Some places are famous for showing up in movies. Some places never seem to stop showing up in them. Understandably, there are locations around California, and particularly Los Angeles, that we see over and over in TV and movies. But here are 31 places that you’ll recognize not just from one movie or TV show, but from two, three, or even dozens.
Los Cerritos (Long Beach, California)
There are around 700 houses in this neighborhood, but its Country Club Drive is a popular choice if you live in movies. One house on that street served as Wyatt’s house in Weird Science, Jim Cunningham’s (Patrick Swayze’s) house in Donnie Darko, and Jake’s house in Not Another Teen Movie. Up the street, you’ll find Ferris Bueller’s house, which is also in Not Another Teen Movie, as well as in Red Dragon and a Cheerios commercial. Jim’s and Michelle’s houses from American Pie are also in this neighborhood.
Organic Panificio Restaurant & Cafe (Marina del Rey, California)
This diner has been in Spider-Man (the Tobey Maguire one), as well as in Dexter and Matchstick Men. (I’d like to say you can visit the Royal Diner from Bones, but it’s on a Fox backlot. You can, however, see it in an episode of How I Met Your Mother.)
Alabama Hills (Lone Pine, California)
Talk about land of movie-set stalking, especially if you’re into Westerns. The Alabama Hills are a popular filming choice, and with one drive down Movie Road, you can add the setting for parts of The Lone Ranger, How the West Was Won, the Hopalong Cassidy movies, tons of other westerns, and The Flintstones to your seen-that-place checklist. For sci-fi and comics fans, this is also the area used in parts of Iron Man, Star Trek: Generations, and the second Transfomers movie.
The Bronson Caves (Los Angeles)
Head to Griffith Park for these manmade caves, another one-stop shop in terms of seeing a whole lot of movie sets in one place. Including — as one might expect for caves — the Bat Cave from the Batman TV series. You’ve also seen them on Star Trek: Voyager, Bonanza, Fantasy Island, and Little House on the Prairie, as well as in movies from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Star Trek VI, Army of Darkness, and The Scorpion King.
Griffith Park Tunnel (Los Angeles)
While you’re headed to the area for the Bronson Caves anyway, you might as well hit the Griffith Park Tunnel, also known as the entrance to NORAD in War Games, the entrance to Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the tunnel where Biff tries to run over Marty in Back to the Future 2. The observatory itself has made many appearances of its own, including in Rebel Without a Cause (well, the parking lot, and there’s an Angel episode homage), The Terminator, Dragnet, Queen of the Damned, Transformers, Earth Girls Are Easy, MacGyver, CHiPS, Quantup Leap, Star Trek: Voyager, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The New Adventures of Wonder Woman…. The list keeps running, but I’ll stop there.
Randy’s Donuts (805 W. Manchester Blvd., Los Angeles)
How can you not love a giant cement donut? You can see Robert Downey, Jr. having a snack in it in Iron Man 2, and you can see it fall apart in Life After People. Their 60th anniversary press release says the big donut also appeared in Earth Girls Are Easy, Mars Attacks!, The Golden Child, Into the Night, Coming to America, Stripped to Kill, Problem Child 2, Breathless, Californication, California Girls, 2012, Volcano, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Escape from Petropolis, Love Letters, and the music videos for Randy Newman’s “I Love LA,” The Prodigy’s “Wind It Up,” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” That’s a lot of donut love.
Descanso Gardens (La Candad Flintridge, California)
You might recognize a few things in these gardens. For one, the treehouse from the 1991 version of Land of the Lost. It was also “Sherwood Forest” in the “Qpid” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s been in The Mentalist, NCIS, The Closer, and other TV shows, as well as Congo and Minority Report.
Carroll Avenue (Los Angeles)
The homes on this street have a delightful Victorian look about them that made one well suited to be the exterior of the Halliwell House in Charmed. You can also see pieces of this street in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
Vasquez Rocks (Santa Clarita, California)
In short, you know these as the site of the Gorn/Kirk fight in Star Trek. The Vasquez Rocks were also used in other Star Trek productions, as well as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the 2001 Planet of the Apes, The Flintstones, Army of Darkness, and Short Circuit, among others. They’ve even been animated for Futurama and Shrek.
Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery (Los Angeles)
Many of the cemetery scenes in the first season of Buffy were shot in a cemetery named Angelus. Yes, really. Charmed and Six Feet Under used this cemetery, and you’ll also find it in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the seventh in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It’s also historically notable for being the first LA cemetery to accept people of any race and for being the second crematorium in the United States.
Los Altos Hotel & Apartments (Los Angeles)
While you’re hunting fictional vampires, drive by the Los Altos Apartments, once luxury apartments for the likes of Bette Davis and William Randolph Hearst, which was used as the exterior of Angel‘s Hyperion Hotel. It also made a brief appearance in Numb3rs.
The Bradbury Building (Los Angeles)
J. F. Sebastian’s home in Blade Runner, this building also sees Jack Nicholson become a werewolf in Wolf and is featured in a few other films.
Oviatt Library, Cal State University Northridge (Northridge, California)
In the 2009 Star Trek reboot, we see Starfleet Academy near San Francisco with dozens of red-uniformed students running outside. That Starfleet Academy is Oviatt Library. In the past, the Japanese Garden at Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys had been Starfleet Academy. Oviatt Library was also seen in Sky High.
