Aerial view of the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radio telescope.

Aerial view of the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radio telescope.

Puerto Rico in the Movies

From recreating the favelas of Sao Paulo in “Fast Five” to 007 fighting his nemesis on the largest radio telescope in the world, Puerto Rico has served as a backdrop for many famous movies thanks to its convenient proximity to the U.S., film industry tax incentives, diverse landscape, and versatile locations.

From tropical beaches to the Arecibo Observatory to the streets of Old San Juan and other picturesque locations, the island gives filmmakers the opportunity to bring their stories to life. Although films don’t always portray Puerto Rico as Puerto Rico, they always take full advantage of the beauty of this Caribbean island.

Here are a few features that showcase Puerto Rico and places you can explore when you visit the island:

Aerial panoramic view of the Arecibo Observatory.

The Arecibo Observatory attracts visitors of all ages and from many countries.

Bad Boys II

In their roles as two Miami P.D. agents, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence wreak havoc all over the north coast of the island. Director Michael Bay transformed Puerto Rico into Cuba for his 2003 sequel to "Bad Boys," with the towns of Manatí and Arecibo setting the scene for over the top car chases, military shootings, and explosions.

The Losers

A betrayed black ops team is left for dead in Bolivia in this 2010 film. While the storyline takes place mostly between Bolivia and the United States, most of the production was set around Santurce, Hato Rey, Canóvanas, and Río Grande, as well as iconic sites like the Arecibo Observatory, Piñones, and Caja de Muertos island. The movie was directed by Sylvain White and starred Zoe Saldaña, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dean Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Keith Short, Óscar Jaenada, and Jason Patric.

Contact

Dr. Ellie Arroway achieved what seemed impossible: radio proof of extraterrestrial intelligence, and she did it at the world’s largest radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory. The 1997 Academy Award-nominated film follows Jodie Foster and Mathew McConaughey as they try to communicate with outer space.

Aerial view of the Castillo San Cristóbal in Old San Juan.

The citadel covers over 27 acres and is the largest one made by the Spaniards in the New World. 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

In the fourth installment of this acclaimed Disney franchise, Jack Sparrow sets out to find the mystical Fountain of Youth, a quest that brought production and cast to Puerto Rico. Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz roamed around locations like Castillo San Cristóbal in San Juan and Cueva del Indio in Arecibo, but the most notable moment is captured on the deserted island of Palominito, off the coast of Fajardo.

Fast Five

Dominic Toretto and the familia plan to pull off the ultimate heist, but while the storyline for "Fast Five" is set in Brazil, the adrenaline-filled flick was shot in San Juan and Naranjito. The rooftop chase across the favelas is actually La Perla (like Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” video), car chases were shot at la Milla de Oro and Puente Teodoro Moscoso in Hato Rey, and Gal Gadot’s now-iconic line “you don’t send a man to do a woman’s job” was spoken at hotel La Concha in Condado.

Golden Eye

Remember Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean’s battle in a giant telescope? Although James Bond’s classic finale depicts the location as a secret antenna cradle in Cuba, the scene took place in the Arecibo Observatory on the north side of the island. 

A couple strolling through the stunning Esperanza beach in Vieques.

Idyllic Esperanza Beach on the island of Vieques.

22 Jump Street

Reprising their funny characters as two undercover cops with "baby face" Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill track a drug dealer all the way to "Puerto Mexico." Locations like the Caribe Hilton hotel and Condado beach served as sets for these "college kid" Spring Break party endeavors.

Runner Runner

The gambling drama takes a grad student portrayed by Justin Timberlake to Costa Rica as he confronts a tycoon played by Ben Affleck, but once again, the movie was filmed here. Catch a glimpse of La Perla, the Nautical Club in San Juan, luxury mansions in Dorado and Río Grande, Piñones, the Gallery Inn hotel, and the majestic casino at El San Juan hotel.

The Rum Diary

Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s memoir of when he lived as a journalist in Puerto Rico, this movie brought Johnny Depp back to the island, this time in the ‘60s era. The movie showcases the pastel colors and colonial architecture of Old San Juan, as well as the stunning beaches of Vieques and Vega Baja.

A man bottling his own Bacardí from a barrel

Bottle your own Bacardí during a Rum Tasting Tour.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

A story of love and salsa in revolutionary times brought Diego Luna, Romola Garai, and the rest of the crew down to Puerto Rico. The streets of Old San Juan and Ponce recreated Cuba during the revolution, as well as the Bacardí distillery.

Other movies shot in Puerto Rico:

  1. Lord of the Flies
  2. Act of Valor
  3. Princess Protection Program
  4. Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
  5. Captain America: Civil War
  6. The Do-Over
  7. The Men Who Stare at Goats
  8. Amistad
  9. Heartbreak Ridge
  10. Assassins
  11. Teen Beach Movie
  12. Teen Beach Movie 2
  13. Under Suspicion
  14. Our Brand is Crisis
  15. Imprisoned
  16. Perfect Getaway
  17. Replicas
  18. Trauma Center
  19. Force of Nature
  20. Driven
  21. Axis Sally
  22. Extortion
  23. Speed Kills
  24. Meant to Be
  25. Feel the Noise
  26. The Caller
  27. Christmas in Paradise
  28. Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia
  29. Primal