Balearic Islands, islands of the big and small screen

The Balearic Islands, with four main islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera), apart from being a top tourist destination for their beaches, cuisine, and culture, have also been the setting for numerous Spanish and international films and series and have staked a claim for themselves at the top of the list of screen tourism destinations.

The landscapes and atmosphere on the islands are so telegenic that they are also a regular backdrop for advertising productions. For example, Estrella Damm, Stella Artois, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, and Martini have chosen different areas of the islands to shoot adverts that we all know and love.

 

Mallorca: a filmmaker’s island

Mallorca is the largest and most populous of the Balearic Islands, and also the island that has hosted the most film projects throughout the region’s history. Its diverse landscape, architectural heritage, and mild climate make it an ideal setting for recreating different times and places.

Moreover, Mallorca has a long tradition of filmmaking, dating back to the 1920s, when the American director Rex Ingram set up his studio in the town of Port d’Andratx, and German film crews often came to film on the island.

They were followed by screen greats, from Errol Flynn to Rita Hayworth, Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Michael Sheen, and Hugh Laurie (yes, the unforgettable Dr. House).

Among the most famous classic films that have been shot in Mallorca, we can name the film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death in the Sun (Guy Hamilton, 1982) as well as Spanish hits such as The Executioner (Luis García Berlanga, 1963) and Bearn o la sala de las muñecas (Jaime Chávarri, 1983). One interesting fact is that the first time Spaniards were able to see a bikini on the big screen was in a film shot in Mallorca. It was Elke Sommers who wore it in Bahía de Palma (Juan Bosch, 1962).

One of the most recent and famous films that has taken place in Mallorca is the hit series The Crown, which in its fifth (2022) and sixth (2023) seasons chose the island to stand in for the French coast. The British production filmed scenes in villages such as Sant Elm, Puerto de Sóller, and Valldemossa. Incidentally, actress Elizabeth Debicki (who plays Diana of Wales in the series), had already visited Mallorca in 2016 when she filmed The Infiltrator, the successful spy series based on the novel by John le Carré, which also brought Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie to Mallorca.

Port of Sóller, location of numerous film shoots / Pixabay

Another series that has chosen Mallorca as its setting is Kleo (2022), a German production for Netflix and an action thriller that follows a former East German assassin as she leaves prison to seek revenge against those who betrayed her.

But not only series have found Mallorca an ideal place for their stories. Cinema has also left its mark on the island, with such well-known films as Cloud Atlas (2012), directed by the Wachowski sisters and starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. The film, which tells several intertwined stories over time, chose La Calobra and the port of Sóller as the main locations to recreate a 19th century Pacific Island.

Mallorca’s geography is so versatile that it represented scenes from Crete, Egypt, Yugoslavia, North Africa, and France in the film Sword of Honour (Bill Anderson, 2001), starring actor Daniel Craig five years before he donned the James Bond tuxedo for the first time.

Daniel Monzón hails from Mallorca, and in 2006 he filmed The Kovak Box here, a thriller in which you can see places in the Sierra de Tramuntana Mountain range, the viewpoint of the house of Archduke Luis Salvador and the old quarter of Palma.

These are just a few examples of the many films and series that have been shot in Mallorca, but there are many more. Among its latest locations, the Mallorca Film Commission reminds us of the series The Mallorca Files and the eagerly awaited Operation: lioness, with a stellar cast. 

And it’s no wonder, thanks to the beauty of Palma Cathedral, the spectacular Cape Formentor, villages such as Sóller or Fornalutx, or the impossible curves of the Sa Calobra Road.

 

Menorca: an island with cinematic charm

Menorca is the second largest and the easternmost island of the Balearic Islands. Its landscape is marked by coves, cliffs, lighthouses, and megalithic monuments. Its peacefulness and beauty have also attracted numerous filmmakers who have wanted to take advantage of its essence on screen to tell intimate and personal stories. As the Menorca Film Commission knows, its unique Mediterranean landscapes attract a multitude of commercials and a small, select group of productions every year. 

One of the most emblematic films shot in Menorca is, without a doubt, Isla bonita (2015). Directed by Fernando Colomo, one of the special features of this film is that it features actors playing themselves. This approach gives the film an endearing and authentic touch. In addition, it is important to note that the film’s script is only 15 pages long. This meant that much of the film was improvised, resulting in natural and realistic dialogue that doesn’t seem contrived.

The Wind of the Island (Gerardo Gormezano, 1988) is a film in which Menorca is not only the setting but also the star, with the plot set in a highly specific historical period, 18th century Menorca dominated by the English. 

The film chronicles the life of John Armstrong, an English soldier in Menorca in 1738 during the British occupation. An intriguing triangle of admiration and love involves Armstrong, a native of Ciudadela, and a painter who resides on the island. As the story progresses, Armstrong undergoes a profound transformation, influenced by these two women that leads him to abandon his military career.

Port of Ciudadela / Alberto Almajano

If you want to go back several decades in time, one intriguing film is Spanish Fly (Bob Kellet, 1976), a light-hearted production that takes us back to the Mahón of the 1970s and to other parts of the island.

Menorca’s lighthouses, or faros as they’re known in Spanish, are one of the biggest tourist draws on the island. They’re also popular on film too. El faro (Manuel Balaguer, 1998), a true hallmark of Menorca’s beauty, boasts an ensemble cast and is one of the many films shot on the island. 

 

Ibiza and Formentera, from mythical parties to Sex and Lucia

Usually associated with nightlife culture, Ibiza’s life in the daytime offers charming villages, beaches, and coves in natural surroundings. Ibiza has something for all types of travellers and complements that reputation for personal freedom and partying.

The film More by Barbet Schroeder and Néstor Almendros was released back in the 1960s. With a soundtrack composed by Pink Floyd, More made Ibiza appear as a free place identified with the counterculture and the hippie movement.

The incredible surroundings of Cala d’Hort, Ibiza / Pixabay

Since then, Ibiza has been the setting for many films and productions of all genres. In Ibiza we have seen zombies as the protagonists of Ibiza Undead (Andy Edwards, 2016), travelled back to the 70s and witnessed mysterious deaths in The Crimes of All Saints’ Day (Héctor Escandell, Vicente Torres, 2018), and accompanied Michel Keaton in an action blockbuster like American Assassin (Michael Cuesta, 2017). We have also smiled with family comedies like the French A Summer in Ibiza (Arnaud Lemort, 2019) and we’ve seen the adventures of Israelis surfing on the island with Ibiza (Shay Kanot, 2015).

We can’t forget to mention the film par excellence shot in Formentera. In 2001, Julio Medem turned a lighthouse, a cave, and a beach into iconic locations in his film Sex and Lucia. In light of the film’s popularity, Cap de Barbaria and Ses Illetes, a beach that looks exactly like a Caribbean beach, have since then become even greater tourist attractions in Formentera. 

The beautiful surroundings of Cap de Barbaria, the emblematic icon in Medem’s film / Amparo Arias

As we’ve seen, the Balearic Islands have been and continue to be a prized film setting for filmmakers from all over the world. Their variety, richness and charm make them an ideal place to tell stories of all kinds and genres.

More than 200 multimedia projects are shot in the Balearic Islands every year, so if you want to find out more about film and series locations we recommend that you visit the Balearic Islands Film Commission website where you can find more information and look into taking a cinematic getaway to the Balearic Islands.

By José R. Pérez Fernández “Avistu” (Travel Inspirer)

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