Move over Oscar! We have our own thoughts about which movies won our hearts in 2008. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 10 most travel-inspiring movies—and how you, too, can have cinematic moments on your next trip.
10. GET SMART
Washington, D.C., Russia, and Los Angeles
The comedic spy saga—and homage to the 1960s TV show—follows Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and Agent 86 (Steve Carell) on their first mission as partners. It's no small task: The duo must track down Kaos, a gang of international terrorists, before it assassinates the U.S. president.
Undercover D.C. The agents work for a clandestine agency headquartered in a secret office at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. (202/633-1000, mnh.si.edu, free). The museum wasn't identified in the movie, but staffers did allow the crew to film Agent 86 in the rotunda. In the scene, he walks past a tour group looking at spy artifacts, which were actually just props for the film. A few blocks away, the International Spy Museum has a large collection of espionage memorabilia on display, including a lipstick-shaped pistol (866/779-6873, spymuseum.org, $18).
Romantic Red Square The partners swap stories about their pasts on a stroll through Moscow's Red Square. For the best people-watching, the Bosco Bar caféwith psychedelic plastic chairs straight out of the '70s—has views of Lenin's mausoleum (011-7/495-627-3703).
Big bang The final showdown with Kaos unfolds at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. As the orchestra tunes up, the clock ticks: Kaos has planted a bomb in the piano that will explode when the orchestra hits a certain chord of a symphony. If you'd like to catch a performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic this winter, the group will be playing one of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's favorite Stravinsky pieces, The Rite of Spring (laphil.com, from $42).
9. SEX AND THE CITY
New York City
Four years after the HBO series wrapped, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and friends roam Manhattan again—on the big screen.
Making history One look at the majestic beaux arts staircase in the main branch of The New York Public Library and Carrie was hooked: This was where she would finally marry Mr. Big (Chris Noth). The 97-year-old library, a few blocks west of Grand Central Terminal, also owns some of the country's oldest historical documents, including a copy of the Declaration of Independence that was handwritten by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 (212/340-0849, nypl.org).
Central casting Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) confesses her marital problems to Carrie over a picnic lunch in the Ladies' Pavilion at Central Park. The cast-iron Victorian structure, named after the women who once used its benches to change into their ice skates, borders Central Park's lake between 75th and 76th streets (centralparknyc.org). "There aren't too many places in Manhattan where you can sit and really take in the city's skyline," says location manager Michael Kriaris. "Central Park is one of those spots, but since we were shooting in autumn, and the scene was supposed to take place in the spring, we had to truck in our own plants and flowers!"
A cheesy reception When Carrie and Mr. Big tie the knot, their brunch reception is held at Junior's, a Brooklyn diner that's been serving New York–style cheesecakes since 1950. The legendary dessert, a Rosen family recipe for three generations, is served plain, embellished with plump cherries, and even topped with red-and-green chocolate chips for Christmas (718/852-5257, slices from $6).
8. KUNG FU PANDA
In the animated flick from DreamWorks, a rather klutzy and portly Chinese panda named Po (Jack Black) is unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and become the fearless Dragon Warrior.
Hero's home cooking Po's father is the owner of a traditional noodle house, and he expects his reluctant son to take over the family business someday. To watch real-life chefs sling 10 varieties of noodles by hand, try the Noodle Loft in Beijing, whose house specialty is qiao mian mao erduo, a cat's ear-shaped buckwheat noodle served with chicken or beef broth (011-86/10-6774-9950, from $12).
Palace on a hill Even though Po completes intense training to become the Dragon Warrior, the pudgy panda gets winded trekking up to the sprawling Jade Palace, where the mousy Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) instructs his students in the fine art of kung fu. The setting was modeled after the Summer Palace, a massive imperial complex of more than 3,000 ornate bridges, temples, and pavilions built on Longevity Hill in Beijing (011-86/10-6288-1144, summerpalace-china.com, from $3).
Bear boot camp Animator Rodolphe Guenoden, who has practiced martial arts for 20 years, held workshops in the DreamWorks studios so his coworkers could experience what it was like to become a kung fu warrior. To see some masters at work, martial artists give two-hour kung fu demonstrations in Hong Kong's Kowloon Park every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (discoverhongkong.com, free).
7. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
Dumped by his longtime girlfriend, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) heads to Oahu to mend his broken heart—only to find his ex (Kristen Bell) shacked up with another guy at the hotel.
Paradise lost Peter's idyllic vacation at the Turtle Bay Resort, on Oahu's North Shore, is ruined when he bumps into his former flame and her new beau at the resort's romantic, open-air restaurant, Ola, and at Turtle Bay's oceanfront luau, held on Friday nights (808/293-6000, turtlebayresort.com, from $230).
Hawaii on high On a morning hike to a 30-foot-high precipice overlooking the island's northeastern coast, Peter is persuaded by an island girl, Rachel (Mila Kunis), to take more risks in his life, starting with jumping off the cliff into the ocean. The scene was filmed at Laie Point State Wayside, where locals take the big leap at their own risk (hawaiistateparks.org, free). "Shooting that was wild," says location manager Art Rivers. "It was the last week of the school year, when teenagers have a tradition of jumping off the cliff, so we had to keep dozens of them back while we did the scene!"
