A stream flowing through the rocks in a verdant surrounding at Kitulgala, One of the Best Places for Film Locations in Sri Lanka
Kitulgala, One of the Best Places for Film Locations in Sri Lanka

Are you on the lookout for a perfect location to shoot your film? Do you want a lesser-known yet elegant location to get the perfect shots? Then, undoubtedly Sri Lanka is a country that should be on your list. Simply, there are enough and more astounding film locations that would suit any of your requirements, here in Sri Lanka. Excited to know what they are? Continue reading!

What Makes Sri Lanka Suitable for Film Shoots?

As you may already know, Sri Lanka is a paradise island in the Indian ocean. From the greenish mountain range to the gorgeous beachline, there are so many dreamy locations all around this country. Sri Lanka is famous as a tourist paradise, especially for its natural beauty. And yes, such wonderful scenery, exquisite culture, historical grandeur, and soothing climate make Sri Lanka the ideal location to shoot a film.

In fact, Sri Lanka has provided locations for many international movies. Your creativity along with the exotic locations of the island will do wonders.

What are the Best Film Locations in Sri Lanka?

Well, among the many film locations, we believe that the following are the best in Sri Lanka. So, here are some amazing locations that will suit all the requirements for your movie.

  1. Kitulgala
  2. Kandy
  3. Colombo
  4. Beruwala
  5. Hill Country
  6. Ranminithenna
  7. Jaffna Peninsula

Excited to know about these places? Keep scrolling down!

1. Kitulgala

Kitulgala is a small village located in the west of Sri Lanka. And yes, it started getting more recognition because of the movie, ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’.

Bridge on the River Kwai is an award-winning British-American movie. This 1957 Oscar-winning epic had Kitulgala, especially the Kelani River as its backdrop. David Lean is the director of this movie. The plot of this movie revolves around the construction of the Burma railway in 1942-1943 and is based on the novel Le Pont de la Riviere Kwai (1952). As such, the story reveals the lives of British prisoners of war who were captives of the Japanese prison camp in Burma.

The film crew built a bridge over the river for the movie. Still, soon after the shooting, they dismantled it, with the hope of protecting the natural surroundings of Kitulgala. However, this popular movie brought out so much attention to the hidden gem of Kitulgala.

However, Kitulgala is now a famous tourist attraction as an adventure sporting center of the country. Simply, if you are a fan of water rafting, then Kitulgala is a must-visit for you in Sri Lanka. After all, it is a beautiful village settled amidst the forested hills.

The Kelani river flows through the village adding beauty and value to the area. If you ever visit Kitulgala, you will instantly get the feeling that this is more like a natural paradise. The picture-perfect Kitulgala is basically a director’s dreamland with its amazing natural sceneries at every corner. The beautiful natural views will add many colors and value to your movie.

Kitulgala is situated about 100 kilometers away from the commercial capital of Colombo. Laxapana Falls, St. Clair’s falls, Sri Pada, and Makandawa forest reserve are some famous tourist attractions that you can visit from Kitulgala.

2. Kandy

Kandy city is the beauty of the Sri Lankan highlands. It is also one of the most popular cities on the island and is one of the best film locations in Sri Lanka.

‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Doom’ by Steven Speilberg was shot in Kandy. First, the film crew had planned to shoot the movie in Rajasthan, India. However, Indian officials denied permission considering the plot to be offensive. Afterward, the film crew decided to shoot the movie in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The famous movie director, Steven Speilberg also chose Kandy as the perfect location for one of his movies. It was the second movie of the Indiana Jones series. This movie is about an archeologist who is also perceived as a savior of the world. This 1984 American adventure-action movie has a star-studded cast as well. The ‘Mayapore’ village of the movie is located in the Hantana tea plantation. The jungle and the hanging rope bridge scene are the scenes that got the most attention out of the ones that were shot in Sri Lanka. The rope bridge scene was shot downriver of the Victoria dam which is North of Kandy. Anyhow, it is clear that Kandy has given such an exotic touch to this Indiana Jones movie.

Besides, Kandy is particularly popular as the cultural capital of the country. There are many tourist attractions in and around Kandy such as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, and Mahaweli river. Furthermore, the eye-catching mountainous region and the soothing climate make it one of the best locations to get the perfect shots for a movie. Basically, this beautiful city is an all-in-one package for a movie director.

Kandy is around 200 kilometers away from Colombo

3. Colombo

Colombo is the commercial capital and the busiest city of Sri Lanka. This highly populated city is also the most modernized city in the country.

