Marbella’s movie magic: Films and TV shows that have put the Costa del Sol city at the heart of the action

SPOTTING stars in Marbella is relatively easy: For 50 years, the biggest names in cinema have chosen the stunning destination to holiday and party together, and the tales of their exploits are legendary. 

Strangely though, it’s not as easy to find them in a film or TV series based in Marbella or about the glitzy resort.

Luckily though there are a few shows worth watching set in and around the resort, with the most recent appropriately called ‘Marbella’ (above) coming out on Movistar-plus last month.

Here, we pick out seven, with the earliest pushing its glamorous image with the big developers behind the tourism boom wanting to promote it apart from other popular spots like Benidorm or Benalmadena. 

Judy Dench and Bill Nighy in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

In recent years, Marbella has become more of a deluxe setting for the wild partying of reality TV show spin-offs. From time to time, it also appears as the backdrop for some nefarious wheeler-dealer action between various sets of criminals.

The Olive Press gets out the popcorn to pick the best English language films and TV shows that put the spotlight on Marbella.

Marbella (1985)

ONE of the earlier cinematic portrayals of Marbella, this 80s romcom was shot 15 years after the opening of Puerto Banus, when the resort was flooded with stars. Starring Rod Taylor and Britt Ekland, the film follows the old trope of a washed-up Brit in search of a better life. Expelled from the Navy for his excessive drinking habits, Commander W.P. Anderson decides to take a second chance at life on the Costa del Sol.

Oh Marbella! (2003)

RELEASED in 2003, and starring Rik Mayall, Tom Bell and Mike Reid, this is a light-hearted caper involving a couple of activists, a hitman with a prostate problem and a slimeball estate agent. It’s an easy watch and funny, and Marbella lovers will be able to relate to the joy each of the characters feels for the place. 

The Business (2005)

IT’S not solely set in Marbella, although the film evokes it with a fantastic soundtrack that encapsulates the party vibe of the resort in the 1980s. The Business is narrated by Londoner Frankie, played by Danny Dyer, who grows up in Thatcher’s Britain and dreams of leaving his dull life and becoming someone – specifically someone living the gangster life on the Costa del Crime.

The Only Way is Marbs (2012)

THE cast members of The Only Way is Essex are no strangers to Marbella or the Costa del Sol: this, after all, is their Spanish Essex (although to be fair they are associated with rather more downmarket Mijas these days). A cringy summer special, The Only Way is Marbs, sees the puffed up crowd jet off to their various holiday homes for fun, fights and frolics in the sun. The line ‘no carbs before Marbs’ became iconic (to them) and you can now find it printed on t-shirts. 

Life on Marbs (2015)

AS reality TV shows in the UK got bigger, flashier and more ambitious, it’s inevitable that Marbella appeared on the producers’ radar. The spectacle of ‘influencers’ with lots of cash and problems jetting off to Spain to pursue business interests and party, remains a perennial source of fascination and guilty pleasure for British TV audiences. Life on Marbs features former Only Way is Essex cast members Ferne McCann and Elliot Wright, along with a host of Marbella business owners, models, and fitness trainers. 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015):

THIS movie follows Sonny Kapoor as he juggles his upcoming wedding with the ambitious dream of opening a new hotel. With his loyal staff by his side, the film offers a heartwarming journey of love, self-discovery, and a touch of hilarious chaos.

With a star-studded cast including Dame Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere and Bill Nighy, the filmmakers took viewers on a visual adventure, capturing the spirit of the story in Marbella and Malaga, although the principal Indian location of Jaipur is definitely more exotic.

Rise of the Footsoldier (2019)

DUBBED Britain’s answer to Narcos, it’s fair to say this film, starring Craig Fairbrass and Terry Stone, has not been quite as successful as the multi-award winning multi-season series across the Atlantic. However, the Marbella underworld gets some screen space. Fresh out of prison, an Essex gangster and nightclub owner heads to Marbella to seek revenge on the man who got him put behind bars and winds up with a drug deal. Trouble ensues. 

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