Is there anything Jamaica isn’t famous for? The Caribbean island has some of the most renowned athletes, including now retired sprinter Usain Bolt and sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and is home to some of the biggest Reggae and Dancehall acts in the world. Much like other developing Caribbean nations, Jamaica has more to be proud of than just super-talented people. The landscape and overall beauty of the island sets a tone of adventure captured only on the silver screen, so much so that Jamaica has been featured in multiple international blockbusters over the years. If you’re hearing this for the first time, read on to find out which famous flicks are set in Jamaica, and which celebrities made special appearances.
Some of the most famous movies shot in Jamaica include, ‘Knight and Day’,‘How Stella got her Groove Back’, ‘Cocktail’, and ‘Papillon!’.
Also read our article on famous movies shot in the Bahamas.
1962 | Sean Connery, Ursula Andress
Picture: Dunn's River Falls
There’s something about Jamaica and spy films, and this old British film was one of the first to feature the island in this light. Dr. No is the first James Bond film ever made, and details a mission to Jamaica where lead characters investigate the death of a British intelligence agent. Ursula Andress, Honey Rider in the film, makes a memorable appearance dripping wet as she walks out from the Laughing Waters Beach in front of Dunn’s River Falls, singing Cibelle’s famous ‘Under the Mango Tree’. In the movie, she is pure perfection in a white bikini, and since that time, ‘Bond Girls’ have had quite a high bar to reach. That same bikini was later auctioned for over 60,000 USD!
1988 | Tom Cruise, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon
Picture: Sandals Royal Plantation
Cocktail is one romantic drama that just might have you packing your bags and heading straight to the Caribbean. This movie is romantic beyond belief… it’s almost as though its director’s knew the sort of romance and charm they’d get out of Jamaica, and found just the right actors to bring that to life.
A bartender is the star of this flick. He learns on the job, and becomes a master at his craft. The jet-setting benefits of his job take him to Jamaica, where he is swept off his feet by a beautiful bombshell. Will he choose to let go, and love to the fullest?
If you haven’t yet, now’s a great time to kick back and watch this movie straight from the 80’s. While watching, look out for scenery including Dunn’s River Falls and Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios. Despite not-so-great reviews, the movie earned more than $170 million, a lot in its time. Likely attributed to the beauty and charm of Jamaica, and a young and dashing Tom Cruise!
Tip: Planning on visiting Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica? Find out everything you need to know in our exclusive guide: 'Dunn's River Falls: The Complete Guide'.
1973 | Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Based on the international best-selling novel, Papillon is one of the greatest tales of adventure to ever make it to the big screen. It brings together legends of film in a way that solidified their reputations in the entertainment industry, particularly Dustin Hoffman. Both he and McQueen were incarcerated at the French penal colony (Devil’s Island), near French Guiana. The movie follows their failed attempt to make a prison break, and later, McQueen’s epic cliff jump to freedom. Some scenes in this movie were filmed in Falmouth, Jamaica. Falmouth is the capital city of Trelawny Parish on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Other scenes from this movie were shot in Negril’s coastal Cliffside. This movie has since been remade, but as with everything else, there’s nothing quite like the original.
1954 | Kirk Douglas, James Mason
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the most unforgettable movies ever made. Still today critics admit that it is one of those films that have stood the test of time. Since being produced by Walt Disney Productions, the film has won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. Notably, parts of this popular movie are shot in the Bahamas, and Jamaica also makes several prominent appearances. Caves in Negril, Jamaica receive particular attention in this production. This movie opens the doorway to adventure for visitors heading to both Jamaica and the islands of the Bahamas, as tours in both countries will take you to the filming sites, and we’re certain that’s not something you’ll want to miss!
Tip: Jamaica is popular for scuba diving for both experienced and newbie undersea adventurers. Negril and Montego Bay are two of the best spots for great sightings! All-inclusive resorts Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Negril, include unlimited scuba diving and top of the line equipment.
1998 | Angela Bassett, Taye Diggs
Based on a true story, this feel-good romance is one of the must-see movies filmed in Jamaica. The romantic comedy is directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, and was adapted from Terry McMillan’s bestselling novel which goes by the same name. In the movie, Stella is a high flying American stock broker, who is convinced by a close girlfriend to go on vacation in Jamaica. She is swept off her feet by a much younger stud muffin, and the rest is history. ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ proves that there is nothing better than a Caribbean getaway that ends with love.
1993 | Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and John Candy
No listing of movies shot in Jamaica is complete without mention of the hit movie, ‘Cool Runnings’. A Disney film, ‘Cool Runnings’ features a Jamaican underdog bobsledding team’s journey of perseverance and triumph. It’s all worth it in the end when they walk away with a major win at an international competition. This movie is one of those that put the Caribbean island on the map showcasing the beauty of the island and the easy going nature of the people who live there, and summing it all up in an inspirational flick.
