1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The Marvel Comics’ sequel smashed the box-office in 2015 with a reported gross net of just under US$1.5 billion. The locations are almost as varied as the characters, with the director taking a Bond-like approach to shooting scenes at multiple cities around the world.
Through some dodgy plot mechanics, the Avengers head for the fictitious African country of Wakanda (we kid you not), to an unnamed city on the coast which becomes the setting for a mega-brawl between the Hulk and Iron Man (wearing a “Hulkbuster” suit, no less). As any self-respecting Vaalie will tell you, the city is actually Johannesburg, hundreds of kilometres away from the sea, but that doesn’t stop Iron Man and the Hulk from wreaking CGI havoc on downtown Jozi.
“Johannesburg has a very particular look and style to its architecture that I really liked,” director Joss Whedon told Media Club South Africa. “It is very different from the other locations we shot. You know immediately you’re not in North America.” No, you’re in Wakanda.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
While Namibia stole the limelight as the primary location for Mad Max: Fury Road, a good chunk of the film was also shot at Cape Town Film Studios.
The more obvious South African connection was Charlize Theron, who has come a long way from her days growing up in Benoni. Theron plays Imperator Furiosa, a warrior who forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive of the evil warlord they spend most of the film escaping from. It’s basically a non-stop post apocalypse car chase through the desert that turns gender stereotypes on the their head, except the cars are more like armoured tanks. With spikes.
Mad Max: Fury Road went on to gross over US$376 million at the box office and scooped six Oscars at the 2016 Academy Awards (Best Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Editing), thanks to its relentless action, superb cinematography and epic Namibian setting. The latter may not have happened if it wasn’t for the weather. The film was originally slated to be shot near Broken Hill in Australia until heavy rains turned the usually desolate landscape into a carpet of grass and pretty flowers – a major no-no for end-of-the-world car chases.
3. Dredd* (2012)
Karl Urban stars as cult-comic hero Judge Dredd in this 2012 remake of the 2000 AD comic strip. With the help of some spectacular CGI animation, Cape Town and Johannesburg are transformed into the post-apocalypse Mega-City One, where Dredd “is the law”, along with his Lawmaker – a rather large handgun that he uses to blow apart baddies on a regular basis in startling 3D.
Along with Urban’s impressive chin, the dark humour and sinister setting won the film much acclaim from critics and die-hard 2000 AD fans. But like it’s predecessor Judge Dredd (released in 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone), Dredd belly-flopped at the box office. Unlike its predecessor, Dredd still earned excellent reviews and a cult following on its DVD release. Stallone, on the other hand, earned a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.
(*Dredd was actually a British film production, not Hollywood, but it was too good not to include on this list.)
4. 10 000 BC (2008)
Loosely based on the Indian mythological epic Ramayana, 10 000 BC revolves around mammoth hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait) whose stone age beau Evolet (played by Camilla Belle) gets kidnapped by a gang of raiders on horseback. D’Leh saddles up with his spear and sets out on a dangerous trek to rescue her.
The cinematography and special effects are dazzling, with wooly mammoths, giant sabre tooth tigers and ancient civilisations dotting the plains of the South African landscape where the film was shot (along with Namibia and New Zealand). But like the fat kid who was too slow for the sabre tooth tiger, 10 000 BC got ripped apart by critics. Paul Arendt of the BBC described it as “Cheesier than a four-cheese pizza and marginally more (historically) accurate than the Flintstones”. And that was one of the nicer reviews. This didn’t stop the film from grossing over US$300 million at the box office. Go figure.
5. Lord of War (2004)
This crime drama, featuring Nicholas Cage as a morally flawed but likeable arms dealer, tracks the rise of Yuri Orlov from small-time hustler in New York to global arms trafficker. The film was based on several real-life arms dealers and includes Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke in supporting roles.
But the most impressive star is Cape Town, which appeared as 57 different settings in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Bolivia and Sierra Leone amongst others. As for accuracy, the filmmakers obviously did something right: Amnesty International officially endorsed Lord of War for highlighting the deadly ramifications of illegal arms trafficking.