The Best Movies in Greece to Watch Before Your Trip
We have gathered the best movies in Greece to watch before your trip. I have asked a group of experienced travel writers to share their top recommendations of films in Greece to enhance trip planning and enrich your trip to Greece.
You can extend the joy of your travels and understand the country much more deeply by spending the months (or years!) preceding your trip by watching and reading about Greece.
At Trip Scholars, we offer many resources and ideas to help you dive deep into understanding your travel destinations before you arrive. This is a supplemental article to our series of articles about all you can do before your trip to Greece.
Queue these up and let your Greek adventure begin today!
Jump to Your Favorites!
Table of Contents
The Best Movies in Greece: The Classics
Boy on a Dolphin
Language: English (1957) NR
Boy on a Dolphin was the first major American film shot in Greece and was Sophia Lauren’s breakout role. It set the stage for many films that followed, but is also worth watching because of the scenery, story, music, and history. Most of the scenes were shot on location in Greece in the 1950’s which shows us the country and many of the important landmarks almost sixty years ago.
The story begins on the island of Hydra with Phaedra (Sophia Lauren) as a strong, stunning, and poor sponge diver. In a beautifully shot underwater scene (that must have amazed viewers in 1957) she discovers an ancient gold and bronze statue of a boy on a dolphin. Working with her lazy boyfriend, Rhif (Jorge Mistral) and the town’s English drunkard doctor, Dr. Hawkins (Laurence Naismith) the three hatch a plan to find a wealthy partner to retrieve the statue.
Phadra travels to Athens and meets both Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd) and Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb). Dr. Calder is an American archeologist trying to ensure that archeological treasures are kept in the countries where they are found. Victor, on the other hand, is an unscrupulous wealthy art collector who wants to keep priceless treasures for himself. An engaging story unfolds as the characters struggle between the security of wealth offered by Parmalee and the desire to have it recognized as a treasure of both Hydra and Greece. You’ll see some early inspiration for later Indiana Jones films as the plot unfolds.
As with all classics, this film can be tough to watch through a modern lens. The Greeks are portrayed as uneducated and sharply contrasted against most of the refined British and Americans. The relationships between men and women are jarring to watch for the modern viewer. But, if we can see the film in the historical context it was made within, it provides plenty to think about. Also notable is the lack of Greek actors in the film, which has been a welcome change in more recent cinema.
Boy on a Dolphin is a great film to watch before traveling to Greece. One of the highlights is the authentic traditional Greek music and dancing. There are also many archeological sites featured that will inspire you to add them to your itinerary. It may also spark an interest in watching other American classics shot in Greece.
Zorba the Greek
Language: English (1964) NR
If you haven’t already seen Zorba the Greek, add it to your watch list today! It is based on the best-selling novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who is arguably the greatest Greek writer of the modern age. Anthony Quinn dazzles us as Zorba, a quintessential Free Man. He vibrantly seizes existence, laughing and dancing in the face of life’s suffering. He expresses freedom (both the best and the worst of it!) more robustly than most characters throughout the history of literature and film.
Zorba befriends Basil (Alan Bates), a reserved English-Greek writer who is going to Crete to resurrect the family mine. When they arrive, they stay at the hotel of aging Madame Hortense, played by Lila Kedrova, who won an academy award for her role. Most of the villagers serve as a sort of Greek chorus, without much individuation. A stunning exception is the widow, played by Irene Papas, and the mentally disabled character, whose reaction to tragedy in the film sets him far apart from the other main characters.
Although much of it is a comedy, you will also be unsettled and least one disturbing scene will likely stay with you forever. The film depicts life in a small, poor, rural town in Crete around 1930. The women are, for the most part, treated deplorably. Some claim that the film is misogynistic because of this but shining a light on such inequalities instead gives viewers plenty to think and talk about after watching. Kazantzakis frequently brings us to uncomfortable places in his stories, and we are often better because of it.
Zorba the Greek is an excellent movie to watch before visiting Greece. It is set in Crete, one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you are going to Crete on your trip, you will find the scenery especially inspiring. The soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis is also exceptional, and you will likely want to add it to your music playlist. Perhaps most importantly, it offers a window into Greek culture of almost a hundred years ago– written by the great Cretan writer, Nikos Kazantzakis.
