Mamma Mia! and the sandy shores of Skopelos

Mamma Mia! and the sandy shores of Skopelos

Over the course of the past two years of travel restrictions, drifting off in thought to a pristine white sand beach on a remote island somewhere has been a surefire way to escape the stress, anxiety and general tedium of life in a global pandemic. For those not fortunate enough to live in or near to a sunny coastal location, binge watching movies that feature jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches fringed with azure waters has certainly helped to fill the void; a way to experience the beauty from the comfort of the living room.

To that end, entertainment news website recently published an article featuring an eclectic list of seven hit movies that make us wish we were on a beach. Unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg’s masterful 1975 thriller “Jaws” was not included.

With no man-eating sharks lurking in the inky gloom, what caught our eye was the list’s third-placed entry “Mamma Mia!,” filmed on the Greek island of Skopelos in the northern Sporades. The 2008 jukebox musical romantic comedy, based on the songs of 1970s and early 80s Swedish pop group ABBA, was a box office smash, becoming one of the most successful musical films of all time. Showcasing the island’s quiet rustic charm, lush pine forests and secluded beaches, “Mamma Mia!” certainly brought Skopelos to the world’s attention.

Featuring an ensemble cast (Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Colin Firth, et al.), main filming location sites on the island included Kastani Beach on the southwest coast – Skopelos’ sandiest beach – and the iconic Agios Ioannis chapel, used for the wedding scene at the end. Located in the north of the island, the tiny chapel sits atop a 100 meter-high sea rock, surrounded by crystal clear water and boasting panoramic views of the rugged coastline.

While the MovieWeb article admits that “Mamma Mia!” might not be everyone’s cup of tea – it rather depends on whether you like ABBA – the feel-good movie certainly provided a major boost in tourism for Skopelos. For ABBA fans or devotees of the film, set locations on the island have become like pilgrimage sites, with many tourist vendors capitalizing on the island’s worldwide fame.

Elsewhere on MoveWeb’s list, the 1991 cult classic “Point Break,” filmed at surfing hotspots across southern California, comes in at number 7; the 2016 film version of the popular 90s series “Baywatch,” set in Miami, Florida, takes the number 6 slot; the animated Disney classic “Lilo and Stitch” (2002) with its idyllic Hawaiian backdrop, comes in at 5, and romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008), also set in Hawaii, slides in at 4.

Ahead of “Mamma Mia!” in second place comes another animated Disney classic, “Moana” (2016), set in the remote Polynesian islands of the Pacific. The 2000 film “The Beach,” based on the 1996 Alex Garland novel of the same name, claims the top spot. Set on the idyllic Thai island of Ko Phi Phi Le in the Indian Ocean, the popular film unleashed a surge of tourism to the area, causing severe environmental damage. Thai authorities were forced to close the beaches to allow the local ecosystem to recover – a cautionary tale of the dangers of unchecked mass tourism.

This article first appeared in Greece Is (, a Kathimerini publishing initiative. 


Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.