The diverse New England landscape has provided the backdrop for countless Hollywood blockbusters. We have it all: cliffs overlooking the sea, historical lighthouses, stunning beaches, breathtaking fall foliage, bucolic farms and lovely snow capped mountains.
The film adaptations of novels by natives, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King are shot locally for authenticity, but what about movies that aren’t even set in New England? Our communities have stood in for Southern seaports, fictional Midwest farm towns, the Pacific Northwest, and even New York City.
Has your neck of the woods masqueraded as another location for the sake of movie magic?
Message In A Bottle – Bath, Maine
The 1999 film stars Kevin Costner as a brokenhearted widower living on his boat in the Outer Banks of NC. North Carolinians can attest that the Outer Banks do not feature cliffs, bluffs or mature pine trees. The scenes were actually shot primarily at the Bath Maritime Museum, Popham Beach and New Harbor – all in Maine.
Snow Falling On Cedars – Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The tragic love story of Ishmael and Hatsue is set on Puget Sound in Washington State, but the filmmakers could not find a Pacific lighthouse that matched their vision for the movie. They finally found the perfect stand-in on the other side of the country – the Portland Head Light located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
The War of the Worlds – Naugatuck, Connecticut
Stephen Spielberg chose an abandoned chemical plant in Naugatuck, CT as the backdrop for some of the action scenes in the Sci-Fi thriller, War of the Worlds. The film, which features mega superstar, Tom Cruise, also shot in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and, of course, California.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – New Haven, Connecticut
The legendary Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr – better known as Indiana Jones – is a professor at the fictional Marshall College. The latest installment of the series featured Connecticut’s own Yale University as a stand-in for Marshall. Attentive viewers may also recognize that Harrison Ford is riding the famous Essex steam train in one scene.
Amistad – Mystic Seaport, Connecticut
Set in 1839, the movie Amistad tells the story of a slave ship journeying from Cuba to America. Mr. Spielberg once again chose a New England location for certain scenes. He picked Mystic Seaport for its quaint, historical feel.
Meet Joe Black – Warwick, Rhode Island
Anthony Hopkins plays a wealthy NYC media tycoon in the 1998 film, Meet Joe Black. His gorgeous, sprawling estate, where he first meets Death, is actually the 19th century Aldrich Mansion in Warwick, Rhode Island. The home is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese.
True Lies – Newport, Rhode Island
The Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI provided the backdrop for the iconic ballroom scene in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 movie, True Lies. Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis are supposedly dancing the tango in DC, but the sequence was shot in RI.
The Great Gatsby (1974) – Newport, Rhode Island
Long before Leonardo DiCaprio brought new life to the story, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow acted out this tragic tale of unrequited love in Newport, RI. The story of Jay Gatsby takes place in the fictional town of West Egg, NY, but filmmakers passed over the Empire State and chose to shoot in the Ocean State instead.
American Hustle – Boston, Brockton, Brookline, Canton, Chelsea, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Norwood, Salem, Swampscott, Winchester, Woburn & Worcester, Massachusetts
This darkly funny period piece is set in New Jersey and based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The clothing, hairstyles and accents may be authentic, but the filming locations mostly are not. The crew chose locations all over Massachusetts, shooting minimally in Jersey.
Ghostbusters (2016) – Boston, Brookline, Easton, Everett, Norwood, Waltham, S.Weymouth & Waltham, Massachusetts
The recent girl power remake of the 80’s classic is iconically set in New York City. However, the majority of the film was shot in and around Boston. The crew used digital remastering and well placed props to turn Beantown into the Big Apple.
The Judge – Ashfield, Attleborough, Belmont, Boston, Buckland, Dedham, Plymouth, Milton, Shelburne Falls, Sunderland & Worcester, Massachusetts
This comedic family drama starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall is set in the fictional town of Carlinville, Indiana. Instead of shooting in the Midwest, filmmakers found the perfect bucolic backdrops all around Massachusetts.