best part about the direction of the scenes is that we see not just the setting, we see the people of the cities intimately and their hard lives. We realize the interplay between these two factors as the scenes show the small minds of a royal city, and the cunning attitudes of the bigger, faster Bombay. Everyone should give this movie a watch, not just for the stunning scenes of Jaipur and Bombay (including the forts, streets, and markets of the same)
Features - Khandwa, Kolkata
Year - 2016
This internationally acclaimed movie directed by Garth Davis is based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley which tracks his journey of finding his birth mother, who he had been estranged from in India at the age of 5. The movie is heart-wrenching and well-told, with an honest portrayal of India.
In the movie, you'll see multiple snippets of some famous, some not so famous locations across India. You'll be able to spot the famous Howrah station in Kolkatta, Amherst street, Bowbazar, and various others, along with the Ganesh Talai area of Khandwa, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. The film is a very close adoption of the book, and readers of the famous novel will be able to tell the similarities and small details they got right. We recommend you watch this movie for its heartwarming story, the depiction of the plight of children in poverty, and the incredible journey of one five year old across the bustling streets of Kolkata, the crowded historic train stations, and the narrow streets of a slum in a small town.
9. Dark Night rises
Features - Jodhpur
Year - 2012
We've all heard about this blockbuster, but did you know that the Christopher Nolan directed movie featured a scene from India, specifically the Indian city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan? Christian Bale, who plays Batman, found India to be captivating when he had visited before the filming, leading to the director choosing India for some of the scenes.
The last few scenes of Dark Knight Rises show Batman escaping from a prison that is built in a way that it is impossible to escape, with Bale crawling through tunnels and finally emerging in a desert-like space surrounded by a red-brick structure. That structure was actually the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, a city known to have a deep history and architectural richness. The fort is a stunning sight, more so with the director's sharp eye and its portrayal as a prison. We recommend that everyone see the fort and the very famous Umaid Bhawan palace at least once - not only do they hold a history essential to India's, they are stunning sights to marvel at, and clearly Nolan thought so too!
10. Million Dollar Arm
Features - Mumbai, Delhi, and Agra
Year - 2014
This biographical sports drama directed by Craig Gillespie follows J.B., a failing sports agent, and his project to find the best fast bowlers in India and pick two to bring back to the US in order to make them Baseball players.
Not many of the scenes are shot in India, but the director has an interesting take on the perceiving of cricket in India, how it is worshipped and followed diligently. The movie has scenes filmed in cities across India as J.B. looks for the best candidates for his project in India. You'll spot the popular India Gate, Taj Mahal, and other famous monuments if you watch it - and the movie will also probably make you see India in a different way, through its people, as that is what Gillespie focused on. Either way, prepare to get stunned by the chaotic cities and spectacular sites of the streets of Bombay, monuments of Agra, and crowded markets and enthusiasm of Delhi.