Where was Spiderhead filmed? The penitentiary building plus other locations in the Netflix film

Scenes for Spiderhead were filmed around this popular holiday hotspot

A plane flying over water showing the location where Spiderhead is filmed
(Image credit: Netflix)

Boasting sandy beach scenery, it's no wonder viewers want to know where was Spiderhead filmed in real life?

Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth takes the lead in Netflix's latest sci-fi thriller that delivers dystopia and thriller vibes aplenty. The futuristic thriller was filmed at the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, and tells the story of a scientist called Steve who runs a futuristic penitentiary. A group of prisoners reside there, but rather than being locked in a cell, the inmates are free to roam the premises. However, in return they have agreed to be part of Steve’s drug experiment.

Aside from the gripping storyline, it's the picturesque locations - much like in Windfall (opens in new tab) and The Weekend Away (opens in new tab) - that has had audiences talking. So where was Spiderhead filmed? Here's where you can see the real-life movie locations.

Where was Spiderhead filmed?

Spiderhead was filmed in Queensland, Australia, at the request of Aussie-born star Chris Hemsworth. The film got its tropical look from Australia’s stunning Gold Coast region, and the popular tourist location of the Whitsunday Islands provided the location for the Penitentiary.

Speaking about filming in his home country, Chris Hemsworth said: “This was, I think, going to shoot in Atlanta, and I said: ‘Look, I really don’t want to leave home right now, I love shooting here, we have such brilliant crew and cast and talent to use, and locations.’"

He added: “To the credit of Netflix and the production team, they pivoted and built the sets in Queensland, turned the [Gold Coast] Convention Centre (opens in new tab) into a studio, and we shot the film in five weeks or something, which is unheard of for a film of this size.”

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Gabrielle Jones, City of Gold Coast's Film and Television (opens in new tab) Advisor, revealed that Spiderhead was the first film in 2020 to shoot at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. Since then it's been host to other big blockbusters such as Baz Luhrmann's Elvis and Netflix's A Perfect Pairing.

Further filming for the sci-fi thriller took place elsewhere in Australia's Gold Coast. Cast and crew shot scenes at Hinze Dam and Tallebudgera Valley, showcasing some gorgeous, leafy green landscapes. 

Spiderhead producer Tommy Harper (opens in new tab)said of the locations: "The great thing about this area is you can be on the beach, you can do waterwork, you can be in the desert, you could be in the country and feel like you’re in Texas you can be in a rainforest and feel like you’re in Hawaii."

Spiderhead penitentiary building location: 

The outside scenes of the penitentiary were shot in the Whitsunday Islands, which lie between the north-east coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Meanwile inside prison scenes were shot inside a sports arena that had been shut down due to COVID.

The design of the prison was inspired by Brutalist architecture and high-end rehabilitation centres. Director Joseph Kosinski explained the design thesis: “What would a prison look like in Big Sur that was actually a spa?”

actor Chris Hemworth in the penitentiary building of film Spiderhead

(Image credit: Netflix)

He added: “I wanted the place to feel calm. I wanted natural light pouring in through the skylights. I wanted it to feel very ordered, but not overly constrictive. I like that Abnesti has a really good sense of design taste. All of the furnishings are bespoke and very specific because I wanted to contrast what’s really happening in this place.” 

Production designer Jeremy Hindle explained how the penitentiary building required pain-staking planning. “We had to know every millimetre of the design to a T going into the process because we had no idea where we were going to be due to COVID," he said of the fictional prison design. "We could’ve shot it on the moon if we had to! We knew exactly what we were doing the minute we landed in Australia.”

Is the Spiderhead penitentiary building real? 

No, the penitentiary building in Spiderhead is not real, but rather a custom-built set created especially for the film. However, the Whitsunday Islands, where the outside locations were filmed are a real place in Australia that you can visit.

The clear, protected waters around the island’s secluded beaches and hidden bays are popular with tourists as they are ideal for sailing, snorkelling, diving and swimming. You can even swim with turtles...

What story is Spiderhead based on? 

Spiderhead is based on a short story published in the New Yorker back in 2010. The story was called Escape from Spiderhead (opens in new tab) written by George Saunders. The author had previously won the Man Booker Prize in 2017 for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo.

Speaking about his love of fiction, author George Saunders said: “The fiction writer’s job, as I see it, is to make a vivid representation of life as he’s known it. And that starts with things and places and specific thought-states, specifically described.”

Could there be a Spiderhead 2?  

Considering the film is based on a single short story, it is unlikely that there will be a Spiderhead 2. Netflix has not announced any plans for a sequel. And there is also the fact that Chris Hemsworth’s character, Steve Abnesti, crashes his plane into a mountain and seemingly dies at the end of the first film. 

As Steve is the main character and runs the facility, this means a second film would be incredibly difficult.

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Robyn is a freelance celebrity journalist with ten years experience in the industry. While studying for a degree in Media and Cultural Studies at London College of Communication, she did internships at Now and Heat magazines. After graduating, she landed a job at Star magazine, where she worked her way up to features editor. She then worked at Future as Deputy Celebrity Content Director across Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly and Woman & Home magazines.