From Lawrence to Skywalker: 10 Movies Filmed in Wadi Rum
For movie producers and directors, there’s so much to take into account when filming - not just the cast and the script itself, but the location. To make it successful, they know the right backdrop is crucial - not just to lend it authenticity but to wow the audience with wonderful cinematography.
And Wadi Rum, in Jordan, is a place that many of them have traveled to, in order to film, because of its extraordinary desert landscapes, astonishing rock formations, and beautiful red dunes.
Today, we’re looking at movies that have been filmed in this part of the world, from historical classics to epic sci-fi creations, and if you’ve seen any of them, you’ll know just how breathtaking the scenery really was and why this location was so popular with so many filmmakers…
Take a look at our list…and if this doesn’t make you want to travel to Jordan, then we’re not sure anything will!
1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars fans across the world flocked to cinemas around the world in 2019 to enjoy ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ (also known as ‘Episode IX), the ninth (and final) film in the Star Wars series. With the final battle for freedom yet to be fought, Rey is finalizing her training as a Jedi but who knows if balance will be restored?
Since Wadi Rum is also known as the ‘Valley of the Moon’, the crew decided that this Jordanian landscape could ‘stand in’ for the Planet Pasaana in the film. And since Pasaana is known for its granite, sandstone formations, and stretching dunes, it was a fine choice.
2. Rogue One: a Star Wars Story
This 2016 movie tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes, living in a time of conflict. Their mission? To steal the plans for the Death Star - the Empire’s great weapon of destruction. Rogue One was shot in several stunning areas, including Iceland, the Maldives, and Wadi Rum.
The Jordanian desert was used to depict Jedha, the desert moon that orbits the planet of NaJedha. Two iconic locations were used - Sunset Point (a few kilometers north of the Wadi Rum Road) and the rock bridge at Kharez.
The rock bridges were just what the production needed
3. Lawrence of Arabia
In 1962, a British historical drama starring actors Peter O’Toole, Alec Guiness, and Omar Sharif hit the big screen. Telling the story of Thomas Lawrence who was, amongst other things, a diplomat, archaeologist, army officer, and writer of ‘The Seven Pillars of wisdom'. It won seven Oscars, catapulted Sharif to fame, and is regarded today as one of the greatest films ever made. It was, of course, Lawrence of Arabia.
During the Arab Revolt (1917-1918), when he fought against the Ottomans, Lawrence reportedly made his base at Wadi Rum, so it was no surprise that the director hoped to film here. In the end, most of the first half of the movie was set here and the scenes of blue sky, red sand, and empty spaces are quite astonishing.
The views add to the movie's grandeur. Wadi Rum
4. The Martian
Released in 2015, the Martian is a science fiction film based on the 2011 novel (of the same name) that tells the tale of a lone astronaut - Mark Watney - who is stranded on Mars after being left behind by his team, who have assumed he is dead.
Using all of his resourcefulness and imagination, Watney (played by Matt Damon) has to find a way to signal to Earth that he is still alive, so a team of extraordinary scientists at NASA can hatch a plan to rescue him.
Since Wadi Rum is notorious for its red sand and mountains that resemble the surface of Mars, what better place to shoot the film?
The red sands of Wadi Rum
Released in 2021, Dune received an 84% thumbs up on the ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ film critic site and if you watch it you will know why. With its A-list cast, moving soundtrack, and spectacular scenery, it tells the tale of Paul Atreides (a member of the nobility) who becomes involved in a war to decide the fate of a desert planet named Arrakis.
The red hues of the Jordanian desert were the perfect backdrop for the film…and with its jaw-dropping action scenes and stunning scenery (provided courtesy of Wadi Rum) no wonder it grossed more than $400 million at the box office.
No huge sandworms here. We chechked
Released in 2012, Prometheus tells the story of an accomplished archaeologist, Elizabeth Shaw, and her partner Charlie Holloway, who set off on an ambitious expedition in space, along with a 17-man crew.
The year is 2093 and the name of their spaceship is Prometheus. On it, they will travel to the distant moon of LV-223 (just under 35 light years from earth) in an attempt to learn more about the origins of mankind.
With a great score and fantastic cinematography, many sci-fi buffs feel that Prometheus - the prequel to Alien - was somewhat underrated and did not get the accolades it deserved. The dramatic scenery of the mountains in Wadi Rum may make you want to view it for yourself and then judge!
The night sky really looks alien. Wadi Rum
Disney remade this famous animated film in 2019, and Wadi Rum was the perfect place to film parts of it.
The distinctive rock formations in the area were perfect for the scenes in which the genie and Aladdin concoct a plot to win over Jasmine, not to mention the moment Aladdin is tricked by Jafar into entering the Cave of Wonders (filmed at the Seven Pillars of Wisdom).
When you look at the arch in the movie (which is actually a rock bridge at Jabel Khazali) you’ll understand why the area is a UNESCO World Heritage site!
Jeep Safari in Wadi Rumum
8. Mission to Mars
Directed by Brian de Palma and released in 2000, this sci-fi adventure tells the story of a mission to Mars that ends catastrophically, after a storm.
As a result, a rescue mission is undertaken, to find out how the tragedy occurred, and try to find survivors to bring back. When they arrive on the Red Planet, they find one man standing - and he tells them the storm that killed his colleagues was far more than bad weather.
As well as shoots in Canada and the Canary Island, scenes were shot in Wadi Rum. Unfortunately, save for acclaim from the critics in France, the film was a big flop and even nominated for a ‘Golden Raspberry’ in the ‘Worst Director’ category.
Camping resort in Wadi Rum
9. Red Planet
Another sci-fi movie that bombed at the box office was Red Planet, released in 2000, telling the tale of Commander Kate Bowman who is on a mission to save the human race. The year is 2050, Earth is on its last legs (pollution and overpopulation) and the only way to stay alive is to make it to Mars and colonize it!
Filmed between Wadi Rum and the Australian Outback, the critics panned the acting. The only saving grace to the film, apparently, was its special effects, but we’re sure the desert scenery was impressive!
As Martian as it gets. Wadi Rum
This adventure drama (with a thrilling edge to it) was released in 2014 and tells the coming-of-age story of a young Bedouin boy. Set in World War I, in the wake of the Great Arab Revolt, before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Theeb (‘Wolf’ in Arabic) needs to guide a British officer to a secret destination and survive the journey through the Wadi Rum desert.
Theeb won a BAFTA award in the UK and its director, Abu Nowar, won the title of Best Director at the Venice Film Festival. The filming was not without issues - besides the heat and wind that blew sand everywhere, crew vehicles often became stuck in off-road areas!
Still, all of this mattered not when the prizes started to roll in, not to mention a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards in 2016.
A Bedouin making morning coffee in Wadi Rum
Make Your Own Adventure in Wadi Rum
We hope you’ve enjoyed this piece and that it piqued your interest in the enchanting Wadi Rum. If so, feel free to contact us or take a look at the trips we offer. There are lovely Israel and Jordan tours, that aren't expensive but will give you a rich, unforgettable experience.
And since Jordan is just a hop, skip and a jump from Israel, also feel free to learn more about life in the Holy Land by taking a look at our blog.