The award-winning American/Sri Lankan production ‘A Common Man’ was shot in Colombo. Sri Lanka’s renowned filmmaker, Chandran Rutnam directed this thriller movie in 2013. ‘A Common Man’ has received awards for best picture, best director, and best actor at the Madrid International Film Festival.

A Common Man is a movie that falls under the categories of action, drama, mystery, and thriller. However, ‘A Common Man’ stands out among the movies that were shot in Colombo as it is an award-winning Hollywood super hit. The cast was also super star-studded. In fact, the Academy Award-winning actor, Ben Kingsley played the main role along with other renowned actors such as Ben Cross, Patrick Rutnam, Frederick-James Koch, etc. The 2008 Bollywood movie, Wednesday, inspired this psychological thriller movie.

In the movie, a terrorist plants bombs at several places in Colombo and threatens to detonate them unless the authorities are willing to release some prisoners. The movie critics highly accredited this movie.

After all, Colombo is a city with a huge diversity. Each corner of the city is so different and unique. Hence, you will be able to find so many locations that will exactly match the vision of your movie in Colombo city. Apart from that, Colombo is the center for Sri Lankan movie and teledrama productions as well. Thus, it has provided iconic locations for many local and international movies. So, if you are looking for film locations in Sri Lanka, then Colombo is the first place that you should look into for sure!

4. Beruwala

Here’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in southern Sri Lanka. Besides, this beach paradise will provide your movie with so many beautiful scenes, and thus, is one of the best film locations in Sri Lanka.

The 1954 American movie, ‘Elephant Walk’ was shot in Kandy and Beruwala. Paramount Pictures produced the drama this film, and William Dieterle directed it. A novel that goes by the same name influenced this movie. The English novelist, Robert Standish was the author of that novel.

This movie also consists of a well-known cast such as Elizabeth Taylor, David Finch, and Dana Andrews. Since the movie carries a story about colonial Ceylon, the down south town of Beruwala played an important part in portraying the Sri Lankan south during the colonial era. After all, this movie portrays many of Sri Lanka’s finest locations such as Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Sigiriya, Matale, Ratmalana Airport, Hantana, and Beruwala.

The movie is woven around a newly wedded woman named Ruth who comes to Sri Lanka with her tea planter husband from England. The story builds up around her physical attraction toward a plantation manager named Dick Carver, her experiences as the only white woman in the area, and the rampages of a herd of elephants. Besides, it reveals an interesting story about the struggles that Ruth faces when settling in a South Asian country like Sri Lanka.

Some of the most beautiful scenes of the movie were shot in the Brief Gardens in Beruwala. It is an iconic garden and it is the country home of the legendary architect, Bevis Bawa. As it is open to the public now, you also can pay a visit to this little paradise situated in Beruwala while you are on the lookout for the best film locations in Sri Lanka.

5. Hill Country

‘Tarzan’ is a popular name around the world. But did you know that a famous ‘Tarzan’ movie was shot in Sri Lanka many years ago?

In 1981, the adventure movie, ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ was shot in the hill country of Sri Lanka. It is an American production and the renowned director, John Derek directed it. The cast starred popular Hollywood actors like Bo Derek, Miles O’Keeffe, Richard Harris, and John Phillip Law.

While the story of the movie is based on the popular novel, ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the movie takes a different turn as it reveals the story from the point of view of Jane Parker. The movie got many negative reviews from movie critics but it was a success at the box office. And also, the movie carries an interesting turn to the typical Tarzan story that you may already know.

According to the plot of the movie, James Parker, a hunter in Africa and his daughter Jane Parker are on the lookout for a ‘white ape’. This white ape is an uncivilized white man who is being brought up by apes. The story unveils how they meet Tarzan and how Jane eventually falls in love with Tarzan. The mighty jungle where Tarzan lives is shot in the Sri Lankan hill country.

As you may already know, Sri Lanka’s mountainous region is absolutely gorgeous as it is rich with greenery. The climate is mesmerizing and there are mind-blowing views. There are so many locations in Sri Lanka’s hill country to capture the film of your dreams. And yes, one of the best ways to explore this region is to take the train from Kandy to Badulla. This train ride will prove to you, what a perfect film location the hill country is!

6. Ranminithenna

Ranminithenna is Sri Lanka’s tele-cinema village in Beralihela, Hambantota. In fact, it is Sri Lanka’s first ever tele cinema village. Even though it is in a very remote area, there are sets like rural areas, urban areas, and even old royal sites for shooting purposes. Therefore, it has provided locations for many local and international productions.

