The United States of America is home to possibly the biggest film industry in the world: Hollywood. In there, many iconic movies were made and filmed in locations that later became well, iconic. These locations have seen many rabid fans just coming over to take photos and maybe re-enact the scenes from the movies. Some famous places even hold tours! There is just so much a humble film production can do to a place, and here are 10 of our favourites:
1. 10 Things I Hate About You - Stadium High School
10 Things I Hate About You was probably everyone’s favourite romantic comedy film in 1999. I mean, I can clearly remember that one poem Julia Stiles told the class like the back of my hand! I watched this movie when I was at the very vulnerable age of 14, so yes, you’re right, I related it to every single guy crush I had at the time. But hey, let’s save that story for another day, shall we?
In the film, Padua High School was set at Stadium High School, located in Tacoma, Washington. The building initially began construction in 1891 as was intended to serve as a luxury hotel. However, the building’s construction was brought to a halt due to financial troubles and to make things worse, in 1898, while the building served as a storage facility, a fire destroyed the Northern Pacific section of the building.
Finally, in 1904, the Tacoma School District bought over the premises with the intention of turning the building into a high school. In 1906, Tacoma High School welcomed its first batch of students. Although, its name was changed to Stadium High School about 8 years later. The school’s 32,000-seating-capacity stadium has hosted many honorary speeches, such as those by Theodore Roosevelt.
And yes, this very famous stadium was where Patrick Verona serenaded Katarina Stratford with Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, which, can we all agree, is one of the most memorable movie scenes in history?!
I would give anything to have Heath Ledger serenade me like that! This movie is a modernized version of the 16th-century Shakespeare comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. The romantic-comedy film, which was directed by Gil Junger, debuted at just #2 during its opening weekend in March 1999, behind The Matrix. It became both a financial and critical success, which saw the lead and supporting actors, Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, being nominated for various awards.
Fun fact: most of the movie scenes were initially planned to be filmed in Los Angeles. But when the crew found out about Stadium High School, they moved the whole set more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres) there because they thought the building’s architecture and style suited the whole Shakespeare theme!
Stadium High School
Address: 111 N E St, Tacoma, WA 98403, United States
Contact: +1 253-571-3100
2. Hunger Games - Henry River Mill Village
The very famous trilogy by Suzanne Collins starts with The Hunger Games, which centres around the life of Katniss Everdeen, a resident living in District 12. District 12 is said to be the poorest out of the 13 districts in the series, in which the production required a filming location that is able to portray what author Collins had described in the book. This led to them filming most of District 12’s scenes in an abandoned village called Henry River Mill Village.
Henry River Mill Village is located in North Carolina and was built in 1904 by brothers Albert Pinkney Rudisill and Michael Erastus Rudisill, when they also engineered a dam and a mill building. The mill was incorporated by Henry River Manufacturing Company, which produced fine cotton yarns. The mill offered many jobs to people in its early days, which resulted in the town progressing and holding 20 buildings, with a steady population where the majority worked at the mill. However, as the years went by, technology and industrial growth led to the mill becoming less and less useful, which then led to the mill’s shutdown in 1973.
By 1987, the town became abandoned when every single one of its residents left.
In 2012, after the Hunger Games movie, the town became increasingly popular. It started welcoming tourists that consisted of fans and thrill-seekers who are just dying to visit the filming location of the movie. Today, tours and sightseeing trips are held at the village.
The Hunger Games novel series was so well received that it became one of the top-selling series in history, falling just behind the Harry Potter series. In 2012, it was Amazon’s top seller. The movie also topped the box office, with it setting records for being the biggest on both its opening day and its opening weekend for a non-sequel film.
The Hunger Games is also the 15th-highest-grossing film franchise of all time, having grossed over 2.9 billion USD worldwide.
Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina
Address: Henry River, Icard, NC 28602, USA
3. Rocky - The Philadelphia Museum of Art
Who could ever forget Rocky? This legendary film series was not only Sylvester Stallone’s breakout debut project, but it has also garnered a huge count of fans, varying in generations. To date, the series has 6 sequels, with its first, Rocky, released in 1976 and its latest, Creed, released in 2015. Sylvester Stallone not only plays the lead character, Rocky Balboa, but he also directed and wrote the first five films of the series. It is said that he was inspired to write Rocky after watching Chuck Wepner’s 1975 title fight with Muhammad Ali. The series has grossed over 1 billion USD at the worldwide box office.
The film centres around the story of a small-time boxer that is working round the clock as a collector for a loan shark and fights in sleazy clubs for low-paid rewards. Rocky’s life started to turn around when a heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, picked him out at random for a fight. The film then follows how Rocky trained and trained, day in and day out, for the fight that he thinks is a way to show that he is, after all, not worthless.