2010 | Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
With Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz at the forefront, what more incentive do you need to watch a movie? Add the island of Jamaica into the mix and it’s a sure recipe for pure magic. Hang onto your seat for this action packed movie where spontaneity meets romance in the most unforgettable way. Jamaica comes alive in the beach scenes of this flick, where you’ll see possibly the hottest screen couple alive frolicking on a local beach - filmed at the Frenchman cove. From casting, to location and storyline, the directors certainly got it right for this film!
Tip: Jamaica is filled with great beaches. The beach resorts of Ocho Rios is especially appealing for honeymooners.
1994 | Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond
Jamaica (Saint Ann, Ocho Rios to be more specific) stands in for Polynesia in this film, which tells a World War 1 tale and the consequences thereafter. The lives of the main characters are forever changed after deciding to fight with the Canadian army. A love story happens behind the scenes, but doesn’t quite end how viewers would expect. Amid all of the drama, the beauty of Jamaica is unmistakable to those who know it best, proving that sun, sea, and sand aren’t the only way to recognize Caribbean islands in all their blockbuster glory!
2003 | Idris Elba, Ky-Mani Marley, Vas Blackwood
Jamaica is sometimes known as the land of wood, water and variety. While we have no idea why that is, at least the variety aspect translates into the value of the movies which are filmed there. You’ll be dancing and shimmying from start to finish as you watch this film that tells a love story shared between a Rasta man (Ry-Mani Marley) and a Pastor’s Daughter. The movie literally starts with the groovy Reggae hit ‘One Love’, and things progress from there into what is probably one of the most compelling story lines you’ll see in a while. This movie will give you a sense of life on the ground in Jamaica, while you enjoy the best of Roots Reggae music, in some places fused with traditional gospel.
2009 | Milla Jovovich, Chris Hemsworth, Timothy Olyphant
Much like many other movies with optimistic names, ‘A Perfect Getaway’ doesn’t waste time in turning into a complete nightmare. The beginning is blissful enough though, with lovers on honeymoon getting set for the vacation of a lifetime. Although the movie takes place on the volcanic islands of Hawaii, the Sea Cave scene shows limestone rocks - which cannot be found on Hawaii. This scene is actually shot in Jamaica.
2007 | Robin Willams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski
Picture: Sandals Ochi, featured in the ending scene of 'License to Wed'.
Directed by Ken Kwapis, this movie featuring the late Robin Williams is one of those feel-good love stories that will have you laughing along the way. A warner Bros film, ‘License to Wed’ stars Ben and Sadie are about to get married, but first they have to pass Reverend Frank’s (Robin Williams) marriage preparation course. Things get challenging for the couple, and after a huge argument, their decision to wed comes into question. Sadie decides to use her honeymoon tickets regardless, and that’s where the Jamaica connection comes in. The movie ends with Ben and Sadie finally getting married at Sandals Ochi, a resort that features prominently in the film. A perfect love story, if there ever was one!
It is hard to describe the Caribbean without speaking of its breathtaking natural beauty. While the islands are all similar, in that most feature the perfect mixture of sun, sea and sand, there are notable differences to the sort of landscapes one can find on each. Some islands like Barbados are flat and made of limestone; others like Saint Lucia and Dominica are volcanic and somewhat mountainous.
Jamaica is one of the biggest islands in the Caribbean; with a melting pot of cultures and just the right blend of rolling hills, more mountainous terrain, and flatland. The people are super-talented in this part of the world, and always willing to help. This may be part of the reason film crews descend upon the island, because they are sure to get more bang for their buck on an island where their presence brings excitement, and lures people in who wholeheartedly want to see their island being acknowledged for all that it is.
Even the film Commissioner in Jamaica, Dell Crooks, notes that there is enough talent on island so crews can come with less people. This means that even low-budget film crews can consider making Jamaica their location of choice, with lower overheads as relates to travel, and perhaps even the costs associated with the transportation of equipment, as Jamaica is one of the most technologically advanced Caribbean islands. The landscape in Jamaica is also very versatile, from luxury settings, to rugged outback locations, meaning that scenery in Jamaica can resemble pretty much anywhere on earth!
Tip: If you’re planning on visiting this tropical paradise, read also our article to find out when it is the best time to visit Jamaica.
The films mentioned are some of the best of the best, but they are just a few of the productions that get underway in Jamaica annually. The island has a robust entertainment industry, and makes big bucks from film companies who choose to use the island as their location of choice. Other productions that come together on the island include music videos, reality shows, documentaries, photoshoots and commercials.
If you want to see for yourself what’s so special about the island, book your all-inclusive vacation in Jamaica today!