Budapest in movies

Budapest in movies

Budapest on screen: where famous films were shot around the city

Budapest has a long and colorful film history: from cinema classics to today’s blockbusters.

Budapest has made appearances on screen, playing herself and many other cities, adding some “Eastern European” touch to the films.

It has also doubled as Buenos Aires, Baltimore, Berlin, Moscow to name a few.

Even if you have never been to Budapest you probably have already seen it on screen.

Budapest is so effective in reviving the Cold War atmosphere that it can easily replace the cities most often associated with the era.

Of course, they are not showcasing local landmarks, but they are trying to convey an atmosphere that is so unidentifiable by a large part of the international audience, but very East European, that Hollywood so loves in Budapest.

Because of the difficult-to-identify environment and the buildings with different architectural features, Budapest is a perfect replacement for several cities.

Budapest can play a lot of other places because despite the booming tourism, the majority of international viewers do not know what the Hungarian capital looks like.

Of course, that’s why filmmakers love the Hungarian capital: it has East and West at the same time, so it can build a lot of countries and even a lot of countries.

Here are some examples:

Red Sparrow (2018)

In this film Budapest can be easily recognized most of the time. It is not changed by CGI, the facades of the buildings and the interiors are all real.

View of Budapest in Red Sparrow
Screenshot: Red Sparrow Inside SOTE University

Budapest also played Moscow in this film.

So when Jennifer Lawrence is being ordered in “Moscow” to travel to Budapest right away, she walks out of the cafe that is in Andrássy Avenue Paris Department Store, then she flies from fake Budapest to real Budapest.

The creators of the Red Sparrow were not really interested in the diversity Budapest has to offer.

It is a real anti-image film: despite the country’s excellent performance in terms of its importance and visibility in the film, it’s certain that no one in the world would be tempted to travel to Budapest, this “run-down, socialist mausoleum”.

If anyone wanted to know what Hungary was like from this film, they would be certain that nothing has changed in Budapest since the 60s and 70s. Jennifer Lawrence’s apartment looks a lot like the GDR Museum.

Spy (2015)

Screenshot from "Spy"

But not only the dark, smelly, unfriendly environment is needed for films. Some show the real, well-known Budapest sights. 

Most of the scenes of Spy were filmed in Budapest and it also doubled as Rome and Paris.

Budapest’s unique geographic location and diverse architecture allowed to avoid having to travel to all three cities.

The hills to the west of the Danube and the cobblestone streets leading up to them provided excellent terrain for the Roman scenes, and the green areas of Buda also represented Paris.

They shot at Liberty Square (Szabadság tér), the Gundel Restaurant, on the Danube promenade, and the film’s creators were the first filmmakers to be allowed to shoot in the Gresham Palace.

A Good Day to Die Hard

Lovechild of filmmakers and CGI masters

A film, where Budapest is shot and bombed to its ruins.

I spy

Budapest in movies
They hurt our beautiful bridge! 🤭
Some kind of stealth aircraft flying above the Castle.

Several landmarks are easily recognizable such as Castle District, Gellért square and Gellért Hotel, Liberty Bridge, the Parliament.

The Martian

Bálna (which means “whale”) as the shape of the building resembles the massive marine mammal, is made of glass, steel, aluminium and brick has a futuristic look.

It was a perfect fit for the headquarters of NASA in Ridley Scott’s science fiction film “The Martian”.

After shopping in the nearby Great Market Hall for pickles and paprika, head to the Bálna. It has boutique shops, bars and restaurants.

"Bálna" in "The Martian"
Bálna in reality
Bálna shopping center
Bálna inside in reality
Bálna in "The Martian"

A huge Mars set was built at Korda Studios near Budapest for sci-fi movie The Martian.

The production team fully occupied Korda Studios and built a Mars plain on the facility’s largest stage (some 64,300 sq ft), using 4,000 tonnes of Hungarian soil.

Some of the films shot in Bálna:

The Martian (2015) – Houston

Spy (2015) – Paris

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) – Berlin

Main film locations in Budapest

Wenckheim Palace

wenckheim palace

Just a few minutes walk from Kálvin square stands the former noble palace that houses the Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library today.

The rooms that are remained in their original form, including the beautiful ballroom, are on the fourth floor. The aristocratic elegance of the palace is adorned by filmmakers.