The Best Movies About Greece: Comedies
Language: English (2008) PG-13
Mamma Mia is one the of the best movies in Greece and one of the best musical movies of all time! The movie is a musical that follows the story of a young adult woman (Amanda Seyfried) who is on a mission to find out who her father is before her wedding. She flies from the United States to Greece where her wedding and her mom are located. Problems arise when her mom (Meryl Streep) admits to her that there are three possible men who could be her father. Because of this, Amanda Seyfried secretly invites all three men to her wedding, and her mom is shocked to see her old lovers.
This movie uses the songs of ABBA and a star-studded cast to showcase the beautiful islands in Greece. Most of the film is filmed on the small island of Skopelos in Greece where you get to see some of the local architecture that is highlighted in the film. Watching this film will get you excited for your trip to Greece as it showcases the beautiful scenery, lovely architecture, and the sailing culture of the country. I highly recommend watching this movie before heading out on your vacation to Greece!
Contributed by Shannon Lee at Adventuring with Shannon
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Language: English (2002) PG
For someone who plans on visiting Greece, this movie is a great pick. It’s light and funny, and gives a comic, yet accurate, insight of what it’s like to be a part of a big, loud Greek family. The hilarious contrast between traditional Greek upbringing and a quiet, conservative North American family is simple, yet captivating.
The story follows a thirty-year-old Toula Portokalos who works in her family’s restaurant. While her family wants her to find herself a nice Greek boy to settle down with, she believes there is more to life than this. So, she takes computer classes and starts work at her aunt’s travel agency. Eventually she meets Ian Miller who she tries to date secretly until her family finds out. They then must learn to accept the unacceptable – a Greek woman marrying a “foreigner”.
Featuring lots of loveable characters, “My big fat Greek wedding” will have everyone of Greek descent appreciate and relate to its jokes and idiosyncrasies. While not shot in Greece, the movie portrays what the life of many Greek families is, their relationships, values, and traditions. A great way to get to know a country is by getting to know its people. And what better way to start than over popcorn and a romantic comedy?
Contributed by Nora at Go Frame the World
Language: English (1989) R
Shirley Valentine, the 1989 double Oscar-winning film directed by Lewis Gilbert and written by Willy Russell, is the ultimate feel-good romantic comedy movie with lashings of glorious Greek scenery and sunshine to enjoy.
Shirley (played by Pauline Collins) is a funny, charming, and unpredictable 45-ish housewife from Liverpool, desperate to prove to herself that it’s never too late to try to make your dreams come true. After her friend Jane wins a paid trip to Greece for two, Shirley joins her, only to be dumped at the airport when Jane disappears with a man she has met. Alone in a new country, Shirley meets handsome Costa (Tom Conti), who likes her despite her extra pounds and stretch marks. As she says yes to romance, she begins to like herself too.
This clever, witty, funny, and thought-provoking movie was filmed in several locations on the beautiful island of Mykonos. Agios Ioannis beach, where Shirley sat at the end of the movie, awaiting the arrival of her husband, has become so popular with fans of the film looking for things to do in Mykonos that it’s become known as Shirley Valentine beach. You can also visit the Sunset Taverna restaurant where Shirley met Costa. In real life, it’s the sophisticated and vibrant Hippie Fish restaurant.
Contributed by Coralie at Grey Globetrotters
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Language: English (2005) PG
The fantastical premise of a pair of jeans that fits perfectly on four teenage girls (with drastically different body types) may lead viewers to think that this movie is all about fluff. But it is the total opposite! Based on a beloved young adult book series, the movie is full of great performances by actors who are still stars today – Blake Lively, American Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, and Alexis Bledel.
The group of four childhood friends is spending their first summer apart – Carmen heads to South Carolina to see her father, Tibby stays in town for a summer job, Bridget has a soccer camp in Mexico, and Lena visits Greece to see her grandparents. The magical pair of jeans spends a week with each of the girls and leads them into adventures and plenty of drama.
Greece is the stunning backdrop for Lena who visits Santorini and its hills covered in whitewashed homes with blue windows, doors, and rooftops. The beautiful southern Aegean Sea provides a scenic backdrop for Lena who spends her time drawing and eventually finds love. It is Greece, so tempers and emotions run high when Lena finds herself in a Romeo and Juliet situation with her boyfriend Kostas.
