Did you know that there are many movies filmed in Sardinia?
Sardinia isn’t just a beautiful place for tourists; it’s an alluring place for filmmakers, too! Throughout the 20th century, directors, stars and their whole movie entourages have descended on Sardinia – from James Bond to Spaghetti Westerns, and some wackier films besides.
Over the years, Sardinian filmmakers have made their mark, too, depicting their homeland in ways that not only show the beauty of the island, but tell stories of traditional and modern life – in all its tragedy and comedy.
So, what better way to prepare yourself for a trip to Sardinia (or dream of returning one day) than with movies filmed in Sardinia or even movies about Sardinia? If you feel like following in the footsteps of James Bond, you could even visit some famous filming locations. The island is your oyster!
I have picked the best movies filmed in Sardinia, a bunch movies about Sardinia, and – at the end – you will even find some that you probably have never heard of but which were quite a hit here in Italy!
Table of Contents
The Best Movies Filmed In Sardinia
The Little Mermaid (2022)
The most recent movie filmed in Sardinia is a Disney production and the human remake of the famous cartoon version. In the movie, princess Ariel abandons the water to follow the prince she loves, Eric, and jeopardizing her life and her father’s kingdom.
The movie was filmed around the northern coast of Sardinia, between the gorgeous Cala Moresca Beach in Golfo Aranci, Rena Majore and Rena di Matteu beach, and the gorgeous village of Castelsardo.
Watch the movie, then plan a trip to Sardinia to see the filming locations in real life.
You should also read my post The Little Mermaid, Sardinia: Filming Locations, Itineraries And More.
Black Stallion (1979)
Black Stallion is based on the 1941 classic children’s novel of the same name. The story follows Alec Ramsey, who finds himself shipwrecked on a deserted island, along with a wild Arabian stallion that was also traveling on board. Their bond grows as the movie develops.
You may not know it, but this is one of the most famous movies filmed in Sardinia. The island in question is actually Marina di Arbus, located on the southwest side of Sardinia. It looks wild and deserted, with sand dunes and a rugged coastline (which it really is!). The strip of beach where most of the action takes place is popular with surfers today.
Another scene was filmed in Arbus, an old mining town, while San Teodoro – known for its flamingoes – also features in the movie (spoiler alert: that’s where Alec learns to ride the stallion).
Swept Away (1974/2002)
There are two versions of Swept Away. Billed as an “adventure comedy romance,” the original is an Italian film made in 1974 (title: Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’Agosto); it follows the adventures of a woman who spends her vacation yachting around the Med.
That is, until she gets shipwrecked on a deserted island with a communist deckhand. She, on the other hand, is wealthy and capitalist. It’s a pretty political film.
The remake, in 2002, starred Madonna and Adriano Giannini (the son of the original actor who played the deckhand). It was directed by Guy Ritchie. Unlike the original, it didn’t fare well. In fact, it’s often touted as one of the worst films ever made!
Stick with the original, which was filmed in the province of Nuoro, at the beach of Cala Luna and at Baunei. It really is one of the best movies filmed in Sardinia.
Another adaptation, Boom! is the silver screen version of Tennesse Williams’ 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. It starred power couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as a terminally ill aristocrat (Taylor) living in a mansion with her servants and a “man of mystery” (Burton), who enters her life. Cue emotional back-and-forth.
Unfortunately, even though Williams also wrote the script for the movie, it was something of a flop.
Interestingly, the mansion in which most of the action was shot was actually built for the film on Isola Piana, a former penal colony on Sardinia’s southwestern coast. The mansion remains today, though it’s a bit derelict. Other parts of the movie were filmed at Porto Conte Natural Park, Alghero.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The tenth James Bond installment, and the third film in the franchise to star Roger Moore, The Spy Who Loved Me was shot on location in Egypt, the Bahamas, and the Costa Smeralda. It’s a classic Bond tale: a reclusive supervillain called Karl Stromberg wants to wipe out civilization as we know it and start again from scratch under the sea. Because that’s an achievable life goal.
The upscale Costa Smeralda is the location of Stromberg’s lair, where Bond visits undercover as a marine biologist, naturally. It’s a great film to watch if you want to see Sardinia in all its glitzy coastal glamour. Hotel Cala di Volpe, for example, with its modernist architecture and turquoise seas, is one filming location.
Want to check it out? The suite where Bond stayed in the movie is actually the hotel bar, so it’s a great place to rock up for a martini – shaken, not stirred, obviously – with a view of the bay.
