Nostalgic 80’s & 90’s movie filming locations
The early 80’s-mid 90’s was by far the decade of awesome movies & music. Almost every movie during this time period also had a totally rad soundtrack. From John Hughes classics like Ferris Bueller (my personal favorite), Sixteen Candles & The Breakfast Club, to big action blockbusters like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, to awesomely bad movies like Mannequin & Weekend at Bernies, nothing today can really come close to these gems.
It’s no surprise that today many of these films now have cult followings. Today, I find myself more likely to lounge around enjoying an 80’s movie marathon than hitting the box office. When I want to veg out, I find myself more likely to pop in Weekend at Bernies 2 than Oscar winners like Inception.
Even better than watching your old faves, you can actually visit many of the filming locations. From the Ferris Bueller house in Long Beach, to the firehouse from Ghostbusters in NYC, to The Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon, there are plenty of nostalgic filming locales to explore just about everywhere in the country.
Here are a few fun 80’s & 90’s movie destinations I have come across on my travels. Take a walk down memory lane…
A Christmas Story
- Release date: November 1983
- Brief synopsis: The nostalgic story of Ralphie’s quest to receive a Red Ryder Range 200 BB gun for Christmas, despite disapproval from parents and teachers.
- Claim to fame: The cult Christmas classic now airs 24/7 every Christmas Eve on TBS (this tradition began in 1997).
- Filming Location: Ralphie’s house is located at: 3159 W 11th St, Cleveland, OH 44109.
Once considered a flop at the box office, watching A Christmas Story has now become a beloved holiday tradition thanks in part to a 24 hour airing on TBS every Christmas Eve. For many of us who grew up watching this charming story way before the TBS marathon, we can’t wait all the way until Christmas Eve to pop it in.
From Ralphie’s bunny suit, to the “Fra-gee-lee” Leg Lamp, to the iconic “You’ll shoot your eye out” line, the memorable classic lives on 30+ years after its’ initial release.
A Christmas Story house is located in Cleveland, Ohio. The entire house has been remodeled to look the same as it did in the movie, right down to the leg lamp in the front room window.
A tour guide will take you on a narrated journey through each room, while providing amusing anecdotes from the cast and filming process. Next door is a museum where you can view rare memorabilia and pick up rare themed souvenirs.
Outfits worn by the cast and a French movie poster…
Can’t Buy Me Love
- Release Date: August 1987
- Brief synopsis: A nerdy high school student pays the most popular girl in school $1000 to be his girlfriend.
- Claim to fame: One of the most underrated 80’s films.
- Filming location: Cindy Mancini’s house is located at: 3050 North Hill Farm Drive in Tucson, Arizona. Kenneth’s house is located at: 3324 N Christmas Avenue Tucson, AZ (private residence). The airplane graveyard is located at: 6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756.
This underrated 80’s teen comedy is one of my all time favorites. Starring a then unknown Patrick Dempsey, this charming feel-good film features a likeable story line & cast. While not as well-known as the John Hughes teen dramedies, Can’t Buy Me Love is a worthy contender for best high school film of all time. The plot revolves around geeky Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) and his rise in popularity after paying cheerleader Cindy (Amanda Peterson) $1000 (saved up from mowing lawns) to be his girlfriend.
Despite the negative reception from critics, anyone who attended high school can relate to the life lessons, and thus, it’s no surprise this film has a cult following. As Ronald states near the end of the film “Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It’s all bullshit. It’s hard enough just trying to be yourself. ” The classic advice still holds true today.
I jumped at the opportunity to check out all the filming locations in Tucson. Cindy Mancini’s house still looks exactly the same today, although the front lawn is much smaller than it appears on screen. The home today is the clubhouse in Tucson’s Hill Farm HOA community. As you drive past you can picture Ronald mowing Cindy’s lawn in the hot desert sun. The scene where Ronald & Cindy go on a date to an Airplane Graveyard was actually filmed at the Pima Air & Space museum. Here you can see over 300 historic aircraft on display.
- Release Date: July 1993
- Brief synopsis: 3 executed witches from the 17th century come back to life in 20th century Salem, Massachusetts via a black flame candle lit by a virgin on Halloween.
- Claim to fame: Went from a box office bomb to the most popular Halloween movie of all time.
- Filming locations: 4 Ocean Ave Salem (Max & Dani’s house -private residence) 318 Essex St, Salem, MA (Allison’s house/The Ropes Mansion), 12 Derby Square/Old Town Hall (exterior of parent’s Halloween Party)
It’s hard to believe that this now uber popular Halloween classic went by unnoticed in the 90’s to all but the biggest Halloween movie buffs. A poorly timed summer release did not help. Repeated airings on Freeform, special live shows at Disney World, and easy availability of the blu ray spawned a new generation of fans in recent years. No movie really embodies the Halloween spirit quite like Hocus Pocus. Thus, if you are seeking old-fashioned nostalgic Halloween fun, this movie is for you.
The story revolves around a brother and sister (Max and Dani) who light a candle and bring 3 ancient witches back from the dead. A whimsical plot involves the trio chasing the siblings around Salem. Lots of cheesy 90’s special effects, lovely fall foliage, a timeless feel, and an enchanting family-friendly haunting vibe has made this a popular addition to just about everyone’s Halloween collection.
This movie has become so popular that visitors from all over come to see the Salem houses which were used in the filming. Max & Dani’s house looks exactly the same today as it did in the film. Remember that this is a private residence, so do not bother the owners and view from afar. The other most popular filming locale is Allison’s house (Max’s crush who ends up joining the duo), which now operates as the Peabody Essex museum.
The most popular Hocus Pocus filming sites
Asides from the Hocus Pocus filming sites, Salem is one of the best Halloween destinations in the country. From creepy old haunted cemeteries, to ghost tours, to special Halloween shows & festive events, there is something hauntingly fun to do all 31 days in October.
Home Alone 2
- Release Date: November 1992
- Brief Synopsis: Kevin McCallister is back. This time he loses his family in an airport and takes the wrong flight to NYC (as opposed to Florida with the McCallisters). Alone in the Big Apple, he checks into the famous Plaza hotel and explores the sights. Later he runs into the Sticky Bandits and comes up with a plan to stop their burglary of a toy store.
- Claim to fame: One of the most beloved sequels and Christmas films of all time.
- Filming locations: Central Park (Pigeon lady scenes), Wollman ice rink (Marv skating scene), Rockefeller Center (Kevin by the tree), Queensboro Bridge (taxi into the city scene), Plaza Hotel (hotel Kevin checks into)
As the beloved Christmas movie shot at numerous iconic sites across the city, it’s hard to visit and not bump into at least one memorable site that Kevin visited. From the tree at Rockefeller Center, to Radio City Music Hall, to the Plaza hotel, Home Alone buffs will love seeing the same places that Kevin saw as he was alone in the Big Apple.
Perhaps the most famous site in the city is Central Park and the beautiful
Wollman Ice Rink. Here you get to check off 2 famous movie scenes – the scene where Kevin meets the Pigeon lady and the scene where Marv and Harry are plotting their robbery of Duncan’s Toy Chest at the rink.
Bonus – Not an 80s/90s film, however, the best romantic comedy of all time (Serendipity with John Cusack) also filmed at the Wollman rink!
- Release Date: 1987
- Brief Synopsis: Teenager Francis “Baby” falls in love with her dance instructor while staying with her parents at an upscale summer resort in the Catskills.
- Claim to fame: Patrick Swayze’s most iconic role. “I’ve had the time of my life” became one of the most popular movie songs of all time. And who could forget the famous dance lift scene?
- Filming locations: Several areas around Lake Lure. The famous stone steps are now part of a private property. However, you can see them from a distance on a cruise. The Esmeralda Inn was location of the final dance scene. Also consider booking a room at the Lake Lure Inn (Swayze & Grey stayed here while filming).
Although the film was originally supposed to flop, teenagers around the country fell in love with Patrick Swayze’s smooth dance moves. Everyone wanted to take dance lessons and learn how to do that famous lift (which the stars actually never rehearsed!). And, the now timeless song, became one of the most popular movie songs of all time. In fact, the year the movie was released, it was the number 1 wedding song. The song is so intertwined with the movie that you can’t help thinking of that final dance number every time it comes on the radio.
One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the one where Baby (Jennifer Grey) is practicing her dance moves on the stone steps. The actual stone steps are found on Lake Lure in Western North Carolina. Today you can take a narrated cruise on the lake and see the steps, along with enjoying the fabulous scenery on what has been called “one of the ten most beautiful lakes in the world” by National Geographic. Lake Lure was used as an alternative to the Catskills (where the movie is said to take place) as the lush green mountain scenery of WNC is very similar to the Upstate NY region.
Your tour guide will get as close as he can to the stairs so you can get a good pic. Unfortunately, no boats are allowed in the immediate area.
Another great filming site is the portion of the lake where Swayze and Grey practiced their dance moves in the water. You will go right pass this site on the cruise.
