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10 films where maps play a starring role

Maps are invaluable tools in everyday life, but they come in just as handy in fictional worlds, helping some of our most loved characters to find treasure or hunt down what they're looking for. Here are ten of our favourite films where maps play a starring role.

Moonrise Kingdom


A sweet comedy about young love, Moonrise Kingdom sees two obsessed 12-year olds run away on a camping holiday to the fictitious New Penzance Island. It’s a film where attention to detail is everything, and when director Wes Anderson decides that maps would enhance the film, maps for New Penzance are duly created. Anderson explains: "It's weird because you'd think that you could make a fake island and map it, and it would be a simple enough matter, but to make it feel like a real thing, it just always takes a lot of attention."

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Think back to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and maps play heavily in the script. "X never, ever marks the spot," Indy tells students while lecturing in class, before discovering that X does indeed mark the spot at the beginning of his search for the Holy Grail. As expected, the hunt is far from straightforward, including a map with no names and a diary of cryptic clues, and it's a search that puts Indy head to head with the Nazis.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack Sparrow and his motley crew, along with blacksmith Will Turner and half of the British Royal Navy set sail around Haiti in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, on the hunt for the lovely Elizabeth Swann, kidnapped by the mutinous Captain Hector Barbossa. It's the second film where maps really come to the fore though, with Sparrow and co hunting down the contents of the Dead Man's Chest with little more than a map and a compass (which also appeared in the first film) that most people are convinced is broken.

Harry Potter

In Harry Potter, JK Rowling created an entire fantasy world, from Hogwarts to the mysterious Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. The former is something that Harry gets to know all about using the Marauder's Map, which goes a whole lot further than simply showing off where the classrooms in Hogwarts are. Instead, along with every last corner, the Marauder's Map also shows secret passages hidden within walls, and encompassing magic, it can even show the location of each person as they move! With the ability to spot people even when they're invisible, it turns out to be an invaluable tool for Harry.

The Da Vinci Code

The plot of The Da Vinci Code revolves around the hunt for and the protection of the Holy Grail, so it seems almost inevitable that a map will play a part at some point, and that's exactly the case. From the very start, museum curator Saunière attempts to pass on the secret of the Grail by painting a pentacle on his stomach in blood, along with a circle on the floor and crawling into it to become part of a gruesome map. It's certainly a world away from the maps we're used to dealing with at HERE, but it does the trick, helping Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to find out what he needs to know.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre


It's not just modern films that maps make a difference in, with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a Humphrey Bogart classic from 1948 also making the list. Filmed on the streets of Tampico in Mexico, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is notable for being one of the first Hollywood films to be shot outside of the US, and there's no way Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and his cohort Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) would have managed to track down gold without a trusty map.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Word of buried treasure sparks a manic cross-country race in 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and it's easy to see more than a hint of this film in the much newer Cannonball Run, with teams of people attempting to get across the US as quickly as possible, using pretty much every form of transport imaginable, with maps inevitably proving invaluable for those attempting to get their hands on the spoils.

Time Bandits


Time Bandits is a Terry Gilliam fantasy comedy from 1981, with an all-star cast that includes Sean Connery, Michael Palin, John Cleese and plenty of other true greats. Our hero Kevin (Craig Warnock) discovers a worm hole in his wardrobe, and with the ability to jump through time Kevin tags on with a bunch of dwarfs on the hunt for treasure throughout history. You'd be needing a good map to hunt down loot in one part of history - imagine how good it needs to be if you've got all of time to search!

The Goonies


The Goonies is one of those few films that the entire family can enjoy, with the oddball group setting off to find a pirate's ancient treasure and save their home. The cult classic is one of Stephen Spielberg's most loved films, and sees The Goonies discovering a lost map, heading through secret caves, treading a fine line through traps, discovering heading treasure and helping to rescue Sloth. Even if you can't remember much else from 1985, the chances are you won't forget Sloth - we certainly haven't!

Paper Towns

When Quentin “Q” Jacobsen’s (Nat Wolff) childhood sweetheart Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) disappears after an action-packed day of revenge, Quentin attempts to track her down after discovering a piece of paper with an address on it. That piece of paper leads to an atlas, and the discovery that Margo has been hiding in a fictional town called Agloe, a “paper town” or copyright trap added by mapmakers to catch out people copying their maps. As somebody who’s been living a lie, it turns out that the paper town is ideal for a “paper girl”.

Main image source: crises_crs

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