Incredible filming locations from popular movies

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April 25, 2018

Incredible filming locations from popular movies

In 1895, history's first film audience was treated to "L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat." The fifty-second film featured a train pulling into a Parisian station and, if myth serves correctly, caused the viewing audience to flee in panic after thinking a real-life train was barreling towards them.

Since then, cinema has remained steadfast in its commitment to taking your breath away at any cost. If the goal of film is to create images that last a lifetime, a breathtaking location is a good first move.

Some parts of the globe have been immortalized so profoundly that their sense of place no longer exists irrespective of the films in question. One example? Try visiting the North Islands of New Zealand and stopping your synapses from seeing Hobbits everywhere you go.

Each of the following locations served as the setting for some of Hollywood's most famous scenes. Iconic lines were uttered in their deserts and nameless horrors committed in their woods. Stacker has compiled a list of 30 iconic filming locations—from shires to monuments and all the stunning locales in between. Hollywood may be firmly settled in Los Angeles, but its reach is nothing short of global.

#30. Coney Island, Brooklyn

Movies filmed here: Requiem for a Dream, Brooklyn, The Wiz

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn’s famous beach boardwalk has seen a slight decline in popularity since the latter half of the twentieth century. Still, Coney Island has served as the setting for many classic films in the years since, including “Requiem for a Dream,” “Brooklyn,” and “The Wiz,” thanks in no small part to its iconic attractions. Most recently, its Ferris wheel served as the centerpiece for Woody Allen’s 2017 flop “Wonder Wheel.”


#29. Amity Island

Movies filmed here: JAWS

Location: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

The crystal-clear turquoise waters of Cape Cod have been home to presidents, movie stars, and perhaps most notably, a 25-foot shark named Bruce. Steven Spielberg’s 1974 classic “Jaws” became the summer movie that scared an entire generation from going into the water—yet somehow it managed to avoid completely destroying the island’s reputation.

#28. The Shire

Movies filmed here: Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Location: Matamata, New Zealand

The hobbits of J.R.R Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy spend 1,241 pages pining for the comforts of their beloved Shire. And for Peter Jackson, no place on earth better captured its beauty than the rolling green hills of New Zealand. Located near the Kaimai Mountains in New Zealand’s North Islands, the rural village of Matamata—with its now-iconic thatched cottages and breathtaking meadows—saw a reported 50% increase in tourists since the release of the films. In 2016 alone, the region enjoyed 3.4 million visitors.

#27. The Hunger Games Arena

Movies filmed here: The Last of the Mohicans, The Hunger Games Trilogy

Location: DuPont State Forest, North Carolina

DuPont Forest runs over 80 miles and is a go-to locale for avid mountain bikers and hikers. Hollywood has turned to the lush surroundings for a myriad of projects, like 1992’s “The Last of the Mohicans” and most notably, “The Hunger Games” trilogy, which turned the DuPont Forest into a dizzy maze of death traps.  

#26. San Miguel, Mexico

Movies filmed here: Fistful of Dollars Trilogy

Location: Tabernas Desert

Sergio Leone's classic trilogy birthed an entire genre of filmmaking, taking the hyper-American Western genre and giving it a since-influential European flair. For the films—1964's "A Fistful Of Dollars," 1965's "A Few Dollars More," and 1966's "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly"—Leone turned Spain's Tabernas Desert into San Miguel, Mexico, and the site of cinema's most famous duel.

#25. The Von Trapp Family Estate

Movies filmed here: The Sound Of Music

Location: Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria 

There were plenty of historical inaccuracies in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” but the lush beauty of Salzburg, Austria wasn’t one of them. The city holds the distinct honor of being Mozart’s birthplace, yet its most iconic cultural contribution might still be Julie Andrews twirling on the hillside before making her way to the Von Trapp mansion grounds. The latter is still the site of numerous “Sound of Music” tours.