The actual filming location of the water dancing scenes
Unfortunately, the lodge featured in the movie is actually located in Virginia (Mountain Lake House), however, you can take a stroll around the Lake Lure Inn which the cast stayed at during the filming process.
Also be sure to plan a stop at the visitor’s center which features a bunch of memorabilia and fun photo opportunities.
- Release Date: June 1984
- Brief Synopsis: Three parapsychology professors start a ghost removal service.
- Claim to fame: The theme song (Who ya gonna call?) is thought to be one of the most iconic movie songs of all time.
- Filming locations: 476 Fifth Avenue (New York Public Library – first ghost encounter), 14 North Moore Street (the Ghostbusters Firehouse)
While the New York Public Library is worthy of a tour for the incredible architecture alone, it is also super popular with movie buffs. Ghostbusters opens with the famous shot of the library’s iconic marble lions. And of course, the first ghost encounter takes place in the beautiful Reading Room. Fortunately, the library is open to the public for free tours! With history plus movie nostalgia rolled into one, this is a must stop for any new NYC visitor!
- Release Date: June 1998
- Brief Synopsis: A teenager wishes to be big on a Zoltar machine at a carnival. He gets his wish when he wakes up in a thirty-something year old man’s body.
- Claim to fame: The breakout role that put Tom Hanks on the road to stardom.
- Filming locations: FAO Schwarz (old Fifth Ave location, although the new Rockefeller Center has the piano), Times Square (Hotel St. James – rundown hotel were adult Josh checks into), Rye Playland (Zoltar boardwalk scene). Also, on an interesting note, the beautiful Soho loft recently sold for almost 10 million!
One of the most memorable movie scenes of all time is Tom Hanks playing chopsticks on a foot piano in a department store in Big. We all wanted our chance to do the same after seeing this movie! I dreamed of getting one every Christmas, but sadly it never came! It’s the best scene in the movie, and one of the most memorable of all time!
Not only can you buy a mini version of one of these pianos at FAO Schwartz, but you can also live out your movie fantasy on the giant mat piano which measures 16 feet long and 3.5 feet wide. Note: The line can be long, especially during the holiday season. On another note, the original FAO Schwarz (where Big filmed) on Fifth Avenue closed down in 2015. Three years later, the store opened with a new owner at a new location at Rockefeller Center.
On an interesting side note, many think that Duncan’s Toy Chest from Home Alone 2 was FAO Schwarz. While the iconic New York store was an inspiration, exterior shots of the toy store were actually of “The Rookery” building in Chicago.
National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation
- Release Date: February 1997
- Brief Synopsis: Another cheesy film in the Vacation series, this one following Clark Griswold and company’s crazy antics in Las Vegas. This one is tied with Christmas Vacation for best in the series (in my opinion).
- Claim to fame: Filmed at The Mirage casino resort. Steve Wynn closed down a portion of the casino for filming as he was friends with the producer!
- Filming locations: 3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd (The Mirage Resort), The 770 Las Vegas Blvd North (Neon Museum), the Hoover Dam (Griswolds meet up with Eddie)
As I step through the doors of the beautiful Mirage resort in Vegas, I am immediately reminded of my favorite Chevy Chase movie. Although most prefer the original, Vegas Vacation is actually right up there with Christmas Vacation as the best in the series. This movie has everything – silly over-the-top cheez factor, lots of goofy cousin Eddie antics, Siegfried & Roy, casino action, pretty views of the Vegas Strip, & even Wayne Newton!
Although the movie was filmed throughout the property, the most notable movie site is the lobby check in desk, which features a gigantic 200,000 gallon saltwater fish tank. Much of the casino floor and Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Dolphin Habitat can be seen throughout the movie.
Another filming locale, which also happens to be one of the best attractions in town, is the Neon Museum, a “graveyard” featuring all the retired neon casino signs. Vegas Vacation fans will surely remember the scene with Audrey dancing atop the neon signs.
While you are in Vegas, be sure to check out my list of 40 must do’s in Sin City!
- Release date: July 1994
- Brief Synopsis: Classic Oscar Winning Tom Hanks film which chronicles a 30 year period in a mentally disabled man’s life.
- Claim to fame: Nominated for 13 Oscars and won 6 including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hanks), and Best Director (Zemeckis)
Filming location: Chippewa Square, one of the most picturesque of the 22 squares in Savannah, was the filming site of the bench scenes. One of the most famous movie lines of all time was filmed here…”My mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Besides the historical significance and lovely public squares, Savannah is most famous for its’ many historical movie moments. The beautiful historic district has always drawn many filmmakers to the area. Although the famous Forrest Gump bench has been moved to the history museum, you can still visit the site of Tom Hanks most famous movie quote.
