The Reel Guide to Thailand: Movies Set in Thailand
Thinking of travelling to Thailand? Forget about reading long, boring books and check out these movies set in Thailand to really get a feel for the country.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Ryan Gosling, having decided he didn’t brood and stare intensely at things enough in Drive, decides to have another go in this boring, self-important waste of time set in Bangkok’s seedy underworld. It’s extremely violent, but that’s not the problem I have with it, it’s just boring and slow. Don’t worry though, most of the other movies set in Thailand on this list are more exciting!
The Impossible (2012)
Naomi Watts, playing a Spaniard, is swept away by the Boxing Day Tsunami and has to fight for her life (and her son’s) in the insuing chaos. Cue lots of screaming, shrieking, crying and whining. Don’t watch this before your Southern Thailand beach getaway.
This movie’s opening credits scene shows Jean-Claude Van Damme, dressed in an awesome denim vest, taking in Thailand’s sights by boat. His brother then gets paralysed in a Muay Thai fight and so Jean-Claude heads to the hills for some Mr Miyagi style training. It’s a pretty cheesy movie but it is entertaining.
Elephant White (2011)
Dijimon Hounsou (the guy from Blood Diamond) is paid to take down a gang of pimps in Bangkok. He is helped (sort of) by Kevin Bacon’s ridiculous British accent and a seemingly normal, drug addicted former prostitute. It’s pretty depressing, but thanks to the bad acting you never get invested in the characters or the story, so it is a bearable kind of depressing.
Anna and the King (1999)
Jodie Foster is the English fish-out-of-water in Siam in the mid 1800’s, an interesting time in the history of the region. She teaches English for the king and falls in love with him, but not his Thai ways. I really enjoyed this movie; the sets are great and even though I’m not a huge Jodie Foster fan I thought she did a pretty good job – it’s definitely one of the best movies set in Thailand!
Brokedown Palace (1999)
Two stupid American girls get caught with drugs in Thailand and get sent to a prison which doesn’t actually look that bad. It’s the stuff of nightmares (realising you are that stupid) and probably taught a whole generation of female travellers to be a lot more careful with their bags and to not sign documents written in Thai.
The Quest (1996)
Jean-Claude Van Damme gets sold into slavery on the imaginatively named Muay Thai Island, and obviously ends up fighting a lot. He eventually goes on a quest to The Lost City to steal a golden dragon. He proceeds to do a lot more fighting in what is essentially a magic-less version of Mortal Kombat , but it is actually pretty entertaining
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) (one of the best war movies set in Thailand)
The perfect blend of stuffy, uptight Britishness and laid-back American charm makes this one of the better World War 2 dramas I’ve seen. It’s more of a comedy-drama, and the fact that it doesn’t take itself, or the war, too seriously makes it an entertaining look at the pointlessness of war. You can see the bridge (or what they claim is the bridge) in Kanchanaburi, western Thailand.
The Beach (2000)
I’d have to be a pretentious film snob not to mention The Beach, as it is arguably the most recognisable film set in Thailand. I really liked it and I know, apparently the book is better, but I’m really sick of hearing that, why can’t people just appreciate movies on their own terms?
The Hangover: Part 2 (2011)
Take every cliché about Thailand, and particularly Bangkok, and you end up with The Hangover part 2. You have ladyboys, tattoos, monkeys, monks, drugs, gangsters and annoying Americans; what more could you ask for!
Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
Nicholas Cage plays a hit man in Bangkok; I can’t really remember this movie but I remember not liking it, but it does feature the city fairly prominently so it’s worth checking out. If Nicholas Cage had gone a bit crazier, like in this video, this would have been a whole lot better.
The Rambo Series (1985-2008)
Rambo 3 opens with our hero doing some intense Thai fighting, which is immediately followed up by a nice trip down the river and then onto a Buddhist monastery, where he lives a life of peace. Never before have both sides of Thailand, the crazy and the calm, been so well juxtaposed. He is then talked in to going into Afghanistan and doing what he does best, killing people. Rambo 4 also opens with John Rambo living in Thailand, this time near the Burmese border, and First Blood Part 2 features some helicopter fighting action in the land of smiles.
Do you think these movies give a true sense of what Thailand is like? Let me know if you can think of any other movies set in Thailand!