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In my last post, I covered all the major Hollywood filming locations in Thailand. I mentioned The Impossible (2012), The Railway Man (2013) and a number of other films. But actually, there are at least seven more films I should have featured on that list but didn’t. Why? Because they were all filmed in Thailand but set in Vietnam. Yup, they were all Vietnam war films, bro.
I’m going to take an educated guess that it probably wouldn’t be super chill of Hollywood to hightail it over to Vietnam to make a movie about a tragic event that had ended a mere three years prior. They probably weren’t besties at this point in history.
So where else looks like Vietnam… But isn’t Vietnam… Well, for Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), that was the Phillippines. But for seven other Vietnam war films, it was Thailand.
7 Vietnam War Films Shot in Thailand
1. Throng Wad Road as seen in The Deer Hunter (1978)
Where: Throng Wad Road, Bangkok
Of course, much of the Academy Award-winning film The Deer Hunter was shot in the USA but the Vietnam scenes were shot in Bangkok and the Kanchanaburi district in Northern Thailand. Don Muang Airport also makes an appearance as the filming location for the US airfield. And the prison camp was set on the River Kwai, made famous (I’m sure you know) by The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
But the most notable filming location in The Deer Hunter has to be Throng Wad Road in Bangkok. This is the exact filming location used for the 1973 evacuation of downtown Saigon. Around 6,000 extras showed up when only 800 were called, which must make for an extremely hectic film set!
2. The Railway Hotel as seen in The Killing Fields (1984)
Where: Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas, 1 Damnernkasem Road, Hua Hin Chang Wat Prachuap Khiri Khan 77110
So I’m cheating a little bit because The Killing Fields isn’t a Vietnam war film at all. It’s about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, just after the end of the Vietnam war. But I felt like I had to include it because it’s also a film that couldn’t be filmed in Cambodia and chose to film in Thailand instead.
The Killing Fields used The Railway Hotel in Hua Hin as a stand-in for Hotel Phnom Penh. The hotel is now named the Centara Grand and the film also shot in parts of Phuket and Bangkok.
3. The Malaysia Hotel as seen in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Where: The Malaysia Hotel, 54 Soi Ngam Duphli, Rama 4 Road, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Bangkok 10120
As Vietnam war films go, Good Morning, Vietnam is probably one of the most comedic and lighthearted. Set in Vietnam but filmed in Thailand, some of the filming locations include Thalang in Phuket and Bangkok.
Another hotel on this list of Vietnam war films shot in Thailand, The Malaysia Hotel in Bangkok was actually where the radio studio was built. Huge renovations were necessary to convert a second-floor hotel room into a radio suite, which is crazy. Doesn’t it seem weird that The Malaysia Hotel was chosen as the ideal location above anywhere else?!
4. Bangkok as seen in Off Limits/Saigon (1988)
Off Limits or, to use it’s updated name, Saigon, is one of the most obscure Vietnam war films. It was unsuccessful at the box office and received mixed reviews by critics at the time of its release. For that reason, I’m honestly not sure what specific filming locations in Thailand were used.
However, I do know that Bangkok stood in for Saigon in Vietnam. That pretty much seems to be the case for the majority of these Vietnam war films! I’d love to visit Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City after visiting Bangkok in November. I bet they’re super different now.
5. River Kwai Bridge as seen in Casualties of War (1989)
Where: Khwae Yai River, Maenamkwai Rd, Chang Wat Kanchanaburi 71000
Not even The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) used the authentic filming location in Thailand, but Hollywood has been making up for that ever since!
In my Hollywood film locations in Thailand post, I mentioned that The Railway Man (2013) used the original bridge built by Southeast Asian labourers and prisoners of war during World War II as a film location. But apparently, it wasn’t the first! Casualties of War used the famous Bridge on the River Kwai in the Kanchanaburi area of Thailand as well as Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, Thailand. Which of course is the location of the famous James Bond Island!
6. Baan Chinpracha House as seen in Heaven and Earth (1993)
Where: Baan Chinpracha, 98 Krabi Road, Talad Nuea, Phuket
I’m cheating *again* with Heaven and Earth (but honestly, when do I not cheat a little bit?). Because Heaven and Earth was probably one of the first Vietnam war films that did shoot in Vietnam, but Thailand featured too.
Baan Chinpracha is almost like a stately home in Phuket Old Town and was featured in Heaven and Earth. The Sino-Portuguese House’s first floor is open to visitors (the second floor is still occupied). I absolutely loved Phuket Town so I definitely recommend visiting! The entrance fee is 150THB (£3.66) and the house is beautifully decorated with lots of ornate furniture.
7. Jungles outside Chiang Mai as seen in Rescue Dawn (2006)
Where: Chiang Mai
One of the more recent Vietnam war films, Rescue Dawn still chose to film entirely in Thailand even though the film is set in rural Vietnam. Though political tensions may have settled by 2006, it’s actually a lot easier for foreign film crews to shoot in Thailand than it is Vietnam anyway. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) went through permit problems in Vietnam and that’s why they decided to shoot the Vietnam scenes in Thailand.
Rescue Dawn was shot in the jungles outside of Chiang Mai near the Myanmar border. In fact, this is the same area of Thailand where Rambo (2008) was shot.
And those are all the Vietnam war films shot in Thailand! Have you seen any of these Vietnam war films or visited Thailand? Let me know in the comments below!