The parts of the movie in Greece will make you want to visit and draw whatever you see. Even a fish market is worthy of your time to sit down, take in, and sketch in a journal or drawing book.
I recently re-watched the film and I still enjoyed it because it is rooted in great storytelling and the struggles and friendships that we experience.
Contributed by Bernadette Young of BookRetreats
If you are looking for more movies in Greece that are comedies, you may also like My Life in Ruins. It’s a light romantic comedy where you’ll see many of the main archeological sites in the country. The sites are presented without respect to actual geography and it’s a corny film– but the scenery is excellent!
The Best Movies in Greece: Dramas
Language: English (2013) R
For a charming romantic drama directed by Richard Linklater and starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, you must watch “Before Midnight.” The third installment of the Before trilogy (following “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”), “Before Midnight” takes place on the Peloponnese Coast in Southern Greece.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Before trilogy, all films have a minimal plot, and instead follow a couple, Jesse and Céline, as they discuss life, love, and philosophy while wandering around an enchanting European location. While the first two films took place in Vienna and Paris respectively, the third film opted for a location with more stunning landscapes: Southern Greece.
Plot wise, “Before Midnight” follows Jesse and Céline as they take a summer vacation in Greece with family and friends. While the film begins with them cheerfully interacting with each other, their children, and their friends, they then engage in a fierce argument.
Regardless of the conflicts taking place, “Before Midnight” is an amazing film to watch before traveling to Greece, as you get to admire the breathtaking scenery of Southern Greece, with its sparkling blue ocean, delightful architecture, and enchanting small towns. It is impossible not to want to visit the Peloponnese Coast after watching!
Contributed by Mia from Walk a While with Me
The Big Blue/Le Grand Bleu
Language: French, English, Italian (1988) PG
The Big Blue is one of my favourite movies ever. If you are drawn to the deep blue sea and diving, it may become your favourite movie as well. The movie was written and directed by the famous director, Luc Besson. It mostly takes place on Greek islands, where we see two friends Enzo and Jack, growing up together. They both love the Mediterranean Sea and diving.
The story is built around a friendly competition between two freedivers who break deep-diving records without breathing equipment. Enzo (Jean Reno) is confident and surrounded by a wreath of admirers, and Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) is a secretive loner. It is a strange rivalry. They are both lovable, quirky people who find peace only deep below the surface of the water.
Their relationship is built primarily on the need for supremacy. Enzo, who subconsciously feels that he may be inferior, is constantly striving to confront himself in order to free himself from unbearable doubts. This complicated feeling is at the same time a source of tragedy and comedy, pushing the men more and more into their embrace and deeper and deeper under the water’s surface.
The third character of the film is the sea. You cannot watch this movie without wanting to go to Greece to dive in the deep blue water. It will make you want to include plenty of time swimming and diving in the Mediterranean on your trip!
Contributed by Ania James from The Traveling Twins
Another movie in Greece that is a modern drama to watch is The Two Faces of January.
Greek Language Movies
Language: Greek (2017) NR
If you have been moved by Zorba the Greek, or any of Nikos Kazantzakis’s other works, check out the biopic of his life, Kazantzakis. The film highlights major events of his life and how they inspired or influenced his writing.
Many will be inspired by the film and the portrayal of the brilliant author’s struggles to understand human existence, his powerful religious journey, his evolving political philosophy, and his pride in his Cretan past. However, biopics are challenging, and this film condenses his rich life into two hours. So, it creates a shallower overview than admirers of Kazantzakis will want.
Travelers to Greece will benefit from watching this film for many reasons. You can admire the beautiful scenery of Crete. If you are traveling to the island, Kazantzakis is buried at the highest point in the walls of Heraklion, and you can visit to pay homage. You may be inspired to read more of Kazantzakis’ works or those of the Greek poet and playwright, Angelos Sikelianos, who is featured prominently in the film. You will also get an overview of Greek history that serves as a backdrop to the author’s life 1883-1957.
Language: Greek (also Albanian and Italian) (2014) NR
Add Xenia to your watchlist if you are looking for a memorable unique film created by a Greek director, writers, and cast. It is a coming-of-age story with unexpected twists, surrealism laced into the story, a fast pace, and an upbeat soundtrack. Teenage brothers Danny and Odysseus go on an odyssey of their own. After their mother dies, they set out across Greece to find their biological father.