In the film, part of Rocky’s training includes him running up the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art to the song “Gonna Fly Now”, followed by him throwing his arms triumphantly in the air upon reaching the top. The scene almost instantly became the most iconic scene in the whole series and even after just the first film, the museum has seen fans mimicking the scene and running up its steps every other day. In the closing credits of the fifth sequel, Rocky Balboa, there was a montage of dozens of people running up the steps.
The 72-step structure was quickly nicknamed the Rocky Steps after the increasing fame it had gotten since the triple-Oscar winning movie. There is also a bronze statue located at the bottom right of the steps of Rocky’s famous move, the “throwing of arm’s triumphantly in the air”. The statue became famous for photo-taking opportunities for tourists and fans.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, United States
Contact: +1 215-763-8100
4. The Breakfast Club - Maine North High School
If 10 Things I Hate About You was the best romantic comedy of the late 90s, then The Breakfast Club would have to be the best coming-of-age film of all time. This 1985 film was written, produced, and directed by John Hughes, who also directed many famous comedy films such as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Home Alone, and Home Alone 2. The film follows the story of 5 teenagers who found themselves coming back to school on a Saturday to serve detention. Each of these students varies in personality and all are from different high school cliques. To quote the show: “A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal”. During the detention, these students realise that they’re more than just their stereotypes and that they can actually be friends.
John Hughes was initially faced with skepticism prior to making the film because of his lack of film-making experience. After much persuasion, he ultimately convinced investors that the modest 1 million USD budget and its single location shoot could minimise their risk.
The film has seen critical success since its release. It debuted at #3 at the box office and grossed about 51 million USD worldwide, which is phenomenal given its 1 million USD budget.
The school in the plot is Shermer High School, which is actually Maine North High School, where most of the scenes were filmed. The crew planned for the shoot to be at the library, where most of the plot was based. But after they realised that it was too small, they actually built a library set in the school’s gymnasium.
Maine North High School had actually closed down for about 4 years before the filming of the movie due to the shrinking student population. Today, the school serves as a working police station for the Illinois State Police, a communications centre for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, an Illinois Lottery payment office, the largest regional office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the Northern Illinois office of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, as well as regional offices for other various Illinois state agencies.
Illinois State Police Headquarters
Address: 9511 Harrison St, Des Plaines, IL 60016, United States
Contact: +1 847-294-4400
5. Sex and The City - The New York Public Library
Remember the scene in Sex and The City when Big didn’t turn up for the wedding that was to be held at the New York Public Library, and Carrie ran down the stairs crying? Who wouldn’t, right? For those who haven’t watched the movie adaptation of the well-known TV series, here’s a quick rundown. The story centres around Carrie, who is currently in a relationship with Big, who suggests that they marry because Carrie doesn’t have any legal rights to the penthouse that they had just bought, which means if they separate, she’ll be homeless.
However, on the day of the wedding, Big becomes too fearful to actually go ahead with it and decides not to show up, which left Carrie devastated. The scene where she runs down the stairs quickly became one of the most memorable scenes in the movie.
The New York Public Library, which to quote Carrie’s words in the movie is, “the classic New York landmark that housed all the great love stories", finished its construction in 1911 and consists of 88 miles (141.6 kilometres) of shelving, which holds over seven million books. The library was named as a National Historic Monument in 1965.
The New York Public Library has also been a filming spot for various other famous TV shows and movies. The 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s filmed two scenes in the library as well as the Spiderman movie that starred Toby Maguire. Other famous productions that filmed scenes here include 13 Going On 30, Gossip Girl, and The Day After Tomorrow.
Today, the library remains one of the most famous wedding venue locations in the city. It is also the 4th-largest library worldwide, and on its opening day, which was after 16 years of construction, the library was said to welcome close to 50 thousand visitors!
The New York Public Library
Address: 5th Ave at 42nd St, New York, NY 10018, United States
Opening Hours: 10 am - 6 pm. Closed on Sundays
Contact: +1 917-275-6975
6. Dirty Dancing - Mountain Lake Lodge
Think Dirty Dancing and I dare you to say that “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” doesn’t pop into your mind. This 1987 iconic romance-drama film, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, was originally a low-budget film but has become a massive box office hit since its release. It has earned more than 200 million USD worldwide and was also the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. The soundtrack, including the famous track (yes, you know which one I’m talking about) won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In the movie, Frances, or Baby’s, family was vacationing at a resort in the Catskills Mountains, where she developed a crush on the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle. The resort is actually Mountain Lake Lodge, a historic 2,600-acre (1,052-hectare) resort located in Virginia. Like the movie, the resort features many indoor and outdoor activities such as table tennis, paddle boating, mountain biking, and more.
Since the movie’s release, the site has become increasingly popular and has welcomed fans from all over. On June 27th 2016, the lodge revealed that they will be hosting Dirty Dancing Weekends, which will take place three weekends per year, every summer. This Dirty Dancing Experience will include dance lessons, trivia nights, a screening of the film, and more. You can also stay at the Virginia Cottage, where Baby stayed in the movie.
