Thailand has long been utilised as an ‘exotic’ film location for American films. You only have to look at the amount of Vietnam war films that were shot in Thailand instead of Vietnam (for obvious reasons). But aside from the war films, there are tonnes of other Hollywood film locations in Thailand.
Quite unfairly, Thailand is either portrayed as a hub of criminal activity and debauchery or a faraway holiday destination. Western films tend to stick to stereotypes and well-trodden narrative tropes. However, Thailand is a huge, diverse country with so much more to offer. But alas, we have yet to witness this Hollywood films.
Nevertheless, there are some popular films on this list and most definitely deserve a watch at least once. You may wonder why Anna and the King (1999) isn’t featured. And you would make a good point, but that film was actually filmed in Malaysia. These are ALL the top Hollywood film locations in Thailand!
Hollywood Film Locations in Thailand
1. Khao Phing Kan as seen in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Where: Khao Phing Kan/James Bond Island, Phang Nga Bay
Since I always write these lists in chronological order, we’re beginning with one of the most recognisable Hollywood film locations in Thailand!
Khao Phing Kan has practically renamed itself to James Bond Island after appearing in The Man with the Golden Gun. I visited James Bond Island and other locations on my trip to Thailand so you can read a complete list of all The Man with the Golden Gun filming locations in Thailand here. There are actually quite a few, especially in Bangkok!
2. Banyan Tree Hotel as seen in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Where: Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Thai Wah Tower II, Bangkok 10120
The Man with the Golden Gun wasn’t the only James Bond film to shoot in Thailand. Tomorrow Never Dies needed to use Bangkok as a stand-in for Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City when the Vietnamese authorities rescinded their filming permit.
James Bond (this time played by Pierce Brosnan) and Wai Lin abseil down the Banyan Tree Hotel in Bangkok. Also, Mahogany Wharf in Bangkok was used as the setting for the motorbike chase sequence.
Interestingly, James Bond Island was used yet again in a Bond film. Despite James Bond Island being so iconic in The Man with the Golden Gun, the island in Phang Nga Bay stood in for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam in Tomorrow Never Dies.
So, Thailand has been Vietnam’s screen double for other Hollywood films, not just Vietnam war films!
3. Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi as seen in The Beach (2000)
Where: Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Lei (Phi Phi Islands), Krabi
Still the most popular beach in Thailand, despite its recent closure, Maya Bay is the main filming location in Danny Boyle’s The Beach.
In the film, this beach is the most secluded, beautiful beach in the country. So, it’s a sad irony that the beach in Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Lei had to close indefinitely due to over-tourism. However, I visited Maya Bay in November 2018, and you can read about how you can still see the beach even though it’s closed here.
4. Ko Panyi as seen in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
Where: Ko Panyi, Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga Bay
I completely forgot part of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was even shot in Thailand! You might disagree that this belongs on a ‘Hollywood film locations in Thailand’ list but it’s a popular western film, so it’s here.
Bridget Jones travels to Thailand with toxic ex Daniel Cleaver for a travel show. They visit Bangkok and Phuket, and whilst in Phuket they sail in a longboat passed a floating village called Ko Panyi. This floating village was built by a fishing community way out from any other civilisation in Phang Nga Bay.
There are a few other great Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason filming locations in Thailand, but this one is my favourite as I also got to visit this fascinating village on my trip to Thailand.
5. Chiang Mai as seen in American Gangster (2007)
Where: Chiang Mai
Remember the debauchery and criminal activity I said was prevalent in western films shooting in Thailand? Yup, this film has both in spades.
Ridley Scott’s American Gangster is set in the 1960s and 70s during the Vietnam war. Thailand is used as a go-between with Vietnam to smuggle heroin into the USA.
Later in the film, Lucas heads to Thailand to make arrangements for the smuggling, he visits the opium-processing centre which was constructed two hours north of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand in a small village and rice barn. The market scenes were filmed in Chiang Mai itself. But actually, all the Thailand scenes were set in Bangkok. However, I imagine Bangkok has been developed substantially since the 1960s and 70s!