Definitely one of the coolest movies filmed in Sardinia.
The Bible (1966)
This ambitious American-Italian joint venture is a biblical epic that depicts the Book of Genesis, in five sections – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, and the story of Abraham. Surprisingly, it was one of the most popular films of 1966 and was even nominated for an Academy Awards. It won the David di Donatello Awards for Best Producer and Best Foreign Director.
Though many scenes are shot elsewhere in Italy, such as Rome, The Bible was partially filmed in Sardinia. In particular, the scene of Isaac’s (almost) sacrifice was filmed around Mount Corrasi in Oliena, Nuoro. It’s one of the most famous movies filmed in Sardinia.
L’isola degli uomini di pesce (1979)
With a title meaning “Island of the Fishermen,” you might not think it, but this film is an action horror film set on an uncharted Caribbean island in 1891. It begins with a shipwreck (again), but what follows is truly insane.
It involves murderous fishermen, a mad scientist and his beautiful captive, humans turned into amphibious creatures, the discovery and plundering of Atlantis, a voodoo priestess, and a volcanic eruption (the same volcano that destroyed Atlantis, no less).
It’s not very Sardinian at all – and many of the “Atlantis” scenes were shot in an Olympic swimming pool in Rome – but many of the main storyline scenes were filmed in Grotta di Nettuno at Capo Caccia and Bombarde Beach, near Alghero. This is by far one of the most unique movies filmed in Sardinia.
Don’t watch the American re-release: much of the original version was removed.
Red Desert (1964)
Called “simple” yet “daring” by TIME magazine in 1965, Red Desert – starring Richard Harris and Monica Vitti – tells a tale of inner turmoil and isolation through an extra-marital affair and scenes of modern industry.
Though it’s set in 1960s Ravenna, amongst factories and the general industrial backdrop of post-World War II Italy, some of Red Desert is shot in Sardinia. To be precise, it’s the island of Budelli – in the La Maddalena Archipelago – where filming takes place, thanks to its isolation and the dreamlike atmosphere of its pink beach.
Mr Robinson (1966)
Yet another shipwreck tale, Mr Robinson is a parody of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 classic Robinson Crusoe. Directed by Sergio Corbucci, the movie starts with a fashion guru from Milan and his wife traveling on a cruise. Surprise, surprise: he wakes up to discover the boat has sunk.
He survives and, getting to dry land, finds a hut that is owned by Robinson Crusoe (don’t ask me how that’s possible). Later, he gets entwined with an attractive inhabitant of the island whom he calls Friday. Don’t expect genius filmmaking; do expect beautiful scenes of Cala Luna, located between Baunei and Dorgali. The scenery makes it one of the nicest movies filmed in Sardinia.
Almost as a homage to the previous film, Selvaggi (“Savages”) begins with Bebo, a plastic surgeon (not fashion guru) from Milan, on a cruise. Miraculously, it doesn’t sink or run aground. This time, it’s a plane he takes later that has a sudden failure. Bebo and a ragtag group of passengers fall – literally fall – to safety on an island.
After arguments about rations and politics, there’s a hurricane. Then they try to escape by raft, but end up floating back to the same island. It’s totally silly, if you like that sort of thing, but at the same time, it does really show off the beautiful beach at Razza di Juncu near Olbia.
A Small Southern Enterprise (2013)
Though set in Puglia, A Small Southern Enterprise – starring, written and directed by Rocco Papaleo – was entirely filmed in Oristano. To be more precise, the backdrop to much of the film was Capo San Marco, as well as Cabras and the beach San Giovanni di Sinis.
Papaleo plays a defrocked priest (we don’t know why), who is exiled by his mother to a lighthouse the family owns. Chaos ensues when various characters turn up at the lighthouse. The lighthouse isn’t a set – it’s still there. If you’re in the area, it’s a stone’s throw from the archeological site of Tharros.
The Best Movies About Sardinia
Forbidden (or in Italian, Proibito) was directed by the great Mario Monicelli. Considered a master of comedy, Monicelli has over 60 films to his name – many of them silver screen classics. Proibito, however, is a drama – and one of the best ever movies filmed in Sardinia.
It stars Melchor Gaston Ferrer (fun fact: once married to Audrey Hepburn) as Don Paolo, a young pastor who struggles to come to terms with his love for the female lead, Agnese (Lea Massari). At the same time, Paolo is trying to make peace in a village where two families are virtually at war with each other; Paolo has his hands full, I think!