Some of the films shot here:

Red Sparrow (2018)

Spy (2015)

The Alienist (2018)

Stars who have already worked here:

Adrien Brody

Dakota Fanning

Jason Statham

Jennifer Lawrence

Melissa McCarthy

Selena Gomez

Cities played by Budapest: Monte Carlo, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rome

Gozsdu Courtyard

Gozsdu Courtyard

The courtyard that is the center of nightlife in Budapest today used to be an abandoned alley for decades. It was a perfect spot for chases and other action scenes.

In 1988 it was used in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s film “Red Heat,” as streets of Moscow.

In Tony Scott’s “Spy Game,” – with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt – some scenes were also filmed in the Gozsdu-udvar.

Some other films shot here:

Underworld (2003)

Crime and Punishment (1998)

Stars who have already worked here:

Brad Pitt,

Helen Mirren

Kate Beckingsale

Patrick Dempsey

Robin Williams

Cities played by Budapest: Berlin, Moscow, Saint Petersburg

Parliament

The Hungarian Parliament building is one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest with more than 600,000 visitors a year.

It’s the second-largest parliament building in Europe.

Situated on the banks of the Danube River, Parliament has been used in several film and television productions.

In “Transporter 3,” (Jason Statham), we could see a glimpse at Parliament and St Stephen’s Basilica, while the opening sequence of “Atomic Blonde” (Charlize Theron) was shot along the banks of the river.

New York Palace

The building of the New York Palace dates back to the late 19th century. It was the headquarters of New York Life Insurance Company. It functioned as one of the most vivid cultural centers in Budapest where artists, writers and poets met.

This beautiful eclectic style palace was severely damaged during the wars of the 20th century, but finally it was beautifully restored in 2006.

Filmmakers fell in love with the building at first sight.

The café with its detailed decorations and frescoes is one of the most beautiful in Budapest.

Some of the films shot here:

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Bel Ami (2012)

Houdini (2014)

Spy Game (1996)

Red Sparrow (2017)

Stars who have already worked here:

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Brad Pitt

Charlize Theron

Jennifer Lawrence

Robert Pattison

Uma Thurman

Cities played by Budapest:

Budapest, Berlin, Moscow, Paris

Hungarian State Opera House and it’s neighborhood

The neighborhood around the Opera House is one of the most popular locations for shoots.

The narrow streets surrounding the Renaissance style opera house offer a unique atmosphere and it is perfect to invoke the sensation of numerous different cities.

Every year several movies and t series are shot here.

 

Some of the films shot here:

A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Evita (1996)

Inferno (2016)

Munich (2006)

Spy (2015)

The Alienist (2018)

Stars who have already worked here:

Antonio Banderas,

Bruce Willis

Charlize Theron

Eric Bana

Jason Statham

Jeremy Irons

Rosamund Pike,

Tom Hanks

Cities played by Budapest: Berlin, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Firenze, Moscow, New York, Paris, Prague, Rome

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

Gresham Palace

This post hotel right at the foot of Chain Bridge is famous for accommodate celebrities.

Some scenes of Spy with Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law were shot on its front drive, the fifth-floor corridor, the Royal Suite, and the lobby, with a gorgeous mélange of stained glass, mosaics, and ironwork.

Budapest in movies: Spy
Zrínyi street with St. Stephen's Basilica at the back
Chain Bridge in front of Gresham Palace in "Spy" (screenshot)

The moped scene where McCarthy chases the assassin were shot on the front drive, and the city right next to the Hotel.  You can also see the interiors and fireplaces throughout the film.

Heroes’ Square

The square that provides a beautiful backdrop for any film production features the tomb of the unknown soldier, the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and statues of other important Hungarian leaders.

“A Good Day to Die Hard” was filmed in and around Budapest, with the city doubling up as Moscow, and Heroes’ Square was used quite extensively in the movie.

Some of the films shot here:

An American Rhapsody (2001)

I spy (2002)

In Secret (2013)

The Luzhin Defense (2000)

Stars who have already worked here:

Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Jessica Lange, Katy Perry

Michael Jackson, Scarlett Johansson

Cities played by Budapest: Budapest, Kiev, Paris

Liberty Square and it’s Neighborhood

Liberty Square provides a unique filming location for filmmakers. It also houses the American Embassy, cafes and a venue for concerts.

