1. Burj Khalifa (built in 2010), Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol (2011)
Big, ambitious buildings have a way of capturing the world’s attention, especially in Hollywood, where a cool new one can provide the perfect backdrop for a movie—giving the film a timely hook and the building a profile boost, especially if the building is only a few years old.
The Mission: Impossible films rely on exotic destinations, perhaps none more so than Ghost Protocol, which shifts from Budapest to Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai to, um, Seattle. The third leg of that journey is basically just an excuse to shoot at the Burj Khalifa, the 2,716-foot skyscraper that currently reigns as the world’s tallest building. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood decamped to Dubai to shoot the building, but Brad Bird’s film was faster than most.
The Burj was less than a year old when Bird shot the film’s most memorable setpiece there: Tom Cruise climbing the building’s exterior from a vertigo-inducing height (especially in IMAX) more than 100 stories up. A fair amount of the hotel’s interior gets screen time as well, as a busted meeting leads to a chase out of the Burj and through Dubai in a dust storm. But the tower sequence is likely what people will remember most about Ghost Protocol.
2. Petronas Towers (1996), Entrapment (1999)
Years before Tom Cruise’s daring stunts on the Burj Khalifa, another blockbuster tried the trick of filming its big setpiece in the brand new tallest building in the world. (The towers have since taken the lesser title of “tallest twin structures in the world.”)
Master thief Sean Connery and investigator Catherine Zeta-Jones have a tense moment hanging off the sky bridge linking Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers—574 feet above the ground—as the clock counts down on millennium eve. Viewers may have trouble remembering that scene, though, because Entrapment is best known for another one where the camera zoomed in on Zeta-Jones’ ass as she navigated laser fields.
3. Millennium Dome (2000), The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Another white elephant of the year 2000, the Millennium Dome (now known as the 02 Arena) is a colossal white tent erected in southeast London to serve as “a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity,” according to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But by The World Is Not Enough’s November 1999 release date, before the dome had even opened, it was clear the project would not live up to expectations. (Until the Iraq War trumped it, the dome was considered one of the chief fiascos of Blair’s tenure.) It mostly serves as a backdrop for James Bond’s daring motorboat-vs.-hot-air-balloon pre-credits chase scene, until the super-spy lands on the dome with a sickening crack at the end of the chase. More info, videos