How often have you spotted international stars like filming movie scenes in Malaysia? 

Malaysia is a truly unique country, combining both modernity and tradition, lush tropical landscapes and gleaming skyscrapers. A society made up of people from all walks of life, many racial backgrounds and various beliefs make it a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles not often seen elsewhere in the world. In addition to attracting tourists, this unique trait has also caught the attention of more than a few movie directors, who are keen to capture the beauty and essence of Malaysia in their films. Here is a list of 10 movies (in chronological order) that have shot (some of) their scenes in Malaysia.

Ready? Lights, camera, action!

Police Story 3: Super Cop 警察故事3:超级警察 (1992)
Starring Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh, Police Story 3 is an action comedy movie that follows a Hong Kong detective skilled in martial arts who goes undercover in a Chinese prison to stop a Chinese drug cartel. Many scenes were shot in Kuala Lumpur, including the famous scene where Jackie Chan hangs on to a helicopter while flying around the city.

Jackie Chan in Police Story 3 (Photo from

Jackie Chan in Police Story 3 (Photo from

indochineIndochine (1992)
This French film follows the story of Élaine Devries, a French plantation owner in Vietnam, her adopted daughter, Camille and her lover, Jean Baptiste Le Guen. Although the story takes place in Vietnam, most of the scenes were shot in Penang (in particular the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion), Ipoh, Parit, and Sham Alam. Indochine won a 1992 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, earned actress Catherine Deneuve a nomination for Best Actress, and a 1993 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.


Anna and the King (1999)
One of the most famous movies to have scenes shot in Malaysia, Anna and the King tells the tale of a relationship between a Thai King and a British schoolteacher. The movie starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fatt was mostly shot in Penang (Armenian Street, Penang Town Hall’s Grand Ballroom, Khoo Kongsi, and Swettenham Pier), Ipoh and Langkawi, as the filming crew was not allowed to shoot the movie in Thailand. The movie was memorable not only because it was filmed in Malaysia, but also showcased the natural scenic beauty of our country. It was an Academy Award nominee in 1999 for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

A scene from Anna and the King (1999) filmed in Langkawi (Photo from 20th Century Fox)

A scene from Anna and the King (1999) filmed in Langkawi (Photo from 20th Century Fox)

Entrapment (1999)
Starring Hollywood big names Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Entrapment is about an insurance agent sent by her employer to help track down and capture an art thief. The movie centred heavily on the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur during its most action-packed scenes, while the Malacca River and the Bukit Jalil LRT Station (renamed Pudu station in the film) were also featured.


Sean Connery spies from atop the Petronas Twin Towers in this Scene from Entrapment (1999)

Summer Holiday 夏日的么么茶 (2000)
Pulau Redang can thank its popularity to the movie Summer Holiday, which was shot primarily on the island at the Laguna Beach Resort and showcased the island’s beautiful seaside scenery. It featured local artistes ANiu and Michael Wong alongside popular Chinese artistes Richie Ren and Sammi Cheng; the brightly-coloured More More Tea Inn became an instant tourist attraction after the movie was released.

More More Tea Inn at Pulau Redang is a must-visit for tourists (Photo from Flickr)

More More Tea Inn at Pulau Redang is a must-visit for tourists (Photo from Flickr)

The_sleeping_dictionary_posterThe Sleeping Dictionary (2003)
The Sleeping Dictionary may not have been very famous, but it did receive some good reviews and was shot almost entirely in Sarawak, Malaysia. This romantic drama film starring Hugh Dancy and Jessica Alba tells the story of a young Englishman sent to Sarawak in the 1930s, where he encounters strange local traditions and finds himself falling for a beautiful young local woman. The film was shot on location in Batang Ai, Sarawak and included a specially constructed longhouse at Batang Ai, the Matang Recreations Park, and Buntal fishing village.


Don (2006) & Don 2 (2011)
Almost 80% of Bollywood action crime film Don (2006), starring Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, was shot in Malaysia around Pulau Langkawi, as well as the Petronas Twin Towers and Jalan Masjid India area, which is known as the “Little India” of Kuala Lumpur. It is a remake of the 1978 film of the same name, and follows a simple man from the city of Mumbai who is recruited by a police officer to masquerade as Don, the leader of an international gang of smugglers. Its sequel, Don 2 (2011), also had a few scenes shot at Malacca Prison.

This scene in Don (2006) was shot at Mount Machinchang, at the Panorama Langkawi Cable Car and SkyBridge.

Lust, Caution , (2007)
Directed by award-winning director Ang Lee, Lust, Caution is an espionage erotic thriller (it has a 18SX rating here) based on a Chinese novella of the same name, starred Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen and Wang Leehom. The film is set during World War II, when a female secret agent must seduce, then assassinate an official who works for the Japanese puppet government in Shanghai, only to find herself falling in love with the man she is assigned to kill. Some locations in Penang and Ipoh, having a mix of colonial and modern style architecture throughout the city that often uses bright, vivid colors that are very pleasing to the eye, were used to portray 1930s/1940s Hong Kong.

Tony Leung and Tang Wei star in Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" (Photo from The Age AU)

Tony Leung and Tang Wei star in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” (Photo from The Age AU)

The Viral Factor 逆战 (2012)
The plot of The Viral Factor follows a Taiwanese special agent who finds out that his long-lost brother is caught up in a terrorist plot to unleash a deadly strain of smallpox, and the two must team up to prevent an outbreak. This high-budget Hong Kong action film starring Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse was 80% filmed in Malaysia, which included the compounds of International Medical University (IMU), abandoned construction sites in Kuala Lumpur, (a traffic jam scene at) Jalan Raja Chulan as well as other locations in and around the city. (I remember a friend who excitedly posted on Facebook saying he saw Jay Chou in KL Sentral.) The producers even borrowed airplanes from the air force, tanks and other things to use during filming!

Jay Chou standing in front of a PDRM helicopter in a scene from Viral Factor (2012) (Photo from Emperor Motion Pictures)

Jay Chou standing in front of a PDRM helicopter in a scene from Viral Factor (2012) (Photo from Emperor Motion Pictures)

Blackhat (2015)
Blackhat, one of the latest Hollywood movies to have scenes shot in Malaysia, is an action thriller movie released in January 2015, starring Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, and Wang Lee Hom. The plot centres on American and Chinese agencies working together to capture a cyber criminal seeking to cripple the international banking network. Locals will be able to spot familiar places in background scenes around Taman University in Petaling Jaya, the narrow streets of Chow Kit, and several locations Ipoh.

Chris Hemsworth runs through KL's streets while filming Blackhat (2015) (Photo from Universal Pictures)

Chris Hemsworth runs through KL’s streets while filming Blackhat (2015) (Photo from Universal Pictures)

So there you have it. From crowded city streets to vibrant nature landscapes, these movies managed to capture the essence of Malaysia in their scenes. Also, it’s fun to watch the movie and think ‘Hey, I know that place!‘, right?

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