6. Chiang Mai as seen in Rambo (2008)
Where: Chiang Mai
Again, another Hollywood filming location in Thailand that is vaguely listed as ‘Chiang Mai.’ Sorry, I can’t be more specific! But, it seels American Gangster and Rambo both used the city in northern Thailand as a base to shoot scenes in the Thai countryside.
In Rambo, John Rambo is now living in Thailand as a snake catcher. He is contacted to help lead a rescue mission of civilians in Myanmar (Burma) and bring them to safety in Thailand. Thailand was just one of the filming locations including Mexico, Arizona and California.
7. Lebua Hotel & Sky Bar as seen in The Hangover Part II (2011)
Where: Lebua Hotel at State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500
One of the most iconic Hollywood film locations in Thailand since James Bond Island, The Hangover Part II turned their crazy drunken antics up to 11 by filming in Bangkok.
While The Hangover Part II filmed all over Bangkok and parts of Krabi, the Sky Bar at the Lebua Hotel is the most memorable. It’s at this filming location where the gang and Chow meet up with an undercover Interpol agent and become embroiled in a shoot out. You might not like The Hangover Part II but it does have some of the most recognisable Hollywood film locations in Thailand ever.
8. Khao Lak Orchid Beach Resort as seen in The Impossible (2012)
Where: Khao Lak Orchid Beach Resort, 61 Moo 3, Khuk Khak Beach, Khao Lak 82190
I’m sure everyone must remember the tragic tsunami that hit Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia on Boxing Day (December 26th) in 2004. That tragic event was immortalised on screen in 2012’s The Impossible. The film is based on a family of five who all miraculously survived the Tsunami when they were on holiday in Khao Lak.
The film was as authentic to the original location as any film could be. The same island, Khao Lak, was used in the film. And the resort seen in the film, the Orchid Beach Resort, was also hit by the waves. It’s kind of staggering to imagine that all the filming locations are very true to life.
A local hospital in Thailand, the Takua Pa Hospital, was also used in The Impossible.
9. Rangsit Boxing Stadium as seen in Only God Forgives (2013)
Where: Rangsit Boxing Stadium, 323 Phahonyothin Rd, Bangkok 12130
Only God Forgives didn’t exactly make waves on its release, but it’s shot almost exclusively in Bangkok. And it stars Ryan Gosling, so the film had to be on my Hollywood film locations in Thailand list.
There aren’t too many ‘landmark’ filming locations in Only God Forgives like The Hangover Part II, but much of the film does take place at Rangsit Boxing Stadium. Muay Thai is a popular Thai sport and can also be popular with tourists, so you might find yourself at the stadium on your visit to Bangkok.
10. River Kwai Bridge as seen in The Railway Man (2013)
Where: Khwae Yai River, Maenamkwai Rd, Chang Wat Kanchanaburi 71000
The famous Bridge on the River Kwai is a real bridge in southwest Thailand. It was part of the rail network often referred to as the Thai-Burmese Railway. During World War II, approximately 200,000 Southeast Asian civilians and 60,000 prisoners of war were forced to construct this railway during Japan’s occupation of Thailand.
Colin Firth’s character in The Railway Man, Eric Lomax, was one of those prisoners of war. Trying to come to deal with the psychological trauma he was left with, he visits the location of the bridge at the end of the film. The actual, real-life Bridge on the River Kwai was used for this shot, unlike another famous film that covered the same subject…
Honourable Mention: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Yes, I had to include one of the most famous films set in Thailand yet not filmed in Thailand, The Bridge on the River Kwai. This 1957 film documents the same historical event but during World War II as the bridge was being built. However, unlike The Railway Man, the film is based on a fictional novel.
The bridge was reconstructed in Sri Lanka and the entire film was shot there. I can’t blame David Lean too much as I’m not sure what the situation would have been like in Thailand only 12 years after the end of World War II. But you can still visit the real-life location (as seen in The Railway Man) in Thailand and imagine the film was shot there!
And those are the top Hollywood film locations in Thailand, both shot and set. Have you visited any of these Hollywood filming locations? Let me know in the comments below!