- Release date: March 1990
- Brief Synopsis: Classic Julia Roberts fairytale story of a hooker and business man unexpectedly falling in love.
- Claim to fame: The movie that put Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on the map.
- Filming location: The famous Rodeo Drive sign can be seen at Santa Monica & Wilshire Blvd. The Beverly Hills sign, most associated with the series of the same name, is another popular tourist photo opp. See it at South Santa Monica Boulevard & Moreno Drive .
Although not one of my personal favorites, Pretty Woman is still one of those iconic 90’s movies which just about everyone who grew up in the decade has seen at least once. Although super touristy, you have to walk down Rodeo Drive on your first trip to L.A.
On Rodeo Drive, you can recreate the famous scene when Julia Roberts struts down to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman walking down the street.” Although you may lack the cash to go on a shopping spree, it’s fun to window shop the luxury shops, take your pic next to the iconic Beverly hills sign, and grab a cappuccino while attempting to spot a celeb (don’t get your hopes up as the most common sightings occur at everyday places like Whole Foods and Starbucks).
Other 80’s/90’s movies which filmed on Rodeo
Troop Beverly Hills (1989) – Cheesy guilty pleasure featuring Shelley Long as a Girl scouts leader. The movie filmed throughout Beverly Hills. Notable sites included Giorgio and The Beverly Hills Hotel. The Nefler house is located at 901 N. Camden Drive, just steps from Rodeo Drive.
Clueless (1995) – The Alicia Silverstone classic filmed throughout the Valley and L.A. The Beverly Wilshire on Rodeo Drive makes an appearance as Cher walks down the stairs next to some shops.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Several scenes from the Eddie Murphy classic where filmed in Beverly Hills.
Good Will Hunting
- Release Date: December 1997
- Brief Synopsis: Will Hunting (Matt Damon), an intellectually gifted math genius, works as a janitor at MIT. A psychologist (Robin Williams) helps him find direction in his life.
- Claim to fame: The film that sparked the careers of both Matt Damon and Affleck. Ben Affleck became the youngest winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar at the age of 25 (Damon was 27).
- Filming locations: The iconic Damon/Williams bench scene was filmed at Boston Public Garden (4 Charles St). The famous bar is L Street Tavern in South Boston at 658 E. 8th St.
The most iconic scene in Good will Hunting is the scene where Matt Damon and Robin Williams share a philosophical moment on the bench of a beautiful Boston park. This park happens to be Boston Public Garden, one of the city’s most gorgeous public places. Here you can sit on the actual bench that Damon and Williams sat on, reliving the famous scene.
Another cool filming location is L Street Tavern, the Southie Bar where Will, and the gang hang out drinking each night.
People all over the world fell in love with this movie, and the city of Boston itself, and tourists continue to visit these iconic filming sites. Even though much of the city has changed in the past 20 years since the film’s release, it’s fun to reminisce, particularly for those of us who lived in the region.
Check out my list of 20 fun and free things to do in Boston
- Release date: September 1982
- Brief synopsis: The series follows the lives of a diverse group of employees and regulars at a Boston bar “Where Everybody Knows your Name.”
- Claim to fame: Nominated for 117 Emmys and won 28! Widely considered one of the best written TV series of all time.
- Filming location: The Bull & Finch Pub (28 Beacon St) was the inspiration for the series.
Cheers is perhaps best known for its’ theme song, ranked amongst the best of all time in a 2011 Rolling Stones poll. I have to admit that back in the day I often stopped just to listen to the song while channel surfing. It’s crazy how these catchy intros stay with you long after their time.
The beloved series ran for 11 seasons, from 1982 to 1993. The Boston based Bull & Finch pub (est. 1969) inspired the TV series bar. This bar was ranked “best of Boston” the same year Cheers premiered. Boston architect Charles Bulfinch also designed the US Capitol in D.C. Visiting Cheers has always been one of the city’s biggest tourist draws. The bar is conveniently located on Beacon Street, across from Boston Public Garden.
While only exterior shots were used in the filming process, a replica bar and gift shop were eventually added as the pub became more popular. A second Cheers bar opened in Faneuil Hall, with this one being an exact replica of the TV series.
Even though Cheers is quite congested and touristy today, the cozy ambiance, lively vibe, & great memorabilia make it feel like somewhere “where everybody knows your name.”
