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Dominican Republic: Tropical Backdrop for Hollywood Films

There are many reasons why location scouts choose certain spots for their movies. Sometimes it’s the scenery, sometimes it’s for tax reasons, sometimes it’s the will of the director or stars. For the Dominican Republic, its climate and geography often made it a go-to destination when political matters prevented filming in other parts of the world. Check out some of the big-name flicks that were shot there:

  • Jurassic Park (1993) – The blockbuster that ushered in the era of CGI and gave us the most impressive look at dinosaurs ever on film. During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sir Richard Attenborough, and directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie won three Academy Awards for its special effects. Although it was primarily filmed in Hawaii and California, there were several sequences shot in the Dominican Republic, specifically in San Pedro de Macoris and at the Chavón River.
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974) – The follow-up to “The Godfather” that is both a prequel and a sequel. It details the early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York, while also showing how his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate, stretching from Lake Tahoe to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba. The film – pictured above – won six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Robert DeNiro (who learned to speak Sicilian to play the young Vito). For the film, Santo Domingo, including the El Embajador Hotel, stands in for Cuba.

“The Godfather: Part II” Trivia

This was the first major motion picture to use “Part II” in the title.

  • Miami Vice (2006) – Based on the popular 1980s TV action/drama – and written and directed by the show’s creator, Michael Mann – this update focuses on vice detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined. The scenes set in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were actually shot in Santo Domingo.
  • Havana (1990) – In 1958, high-stakes poker player Jack Weil (Robert Redford) is looking to score big in the final hours of Batista’s Cuba, a nation on the brink of a revolt. But Weil lands in dangerous political territory when he agrees to help the alluring wife (Lena Olin) of a communist revolutionary (Raul Julia). While much of the film is set in Cuba, the lack of diplomatic relations with that country necessitated finding a similar Caribbean locale – in this case, the Dominican Republic.
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – A supernatural thriller directed by horror auteur Wes Craven, inspired by the (surprisingly) nonfiction book by Wade Davis. An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies. Although the movie is set in Haiti, political strife and civil unrest in that country forced the crew to move production to Santo Domingo.

“The Serpent and the Rainbow” Trivia

In the film, it is suggested that a component of the mysterious powder is tetrodotoxin (TTX). TTX is a real neurotoxin which can be isolated from the pufferfish (fugu), porcupinefish, specific species of octopus, newt, toad, crab and worm, as well as symbiotic bacteria. Although TTX can be fatal in certain doses, it has been investigated as a treatment for cancer-related pain, and has been used clinically to relieve the headache associated with heroin withdrawal.

  • The Good Shepherd (2006) – Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) heads CIA covert operations during the Bay of Pigs. The agency suspects that Castro was tipped, so Wilson looks for the leak. As he investigates, he recalls, in a series of flashbacks, his father’s death, student days at Yale, recruitment into the fledgling OSS, truncated affairs, a shotgun marriage, cutting his teeth on spy craft in London, distance from his son, the emergence of the Cold War and relationships with agency, British and Soviet counterparts. The scenes in Leopoldville were shot in Parque Duarte, Santo Domingo, while the Dominican Republic once again serves as a Cuban stand-in.
  • Sugar (2008) – At 19, Miguel “Sugar” Santos, a kid from the Dominican Republic, flies to Phoenix for tryouts with the Kansas City Royals. He is sent to Class A ball in the fictional town of Bridgetown, Iowa. Thus begins his odyssey: leaving his mom and girlfriend; living in an alien culture; learning English; overcoming jitters; working hard; achieving early success; navigating friendships, occasional racism, and a woman’s mixed signals; dealing with an injury; trying performance-enhancing drugs; and searching for his place in the world. A fascinating look at baseball through the eyes of the Latin American hopefuls who come to the U.S. while dreaming of a better life. Scenes in the Dominican Republic were filmed in Consuelo and San Pedro de Macoris.
  • Dance with Me (1998) – Young Cuban Rafael comes to Houston to meet his father, John, for the first time. The difficult part is that John, who runs a dance studio, doesn’t know that he is Rafael’s father. At the studio, everyone is preparing for the World Open Dance Championship and it soon becomes clear that Rafael, who is a very good dancer, offers the studio its best chance at the championship. The film stars Vanessa Williams, Chayanne and Kris Kristofferson with the Dominican Republic serving as – you guessed it – a stand-in for Cuba.

To check out some of the cinematic locations in the Dominican Republic, or any of our other 40+ photogenic destinations, write to us at

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