“Xenia” is Greek for, “hospitality,” and is the name of real-life state sponsored hotels that were created to promote tourism in the 1950-1970’s. A run-down and abandoned Xenia hotel is the location of some of the scenes in the film and provides a poignant backdrop as the film grapples with immigration, xenophobia, homophobia, and the economic crisis. Despite these heavy topics, the film is also filled with hope, creativity, and imagination. Plus, there is plenty of singing and dancing!
Xenia was well loved at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and won multiple awards at the Hellenic Film Academy Awards. Although it is tagged as an LGBTQ+ film, that isn’t the primary focus of Xenia. The film is somewhat erratic in quality, with certain scenes much stronger than others. This film isn’t for everyone, but I recommend it to anyone looking for something fresh. It is both campy and serious, jumping around quite a bit, and you can expect to be surprised. Give the film a few minutes to warm up, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a movie you will long remember.
Unlike some other movies about Greece, this is not a romantic view of the stunning beauty of the country. Instead, watching Xenia will give you insight into some of the current challenges in Greece. It will give depth and characters to the articles you read in the news. It also gives a realistic view of Piraeus, Athens, and other locations. There are some scenes that showcase the natural beauty of Greece, but there is plenty of grit too. Finally, if you are learning to speak Greek before your trip, there are scenes with slow enough dialogue that you can follow along.
The Best Movies About France to Watch Before Your Trip
The Best Greek History Movies
Mediterraneo is one of the best Greek history movies and in 1992, it won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. It is set during WWII on the easternmost Greek island Kastellórizo, one of the Dodecanese islands. It is directed by Gabriele Salvatores, written by Enzo Monteleone, and the main stars are Diego Abatantuono, Claudio Bigagli and Giuseppe Cederna.
In this war comedy/drama Italian soldiers are deployed to Kastellórizo. In the beginning the locals hide from the soldiers. But when the Italian ship is destroyed by allies, the soldiers become stuck on the island. They soon realize that they are abandoned so they start mingling with the local population. Locals see these soldiers are goofy, harmless men trying to survive the war. In the end, even love starts to develop between members of both sides. Adventures ensue and make this an interesting and entertaining movie. There are complexities as well as the director tries to label war as totally unnecessary.
In this film, one can admire the beauty of the Dodecanese islands, coast, and sea. You will also see that hospitality is a thing one should expect from locals in Greece.
Contributed by Džangir at DrJamTravels
Captain Correlli's Mandolin
Language: English (2001) R
Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is a great movie to watch because the setting in the Greek Ionian Isles is purely idyllic. Regardless of whether one enjoys romances or war movies, the cinematography is captivating.
The movie, directed by John Madden, is based on the 1994 novel about Greece during World War II. Captain Correlli (played by Nicholas Cage) is stationed on the island of Cephalonia and teaches his infantrymen to sing while he plays his mandolin. He initially annoys the locals but eventually they warm to his personality. A love triangle with the local doctor (played by Penelope Cruz) ensues when her fiancé (played by Christian Bale) leaves for the mainland to fight in the war.
Although the movie received mixed reviews from critics for not closely adhering to the book’s plot, it is still worth watching for anyone planning to visit Greece. There are several key scenes in Captain Correlli’s Mandolin that are filmed on various beaches in the Ionian Islands. These scenes will make any watcher understand why Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is one of the best movies in Greece. From the lovely small towns to the unspoiled beaches, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin is sure to make Cephalonia round out any Greek travel itinerary.
Contributed by Brodi Cole at Our Offbeat Life
More movies about Greek history you might like are Alexander, Agora, The Traveling Players, Rembetiko, and El Greco.
Best Greek Mythology Movies
The Trojan Women
Language: English (1971) PG
The Trojan Women is one of the best films you can watch to prepare for a trip to Greece. It rests on the works of history’s greats: Euripides wrote the play based on Homer’s epics and it was translated by Edith Hamilton. It is directed by Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba the Greek), and stars Irene Papas as Helen, Katherine Hepburn as Hecuba, and Vanessa Redgrave as Andromache. It is timeless and is my favorite movie rendition of a Greek tragedy. Even though it was filmed in Spain, watching it will certainly enhance your trip to Greece.