- Release date: 1984
- Brief synopsis: A cyborg (disguised as a human) arrives from the future (2029) to present day L.A. (1984) to kill a woman named Sarah Conner, whose future son will fight a war against the machines.
- Claim to fame: Made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name.
- Filming location: Griffith Observatory
The famous scene when The Terminator arrives in Los Angeles took place at the Griffith Observatory. The Griffith is one of L.A.’s best tourist attractions. Featuring magnificent views of the Hollywood sign, wonderful on-site trails, and breathtaking night vistas of the city, it is a must visit for any first timer.
The futuristic look of the Griffith has led to its appearance in more than one science fiction flick. Scenes from Transformers and The Man From Planet X also used the observatory as a background.
Notable movies which filmed at the Griffith
- Yes Man (2008) – Great Jim Carrey movie about a man who attends a self help seminar, and sets out on a quest to say yes to EVERYTHING for an entire year! Watch for the Griffith in the scene where Allison (Zooey Deschanel) is leading her running tour.
- La La Land (2016) – Award-winning musical featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The dance number inside the planetarium took place at the Griffith. Also, “A Lovely Night” dance number filmed at Griffith Park.
- Rebel without a Cause (1955) – Classic teen drama, featuring James Dean in one of his last roles. Several scenes were filmed at the Griffith.
- Back to the Future 2 (1989) – The tunnel scene where Marty gets chased by Biff was filmed at the Griffith tunnel. Also, it served as the entrance to Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
A Very Brady Christmas
- Release Date: December 1988
- Brief Synopsis: Mike and Carol Brady fly the whole gang home for the holidays in this monstrously popular made-for-TV Brady Christmas special.
- Claim to fame: At the time, it ranked as the highest watched TV movie of the year, with a massive 25.1 Nielsen score.
- Filming location: The Brady house is located at: 11222 Dilling St, Studio City, CA 91602.
In this 80’s Christmas themed made-for-TV special, the lovable quirky 1970’s TV cast reunites for the holidays in the same Brady house featured on the classic series. The whole gang returned, with the exception of Susan Olsen (Cindy) who was on her honeymoon.
This film is always on my must-watch list each December. Yes, this movie is really cheesy, although the same can be said for all those Hallmark movies we love to binge watch all December long.
The iconic house recently sold for 1.6 million over asking price. TV network HGTV outbid former NSync singer Lance Bass with a bid of 3.5 million. Plans to restore the house to its’ 1970’s style grooviness is currently underway. Coming in 2019, you will be able to watch the transformation in progress in “A Very Brady Renovation.”
- Release Date: May 28, 1982
- Brief Synopsis: Rocky is now enjoying his fortune and fame after becoming heavyweight champion. After losing his title to Clubber Lang, Rocky turns to former adversary Apollo Creed.
- Claim to Fame: The Eye of the Tiger theme song which landed on the top of the Billboard charts and was nominated for an Academy Award.
- Filming location: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy (Rocky statue)
Next to the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art stands the actual 8 foot tall statue of Rocky featured in the film. Stallone donated the statue to the city after filming. In the film, Rocky unveils the statue at the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Today, it has been moved to the side of the building. Nevertheless, a huge line of fans show up every day to get their picture next to the iconic site. Stallone himself, a Philadelphia native, is known to show up every now and then.
Philadelphia is a wonderful city with a long list of things to see and do. Check out my favorite free things to do in Philly.
**Note some of these homes are private residences – do not disturb the owners and simply view/take photos from a distance!
Why do we love 80’s & 90’s films?
There is just something about these retro movies which hold a special place in our heart. It could be the feel good plots where the nerd always wins, the hip music, the hilarious use of old tech like huge cellphones and walkmans, or perhaps the crazy clothes and hairstyles that seem so out of place today.
My top 80’s movie picks
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- A Christmas Story
- The Outsiders
- Karate Kid
- Stand by Me
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- Back to the Future
- Sixteen Candles
- The Breakfast Club
- Pretty in Pink
- Fright Night
- Back to School
- Beter Off Dead
- Weird Science
- The Labrynth
- The Sure Thing
- Weekend at Bernie’s
- Dead Poets Society
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
- Field of Dreams
- Honey, I Shrunk the KIds
- The Lost Boys
- License to Drive
- National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space
- The Princess Bride
- The Secret of My Success
- Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
- 18 Again!
- Say Anything
- Can’t Buy Me Love
- Vice Versa
- The Burbs