There are several huge, beautiful buildings surrounding it.

Two of them are worth mentioning because of their extravagant elegance: the Ex Stock Exchange Palace with its eclectic style and the Palace of Adria Shipping Office which used to be the headquarter of the Hungarian Royal Shipping Corporation.

Scenes for “Blade Runner 2049” were filmed in the square and throughout the nearby streets.

The historic Stock Exchange Building at Szabadság Square portrayed the “Vintage Casino”, where Gosling’s “Officer K” seeks out Rick Deckard, who has been missing for 30 years in the movie’s plot.

It is clearly visible that Gosling is walking through the main entrance of the building, as the lobby’s stairway, columns, lamps, and other structural elements are easily recognizable.

 

Blade Runner 2049 - Stock Exchange Building

The public square was also used in “Spy” and “Atomic Blonde,” and continues to be a popular draw for both locals and tourists.

Some of the films shot here:

A good day to die hard (2013)

Bel Ami (2012)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Munich (2006)

The Alienist (2018)

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Stars who have already worked here:

Anthony Hopkins, Bruce Willis, Daniel Craig, Eric Bana, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, Jeremy Irons, Jude Law, Madonna, Melissa McCarthy, Mila Kunis, Ryan Gosling, Uma Thurman

Cities played by Budapest: Buenos Aires, London, Moscow, New York, Paris, Roma

Palace of the Ministry of Justice

screenshot from "Spy"
Palace of the Ministry of Justice
actual photo taken during the day

Very popular location for shoots. It has been used in several film productions thanks to its elegant huge hall with classical columns and the grand multicolored marble staircase. It is located opposite the Parliament in the middle of the renovated Kossuth square.

Some of the films shot here:

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Inferno (2016)

The Real (2012)

Sunshine (1999)

Spy (2015)

Stars who have already worked here:

Antonio Banderas

Charlize Theron,

Ed Harris

Felicity Jones

John Cusack

Ralph Fiennes,

Tom Hanks

Cities played by Budapest: Baltimore, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Firenze, London, Rome

Fisherman’s Bastion and it’s neighborhood

The grand staircase of Fisherman's Bastion photographed from it bottom

One of the main tourist attractions of Budapest with gorgeous views of the city.

Read about it more here.

Some of the films shot here:

Crimes and Punishment (1998)

Spy (2002)

Sunshine (1999)

Stars who have already worked here:

Ben Kingsley, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Connelly, Owen Wilson, Patrick Dempsey, Ralph Fiennes

Cities played by Budapest: Budapest, Paris, Saint Petersburg

Selena Gomez’s videoclip shows almost all the main Budapest sights: 

St. Stephen’s Basilica

The streets located around the Basilica were featured in the Tom Hanks film “Inferno”.

Various scenes of Evita were filmed in front of St Stephen’s Basilica and throughout Budapest.

Tourists are able to visit this site by walking up to the famous dome on top, which also appears in many film and television productions.

Films shot here:

Bel Ami (2012) – Paris

Evita (1996) – Buenos Aires

Copying Beethoven (2006) – Vienna

Round and round video clip (2010) – Selena Gomez

Andrássy Avenue

Dreschler House
Drechsler Palace

Andrássy Avenue provides the perfect backdrop for big budget movies.

In”Evita,” crowd scenes were shot along the avenue and at the Oktogon intersection.

In “Bel Ami” starring Robert Pattinson, filmmakers transformed the avenue into 19th Century Paris.

The best way to experience this stunning avenue is to take a walk from Heroes’ Square down to the Hungarian State Opera House and Basilica. Most of the key movie sites mentioned in this article can be spotted along the way.

Some of the films shot here:

Callas Café and Restaurant: Spy (“Paris”), Red Sparrow (“Moscow”), Colette (“Paris”)

Drechsler Palace: Victory (“Paris”), The Josephine Baker Story (“Paris”), Sunshine, Munich (“Paris”)

Opera House: Sunshine (“Vienna”), The Luzhin Defense (“Saint Petersburg”), Monte Carlo (“Paris”) Red Sparrow (“Moscow”), The Alienist (“New York”)

Kodály Körönd 4: Atomic Blonde (“Berlin”), Colette (“Paris”)

Cities doubled by Budapest in movies

Paris

Budapest had substituted Paris in more than 30 films already.

