When choosing a filming location for your movie, there is a lot to consider — style, atmosphere, scenery, lighting. It needs to be the perfect place at which to tell your story. Anyone can stage a scene in a studio in Los Angeles.

But when it comes to achieving the perfect vibe, the connection to community, the fully-formed heart and soul of a story, nothing beats filming on location. Below is a list of some great American movies that were filmed on location in and around the city where the story takes place.

Hocus Pocus (Salem, MA)

The Sanderson Sisters may be fictional witches, but the area in which the movie was shot is not! Salem, Massachusetts is the birthplace of a litany of Halloween-inspired stories, like the one told in Hocus Pocus. Just check out all those spooky historic buildings!

With regards to our entertaining protagonists in this Kenny Ortega film, you can find Max and Dani’s house right there on Ocean Avenue. This private residence is no longer the fodder of silly horror, but the home of a lovely family.

Phillips Elementary is a real school in Salem. While abandoned, there is nothing like a real school to bring some reality to a movie with teenage stars. The house of our story’s love interest, Allison, can be found on Essex Street, and the Town Hall dance party scene (I put a spell on youuu) is an actual old town hall in Derby Square.

Bad Boys (Miami, FL)

Michael Bay blows up Miami in this 1995 classic starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Miami is a sexy city with a recognizable atmosphere from any angle.

You can find Detective Mike Lowery’s swanky apartment on Park Avenue in the Art Deco Historic District. The famous “drug party” was filmed at the stylish Biltmore Hotel on Anastasia Avenue, and the police station where Marcus and Mike work is actually the Dade County Courthouse.

Little Women (Boston, MA)

This timeless novel was brought to life (again) on the big screen in 2018 for its 150th anniversary. Many of the scenes in this film were filmed in and around Boston.

When Meg (Emma Watson) moves into her new family home, she actually moves into the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard. And Harvard’s General Store? That was filmed in a town hall right in Harvard! Various parts of the movie were filmed all across Concord, Massachusetts, where the story is meant to take place.

In the hills of the Greater Boston Area, you’ll find Gibbet Hill, the setting for the famous third-act scene between Jo and Laurie. You’ll find a lot of the theaters, estates, and parks in various areas of the GBA.

Blues Brothers (Chicago, IL)

That cool cat duo inadvertently terrorized Chicago in this 1980 film, and you can visit the filming locations of most of those iconic scenes.

Even though jealous Carrie Fischer blew it up, Elwood’s cramped apartment above that noisy train can be found on West Van Buren Street. There is even a fully functioning bar attached!

Blues Brothers was full of cameos, and these famous filming locations can make a cameo on your trip around Chicago! The church scene with James Brown as the pastor is a real church on E 91st Street, and Aretha Franklin’s Soul Food Cafe can be found on West Maxwell Street.

The infamous Chez Paul restaurant scene, the bridge where the Nazis nearly get run over, and the finale at the Plaza were all filmed on location in their respective parts of Chicago.

The Breakfast Club (Chicago, IL)

Don’t You Forget about this classic film shot in the area that director John Hughes grew up. The entire movie is shot in just a few locations, mostly in detention and along the empty corridors of a school on the weekend, but Hughes didn’t allow that to affect the authenticity of it.

Hughes actually used his childhood high school in Northbrook as the setting for the sneaky hallway shots, and Shermer High was filmed in the library of an abandoned high school in Chicago that has since been converted into a police headquarters.

Why film on location?

Shooting on location adds that extra element that you can’t create in a studio. It builds up excitement for the film and gives the locals pride in their city or town. It also encourages tourism and helps boost the economy of the area.

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