#24. Griffith Observatory

Movies filmed here: Rebel Without A Cause, Transformers, La La Land

Location: Los Angeles, California

Some of the most famous locales to make appearances on film are located handily in Hollywood’s own backyard. The Griffith Observatory’s most iconic cameo is without question James Dean’s deadly knife fight in “Rebel Without A Cause,” but the planetarium has made its fair share of appearances since. It has served as the backdrop to the likes of Demi Moore toting two gold guns in “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” robotic reflections in  “Transformers,” and most recently, Damien Chazelle’s almost-Best Picture winner “La La Land.”

#23. Shawshank State Penitentiary

Movies filmed here: The Shawshank Redemption

Location: Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio

Anybody with a heart (or a cable package that includes TNT) would be able to recognize this nineteenth-century penitentiary as the not-quite-home of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman). “The Shawshank Redemption” takes place primarily in this building’s architecturally diverse walls—the building holds influence from the Victorian Gothic and Queen Anne era, and is a much-referenced example of Romanesque architecture.

#22. Omaha Beach, Normandy

Movies filmed here: Saving Private Ryan

Location: Curracloe Beach, Wexford, Ireland

Steven Spielberg’s nearly 50-year career has given us a myriad of memorable moments, and for many, the opening scene of 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” easily rises to the top. The scene turns the picturesque beach into the windswept shore of 1944 Normandy, perfectly capturing the chaos that greeted American soldiers on D-Day. The opening scene famously clocks in at 21-minutes and has gone on to be considered some of the director’s best work. After all, it takes a real artist to turn a birdwatching haven into a scene of human horror.

#21. Nakatomi Plaza

Movies filmed here: Die Hard, Speed, Airheads, Fight Club

Location: Fox Plaza, Century City, Los Angeles, California

The 35-story skyscraper is the corporate headquarters of Twentieth Century Fox, but true McClane-heads will recognize it as the sole location of 1988's "Die Hard". Everyone's favorite Christmas movie pits Bruce Willis against 12 terrorists, claustrophobic air ducts, dizzy elevator lifts and, presumably, a lot of stairs. The building was featured in three other films—"Speed," "Airheads," and "Fight Club"—all released by Twentieth Century Fox itself, turning it into a meta and iconic part of cinema history.

#20. The “Christmas Story” House

Movies filmed here: A Christmas Story

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

“A Christmas Story” is a holiday classic that’s set in Indiana, but exterior shots of the Parker’s iconic abode were of a house in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. Homeowner Brian Jones later purchased and renovated the house, modeling the interior to be identical to that of the film’s. Since then, the house has become open to the public, serving as a museum filled with props and merchandise—like that unforgettable leg lamp.

#19. Gattaca Aerospace Corporation

Movies filmed here: Gattaca, THX-1138

Location: Marin County, California

Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovative design of the Marin County Civic Center has made it the muse of many science fiction texts—most notably, 1997’s “Gattaca.” The building’s exterior and interior represented the genetics corporation’s headquarters, turning Wright’s bombastic futurist designs into something eerily prophetic. George Lucas, a Marin County resident himself, turned the Civic Center into a detention center in his first feature, “THX-1138”, and was inspired by the building’s dome top when designing the planet of Naboo for “Star Wars.” 

#18. The Overlook Hotel

Movies filmed here: The Shining

Location: Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, Northern Oregon 

Stanley Kubrick’s infamous fear of flying kept the filmmaker in England and forced nearly all of his films to be shot on large-scale soundstages. Still, that didn’t stop the director from making sure that we never walk into the Timberline Lodge without getting goosebumps. While the interior design of the Overlook was inspired by the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, the exterior shots of the Timberline Lodge have since become an iconic part of “The Shining,” which Martin Scorsese has called “one the scariest movies of all time.”

#17. The Queensboro Bridge

Movies filmed here: Manhattan

Location: Manhattan, New York

The city of New York has been firmly imprinted in the global imagination because nearly every inch of it has appeared on film. It takes a special eye to make any part of the city feel new, but that’s exactly what Woody Allen did in his iconic shot beneath the Queensboro Bridge in “Manhattan.” The film’s lush black and white photography helped turn an ordinary suspension bridge into the most romantic place on earth, giving us not just a beautiful location, but one of Hollywood’s most beloved frames of film.