Franklin Canyon Park (Los Angeles)
The Creature from the Black Lagoon rose from Franklin Lake. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Minority Report are among the many other films and TV shows that have used the area. In less sci-fi offerings, it’s the setting for the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show. And if you were watching Nickelodeon in the early ’90s, wishing you could go to Camp Anawanna from Salute Your Shorts, the lake in Franklin Canyon Park is where to go.
SkyRose Chapel (Whittier, California)
In the 2009 Star Trek movie, this chapel is where we (and Spock) meet the Vulcan Council. In True Blood, it’s the headquarters of the Fellowship of the Sun.
Greystone Mansion (Beverly Hills, California)
Any time you’re in the area, you can take a free trip around this 55-room mansion and its 16 acres. While you’re there, you can pretend to be in a long list of movies. It’s the Green Goblin’s house in the 2002 Spider-Man. Its courtyard is a part of the Xavier Institute in the X-Men movies. You can see it in The Bodyguard, The Phantom, The Big Lebowski, Ghostbusters II, Air Force One, Batman & Robin, and as the family home in the 1991 TV show version of Dark Shadows. It’s in an episode each of Dollhouse, Knight Rider, and MacGyver. And that’s hardly a complete list.
Fern Canyon (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California)
Something about this canyon says “people don’t live here.” It was not only in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but also served as the setting for the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs and IMAX’s Dinosaurs Alive!.
Wilshire Ebell Theatre (Los Angeles)
This is another one of those LA locations that just seems to be irresistible. Its credits list includes The Social Network, Forrest Gump, The Addams Family, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Cruel Intentions, Darkman, Catch Me If You Can, Fight Club, and Ghost. TV shows shot here include Bones, House, Heroes, The Mentalist, 24, and Alias.
El Mirage Lake (Mojave Desert, California)
This dry lake bed is used by the Southern California Timing Association, was featured in Top Gear USA, and is sometimes used in filming for high-speed time trials, such as in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Being unusually flat made it useful for a challenging helicopter landing in Lethal Weapon. It also appears in Troops (a Cops parody set in the Star Wars universe).
Timberline Lodge (Mount Hood, Oregon)
At 5,960 feet of elevation, you’ll find the exterior of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining (not to mention the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had). The lodge has made appeareances in other movies as well, including 1960’s All the Young Men and 1981’s World War III with Rock Hudson.
Oak Alley Plantation (Vacherie, Louisiana)
A popular stop among the many plantations along the Great River Road, Oak Alley is also popular for filming. Louis lived here in Interview with the Vampire, and Governor Jack Stanton pulled up here in Primary Colors. Ace of Cakes built it out of cake, and Ghost Hunters investigated its less lively inhabitants.
Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley (Utah/Arizona)
These rocky sandstone valleys practically scream “science fiction backdrop.” Two episodes of Doctor Who were filmed here. Forrest Gump ended his run in Monument Valley, and Marty went to a drive-in at its base in Back to the Future III. It’s an alien planet in 2001: Space Odyssey and an earthly setting for 1939’s Stagecoach.
Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada)
In Total Recall, the Valley of Fire served as Mars. In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Kirk died here on “Veridian III.” And in Transformers, it’s just a piece of Earth the Autobots drive through.
Turtle Bay Resort (Oahu, Hawaii)
This resort was one of many Hawaiian locations used for filming the TV show Lost. It first appears in the pilot episode when Jack, Charlie, and Kate are running from the monster. It has also appeared in Hawaii 5-0, Magnum P.I. and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And remember when the Full House gang went to Hawaii? Turtle Bay Resort.
Coco Palms Hotel (Kauai, Hawaii)
You won’t be staying at this hotel like Elvis did in Blue Hawaii — Hurricane Iniki destroyed it in 1992. Some of the storm scenes in Jurassic Park are from that hurricane. Its coconut grove was used in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Glacier National Park (Montana)
More than 35 movies have been filmed on these million acres, including What Dreams May Come, The Shining, and Forrest Gump.
Outside the United States
Casa Loma (Toronto, Ontario)
It’s not that hard to find Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters — it’s sitting in the middle of Toronto. If you go on a tour, downstairs you’ll find movie posters from a few other productions done at Casa Loma, including Robocop, Police Academy, Chicago, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. You’ll also see it in the Warehouse 13 episode “Queen for a Day.”
This town in the Sahara Desert was conveniently near a dormant volcano used to build the set for Hamunaptra for The Mummy. It was also the town selected for early filming of Prince of Persia.
Mentmore Towers (Mentmore, England)
This edifice served as Wayne Manor in Batman Begins as well as the setting for the, er, party in Eyes Wide Shut. It was also used in The Mummy Returns and Johnny English, as well as several music videos.
Leadenhall Market (London, England)
The Leaky Cauldron from Harry Potter is the Glass House in Leadenhall Market, which also makes an appearance in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. And it’s a lot easier to see in one stop than the many cathedrals, abbeys, and other locations that were all used as parts of Hogwarts.
Bourne Wood (Farnham, England)
In just the last 10 years, this area has been used extensively for filming, including for The Golden Compass, three Harry Potter movies, and Captain America. This year alone, you can see it in Dark Shadows and Snow White and the Huntsman, then next year in Jack the Giant Killer.
I can almost hear you saying, “But you forgot…!” from here. Add your favorite filming locations — one-shot or seeing-it-everywhere — in the comments, and I’ll put them into a future post.