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spotlight on: three top films shot in Malta

spotlight on: three top films shot in Malta

Did you know that the Maltese Islands have been used as a destination for top film productions for more than 90 years?

Throughout the years, Malta has attracted a great number of high-profile film and television productions. In this article, we’ll be focusing on three of them, which are Captain Phillips (2013), Orient on the Murder Express (2017) and Papillon (2017).

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is an American biographical action thriller, directed by Paul Greengrass. It was inspired by the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking and tells the story of Captain Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. The film stars Tom Hanks as the Captain, alongside Barkhad Abdi as pirate leader Abduwali Muse. Captain Phillips grossed $107.1 million in North America and $111.7 million in other countries, for a total of $218.8 million, against its budget of $55 million! The waters around the island of Malta became the main filming location and doubled for the region around the African coast, in the hijacking scenes. Greengass based the production at the studio for the 41-day shoot, but in the end only made limited use of the actual stages and water tanks, with the bulk of the filming taking place on the ship Alexander, out at sea.

Murder on the orient express

This 2017 movie falls into the mystery genre and was directed by Kenneth Branagh. Murder on the Orient Express is based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie and stars Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with star actors including Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and Daisy Ridley in supporting roles. The story centres around a mysterious murder on the Orient Express, a long-distance passenger train service, which crossed most of the largest cities in Europe. Despite Malta not featuring in the train’s route at all, our island did indeed serve as the backdrop for many scenes in the film. Valletta, with its narrow winding streets, served as Jerusalem and as Istanbul in the opening scenes of the film. Scenes shot in Malta feature throughout, in a series of flashbacks pertaining to a number of characters in the story.


Papillon is a 2017 biographical drama film that tells the story of French convict Henri Charriere, played by Charlie Hunman, nicknamed Papillon, which means butterfly. He was imprisoned in 1933 in the notorious Devil’s Island penal colony and escaped in 1941 with the help of another convict, counterfeiter Louis Dega, played by Rami Malek. The film debuted to $1.2 million from 544 theatres in its opening weekend. As of 2018, Papillon grossed $2.3 million in the US and Canada and $2.1 in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $4.5 million! Papillon was mainly filmed at the water tanks at the Mediterranean Film Studios in Kalkara and at Miġra Il-Ferħa, where a magnificent cliff dive was filmed.

Malta’s proposition to film-makers is based on a unique combination of great locations, excellent crew and services, the world-known water tanks and a strong cash rebate programme.

The Malta Film Commission was set up back in 2000, with the dual aim of supporting the local filmmaking community, while at the same time strengthening the film servicing sector. In fact, since 2013, the implementation of new strategy has led to an unprecedented growth in the local industry, with over 50 productions filmed in Malta and foreign direct investment being injected into the local economy. In its work, the Commission is creating a world-class film industry, one production at a time.