'Dune' wins 6 Oscars: Here's a list of 7 other Hollywood movies shot in Abu Dhabi

From Mission: Impossible to Fast and Furious, the UAE Capital is a huge draw for film production crews


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Thu 31 Mar 2022, 7:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Apr 2022, 4:15 PM

Abu Dhabi's flame-hued rolling deserts and iconic landscapes are just one of the city's top draws when it comes to film production. Over the past few years, the UAE Capital has become increasingly popular with directors and producers of some of Hollywood's biggest budget action movies. And for good reason.

The latest film shot in Abu Dhabi is 'Dune', which scooped up six Oscars - the highest number of awards at the ceremony on Sunday, March 27.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

The epic action-adventure movie, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, was filmed in the Liwa desert in 2019 over 11 days with a team of local and international talent.

The film is just one of those that has benefited from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's 30% cashback rebate scheme, while production services were provided by Abu Dhabi-based production company Epic Films. It also received support from several UAE production partners, including twofour54, Go Aerials, Filmquip Media, FSTOP Location Services and EMAN Transport.

"This is an absolutely phenomenal moment for Montreal-born director Denis Villeneuve and the cast and crew of Dune, who have won a fantastic six Academy Awards, for Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound," Hans Fraikin, Abu Dhabi Film Commission said in a statement on Monday after the Oscars announcement. "A huge congratulations to all on this incredible success."

Featuring some big names (from Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin to Zendaya and Jason Momoa) the film tells the story of Paul Atreides, a gifted young man born into a great destiny, who must travel to Arrakis - the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.

Here's a look at seven other blockbusters that chose the UAE Capital as a shooting location.

6 Underground

6 Underground is a 2019 American action-thriller film directed by Michael Bay and written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. Produced by Netflix, the movie was shot in Abu Dhabi over the course of 27 days in late 2018.

In total, 24 locations were used, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Aldar's headquarters, Etihad Towers, Arkan – Al Ain Cement Factory, Twofour54's backlot, and the Liwa desert.

The rich variety of locations offered meant that Abu Dhabi doubled for places as diverse as Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Nigeria, California, and a fictional country.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Corey Hawkins, Ben Hardy and Dave Franco. It follows a group of people that fake their deaths and decide to form a vigilante team to stage a coup d'état against a ruthless dictator.

With a budget of $150 million, the film is one of the most expensive Netflix originals ever made. It received generally polarising reviews, with praise for Reynolds' performance and action sequences.

Fast & Furious 7

This 2015 American action film, directed by James Wan, shot some of its scenes in Abu Dhabi and is one of the highest-grossing movie franchises of all time. The film stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker (in his final film role) and Dwayne Johnson, among others.

In it, Dominic Toretto, Brian O'Conner and the rest of their team have returned to the United States to live normal lives after securing amnesty for their past crimes, until Deckard Shaw, a rogue special forces assassin seeking to avenge his comatose younger brother, puts the team in danger once again.

It was filmed at some very iconic locations in Abu Dhabi, including Emirates Palace, Al Ain city and Jumeirah Etihad Towers. The latter, in fact, is where one of the most adrenaline-packed stunts in the entire movie was shot - namely, where Vin Diesel's character drives a sports car right out of the highest floors of the tower into the adjacent one.

Twofour54 served as the UAE producer of the film. With an estimated production budget of up to $250 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

The sixth instalment of the famed action spy film series saw Tom Cruise reprise his role as the indomitable Ethan Hunt who is hot on the case of missing plutonium cores.

The film was partly filmed in the UAE, with Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Capital's desert among shooting locations. But what it may be best known for is the death-defying HALO jump the Cruise performed from 25,000 feet out of a C-17 military aircraft over .

Watch the Hollywood star and director Christopher McQurarrie talk about why Abu Dhabi was the "only place on Earth" where they could have pulled off the stunt:

Two sequels, Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8 - both with scenes shot in the UAE Capital - are scheduled to be released in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Some of the scenes for the 2015 American epic space opera film were shot in Abu Dhabi's westernmost region of Al Dhafra - in the world's largest uninterrupted sand mass, the Rub' al Khali (also known as the Empty Quarter). Al Wathba Fossil Dunes' eerie and ethereal landscape also played a role in the film.

Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens boasts an ensemble cast that includes Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, and more.

A combination of Abu Dhabi's diverse desert landscapes and extensive, state-of-the-art production infrastructure provided the perfect formula for the movie, ensuring the shoot ran smoothly and on schedule. The global movie phenomenon premiered in December 2015 and quickly became the fastest film to gross more than US$1 billion.

War Machine

Satirical comedy War Machine was filmed for 22 days in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2015. Released in 2017, it stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Michael Hall, Tilda Swinton and Ben Kingsley.

The filming took place at 20 locations around the UAE Capital, transforming parts of Abu Dhabi to create a fictional American embassy in Kabul. Scenes were shot at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), in remote areas of the Abu Dhabi desert, and Abu Dhabi airport.

The film was inspired by the bestselling book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan by the late American journalist Michael Hastings.

The Kingdom

The Kingdom is a 2007 American action thriller film directed by Peter Berg. In September 2007, an all-star cast - including Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner - journeyed to the UAE to shoot scenes for the film set in Saudi Arabia.

During the two weeks of filming in the capital of Abu Dhabi, they shot scenes both in the desert and at the iconic Emirates Palace.

The film is based on the incident of the 1996 bombing of the Khobar housing complex, and the 2003 bombings of four compounds in Riyadh.

The Misfits

This 2021 action-heist film saw award-winning actor Pierce Brosnan and the rest of the crew spend several weeks filming in Abu Dhabi.

Back in 2019, while on location, the star gave his hundreds of thousands of fans on Instagram a sneak peek of the cast chilling on set.

"Our new Abu Dhabi family are looking after us all with such Aloha... Inshallah," he wrote at the time.

The Misfits follows a master architect (played by Brosnan) who gets caught up in a major gold heist.


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