Budapest at the Movies

Even if you are not aware of it, you have most probably seen Budapest in a movie already. Budapest is a popular shooting location for international productions, but it often stands in for other cities from Paris to Moscow. Hungary has also contributed many legendary figures to film history.

According to a popular anecdote a sign used to hang in one of the Hollywood studios, "It's not enough to be Hungarian to make films. One must also have talent." Whether that is true or not, Hungary has definitely made significant contributions to film history. The 1940 Ernst Lubitsch classic The Shop Around the Corner was based on Hungarian stage play Illatszertár and, unusually, the film even kept the story's Budapest setting, though James Stewart obviously doesn''t speak much Hungarian during the movie! Adolf Zukor was one of the architects of the Hollywood film industry, who was just 15 when he emigrated to America. In 1912 he established Famous Players, which evolved into Paramount Pictures, where Zukor championed vertical integration - organizing production, distribution, and exhibition all within a single company. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond won an Academy Award in 1977 for his work on Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and he was nominated twice more for The Deer Hunter and The River. Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz was nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Director and finally took home a golden statuette for Casablanca. The only Hungarian movie – so far – to have won an Oscar is director István Szabó's Mephisto, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1981. It also won the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes in the same year. In 2014 Kornél Mundruczó's White God triumphed in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes and featured in the Spotlight selection at the 2015 Sundance Festival.

For more than twenty years the Titanic International Film Festival has showcased the best of international cinema in Budapest, screening dozens of films including films by famous and first-time directors, independents and festival favourites. Several smaller festivals focus on special interests, such as the Anilogue International Animation Festival, the LMBTQ Budapest Pride Film Festival, the Jewish Film festival and the Verzio Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.

Budapest's long and turbulent history created a diverse city that can work as a setting for many different movies and TV shows, whether their stories take place in 19th century Paris or WWII London. For example, Budapest was Rome, Paris and London all in Steven Spielberg's Munich. Budapest also appeared as East Berlin in Spy Game and The Debt, as Buenos Aires in Evita starring Madonna, as Paris in Bel Ami and Moscow in A Good Day to Die Hard. On rare occasions Budapest is even Budapest, as in the cold war thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Many foreign productions take advantage of the professional crew and facilities of Korda Studios in Etyek, including The Borgias, Hellboy II and Hercules.

Absolute Walking Tours and Budapest Movie Walking organises movie location tours also telling backstage stories from blockbuster productions.