Neuschwanstein Castle and the Movies
In addition to featuring on countless millions of postcards and tourist photos over the years, Neuschwanstein Castle is also a star of the silver screen. Bavaria’s number one visitor attraction has both inspired and featured in cinema classics.
Ludwig II’s great neo-medieval fairy tale castle has long been believed to be the real-life inspiration for the Cinderella Castle in the 1950 animated Disney movie, and also for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyworld. Germany was close to Walt Disney’s heart, and he toured the country more than once looking for inspiration from its wealth of folklore and fairy tales such as Snow White. He once shipped hundreds of books from Germany back to the USA, many of them purchased from Munich’s Hugendubel bookstore (which is still with us today).
Neuschwanstein, the great castle that sits on a mountain perch above Hohenschwangau palace and the Alpsee lake near Füssen, also features in other classic children’s movies. Neuschwantein is the star of the 1968 movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Chitty, the famous airborne car, can be seen flying over the Bavarian landcape surrounding the castle and its romantic Marienbrücke bridge.
Bavaria and its iconic castle can also be seen in vintage war movies. The 1963 classic, The Great Escape, was filmed in the area around Neuschwanstein Castle. Eagle-eyed viewers will recognise Neuschwanstein Castle in the background during the celebrated scene with Steve McQueen on his motorbike. The nearby village of Fussen also features heavily in the movie.
Neuschwanstein also features in a more recent war movie: 2014’s The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, Bill Murray, Mat Damon, and Cate Blanchett. This is based (very loosely) on real-life events. It is true that looted art from all over Europe was taken to Germany during WWII and stored in Neuschwanstein. The scene in the movie when American soldiers enter the palace at the end of the war to retrieve stolen art is inspired by real history. That did happen.
If you go on a castle tour today – which you should! – you’ll hear about how Neuschwanstein Castle was inspired by art – Richard Wagner and his great neo-Gothic operas. King Ludwig II’s fascination with Wagner can be seen in the castle’s Throne Room. But it is also worth remembering that the castle is a source of inspiration and not just a product of it. To visit Neuschwanstein is not just to step inside a fairy tale – it is to step into the movies.