The two cities share similarities with an abundance of avenues, stations, and cafés.

Walking on Andrássy avenue reminds us of Champs-Élysées, narrow streets and stairs underneath the castle district make us thing of Montmartre.

This eternally magical sensation is recalled in numerous movies shot in Budapest.

Beijing

Ludwig Museum: one of the 3 institutions in Palace of Arts

The Martian (2015) – some scenes – where the Chinese ministry helped the Martian rescue team – were shot in Palace of Arts (that gives home to three institutions)

Berlin

Budapest plays Berlin’s role in numerous film. It is not a coincidence. We can find a lot of similarities in the facades of the two cities, their architecture has a lot in common.

Filmmakers mostly use Budapest to represent the middle of the last century and reproducing the historical events of WW1 and WW2.

Atomic Blonde (2017) Shot in Lónyay street – Mátyás street corner, Unger House

Spy Game (2001) Shot at Liberty Bridge and Gozsdu Courtyard Brad Pitt

Buenos Aires

Evita (1996, Madonna) – Garden of the Hungarian National Museum, Andrássy Avenue

Washington

Houdini (2014, Adrien Brody) – Garden of the Hungarian National Museum

Los Angeles

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling

Casablanca

Budapest has also substituted Casablance in “The Josephine Baker Story”. Filmmakers used the facade of Lukacs Spa in Buda with its Moorish architecture.

Saint Petersburg

The Luzhin Defense (2000)- Gellért square

Red King, White Knight (1989) – Gozsdu Courtyard

Moscow

Red Sparrow (2018) – New York Palace and Andrássy Experience Center (Andrássy street 39.)

Vienna

Because of the common history it is easy to represent the imperial city in Budapest. There is a strong between the two cities in their architecture and cultural atmosphere thanks to the Austro-Hungary Empire.

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)- Rákóczi Square, Corvin square

Sunshine (1999) Hungarian State Opera House

Stars in Budapest

Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling, and Tom Hanks are all among the Hollywood superstars that moved to the Hungarian metropolis for months to shoot such blockbusters as “The Martian”, “Blade Runner 2”, and “Inferno”.

Brad Pitt

Spy Game

World War Z

Bruce Willis

He spent more than half a year here in Budapest playing a role of John McClane.

Charlize Theron

Atomic Blonde in 2017

Daniel Craig

Munich, directed by Steven Speilberg in 2006

Dwayne Johnson

Everybody loved the Rock during his stay in Hungary. 😀 Some meme have born, too: 

The Rock helps the Hungarians during the Battle of Nándorfehérvár, 1456
Rock in the Hungarian Parliament

Harrison Ford

Blade Runner 2049. He became very popular among Hungarians.

Huge Jackman

X-Men Commercial: his task was to play a runner who runs across the streets of Budapest

Jason Statham

Spy (2015) CIA agent running wild in Budapest and around Lake Balaton.

Jennifer Lawrence

Red Sparrow (2018)

Jessica Chastain

The Debt (2010)

The Martian (2015)

Keanu Reeves

47 Ronin

Keira Knightley

Colette (2018)

Matt Damon

While spending months in Budapest to shoot The Martian, Damon took archery lessons from Lajos Kassai, a well-known international master of archery who holds several world records, such as practicing the sport uninterruptedly for a full day.

Mila Kunis

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Tom Hanks

Inferno (2016)

Some people were lucky enough to see Tom Hanks in hospital gown

Uma Thurman

Bel Ami (2012)

Scarlett Johansson

Black Widow:

Some actors were positively influenced by Budapest, for example

Kate McKinnon

Will Smith loves Budapest and Budapest loves Will Smith!

Some of them are simply went crazy:

Jennifer Lawrence

“That seems to be a dangerous place to have a bar-fight.” – yeah, sure. We are medival minded cavemen who eat Hollywood darlings for breakfast. Sure. 🤮 

This post just scratched the surface of the blooming movie industry in Budapest. There are many other films that were party or entirety shot here. Year after year more filmmakers decide to shoot their films in Budapest.

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