Among them, the popular Bollywood movie, ‘Bombay Velvet’ takes a special place. In fact, for this Bollywood movie, Ranminithenna created sets just like Colonial Bombay. You can still see these sets in Ranminithenna since they were preserved for the observation of the visitors. They were even useful for local productions as well.

The well-known Indian director, Anurag Kashyap directed and co-produced this 2015 Bollywood movie. The cast consisted of Bollywood superstars such as Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar, Manish Choudhary, and Vicky Kaushal. The movie and the acting received positive reviews. Besides, it was also a box-office-hit.

It was a period crime thriller film. The plot is about a commoner, Johnny who tries to achieve fame and wealth to get his love interest, Rosie, who is a jazz singer. His journey takes him to the world of crime and the story unveils how he deals with them and their love story. This stylish gangster movie got the best out of Ranminithenna.

In fact, it is even hard to believe that the movie was shot in Sri Lanka and not in Bombay. So you should really consider Ranminithenna for your movie shooting as it is basically an all-in-one package.

Ranminithenna is located around 260 kilometers away from the main city of Colombo. This location away from the usual hustle and bustle of the city gives you all the freedom you want!

6. Jaffna Peninsula

This may not be a common choice among movie directors but you will be missing out a lot if you don’t consider the Jaffna peninsula as a location for your movie. And yes, the movie ‘The Road from Elephant Pass’ had the scenery from there. The Sri Lankan director, Chandran Ratnam directed and produced this movie. Even though it was a locally-produced war film, it got international recognition. Dubbing it into five Indian languages and screening it in India were major reasons behind this recognition. Accordingly, ‘The Road from Elephant Pass’ became the first Sri Lankan movie to be screened in India.

Locations like Kalpitiya, Puttalam, Maho, Udappu, and Jaffna were the main focuses of this movie. The cast starred popular Sri Lankan actors such as Ashan Dias, Sanath Gunathilake, and Joe Abeywickrame. It was a blockbuster and is indeed a renowned war movie in Sri Lanka’s film industry.

‘The Road from Elephant Pass’ is an adaptation of the novel which goes by the same name, fabricated by the prolific author, Nihal De Silva. The story revolves around the Sri Lankan civil war which prevailed for nearly three decades. In the movie, a Sri Lankan army officer falls in love with an LTTE cadre while they are on a secret mission. Since the movie used the same areas where the war was highly impactful, it brings out the authenticity of the movie. This 2008 Sri Lankan movie was even among the nominations for the Academy Awards.

While the Jaffna peninsula is still becoming popular as a tourist destination, it doesn’t make it any less authentic. In fact, the beauty of the northern peninsula despite its harsh climate will surely amaze you. So, don’t forget to visit Jaffna while you are hunting for the best film locations in Sri Lanka.

Important Facts on Shooting a Movie in Sri Lanka

After choosing your favorite locations in Sri Lanka to shoot your movie, there is a certain procedure that you have to follow. So, here are some things that you have to keep in your mind.

During the shooting process, it will be easier for you to work with a local service provider. They usually work on a contract basis. Then, with the current exchange rates, Sri Lanka will be a very cheap option for you. So, if your intention is high-quality production for a low budget, then Sri Lanka is the place for you!

Furthermore, one of the most important steps is to obtain a film permit. Before anything, you have to take permission for your movie from Sri Lanka’s National Film Corporation. It is a necessity to shoot a movie in the country. You will be able to get this done with the help of your local service provider.

Besides, if you are coming with your foreign crew, you can obtain a visa for 30 days on arrival. But if needed, you can extend your visa for more days with the help of the National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka.

Moreover, you don’t have to bring your whole crew as you will be able to hire a local crew as well. For this, you can contact a local talent agency. As you may already know, Sri Lankans are well-known for their hospitality and friendliness. Therefore, you will be able to have an unforgettable and fun time shooting with a local crew. Then, it will be better if you follow up with Sri Lankan holidays to get a hassle-free experience if you are shooting at famous tourist destinations. 

The Bottom Line

Sri Lanka is a film-friendly nation. Besides, there are a lot of benefits that you can obtain from shooting a movie on a paradise island. Then, on the other hand, you are also helping the country as well. One of the most interesting facts about Sri Lanka is that there are many unique locations in the country that can portray many other countries from any part of the world. Let it be Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, Sri Lanka can look like it all! So what’s not to love? Here are all the reasons for you to consider this gorgeous island for your next movie production!