Imagine being transported to a land of stunning coastlines, historic architecture, and mouth-watering cuisine, without leaving the house!
The Italian island of Sicily, which has served as the backdrop for some of the most iconic movies in cinematic history. From epic gangster dramas to charming romantic comedies, the island has inspired filmmakers for decades. If you are seeking a bit of Sicilian inspiration for your next trip, then check out our guide to movies set or filmed in Sicily.
This list contains some of my favourite films, which is lucky, and some new ideas to put on the list!
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
The Indiana Jones franchise returns for a fifth (and final) instalment, this time taking us to the beautiful Italian island of Sicily. In recent years, Sicily has become quite the hot spot for hollywood filming and with good reason. Decorated in history, vibrant colours painting the landscapes and relevant connections to the storyline. This particular adventure sees the famous archaeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), accompany his goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to retrieve a legendary dial which could change the course of history as we know it.
Set in 1969, the first half of the film is primarily located in Manhattan, New York, before jetsetting to Europe. Once landed in Italy, Sicily becomes the backdrop for the majority of the scenes. Visiting the beautiful island for ourselves, we recognised a handful of filming locations used for Indiana Jones and the Dial or Destiny. Including:
- The city of Syracuse streets
- Ear of Dionysius, Syracuse
- Valle of the Temples (Valle dei Templi), Agrigento
The Godfather, Parts I, II & III
The Godfather” is a 1972 American crime drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. One of the all time greats, the film tells the story of the Corleones, a powerful Italian-American Mafia family, and their patriarch, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Set in the 1940s and 50s, the movie follows the Corleones’ struggle to maintain their power in a world of shifting alliances and violent rivalries.
Whilst much of the movie and sequels focus on New York, there is plenty of screen time for beautiful Sicily as it charts both the backstreet of Brando’s Godfather, and the coming of age for Al Pacino’s Michael.
The Sicily scenes in “The Godfather” were filmed on location in several towns and cities across the island. Some of the most notable locations include the town of Savoca, where the famous Bar Vitelli is located, and the nearby town of Forza d’Agrò, where the church scenes were filmed. Other filming locations in Sicily include the towns of Taormina, Castelmola, and Bagheria, as well as the cities of Palermo and Messina.
You can get a slice of Godfather Movie magic (without the bloody bits) in the town of Forza d’Agrò, in the province of Messina in Sicily. The museum, called “Museo del ‘Ndrangheta” or “The Godfather Museum,” is dedicated to the history and cultural legacy of the Sicilian Mafia and the Corleone family, the fictional mob family portrayed in the Godfather movies. The museum features a collection of memorabilia, props, and costumes from the films, as well as historical artifacts and exhibits exploring the real-life history of the Mafia in Sicily.
Cinema Paradiso (1998)
Another classic and cherished movie set on the island is the 1998 Cinema Paradiso. It tells the story of a filmmaker named Salvatore, who returns to his hometown in Sicily after many years away to attend the funeral of his friend and mentor, Alfredo. As he reflects on his childhood and adolescence, Salvatore remembers the time he spent working in the local movie theatre, the Cinema Paradiso, and the bond he formed with Alfredo, the projectionist.
The movie was filmed on location in the town of Palazzo Adriano, in the province of Palermo, Sicily. The town’s historic buildings, narrow streets, and picturesque landscapes help to create a vivid portrait of small-town life in Sicily in the years following World War II.
A modern take on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac,.by Edmond Rostand this movie is both charming and beautiful, with plenty of beautiful backdrops.
In the film, Dinklage plays Cyrano, a talented but insecure poet who is in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). However, Cyrano is too self-conscious about his physical appearance to confess his feelings, and instead helps his handsome but dim-witted friend Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) win Roxanne’s heart. As Cyrano ghostwrites letters and text messages for Christian, he must also navigate his own feelings and confront the challenges of his own insecurities
Much of the movie is set in the beautiful city of Noto,a Unesco World Heritage site in Southeastern Sicily. You can wander round the city and drink up the sun kissed architecture, or you can visit some of the key movie locations that are open to the public. Maps. Some of the iconic locations in the movie are open to the public., including Palazzo Castelluccio
The movie is a great update on the Cyrano story, and worth your time next time you want a slice of “Sicilia Bedda!”
The Big Blue/Le Grand Bleu (1998)
Luc Besson’s beautiful movie tells the story of two competitive deep-sea divers, Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Molinari (Jean Reno), who share a lifelong obsession with the ocean and a fierce rivalry that drives them to constantly push their physical and mental limits.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, the film follows Jacques and Enzo as they compete in a series of dangerous and challenging diving competitions, including attempts to set new world records. Along the way, they grapple with the physical and emotional toll of their extreme lifestyle, and struggle to balance their passion for diving with their relationships and personal lives.
“The Big Blue” was filmed on location in several Mediterranean countries, including the the South of France (10 Of The Best Movies Set In The South Of France – Inspiration From Cote D’Azur) , Greece and Peru, with much of the key locations in Sicilia. (The trailer doesn’t have much Sicily, but still worth watching!)
The first scenes in Sicily take place at the beginning of the film, when Jacques Mayol is a young boy living in Greece. Jacques’ father takes him on a trip to Sicily, where they visit the ancient Greek ruins at Agrigento and swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Later in the film, there are several scenes set in the town of Taormina (a key location for The White Lotus), on the east coast of Sicily. Other locations include a cable car ride up to Mount Etna, and a visit to a Sicilian Church. As one of my all tie favourite movies, this gets a recommendation anyway -but with plenty of Sicilian backdrops, it also makes the list!
PS the soundtrack from Eric Serra is also worth a listen!
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, this movie tells the story of Tom Ripley, a young man who is hired by a wealthy businessman to travel to Italy and convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf, to return to the United States. However, as Tom becomes more deeply immersed in Dickie’s life and relationships, he becomes increasingly obsessed with assuming Dickie’s identity and living the high life.
Several key scenes in are set in with Taormina, again, stating in as he town of Mongibello. Other scenes including a memorable boat ride show off the gorgeous coastline and the Greek Theatre at Taormina.
OK this movie doesn’t really fit with the other classic recommendations but it does have the Sicilian connection! Messina, located in northeastern Sicily. Stands in for the fictional town of Amnesty Bay, the childhood home of Arthur Curry/Aquaman.)
White Lotus – Season 2
Possibly the best TV show of 2022? This bonkers series created by Mike White is set in the fictional White Lotus report hotel which is San Domenico Palace, Taormina , a sumptuous clifftop retreat overlooking the Ionian Sea with spectacular views of the active Mount Etna volcano and an ancient Greek theatre called Teatro Antico di Taormina.
Other Sicilian locations include Noto Cathedral, last seen in Cyrano, and the privately owned Villa task in Palermo.
With plenty of sun, sea and beautiful outfits this really is a dose of Sicilian sunshine on your screen!