This year's Oscars Best Picture nominees feature some iconic settings, from 1940s Bletchley Park to deepest Texas and an Iraqi war zone. Here we break down where each movie is set and shot, and how you can get on the ground and check out the filming locations for yourself.
Explore the filming locations of this year’s Oscar nominees
The Imitation Game: Bletchley Park, England
This moving biopic – a shoe-in for awards at the Oscars 2015 ceremony – hops between three significant periods of Alan Turing’s life: as a student at Sherborne School, Dorset; breaking the Enigma code at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire during World War II; and being hunted down and interrogated by the police in 1950s Manchester.
After years of secrecy Bletchley Park is now open to the public, with guided tours around the code-breaking huts and blocks. Dedicated film-buffs, however, will want to head 40 miles southwest to the Jacobean-style Joyce Grove estate in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, to see where the code-breaking scenes were actually filmed.
Birdman: Broadway, New York City
One of the talking points of black comedy Birdman is the illusion that is was filmed in one shot in and around Broadway’s St James Theatre. Alas, director Alejandro G Iñárritu actually used filming locations across New York. Even the backstage scenes – which flow seamlessly into the on-stage ones – were shot across town in a Queens studio.
The bar that Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) and Mike Shiner (Ed Norton) frequent, a few doors down from the theatre, is actually the Rum House on West 47th Street – which you may recognise from The Godfather. And the unforgettable scene where Michael Keaton marches in his underwear through a crowd of people? That was shot in Times Square, packed with real members of the public.
Selma: Georgia and Alabama, USA
Ava DuVernay’s Selma follows the build-up to the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King Jr (played by David Oyelowo), which prompted the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Filming took place on a tight 32-day schedule in Georgia and Alabama, in places where some of the events actually took place.
Notable locations include the Rockdale County Courthouse, where federal judge Frank Minis Johnson rules that the final march can go ahead; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama (named after a former US senator and Ku Klux Klan leader); and Dexter Avenue, where King led demonstrators on the third and final march towards the Alabama State Capitol.
Grand Budapest Hotel: Görlitz, Germany
The black sheep of the Oscars’ 2015 nominees, The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka (not to be confused with a brand of Polish bison grass vodka). Only Wes Anderson knows where exactly it would fall in Europe, but Constructed Worlds Wiki places it somewhere between the Czech Republic and Austria.
Much of the film was shot in the picturesque Saxon town of Görlitz on the Polish-German border. Having emerged from World War Two virtually unscathed, Görlitz makes the perfect filming location for historical movies, and has featured in Inglourious Basterds, Monuments Men and The Book Thief in recent years. The Grand Budapest Hotel itself sadly doesn’t exist (its pink facade is a model) but the interior shots were filmed in the spectacular Art Nouveau Görlitzer Warenhaus department store. If you have some time on your hands, hundreds of jokers have written reviews of the fictional hotel on Tripadvisor.
Boyhood: Texas, USA
Nominated for six awards in this year’s Oscars, Boyhood has made cinema history, shot over twelve years using the same actors throughout. To director Richard Linklater, however, the location is just as significant as the concept; the day before the film’s general release he described it as “my ultimate Texas movie”.
The scene where Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) takes Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) to an Astros baseball game was shot during a live match at Minute Maid Park amongst a real crowd. Hardcore Boyhood fans can head down to The Continental Club in Austin to relive the scene where a grown-up Mason Jr and his girlfriend eat at a 24-hour diner.
Whiplash: Los Angeles, USA
One of the best-reviewed of the Oscars’ 2015 nominees, Whiplash follows the story of prodigal jazz drummer Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) striving for perfection under the guidance of abusive instructor Terence Fletcher (J K Simmons). Set at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music in Manhattan, New York City, the fast-paced movie was actually filmed over just 19 days in Los Angeles. Both the ornate Palace Theatre and the equally stunning Orpheum Theatre feature in the film.
The Theory of Everything: Cambridge, England
The Theory of Everything is predominantly set in Cambridge, where Stephen Hawking enrolled at the university at the age of 17. Some key filming locations include St John’s College, a more attractive building than Trinity Hall where Hawking actually studied, and Wren’s Kitchen Bridge, where Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane (Felicity Jones) share a romantic dance in the film.
Other locations include Craxton Studios in Hampstead, used for the setting of Hawking’s student accommodation; Harrow School in London, which posed as the interior for Trinity Hall; and the rickety Royal Standard of England pub in Beaconsfield, which stood in for the Cambridge drinking hole where a young Hawking used to frequent; explore it on Google Street View here.
American Sniper: California and Morocco
Already the highest grossing war movie of all time, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper follows the story of one of the US’s most prolific snipers, Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper). The Iraq war scenes were filmed in Rabat and Sale in Morocco, while the rest of the film was shot in California.
Locals may recognise the bar O’ Malley’s on Main as the location where Kyle meets wife-to-be Taya (Sienna Miller), and it’s at Huntington Beach Pier where he woos her with a cuddly toy at a shooting stall. To witness the place where the climactic, rooftop battle scene in Sadr City, Baghdad was was actually shot, drive 100 miles east of San Diego to the dusty city of El Centro, deep in the Imperial Valley.
Explore more of the world with the Rough Guide to 2015. Find the top ten countries, cities and best-value destinations to visit this year. Compare flights, book hostels for your trip, and don't forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
Book your trip with Rough Guides
Tailor-made travel planned by local experts
At Rough Guides, we understand that experienced travellers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track. That’s why we’ve partnered with local experts to help you plan and book tailor-made trips that are packed with personality and stimulating adventure - at all levels of comfort. If you love planning, but find arranging the logistics exhausting, you’re in the right place.Learn Morechevron_right
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners