4 Bizarre Misconceptions Movies Have About Other Countries

I Spy

Universal Pictures

Quick: Think about a country in Africa. Let’s say, Kenya. Got it? Got a mental picture of Kenya in your mind? Good. Now think of Tanzania, also a country in Africa. How much did that image in your head change? We bet not a lot. And that’s fine, because you probably haven’t ever been to the African continent, let alone one of its 54 countries, all with their own cultures and identities. You think in images that you’ve seen in books, online and, of course, in the movies. And the movies sure think some strange things about countries around the world.

Hollywood Thinks Budapest Is The Spy Capital Of The World

It’s Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy Game:

Universal Pictures

It’s Tom Cruise and some spy people in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol:

Paramount Pictures

It’s not everyone but also feels like everyone in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

Focus Feature

It’s all that sexpionage in Red Sparrow:

20th Century Fox

And we can go one and on. It seems there are two reasons filmmakers love having their spies stop over and have some spying romps in the great capital of Hungary. For one, the city’s got some excellent visuals going for it. In the Red Sparrow novel, Budapest doesn’t even feature, and all the action takes place in Helsinki and Moscow instead. Yet the film chose to substitute Helsinki for Budapest, mainly because of its diverse locations and authentic look. 

The other reason Budapest is popular with spy movies specifically is because Hungary is right in the middle of the East/West divide that people in power so desperately like to make a whole thing about. In spy films, Budapest becomes Spy Central Station then, selling us the world of espionage along with the city’s gritty, old-school-meets-modern-day vibe. 

There’s also the wonderful tax breaks filmmakers can count on when shooting their movies in Budapest — which probably explains why even spy comedies like to go shoot some chase scenes in the stunning city. Of course, when we say spy comedy chase scene, we mean spy comedy chase scene by scooter.

Like Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in I Spy, that movie everyone’s forgotten but has this scene play out in Budapest:

Sony Pictures

And surely no one can forget the hilarious scooter scene with Melissa McCarthy in 2015’s Spy :

Hollywood Thinks Switzerland Only Has Bankers (And No Culture)

Did you know that the Swiss are extremely outdoors-y folks? Did you know that there are different and diverse groups (the Swiss Germans, French, and Italians) and that they don’t just yodel and blow some horns all day but instead often hang out in their city’s beer gardens in the middle of the day in the middle of the week? Yeah. These people live, folks. It’s a pity, then, that when the movies show us some Land of the Swiss, it’s almost always either the super traditional sequences with folk music and every woman looking like Heidi, or it’s a bank, with some bankers. And it’s mostly the banks and the bankers.

Like the famous Swiss bank scene in The Wolf of Wall Street:

There’s what amounts to the only reason we’re in Switzerland in The Bourne Identity, as Jason Bourne goes there to check out some security box at a bank because there’s apparently nowhere else you can do that:

That girl with a tattoo of a dragon travels to Switzerland to steal money from some guy because this is the only way we’ll know just how shady and also loaded these people are. Call us conspirators, but maybe filmmakers and storytellers only show the Swiss as rich, stingy, boring bankers because if they had to show us how these people really lived, it’ll instantly depress everyone.

Hollywood Thinks Morocco Is Just One Big Bazaar (When It’s Not Just Desert)

Look at this shot in Spectre, where Bond and Madeleine are rushing through the city of Tangier in Morocco:

Sony Pictures

Now look at the shot, zoomed out:

Sony Pictures

It’s fine, a crowd is an easy and natural obstacle to throw into any action sequence. But it’s Morocco, so of course filmmakers must create the look of a bazaar — how else would you know where in the world all this sweet action is taking place?

And if we’re not in the streets of Morocco which is one big bazaar, apparently, we’re in the desert. In the Movie World, Morocco is either the one or the other — a fact clearly illustrated in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum:


That looks like a long walk home back to the bazaar, Wick.

Yes, before someone dies of an aneurysm, the southeast part of Morocco is largely desert, but do you also know that a large part of the country is just mountains? Yeah, we never see the mountainous side of Morocco, because someone is getting lost in the sand dunes, again.

This, of course, is all when Hollywood isn’t using Morocco as a stand-in for some Middle East country. Which they do, a lot.  

Hollywood Thinks It Never Rains In Sunny Australia (And That Every Country Has An Assigned Color)

Quick: Name a scene set in a rainy Australia. We’ll wait, but not long, because Australia is always so bright and saturated that it legitimately looks like the sun barfed all over it.

Universal Pictures

Even their dystopian futures look Teletubbies-level of bright.

What a sunny country that is either a picture-perfect beach, blue skies but rough terrain somewhere in the Outback, or the Sydney Opera House. The entirety of Australia is only those three locations. And speaking of super saturation, Hollywood loves nothing more than assigning a filter to a country and then using it like they're literally just painting by numbers. We — and the internet at large — have spoken about the “Mexican filter” that can be seen here in its full production glory:

We’ve even begged Hollywood to stop using the “Brown Country” filter, because not only is it so transparently awful, but we're also pretty sure no one wants to watch a movie that’s the color of urine.

And it’s not just Mexico and the Middle East who get the “special filter” treatment that enforces BS stereotypes and suggests a lack of diversity and identity. The entire continent of Africa has a yellow-orange tint that’s clearly going for a sandy/dusty color/African sunset, like that's all Africa looks like. Google Coming to America and see both the original and the sequel movie throw out images that together display a wave of mustard yellow and burnt orange colors. Heck, look at Wakanda:

Walt Disney Studios

You’d think with all that light coming through the clouds the color green would absolutely pop, but somehow, no.

Hollywood will give us that African sunset colors on the poster so you know to maybe pack in your shades for the movies, just in case:


Sony Pictures

Paramount Pictures

And listen, it just isn’t Japan if there isn’t some shade of red:

Memoirs of a Geisha, Sony Pictures

Kill Bill: Vol. I, Miramax

Snake Eyes, Paramount Pictures

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s not Russia if it’s not devoid of any and all color and vibrance:

The Bourne Supremacy, Universal Pictures

Oh, and don’t ask us the color of Indonesia. Hollywood never features Indonesia.

Zanandi is on social media here and also here.

Thumbnail: Sony Pictures


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