Last year, I gave you The 15 Best Hollywood Movies Shot in Prague, which included Amadeus, Mission: Impossible, and Casino Royale. If you haven’t seen some of those films – and there are some lesser-known items on that list – I highly recommend checking them out. (Note: the excellent Snowpiercer, which I caught at last year’s Karlovy Vary fest, would crack that article’s top ten.)
Here, however, are some movies I don’t recommend seeing. For conventional reasons, anyway; many of the below films are still good for some Czech sightseeing. There have been a lot of Prague-shot mediocrities over the past 25 years, but these are the worst.
There’s one thing that most of the films listed below have in common: money. I don’t mention specific Prague locations for many of the films below for one simple reason: there aren’t any. Most of these features came to Prague purely as an inexpensive option over shooting elsewhere, and were shot entirely in studio at Barrandov or elsewhere.
As before, rules for making this list:
1. Film must have been financed by a US studio
2. Principal photography (roughly 50% or more) must have taken place in the Czech Republic
3. Film must have been theatrically released in the USA
(Dis)honorable exclusions: The English-language but German-produced slasher film The Pool, the Ústí-shot Die Hard Dracula and all the other direct-to-video dreck that has been produced in the Czech Republic (some films of this type may have garnered very limited theatrical release, but have been excluded from this list anyway).
15. Red Tails (2012)
George Lucas’ misguided Tuskegee Airmen epic is pretty awful, but it’s also hugely entertaining in all the right bad-movie ways. Out of all the films on this list, this is the one I actually recommend checking out for some unintentional laughs.
Primary filming took place at Prague Studios, re-creating WWII-era Italy in the studio and backlot. Exteriors and reshoots were done in California.
14. Babylon A.D. (2008)
This $70 million Vin Diesel bomb from Mathieu Kassovitz became an incoherent mess when the French director clashed with producers, who wanted to make a more action-centric film. Kassovitz himself spoke out against the film, while a 101-minute ‘director’s cut’ purportedly makes more sense. But I’m not sitting through it again to find out.
Babylon A.D. was the first feature film to shoot on a new $9.5 million, 4,000 square-meter soundstage at Barrandov Studios back in 2006. Exterior shooting around the Czech Republic also included locations in and around Brno, Milovice, and Ostrava, including the old Vitkovice factory which is now home to the Colours of Ostrava music festival. The snow-covered scenes were shot at locations in Norway and Sweden.
13. Bad Company (2002)
Along with Vin Diesel’s xXx, this is one of the Hollywood actioners that made best use of Prague landmarks and locations. While the city doubles for New York and New Jersey in early scenes – the brother of Chris Rock’s character is buried at Olšany Cemetery – the action is literally brought to Prague for much of the film’s midsection; those familiar with the Czech capital will be able to spot a wealth of locations throughout Malá Strana and Old Town. One sequence was shot at Chotěšov Abbey in the Plzeň Region.
The location work didn’t help the overall quality of Joel Schumacher’s film, however, which scored a 10% at Rotten Tomatoes and is cited as a low point for the both the director and stars Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. It isn’t that bad though, and remains watchable throughout – particularly for some Prague sightseeing.
12. The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Poor Terry Gilliam. No stranger to production troubles – see the behind-the-scenes stories from Brazil and the unfilmed Man of La Mancha – his Brothers Grimm movie, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, was no exception: Gilliam clashed with producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein so violently that shooting was shut down for two weeks at one point. The resulting film is, to put it kindly, a mess; ten years later, the director has yet to work with another major studio.
Citing budgetary constraints, the film was shot in the Czech Republic, with the majority of shooting done on sound stages and backlots at Barrandov. Location work included scenes shot in Křivoklát, Kačina, Kutná Hora, and Ledeč nad Sázavou.
11. Hannibal Rising (2007)
While Hannibal Rising is set mainly in 1950s Paris, a whole lotta Prague can be glimpsed in the final film. Pařížská, appropriately, stands in for a Paris street; other outdoor locations in Prague included U Obecního dvora in Old Town, and Loretánská, near Prague Castle. The Rudolfinum can also be spotted. The majority of filming took place in Barrandov Studios.
This prequel to Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal was a significant disappointment, however, notable only for Gaspard Ulliel’s intense performance in the lead role.
10. Hostel: Part II (2007)
The first Hostel was also shot in Prague (standing in for Bratislava), but this one is a real blood-drenched stinker. Czech locations include interiors at Barrandov, along with location shooting in Prague, Český Krumlov (where the heroines visit a medieval fair early in the film), and Karlovy Vary.
Zuzana Geislerová, aunt of actress Anna Geislerová, stars in a featured role as the torture chamber chairwoman, but it’s a three-minute sequence from Monika Malácová as a Countess Bathory-like character – which is censored in some countries – that serves as the film’s most (in)famous scene.
9. Howling II: … Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985)
After Amadeus paved the way for US films shooting in Prague in the early 1980s, this cheap, chintzy Howling sequel limped into the city the following year. “I suspected my assistant director was KGB,” director Philippe Mora told Michael Adams in his book Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies. But my favorite bit of trivia from Adams’ book: “Mora had to literally import trash from America to clutter the clean communist streets.”
While shot entirely in Prague and surroundings (hilariously filling in for L.A. in early scenes), the film barely makes use of its locale, though there are more than a dozen cutaway close-ups of Old Town’s Astronomical Clock. Czech cast members included familiar faces such as Ivo Niederle, Jiří Krytinář, and talk show moderator Jan Kraus.
Howling II is good for a laugh, however, and has garnered a cult reputation due to the participation of stars Christopher Lee, Reb Brown, and Sybil Danning, whose topless scene is repeated seventeen times over the closing credits.
8. AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Largely shot at Prague Studios, as sound stages recreated some kind of pyramid beneath an Antarctic whaling station where Predators hunt Aliens and humans predictably get caught in-between. Hollywood really screwed up this franchise, which should be anything but dull. But Paul W.S. Anderson’s film barely manages a pulse.
Additional filming took place at locations in France and Italy, along with the old CKD factory in Vysočany.
7. Delta of Venus (1995)
This little-seen film from Nine ½ Weeks director Zalman King, adapted from the Anaïs Nin novel, gained some notoriety in the US as one of the earlier films to earn an NC-17 rating, but anyone watching it today will find it pretty tame – and thunderously dull.
Principal photography took place in and around Prague, standing in for WWII-era Paris. While most scenes take place in steamy interiors, recognizable exteriors include locations around the Vltava river and Old Town Square.
6. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
This elegantly-produced dud is never overtly awful, but boy is it dull. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which cost $80 million to make and failed to recoup its budget at the US box office, killed the career of director Stephen Norrington (Blade), who hasn’t made another film in the past 12 years. It’s also the last on-screen appearance of Sean Connery, though his retirement is self-imposed.
Production took place largely in Prague, standing in for turn-of-the-century London, Paris, Venice (built as a set at CKD), and elsewhere; opening scenes set in Kenya were shot on a farm in the Czech countryside. Strahov Monastery stands in for a British museum, while the Rudolfinum is a London club.
5. The Beautician and the Beast (1997)
The first – and last – attempt at a Hollywood star vehicle for nails-on-chalkboard Fran Drescher transports her character from The Nanny to the fictional Eastern European nation of Slovetzia, where she tends to the children of Timothy Dalton’s dictator.
The Czech Republic, of course, fills in for the fictional nation, and there’s actually a lot of good location work throughout local streets here. Not that I’d recommend sitting through this insipid take on The King and I to catch it. The main residence of the dictator is the beautiful Sychrov Castle, in the Liberec region.
4. Doom (2005)
There’s one inventive sequence late in the film that recaptures the first-person shooter feel from the video game; otherwise, it’s a complete dud. While producers included this and other elements to please fans – including gratuitous violence to earn an R rating – the result was almost universally panned.
Like Alien vs. Predator, this one was shot entirely in studio at Barrandov; nothing in the finished product reveals its filming location.
3. A Sound of Thunder (2005)
Out of all the bombs on this list, this is the one I feel most sorry for. A gee-whiz adaptation of a classic sci-fi story (by Ray Bradbury), this $52 million would-be blockbuster (which managed to gross just $1.8 million at the US box office) looks absolutely awful, filled with wall-to-wall CGI effects that the SyFy channel would reject.
There’s a reason for that. Originally slated to be filmed in mid-2002, floods in Prague completely destroyed the sets that had been built for the film. Producers – who were already in trouble after production delays and legal woes – decided on using the cheap digital backgrounds as an alternative.
Shot mostly in front of studio green screens, with a second half shrouded in darkness to hide the cheap F/X, precious little of Prague makes its way to the finished film. You can, however, catch the occasional cutaway of a single futuristic car driving down the city’s streets.
2. The Omen (2006)
The Omen is supposed to take place in Florence, Italy, but the filmmakers didn’t even try to hide the fact that they shot in Prague – during most of the outdoor scenes (but especially the climactic chase, shot around Náměstí Míru) you can spot the Czech-language shop and street names.
That makes for some good Prague-spotting, however: recognizable locations utilized for the film include Charles Bridge, the Prague Congress Center, the Laterna Magika theater, Štefánik Observatory in Petřín, the National Museum, and Zámek Lednice.
Out of all the films on this list, this is the one I hated the most – it’s a limp, flat scene-for-scene remake of a classic original that utterly fails as a horror movie. The film did have its defenders, though, which included Roger Ebert, of all people.
1. Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
Objectively, this is the worst film shot in Prague, as indicated by its 14/100 Metascore and 10% on the Tomatometer. I’m surprised it rated that high: this cheap, silly would-be spectacle isn’t even good for a laugh. Still, I find it hard to hate, and Jeremy Irons’ hammy turn is… interesting.
Much of the film was shot on sound stages and in front of green screens at Barrandov, but many scenes were shot on location in and around Prague. St. Nicholas Cathedral was used as the private chapel of the Thora Birch character; interiors from the State Opera and Strahov Monastery can also be seen. The medieval setting also took advantage of real castles at Rabí and Lipnice. Irons’ character’s lair was actually filmed at the famous Sedlec Ossuary (Bone Church) in Kutná Hora (pictured above), though the film makes little use of it.
The above locations are among the best the Czech Republic has to offer – if any director was given the opportunity to shoot at them, I doubt they could make a worse movie than Dungeons & Dragons if they tried.