Wave runner The North Shore is known for its big surf in the winter months, but the rest of the year it's calm enough for hapless beginners like Peter. His attempts to catch a wave were shot at Haleiwa Alii Beach, but you can also learn to get the hang of things in the waters off Turtle Bay through the Hans Hedemann Surf School (808/924-7779, hhsurf.com, two-hour lesson from $75).
6. VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
When Woody Allen started writing the script for his latest comedy, one thing was nonnegotiable: It had to be set in sultry Barcelona. The resulting madcap movie chronicles the escapades of American tourists Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) with ladies' man Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem).
Spanish side trip When the girls first meet Juan Antonio, the sweet-talking artist convinces Cristina and a hesitant Vicky to accompany him on a weekend getaway to the Asturian town of Oviedo, in northern Spain. Juan Antonio flies his friend's tiny aircraft through a turbulent storm, but Iberia offers daily nonstop service from Barcelona (800/772-4642, iberia.com, from $153). While in Oviedo, the trio takes a tour of San Julián de los Prados, one of many well-preserved pre-Romanesque churches in the region (011-34/607-353-999, $1.75).
Outsider art Vicky and Juan Antonio share a steamy night together in Oviedo, but once they're back in Barcelona, he starts dating Cristina. A hurt Vicky runs into the lothario at Parc Güell, a park on the outskirts of town landscaped with Antoni Gaudí's whimsical sculptures, including a dragon fountain in front of which Vicky and Juan Antonio exchange words (011-34/93-413-2400, free).
Antique amusement When Vicky's fiancé shows up in Barcelona, Cristina arranges an outing for both couples to the 107-year-old Tibidabo Amusement Park, which has a roller coaster that resembles an old locomotive, a vintage Ferris wheel, and panoramic views of the city and the surrounding coastline (011-34/93-211-7942, tibidabo.es, $35).
5. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
New Zealand, Poland, and Slovenia
The Pevensie clan—Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell)—returns to Narnia only to find its creatures have been forced into hiding by the Telmarines. So the children set out to help Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) reclaim his throne—a spectacular journey that was filmed in four countries.
Tunnel vision One minute the kids are in a London Tube station, and the next they're emerging from a rock arch onto a white-sand beach in Narnia. The arch is part of Cathedral Cove, a marine reserve on New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula. Local outfitter Mercury Bay Seafaris offers boat tours to the reserve, along with the other North Island film location (011-64/7-866-3910, glassbottomboatwhitianga.co.nz, from $44).
Rock on As the foursome sets off in search of the Narnians, Peter leads the group through a lush forest dotted with jagged rock formations, refusing to admit that he's lost. Fittingly, the scene was shot at Lost Rocks, in Poland's Góry Stolowe National Park (011-48/74-86-61-436, pngs.pulsar.net.pl, $2). "It looks like the Grand Canyon, but full of greenery," says executive producer Perry Moore of the park's sandstone passageways. "The truth is that some of the best magic in the Narnia movies is grounded in reality."
Watershed moment The movie's epic battle between the Narnians and the Telmarines culminates in a showdown along the banks of Slovenia's Soca River. "It was a complicated location to scout," says producer Phil Steuer. "We needed access to a river and permission to build a bridge." Wedged amid the Julian Alps, the Soca River valley is an adventure-sports haven for hikers, rafters, bikers, kayakers, and paragliders. If you want to hit the rapids, the Bovec Rafting Team arranges white-water trips (011-386/5-388-61-28, half-day tours from $50).
4. THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
Sibling rivalry really heats up when sisters Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) catch a glimpse of a young Henry VIII (Eric Bana)—and his spectacular palace. The movie is based on Philippa Gregory's best seller, which took its inspiration from English history.
Grassy knole Henry VIII's home, Whitehall Palace, burned down in 1698, so production designer John-Paul Kelly turned to Knole, the king's country manor in Sevenoaks. Kelly was struck by the house's massive scale: "It looks more like a small town than a building!" The estate has 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances, and 7 courtyards. From mid-March to early November, you can tour the rooms—complete with opulent Jacobean-era furnishings—as well as the Japanese sika deer park that surrounds the 1,000-acre property (011-44/1732-462-100, nationaltrust.org.uk, $18).
Get thee to the nunnery Queen Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) gives the Boleyn girls a rough welcome to court, forcing a timid Mary to sing for the queen's ladies-in-waiting in Lacock Abbey. Today, visitors to Wiltshire can explore Lacock's main hall, octagonal tower, botanic gardens, and medieval cloisters—which also had a cameo in two Harry Potter films (011-44/1249-730-884, nationaltrust.org.uk, $18).
Redemption song London's St. Bartholomew the Great church serves as the backdrop for Anne's bleak wedding to Henry—and her fateful trial. Every Sunday at 6:30 p.m., the choir performs a moving evensong service. The tradition was established after Henry VIII broke from the Catholic church and formed the Anglican church in order to marry Anne (011-44/20-7606-5171, greatstbarts.com).
3. QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Italy, Austria, England
The highly anticipated sequel to Casino Royale marks the return of 007 (Daniel Craig). Bent on avenging the death of his lost love, James Bond outwits the British government and the CIA on a covert mission that takes him around the globe.
Horsing around In the fast-paced opening scene, Bond chases a spy through a warren of medieval aqueducts in Siena, Italy. In the summer, you can take a tour of the subterranean cisterns through La Diana Association (011-39/366-358-8181, $13). Bond eventually pops up through a manhole in Piazza del Campo—directly into the path of the Palio horse race. During the competition, which has been held in Siena since 1310, riders must complete three laps around the piazza, avoiding spectators along the way (July 2 and Aug. 16, free).
Opera on the water Bond tracks down villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) at the Bregenz Festival House, a 7,000-seat concert hall with a floating stage on the banks of Lake Constance in Austria. The 2009 festival season runs from July 22 to August 23 and features Verdi's tragic opera Aida (011-43/5574-4076, bregenzerfestspiele.com, from $40).
Sky's the limit Bond uncovers Greene's plot to overthrow the Bolivian government and take control of its water supply. While en route to Bolivia, 007's plane is shot down, and he has to share a parachute with his latest paramour, Camille (Olga Kurylenko). The scene was actually filmed in Bedford, England, at Bodyflight, a skydiving center with a wind tunnel that simulates free-falling at 120 mph (bodyflight.co.uk, from $70). "There aren't any cables holding you down in the wind tunnel," says director Marc Forster. "You're literally floating."
2. MAMMA MIA!
Based on the hit Broadway musical, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who's on a quest to find out who her real dad is before she gets married. After narrowing the pool down to three men, she invites them all to her mom's hotel on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. The result? Chaos, and a whole lot of Abba tunes.
Shipping out Sophie's prospective fathers meet for the first time when Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Harry (Colin Firth) miss the last ferry to Kalokairi and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) offers to take them on his boat. The scene was filmed on Skiathos, an island in the Aegean Sea about 85 miles north of Athens. You can buy ferry tickets to Skiathos through Alkyon Travel (011-30/210-383-2545, alkyontravel.gr, $95). The ferry anchors near Kabourelia Ouzeri, a restaurant known for its platters of fresh octopus with ouzo (011-30/242-702-1112, $4).
Boatloads of fun When the men learn that Sophie's mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), doesn't want them at her daughter's wedding, they make a hasty retreat back to the mainland on Bill's boat. Determined to stop them, Sophie swims out to her could-be dads, and the group sings a playful rendition of "Our Last Summer." A peninsula off Glysteri beach, on the island of Skopelos, served as the scene's backdrop. You can charter a boat from Thalpos Holidays to explore the peninsula, along with the isle's many beaches and coves (011-30/242-402-9036, holidayislands.com, from $87 per day for a four-person vessel, no license needed).
Going to the chapel The wedding takes place in a tiny church built on a steep rock formation overlooking the Aegean Sea. Before Donna climbs up to the chapel, she pours her heart out to Sam, singing "The Winner Takes It All." The scene was filmed at the rustic Agios Ioannis sto Kastri on Skopelos Island, where you can scale the 100-plus stairs to the top of the dramatic cliff.
Northern Territory and Western Australia
In director Baz Luhrmann's tribute to his native Australia, aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) takes an arduous journey across the country with a rough-and-tumble stockman named the Drover (Hugh Jackman) as World War II is about to break out.
Arriving in Oz Sarah disembarks from a ship in Darwin, Australia, with so much baggage that she has to enlist four porters to help her off the vessel. The scene was shot in Bowen, a beach town in northeastern Queensland with excellent snorkeling and diving; local outfitter Aussie Reef Dive offers half- and full-day trips to several nearby dive sites (aussiereefdive.com.au, from $37).
Beau of the ball Sarah is surprised to see a rather dapper-looking Drover, whom she hired to help her drive cattle across Australia, at a high-society party one evening. The scene was filmed at Strickland House, an 1850s Italianate villa in Sydney, built for the city's first elected mayor, John Hosking. You can only tour the home once a year (the 2009 date is April 13), but visitors can stroll through the villa's manicured grounds year-round and eat a picnic lunch on a hill that overlooks Sydney Harbour (011-61/2-9337-5999, house tour $3).
In love in the Outback Sparks fly between Sarah and the Drover as they traverse hundreds of miles across the Outback to a cattle station that Sarah has inherited in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. "The area has the most incredible sunsets and sunrises, and practically everything in the scene is authentic—the sunshine really burns, the dust is real," says James Fisher, one of the film's still photographers. You can explore this rugged countryside with Kununurra Scenic Bus Tours, which leads trips through the red-rock valley that surrounds the Ord River, with stops at an aboriginal art gallery and Ivanhoe Crossing, which has some of the best crocodile spotting in the region (011-61/437-058-673, ksbtours.net, from $70).