Mountain Lake Lodge
Address: 115 Hotel Cir, Pembroke, VA 24136, United States
Contact: +1 800-346-3334
7. When Harry Met Sally - Katz's Delicatessen
OK, first of all, is it safe to say that, in this day and age, a man CAN be friends with a woman that he finds attractive? Just kidding, save the answer for yourself. This 1989 romantic-comedy film follows the story of two characters who established the fact that they can be just friends, even though Harry found Sally attractive. Over the next twelve years, the pair occasionally met each other by chance, eventually falling in love, resulting in a happy ending.
The film also managed to portray many ideas and questions about relationships that later became familiar household concepts such as “high maintenance” and “transitional person”. Harry Met Sally garnered 92.8 million USD in North America and received multiple awards and nominations, including a British Academy Film Award, an Oscar nomination, and a Writers Guild of America Award nomination.
The film’s most memorable scene would have to be at Katz’s Delicatessen, where Sally faked an orgasm. The scene was about the couple arguing about a man’s ability to recognise when a woman is faking an orgasm.
Fun fact: the scene was created when the crew and cast started realising that the film was focusing too much on Harry. They wanted something that Sally could talk about, and writer Nora Ephron suggested that Sally faked an orgasm. The scene ends with Sally returning back to her usual self when a nearby patron, played by director Rob Reiner’s mum, places her order by saying “I’ll have whatever she’s having”. This line, which lead actor Billy Crystal came up with, became one of the most iconic lines in movie history and was also featured in AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movie Quotes at #33.
Today, Katz’s Delicatessen still remains a famous dining spot for tourists and locals, as it was before the movie’s release. The restaurant’s pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs are still considered New York’s best. Each week, Katz serves a whopping 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilos) of pastrami! There is actually a sign hung outside the restaurant that says: “Where Harry met Sally … hope you have what she had! Enjoy!”
The restaurant was also the filming location for various other films, including Enchanted and Donnie Brasco.
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, United States
Opening Hours: 8 am - 10.30 pm
Contact: +1 212-254-2246
8. Forrest Gump - Chippewa Square’s Bench
“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” - Forrest Gump
Ah, what an iconic quote. Forrest Gump is one of those shows that you can watch in silence for the whole movie, no matter where you are, no matter who you’re watching with. And that’s how you tell if it’s a good movie, when you don’t even want to talk about it or discuss it while watching it. Well, at least that’s what I think!
But all in all, Forrest Gump is a great film. This 1994 comedy-drama tells the life story of Forrest, a slow-witted but kind and good-natured man from Alabama who witnessed and influenced some of the most defining events in the 20th century. After its release, the film became a commercial success and it was the top-grossing film in North America in 1994. The film won multiple awards, such as the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and more. In 2011, the Library of Congress selected Forrest Gump for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
In the movie, Forrest sits at a bus stop in Savannah Georgia, where a feather landed right next to the bench where he’s sitting, which prompted him to recall the memories of his life and tell his story to anyone that will listen.
The bench is actually a prop that the production team placed in Chippewa Square just for the film. Today, the bench can be found at the Savannah History Museum. However, the area in Chippewa Square still remains popular and people and fans of the show still come to take photos.
Address: Savannah, GA 31401, United States
The Savannah History Museum
Address: 303 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
9. The Notebook - Cypress Gardens
The Notebook is a movie directed by Nick Cassavetes and it was adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. The film tells a story about a young couple, portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, falling in love during their younger days and then parting ways due to Allie’s parents not approving of their relationship. Noah writes to Allie every day for a year, but Allie’s mom threw every single letter away. The two met years later when Allie returned to Seabrook, where they renewed their relationship. One of the scenes sees the two taking a boat ride in a romantic garden with birds surrounding them.
That romantic scene took place in Cypress Gardens, a 170-acre (68.8-hectare) preserve located in South Carolina. The garden’s centrepiece is the 80-acre (32.4-hectare) blackwater bald cypress/tupelo swamp that is surrounded by both boat and foot trails. The gardens have seen many people swarming to them after the movie’s release, and it has witnessed countless proposals and photo shoots.
However, in October 2015, the gardens were affected by the South Carolina Flooding, during which most of the botanical preserve was destroyed. On October 13th, the attraction had closed indefinitely following the assessment of damages that amounted to millions of dollars.
The garden has also been a filming location for various other movies that feature actors such as Jude Law, Heath Ledger, and Mel Gibson.
Address: 6000 Cypress Gardens Blvd, Winter Haven, FL 33884, United States
Feel like a movie star yet?
The best recommended way to experience all these filming locations is through a road-trip, as suggested by many travel experts and movie fans. So go on, re-enact famous scenes from the best romance, drama, comedy, and action movies all over the USA now!
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