Filming was shared between the towns of Codrongianos, Ittiri and Tissi in Sassari province. Many locals were included in the film as extras.
Bandits of Orgosolo (1961)
Directed by Vittorio De Seta, Bandits of Orgosolo is about a Sardinian shepherd called Michele who is accused of murdering a police officer. With no faith in the judicial system, he flees with his brother and his sheep into Barbagia, a remote and rugged region of inner Sardinia; that stark area is where much of the filming takes place.
It isn’t exactly an uplifting film, as things only turn from bad to worse, but I’ll leave it for you to discover exactly what happens. One thing to note is that De Seta won an award for the Bandits of Orgosolo at the Venice Film Festival. It’s one of the best known movies filmed in Sardinia, and about Sardinia.
A Question of Honor (1966)
This 1960s film follows the adventures of a laborer called Efisio Mulas (Ugo Tognazzi) in a tale of warring families, stolen sheep, and papal interventions. It has a twisting plot, which at one point involves Efisio returning to Sardinia to kill someone for… some reason. Oh yeah, honor. And money.
With plenty of filming on location in the wild Barbagia region, and with the chance to get a taste of the authentic Sardinian language, it’s a nice way to take a glimpse into a Sardinia of the past – albeit through a Spaghetti Western-esque lens. Surely one of the most interesting movies filmed in Sardinia.
Perfidia – written and directed by Bonifacio Angius – is the story of a man with no hope. More than that, however, it is an interesting depiction of an Italy that not many visitors get to see: the everyday grey suburbs. To be fair, though, the main character is not in a good place mentally, and spends all day in a bar, so it’s reflected in the depiction of his surroundings.
More excitingly than perhaps it may seem, Perfidia was the first to be made under Sardinia’s own Film Commission. It is 100% “made in Sassari”, with everything from real-life apartments, offices and shopping centers to the beaches and hospitals shown in the film – even if it is showing a gritty reality and not a sparkling fantasy. This makes it one of the most interesting movies filmed in Sardinia.
Padre Padrone (1977)
This movie is all about the tough life in the mountains. It’s a coming-of-age drama that sees a son escaping his overbearing father, and their harsh mountain existence of shepherding, to find a better life. He discovers classical music and literature, which leads to him attending university and studying the Sardinian language.
Padre Padrone is based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Gavino Ledda (who also appears in the film), so you can trust the story is coming from a place of truth. It won both the Palm d’Or and the international critics’ prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1977 – the first film to ever do so at Cannes.
Amazingly, this movie was made for Italian TV and shot in 16mm.
Sequestro di persona (1968)
Sequestro di persona means “Kidnapped” in Italian, which makes sense, because the plot of the film revolves around a kidnapping by Sardinian mountain terrorists.
A university student called Francesco is kidnapped in front of his tourist friend, Christina, who is (for some reason) let go. She runs off to tell the police but is convinced by Francesco’s friend Gambino to try to find the kidnappers themselves. Christina gets paranoid and heads out alone.
A stressful summer vacation, for sure, but don’t let it put you off your own holiday here! Sequestro di persona also features some nice shots of the Sardinian landscape.
Barbagia, The Tough and the Mighty (1969)
Based on the real-life of Graziano Mesina, a Sardinian bandit – called “King of the Kidnappers” by the New York Times in 1992 – this is another movie about Sardinia that features extensive filming in the wild Barbagia region.
It basically follows the life of Mesina, who was first arrested at age 14 (for stealing a rifle). He’s then arrested for murder, escapes from prison in Sassari, and heads for Barbagia, where he becomes a bandit – and a pretty notorious one at that. He claims that by kidnapping and holding rich men to ransom, he’s justified in his actions, Robin Hood-style.
The film was inspired by Giuseppe Fiori’s book La società del malessere, which explored the origins of banditry in the Barbagia region.
This is another film about revenge, honor and tradition in Sardinia, this time directed by Gianfranco Cabiddu. It’s a story of a shepherd who was studying abroad and has to return to his village after his father is murdered.
Once back in the village, it’s up to him to take revenge – or so he believes. But he ends up in a gang of abigeatari (cattle rustlers) and is later embroiled in romance, false accusations, and yet more revenge. Scenery: all Sardinian.
Definitely one of the most interesting movies filmed in Sardinia.
