It may be one of Nolan’s less flashy films with zero mind-bending sets and gimmicks, but the pacey storyline and authentic Dunkirk locations surely make up for the lack of pizzaz.
Dunkirk is (yet another) movie that depicts the evacuation of over 330,000 soldiers on Dunkirk beach in France during WWII. If the Dunkirk scenes in Atonement (2007), Their Finest (2016) and Darkest Hour (2017) weren’t enough for you, now you have a whole bloody film. Despite my grumbles about rehashing the same tired narrative, it’s a fantastic film. The movie covers the action on land, air and sea and keeps things interesting with a non-linear narrative and a suspenseful score.
Many notable actors include Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy and Harry Styles (yes, him) but the lead is newbie Fionn Whitehead.
Warner Brothers Burbank Studios was the main production base for Dunkirk, but I think most of the scenes are on-location in England, France and a few other random places. And let me raise your expectations for the Dunkirk filming locations because some of them are cracking. Let’s see where they are! And I have a Dunkirk location map for you, too, in case you want to visit the locations in person.
Where Was Dunkirk Filmed?
Dunkirk Filming Locations in France
1. Rue des Fusillés, Dunkirk, France
The first Dunkirk filming location is actually in Dunkirk, France. This is where the title cards explain what is happening to English and French troops and German propaganda/threats in the form of posters fly around the platoon. The lads are walking down Rue des Fusillés from east to west when they hear gunfire behind them.
2. Rue Belle Rade, Dunkirk, France
Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) is the only one that survives the gunfire as he manages to climb over a fence and into a different street. That street is Rue Belle Rade which literally is the next street over. Specifically, around number 38 as you can see the royal blue window boxes as he runs towards the French soldiers’ barricade. The barricade runs across the corner of Rue Belle Rade and Passage Fielding.
3. Plage de Malo-Les-Bains, Dunkirk, France
This must be one of the most authentic and impressive filming locations… of all time? Let alone one of the best Dunkirk locations. Tommy runs through the French barricade, continues up Rue Belle Rade and reaches the beach. But not just any beach, this is Plage de Malo-Les-Bains. The Dunkirk beach where the hundreds of thousands of soldiers found themselves stranded at Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo AKA the Dunkirk evacuation happened in WWII.
Really gotta hand it to Christopher Nolan and his dedication to details like this.
4. Jetée de Malo, Dunkirk, France
Nolan didn’t use Dunkirk’s real jetty, Jetée de Malo, as Dunkirk‘s mole but he built one just to the right of it so it would resemble the one the soldiers would have used back then. In my understanding, a “mole” is a makeshift pier that sailers use for a temporary purpose when waters are too shallow to dock on the beach. Apparently, the mole in the film kept breaking due to the weather so the production team had to keep building it.
5. Dune Dewulf Nature Reserve, Dunkirk, France
There are a few beachy Dunkirk film locations, and the next one is Dune Dewulf Nature Reserve in Dunkirk. Yes, it is literally just next door to Plage de Malo-Les-Bains. This is the empty beach where Tommy, Alex (Harry Styles) and Gibson swim to after hightailing it from the flaming destroyer. It is here that they watch a man walk out to his death.
6. Plage du Braek, Dunkirk, France
One of the last Dunkirk film locations is on Plage du Braek, yet another beach in Dunkirk but this time on the other side of the town. Farrier (Tom Hardy) lands his plane here just as he runs out of fuel and the Germans capture him. The shot of the helmets all lined up is on this beach, too.
Dunkirk Filming Locations in England
7. Weymouth Port, Dorset
The first Dunkirk film location in England is Weymouth Port where George (Barry Keoghan) runs up Custom House Quay (on the pavilion side of the pier) towards the boat where the Navy informs Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance) that his boat, Moonstone, is required for a rescue mission.
Peter, Mr Dawson’s son, tells Tommy later in the film that they are sailing into Dorset, not Dover, so I believe Weymouth is standing in as itself. Weymouth to Dunkirk seems like a long way for a recreational boat, though!
8. Daedalus Airfield, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire
Sadly, I don’t think the pilots actually flew their jets in the filming of Dunkirk and some movie magic is what made the Air Force scenes work. Nolan shot many of the flying scenes using model aircrafts and stunt flyers at Daedalus Airfield in Solent Airport, Hampshire.
9. Swanage Railway Station, Dorset
Moonstone is back on English shores! But it’s a solemn affair with so many lives lost. And the ones that did survive are so traumatised and guilt-ridden that the public sees them as failures. They arrive back in Dorset and get on a train at Swanage Railway Station which stands in for Weymouth and also Woking Train Station which is where the lads arrive the next day.
10. Harmans Cross Station, Dorset
But on the journey from Weymouth to Woking, Alex slides open his carriage window and asks the newspaper boy where they are. He replies Sliding near Woking and asks for a newspaper. They shot this scene on the tracks just outside Harmans Cross Station.
11. Weymouth Harbour Office, 13 Custom House Quay, Dorset
One of the last Dunkirk shooting locations in Weymouth Harbour Office at 13 Custom House Quay in Dorset. We see Pilot Collins (Jack Lowden) enter the Weymouth Herald newspaper office, which is what the harbour offices stood in as for the film.
Dunkirk Filming Locations in Elsewhere
12. IJsselmeer, Netherlands
Funnily enough, Nolan did not shoot the Moonstone boat scenes at sea in the English Channel. Instead, he shot them in a lake in the Netherlands called IJsselmeer. It’s the country’s largest lake but it would not be a lake at all if it weren’t for the large, man-made dam blocking it from the rest of the sea. I imagine this kind of environment is perfect for filming sea scenes because not only is it actual authentic seawater, but it is a lake so it must be less choppy. But also not too calm, if you know what I mean?
13. Point Vicente Interpretive Center and Lighthouse, California, USA
Tommy and his new pals are constantly thinking of new ways to board ships out of Dunkirk (can you blame them?) and they manage to board a destroyer. Unfortunately, Germans torpedo that ship and it sinks, plunging everyone into the icy cold channel and no closer to home.
Obviously, Nolan did not shoot this scene in open waters. I would have thought this would be a highly-controlled water tank job in some studio set in Hollywood, but my sources tell me otherwise. Apparently, they shot this scene just off the coast of Point Vicente Interpretive Center and Lighthouse in California. No doubt they had a risk assessment the size of a phone book for this shoot.
And those are the top Dunkirk locations in France, England and beyond! Have you watched the movie or visited any of the filming locations? Let me know in the comments below!