The story unfolds in decimated Troy right after the war. The noble women are enduring enormous suffering, including the loss of their husbands and children as they prepare to be taken as slaves by the Greeks. The film is based on an ancient Greek play, so viewers can expect a significant departure from modern movie storytelling. Yet, it is creatively portrayed and captivates the modern viewer. It is a powerful indictment against war regardless of time. Although gods and goddesses aren’t characters in the film, their influence permeates the story since the Trojan War plays such a prominent role in Greek mythology.
You will want to be familiar with the story of the Trojan War and with the ancient playwrights before you travel to Greece since the stories are infused into so much Greek history. Along with the other major playwrights of ancient Greece, Euripides competed in the annual Athenian dramatic festivals which were held to honor the god Dionysus. When you visit the ancient theaters on your trip, you can imagine this play being performed which will help bring ancient Greek history to life.
More Greek mythology movies you might enjoy are Troy, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia, The Odyssey Mini-series, and Jason and the Argonauts.
The Best Greek Movies for Kids
Language: English (1997) G
Hercules is a wonderful children’s movie to help build children’s anticipation about a trip to Greece and familiarize them with the bright colors and some of the most important names of the Greek gods that they will see all over Greece.
Disney’s Hercules is loosely based upon the ancient Greek myth of the 12 Labors of Hercules (very loosely indeed!). It is an animated musical fantasy where Hercules is living on earth and becomes an awkward teenager trying to have a relationship with his dad, Zeus. It’s essentially a coming-of-age movie. Kids will learn about places central to Greek mythology such as the Underworld, Mount Olympus, and Thebes. They meet Hades and many of the Greek mythological creatures through catchy musical numbers and vibrant animated scenes.
The movie is very inaccurate about its Greek mythology and mixes Roman and Greek names for gods. In the 12 Labors of Hercules and its associated myths, the gods are not moral and what they really get up to would not be appropriate to teach children. Disney has taken names and some locations and made a story that is appropriate for children and made an adventure story that keeps alive Greek mythological figures and places.
Children’s imaginations will be fueled by finally seeing the real places they first saw in Hercules. They will have a basic sense of what to expect and excitement at being in a place where so many heroic deeds occurred. Children will also be able to find, in the most incredible ancient Greek ruins, images of the mythical creatures they see in the film, such as Centaurs.
Contributed by Monique at Trip Anthropologist
Traveling to Greece as a Family?
Jim Henson's The Storyteller - Greek Myths
Language: English (1990) PG
Jim Henson applies his masterful storytelling to Greek myths in this four-part miniseries. If you are looking for a way to watch Greek myths that will hold the attention of kids, this is a great choice. A storyteller in a labyrinth (what could be more perfect?) tells his dog the stories of Perseus and Medusa, Icarus and Daedalus, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Euridyce.
Fans of Henson’s Muppets and his movie Labyrinth will appreciate the fantastical creatures that bring the stories to life on the screen. The series is rated PG since it might be too intense for younger children. If you are traveling to Greece as a family, learning about Greek myths beforehand will deeply enrich your travels. You kids will appreciate and better understand the archeological sites and museum treasures you will see when they know the myths behind them. If you are traveling to Crete, you’ll likely be visiting Knossos, which inspired the labyrinth the story takes place in.
Many of the other movies about Greece in this list are great family films depending on the ages and interests of your kids. Although not set in Greece, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters are Greek mythology movies are sure to be a hit with most kids. They will likely open the door for a deeper dive into Greek mythology.
Enjoy Movies About Greece Before Your Trip
Hopefully you have found some excellent films to add to your watchlist before your trip to Greece!Have you enjoyed any of these films or do you have others you recommend to travelers? Please tell me in the comments so we can learn from you.
This is a supplemental article to our series of articles about all you can do before your trip to Greece. Let your adventure begin today!
DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TRAVEL MORE?
We'd like to send you two free gifts!
- Your Free How-To Checklist: Extend Your Two Week Vacation Into a Year of Discovery!
- An invitation for FREE membership, allowing you to save your favorite resources from our Travel Resource Library to your personal Guidebook. Membership is optional, you can join at your pleasure once you have the link.