Jamaica's own film industry is growing, but the island's popularity with American movie-makers has always been strong

Once you see Jamaica's beauty, it is hard to forget. Columbus called Jamaica the "fairest" island he'd ever seen, and pirates were sometimes so taken with the place that they chose to live there instead of loot. Now, Jamaica's stunning beauty and versatile terrain is often used as filming locations for many movies.

Jamaica's landscape is so varied that filmmakers can choose to shoot scenes by the sea, in a jungle or lowland, or high atop a mountain. Even films that don't take place anywhere near a tropical destination, such as 1994's wilderness drama Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins, are often filmed in Jamaica.

For more than 50 years, Jamaica has served as a shooting location for many of Hollywood's biggest movies, including:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  • The Blue Lagoon (1980)
  • Cocktail (1988)
  • Cool Runnings (1993)
  • Dr. No (1962) 
  • How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • Lord of the Flies (1990) 
  • Wide Sargasso Sea (1993)

Many of the movies shot in Jamaica are film adaptations of books, but the most notable is the adaptation of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. It is a story about the island of Jamaica and is one of many films that deals with life on Jamaica throughout the years. Cool Runnings is another Jamaica-based movie, and its subject is the Jamaican bobsled team's chance to go for the gold at the Olympics.

Movies on Jamaica focus on other aspects of life on the island as well: The Harder They Come (1972) was the breakout movie for the Jamaican music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is known for its soundtrack as well as its basis on the life of a real Jamaican – Jimmy Cliff. In 2001, the island became the subject of a documentary. Life and Debt covered the political reasons for many of Jamaica's economic hardships in the 20th century, but it also offers a scathing look at the United States and its international policies.

Jamaica's own film industry, however, is surprisingly small. Film is an expensive business, and though The Harder They Come and Dancehall Queen (1997) have both made a splash, the industry has been slow to develop. Some have credited the lack of growth with the need for would-be filmmakers to learn more about the industry – something they must either leave Jamaica or help on an international film shoot to do. Still, the more recent movie Third World Cop (1999) is hoping to turn Jamaican film making into a viable industry for islanders as well as for imports.

The movie industry has found a warm welcome in Jamaica, whose Film Commission helps filmmakers take care of business. However, a growing scene of Jamaican film making may start producing its own cinematic works in coming years.


Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.