Ballo a tre passi (2003)
Ballo a tre passi (translating to “Three Step Dance”) was written and directed by Salvatore Mere as his debut directorial feature film. It was presented at the 60th Venice International Film Festival and won the international critics’ award.
Simply put, the title refers to a traditional Sardinian dance. The plot plays out in four different but interweaving stories, each arranged according to the seasons. They tell the tale of life in Sardinia, particularly of those who live in the more remote interior communities.
It’s a great movie if you want to learn a bit more about Sardinian culture an life.
Sympathy for the Lobster (2007)
Starring, written, and directed by Sabina Guzzanti. A mockumentary about the lobster fisherman of Sardinia. Specifically, it’s centered around the lobster fishermen at Su Pallosu, a coastal village on the Sinis Peninsula. The film, called Le ragioni dell’aragosta in Italian, premiered at the 64th Venice International Film Festival.
Salvatore Mereu’s follow-up to Ballo a tre passi. An arthouse film beautifully depicting the life of a shepherd in Sardinia, showcasing the changing seasons and a centuries-old existence.
Bellas Mariposas (2012)
Depicting Cagliari in a way that most visitors never see, Bellas Mariposas follows the story of a 12-year-old girl called Caterina. Determined to spread her own brand of optimism, despite her working-class background, she sets out with her best friend, Luna, to escape from the suburbs of the Sardinian capital and become a singer.
This film is cool as it shows the gritty, hard-working side to Cagliari that often goes uncelebrated. You get to see how Catarina and Luna move between the sea, the suburbs and the city centre. It also showcases the Cagliari dialect of the Sardinian language. Even the actresses are nonprofessional locals of the area.
This is definitely one of the best recent movies filmed in Sardinia.
Directed by Enrico Pau, based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Michela Murgia. It’s about a girl who inherits the semi-legendary practice of mercy-killing. World War II then brings social upheaval, changing her ancestral world.
The Stuff of Dreams (2016)
Drawing inspiration directly from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this is a comedy that yet again sees a shipwreck – this time with members of the Camorra (a mafia-type gang) and actors banding together on Asinara, off the northwest tip of Sardinia. Asinara was Italy’s top maximum-security prison in the 1970s, which later shut down; today, the island is a national park.
The scenery at practically all times when you’re watching this film is pretty stunning, to say the least. As you may expect from the pairing of actors and gang members, it’s pretty surrealist at times. This combination has made it an award-winning movie.
Era d’estate (2016)
The story of two men who have made it their goal to fight the Sicilian mafia, which the mafia are not happy about, obviously. The authorities resettle them on Asinara, along with a police and military escort. Cue themes of frustration and isolation.
The Man Who Bought the Moon (2018)
A comedy. A Sardinian fisherman has promised to buy the moon for the woman he loves. The Americans are not happy (their flag is up there, after all), so a secret agent is dispatched to find the man who bought the moon. It’s fun!
Most of the movie has been filmed in Cagliari and the villages nearby, and on the western coast of Sardinia.
Recently presented at the 77th Venice International Film Festival. A classic detective story in a rural Sardinian setting, directed by Salvatore Mereu (Ballo a tre passi, Sonetaula). Costantino runs an “agriturismo” deep in the countryside where a suspicious fire has resulted in a death. An inspector arrives to investigate.
It’s a story about cultural identity, (ir)responsible tourism and the exploitation of the land that comes with it, and perversion. It’s one of the best movies filmed in Sardinia.
Other movies filmed Sardinia that you may want to check out include…
La Calda Vita (1963)
Inspired by a novel where the plot actually takes place in Trieste, the movie tells the story of Sergia, a young woman, who spends her vacations in Sardinia where she flirts with her two friends, only to eventually sleep with the owner of the villa where they are all staying. One of them, devastated for having being rejected, ends up committing suicide.
The movie isn’t all that great to be honest, but you get to admire the beautiful filming locations – especially Cagliari and Villasimius.
Piccolo Grande Amore (1993)
Romantic comedy. Prince Max is the ruler of a fictitious European principality who arranges for his daughter, Princess Sophia, to marry a wealthy heir of… another principality. She prefers a windsurfer instead. Beach scenes galore.
The Referee (2013)
A comedy written and directed by Paolo Zucca. It’s about a third-year Italian football team that keep losing their games. But after the return of a star player from Argentina, the team (mainly of farmers) gets onto a winning streak. Enter a corrupt referee.
Check out these introductory readings about Sardinia:
- Where Is Sardinia?
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia