Sometimes it’s hard to tell truth from fiction—especially when Hollywood is involved. With its stunning coastline, glamorous beaches, lunar-like lava fields, lush interior, and iconic volcano, Mount Teide, looming in the background, Tenerife is an idyllic setting for everything from rom-coms to action adventures. So it’s no wonder rumors abounded (some say promulgated by enterprising tour guides) that films such as The Ten Commandments, The Planet of the Apes, and Star Wars Episode III were filmed here. But that is not the case … or so it seems.
Controversies about what actually was filmed here and what wasn’t aside, it took Hollywood a while to discover the cinematographic treasures that abound on this Canary island. Until recently, the most famous movie set on Tenerife was 1966’s One Million Years B.C. Featuring Raquel Welch, the film is most famous for the bikini worn by its star.
It wasn’t until this century that Tenerife came into its own as a film location. In 2001, native son Juan Carlos Fresnadillo released Intacto, starring Max Von Sydow. Though it remained obscure to the general public, the movie was critically acclaimed and attracted filmmakers to its setting.
Not surprisingly, given the island’s otherworldly lava fields, science fiction is a popular genre here. 2005 marked the release of Douglas Adams’ comedy science fiction classic, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with Bill Nighy, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, John Malkovich, and Alan Rickman in the cast. Also featured on screen in the opening sequence are the dolphins of Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz.
Five years later, Teide National Park played the role of ancient Greece in Clash of the Titans, a recreation of the myth of Perseus, a son of Zeus, as he battled monsters from the underworld to rescue the princess Andromeda. A sequel, Wrath of the Titans—also filmed in part on Tenerife—was released in 2012 with Sam Worthington again playing the mythical hero.
Fast & Furious is another franchise that found a home here. When the U.K. would not permit some of the car-chase sequences in Fast & Furious 6 to be shot there, location scout Yanira de Armas-Tosco chose Tenerife—not only for a highway that had not yet been opened to the public, but also for its easy access from the mainland and for its tax incentives.
Tenerife has also made it to the small screen, with two episodes of season 9 of the British TV hit Doctor Who filmed on the island in 2015. 2015 also saw the filming of what might prove to be the island’s biggest blockbuster yet: Bourne 5, starring Matt Damon. Visitors to Santa Cruz might recognize the streets but not the street signs, which were in Greek during the city’s appearance as Athens. The movie is due to be released in July 2016.