Monaco dazzles all who look upon its glamorous coastline with high-rise towers, the sparkling blue sea dotted with yachts and the extravagant lifestyle of the world’s richest people. It’s no wonder Monaco is a popular location for films.
There are few people in this world who have not seen Casino Royal and the suspenseful scenes filmed at the Monte-Carlo Casino. But Monaco has been a favourite film location since the days of the Silver Screen.
Back in 1936, Sacha Guitry’s classic film, ‘The Story of a Cheat’ revolves around the Monaco casino and a boy who learns a twisted sense of right and wrong. This film inspired filmmakers like François Truffaut and Orson Welles—and it also set the theme for many of the films to come.
Films about gambling, jewellery theft, bank and art heists and all sorts of criminal underworld feature the Principality as its ultimate location.
But it was a 1955 film about a jewellery thief that changed the course of this small but wealthy country forever. Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief’ featured two protagonists who play cat and mouse over a mysterious series of jewellery thefts in Monte Carlo. In the film, Cary Grant falls head over heels for the perfectly beautiful Grace Kelly. But he wasn’t the only one who fell for Kelly’s elegant beauty and graceful demeanour. Prince Ranier III knew he found the woman of his dreams, and within a year of the film’s release, the two were married, bestowing the American actress with the title of Princess.
The fairytale union of Prince Ranier III and Princess Grace did not change the common storyline of films for Monaco—they continue to this day to feature international intrigue and crimes of varying degrees. Here’s a look at some of the most famous films that set Monaco as a backdrop.
Just a small sampling of these are: ‘Foreign Intrigue’ (1956) with Robert Mitchum; ‘Bay of Angels’ (1963) with Claude Mann and Jeanne Moreau; ‘High Rollers’ (1976) with Anthony Quinn; ‘Once Upon a Crime’ (1992) with John Candy, Jim Belushi and Cybil Shepard; ‘The Good Theif’ (1992) with Nick Nolte and Ralph Fiennes; and ‘Heartbreakers’ (2010) with Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis.
Many ‘old Hollywood’ stars filmed in Monaco. The 1954 ‘Last Time I Saw Paris’ starred Elizabeth Taylor and Donna Reed. Dean Martin and Ann Margaret were in ‘Murderer’s Row’ in 1956, and Tony Curtis and Zsa Zsa Gabor starred in ‘Arrivaderci, Baby!’ in 1966.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists 249 movies that were filmed at least in part in Monaco. Of these, there are some big Hollywood blockbuster films, including several in the Bond series. The first to film in Monaco was ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983), which still featured Sean Connery as the legendary international spy as he chased down illegally stolen nuclear warheads. By 1995, ‘GoldenEye’ featured Pierce Brosnan as 007, again chasing down nuclear weapons. And the first film to introduce Daniel Craig as the new blond Bond was ‘Casino Royale’, offering a glimpse inside the ultra luxurious high-roller suites.
Other big Hollywood films that use Monaco as a backdrop are Swordfish’ (2001), starring John Travolta and Hale Berry, who give a taste of how money and power turn ugly when mixed with terrorism; ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ (2004), the light-hearted and incredibly cool gang of international thieves; and ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010), the mega-blockbuster film featuring Robert Downey Jr. as the ultra-rich, ultra-cool super hero.
But there have been many small-budget films with more developed storylines and some that feature love stories—or unrequited love. ‘Priceless’ (2006) with Audrey Tatou is a French film about a girl who lives the life of luxury…as long as she hooks up with rich clients of Monte Carlo’s top hotels. It gets complicated and expensive for a hotel employee who pretends to be a rich guest to win her heart.
There are also a few films about the tragic love story of Prince Ranier III and Grace Kelly. There is a documentary about the wedding, ‘The Wedding in Monaco’ (1956), ‘Grace Kelly’ (1983), starring Cheryl Ladd and most recently, ‘Grace of Monaco’ (2014) starring Nicole Kidman.
Also some advertising videos were shot in Monaco like one movie in the series of Johnie Walker Blue Label promotions.
What is your favourite film the beautiful Principality as a backdrop?