#16. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Movies filmed here: Grand Budapest Hotel

Location: Görlitz Department Store, Görlitz, Germany

For the setting of his eighth film, writer-director Wes Anderson chose Görlitz Department Store, an Art Nouveau gem widely considered one of the 20th century's most well-preserved department stores. The store sold clothing, furniture, even candy, making it an appropriate setting for Anderson's color-coated visual feast.  

#15. Ghostbusters Headquarters

Movies filmed here: Ghostbusters

Location: Hook & Ladder Co. 8 Fire Station, TriBeCa, New York

The interior of the famous “Ghostbusters” headquarters was shot at a since-decommissioned fire station in Los Angeles. But the exterior building used in the film belongs to a fully operational fire station in New York’s downtown TriBeCa district. While the New York building has yet to receive the Historic Cultural Monument designation that its Los Angeles doppelgänger did, it is nevertheless a beloved NYC monument.

#14. Château de Versailles

Movies filmed here: Marie Antoinette

Location: Versailles, France

Sofia Coppola was given unprecedented access to the famed French grounds while shooting 2006’s “Marie Antoinette”, giving her hyper-stylized interpretation a grand dose of authenticity. The Palace of Versailles runs over three square miles, and Coppola’s film captures the breathtaking scope of the estate, turning the space into the world’s largest and most ornate teenage bedroom.

#13. The Beach

Movies filmed here: The Beach

Location: Hat Maya, Thailand

The titular paradise in Danny Boyle’s “The Beach” had to make good on its promise of a Shangri-La-like oasis, and the stunning Thailand locale did just that. Producers of the film faced a heap of controversy for allegedly removing and replanting entire palm trees in order to create a more perfect tree line for the film’s various bits of tropical eye candy. Released in 2000, the film was ahead of its time: today, Thailand has become the de facto destination for an entire generation of backpackers. Someone cut Boyle a check.

#12. Namib Desert

Movies filmed here: Mad Max: Fury Road

Location: Swakopmund, Nambia 

For the dystopian wasteland of “Mad Max: Fury Road”, director George Miller kept the story in Australia but turned the sand dunes of the Namib Desert into an oil-drenched playground. The film took the region’s stunning color scheme and flipped it on its head, turning the sand palate into deep burnt oranges and turning the streaks of sky-blue into an endless abyss. The result was an Academy Award for production design. Not even a bald and armless Charlize Theron could pull your attention away.

#11. Moab

Movies filmed here: Thelma & Louise

In the memorable final scene of "Thelma & Louise," the women find themselves outrunning the police and arriving at a dead end on the edge of the Grand Canyon. In actuality, the film's third act was shot in and around the gorgeous red rocks of Moab, Utah, which stood in for the famous national park. Today, Moab is still used as a primary filming location for a number of projects, most recently HBO's "Westworld".

#10. Valdall Valley

Movies filmed here: Ex-Machina

Location: Norway

The chilly Alaskan locale of Alex Garland’s directorial debut, “Ex-Machina,” is meant to feel like a tech nightmare and interior design dream all at once. In reality, the home of tech CEO Nathan Bateman—a haunted house for the juicing generation—was filmed inside the Juvet Landscape Hotel, a fully functional hotel space in the frosty woods of Norway.

#9. Trevi Fountain

Movies filmed here: La Dolce Vida, Three Coins in the Fountain, When In Rome, The Lizzie McGuire Movie

Location: Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain is the largest baroque fountain in all of Rome, and one of the most famous on the globe. It’s no surprise then that Federico Fellini, one of the country’s most beloved filmmakers—as well as one of Hollywood’s most revered—, would be inspired enough by the Trevi to stage an iconic bit of filmmaking inside of it. Aside from that scene in 1960’s “La Dolce Vida,” the Trevi Fountain has appeared in “When in Rome,” “Three Coins in the Fountain”—a direct reference to the Trevi itself—and last but not least, “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.”

