The Zone of the film was inspired by a nuclear accident that took place near Chelyabinsk in 1957. Several hundred square kilometers were polluted by fallout and abandoned. There was no official mention of this "forbidden zone" at the time.
According to the film's sound designer Vladimir Sharun, at least 3 members of the crew (including director Andrei Tarkovsky) died as a result of chemical contamination encountered on location in Estonia.
The film was initially shot on Kodak 5247 stock. This film stock was newer to Soviet laboratories of the time and some of the original negatives were destroyed by a processing error at the laboratory. Part of the film was shot again with a new cinematographer, Aleksandr Knyazhinskiy. This contributed to the film's two-part narrative structure.
This film inspired video game developer GSC Game World to create STALKER:Shadow of Chernobyl. The game puts players into the role of a stalker who must navigate The Zone looking for answers to his amnesia.