Movies shot in St. Petersburg: the 90s

1. GoldenEye (UK-USA, 1995)

Pierce Brosnan in a Russian T-54 tank hurtles through the streets of St. Petersburg, crashing everything on his way. Did this really happen? Of course not. In this scene, the footage where you can see Brosnan and all kind of architectural destruction (buildings, a statue) was shot in the studio at Leavesden, England. But when the tank passes by the columns of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, then under the arch of the Senate and Synod Building and follows the Moika River up to the Pevcheskiy Bridge – you can be sure that it’s St. Petersburg. And it even follows the locations of our walking tour! An ochre palace with a monument in front of it appearing at the beginning of the scene – it’s St. Michael’s Castle that we usually show at the driving tour.  The only thing we couldn’t show you anyway is a statue of Dzerzhinsky on a winged stallion: it just never existed.

2. Anastasia (USA, 1997)

Yes, it’s an animated film but we couldn’t fail to mention it – at least because some tourists recall it pretty often while standing in front of the tombs of the last Romanovs at the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral (and these tourists aren’t children). No wonder why people still remember it: wonderful songs, great colors, views, motion… And here’s a fact: Gary Goldman, the film’s producer and animator, spent a week in St. Petersburg to take the real photos and videos of the city! Thus, after taking a tour to Catherine Palace, one may find resemblances between its outdoors, the Grand Hall’s interiors and those from the cartoon, where the royal family held a great ball and a grown-up Anastasia sang “Once Upon a December”. An equestrian statue that’s shown during “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” is actually the monument to Nicolas I that we also meet on must-see’s tour, as well as the bright domes of The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood!

3. Anna Karenina (USA-UK, 1997)

Few can resist shooting a ball scene in the Grand Hall of Catherine Palace because of its space and shine. Neither the filmmakers of Anna Karenina, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel and starring Sophie Marceau, did. Many critics praised the film due to the choice of authentic dresses and locations. Among them, there is also a spectacular Yusupov palace playing a part of the Karenins’ apartment. You can visit it with your private guide, too!

4. Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (USA-Hungary, 1996)

Even though the events shown at the movie are pretty far from the historical ones, Alan Rickman (Rasputin) and Sir Ian McKellen (Nicholas II) are very good in their roles. The life of the tsar’s family and Rasputin is shown within the walls of Grand Palace in Peterhof and Yusupov Palace, where they never lived, but where Rasputin was killed.

It’s funny that every time the characters of the film enter the Catherine Palace, they get in the halls of Grand Palace in Peterhof.

5. Onegin (UK-USA, 1999)

Another adaptation of a great Russian poem, worth watching at least to know the name of its author, Alexander Pushkin, as often travelers go to a town of his name to see the legendary Amber Room. The other reasons to watch the film: 1) Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler in the role of 19th-century Russians (Tyler got a Russian prize for it!); 2) to see the way people ice-skated on a frozen Neva River close to the Sts Peter and Paul Fortress. Who knows, maybe if you come to St. Petersburg in winter or early spring, you could walk on its ice!