#8. Jurassic Park

Movies filmed here: Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Avatar

Location: Kauai, Hawaii

It might be hyperbolic to say that it’s worth being eaten alive by genetically engineered Velociraptors for a chance to step foot on the lush Hawaiian island of Kauai, but let’s just go with it. Even though Hawaii hosts numerous “Jurassic Park” tours, many of the filming locations are inaccessible to tourists except by way of helicopter, which is historically speaking, the best route anyway. And thanks to numerous state tax breaks, Kauai has been the site of many other epic films, from “Avatar” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

#7. Al Khazneh

Movies filmed here: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Location: Petra, Jordan

In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indy may have set his sights on the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, but the Holy Grail for Steven Spielberg was the stunning rock-carved city of Petra. Al Khazneh is carved into the face of sandstone rock, making it one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Arab kingdom. Today, it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Jordan—the structure likely functioned as a treasury, housing innumerable treasures for anyone willing to dig.

#6. The Guggenheim Museum

Movies filmed here: Men In Black, Manhattan, The International

Location: Manhattan, New York

The Guggenheim houses one of New York's best permanent collections of contemporary art, but the building itself is fit for a museum. The iconic circular walkway that dominates the inside has been praised as an architectural marvel, and Hollywood has turned to the Frank Lloyd Wright creation as a backdrop for numerous films—including "Men In Black," "The International," and "Manhattan."

#5. King’s Cross Station

Movies filmed here: Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, The 39 Steps, Mission Impossible

Location: London, England

The King’s Cross station in London is one of the busiest railway stations in the entire United Kingdom, accommodating an average of over 150,000 passengers each weekday. Yet the station has managed to serve as a set for a number of notable film productions while remaining fully operational. King’s Cross features in the Hitchcock classic “The 39 Steps,” as well as recent fare like “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “Wonder Woman,” and, most famously, in the “Harry Potter” franchise (as the portal through to Platform 9 ¾).

#4. Hogwarts Express

Movies filmed here: Harry Potter series

Location: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Shiel, Highland, Scotland

The stunning overhead shots of the Hogwarts Express zooming across the countryside towards the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were a staple in the “Harry Potter” franchise. In reality, the Glenfinnan Viaduct has its own magic. The gorgeous train line crosses along a single track and features twenty-one distinct arches over the River Finn—giving passengers a panoramic view of the Scottish countryside.

#3. Halona Beach Cove

Movies filmed here: From Here To Eternity

Location: Oahu, Hawaii

Halona Beach Cove is a hidden little pocket on the southeastern shore of Oahu that just so happens to be home to one of the most famous kisses in Hollywood history. 1953’s “From Here To Eternity” is a landmark film that has given us a heap of production rumors (Frank Sinatra is said to have gotten his role through intimidation tactics on behalf of his Mafia friends) but the scene remains maybe its greatest bit of Hollywood mythmaking thanks to Halona Beach, which manages to look breathtaking even in black and white.

#2. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Movies filmed here: Rocky

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The 72 steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art get more traffic than the museum itself, thanks to Sylvester Stallone triumphantly running up them in 1976’s “Rocky.” That scene has become the stuff of legend, giving us the ingredients for every sports montage to follow. A bronze statue of Rocky Balboa was briefly affixed to the top of the stairs in “Rocky III,” though it has since moved down to the street corner—allowing tourists to take a picture without having to mimic the asthma-inducing run itself.

#1. Skellig Michael Island

Movies filmed here: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Location: Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland

Luke Skywalker's 30-year exile makes a lot more sense when you take a good look at Skellig Michael Island. The gorgeous isle is located just seven miles west of the Iveragh Peninsula, and was home to a Gaelic Christian monastery sometime in the seventh century, until it was eventually abandoned. The monastery's graveyards served as part of the backdrop in 2017's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," housing what would prove to be the last relics of the Jedi.

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