The area or backdrop to a film is typically where they shoot it, right?
Well, not exactly. Plenty of times in cinema, filmmakers must work around a shooting budget or rules demanded by a certain city. This usually requires the shooting locations to be altered. Sometimes, the movie must be shot in a completely different town or city—which the filmmakers hope is not recognized.
Of course, movies allow your mind to escape reality at times, almost taking visualization to the next level. Perception and human imagination is why the movie-magic business has been successful throughout its journey of over 100 years. Part of this magic is placing yourself in a completely different world and getting thoroughly involved in a particular story.
So as much as we’d like to see a film shot in its natural setting, changing locations at times can be part of the illusion and fun. Here are 10 films that you had no idea were filmed in the completely wrong spots.
Warning: If you haven’t seen these movies, there may be some spoilers.
10 Platoon (1986)
Actually: The Philippines
Almost every dreadful thought of the Vietnam War is depicted in this 1986 blockbuster starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. What looks like the bravery of Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) turns out to be grim remorse. Chris’s journey as a newly ambitious soldier in this Oliver Stone classic gives the viewer a feeling of pure anguish and suspense, something that most war films need as a characteristic.
The entire feature appears to be a crude battle taking place inside the steamy jungle of Vietnam. However, this best picture winner was actually shot in the Philippines.
Under ideal conditions, Oliver Stone is known as a director who is hard to work with. But this movie and its 10-week shoot in the miserable jungle of the Philippines supposedly took Stone’s difficult nature to a new level.
The Philippine jungle is not that different from a gritty Vietnam jungle. So most fans of this cult classic won’t realize that none of the movie truly takes place in Vietnam.
9 Scarface (1983)
Actually: Los Angeles
No, you are not reading this wrong. Tony Montana and his little friend don’t actually live in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, many fail to realize that this 1980s favorite was shot in the “City of Angels” and not in “Little Havana.”
Tony Montana, an immigrant from Cuba, gains extreme power in drug trafficking in 1980s Miami. Although he works his way up the ranks, he eventually realizes that he may not have been ready for what was to come.
Famous scenes in the film—such as Tony’s vicious escape from an internment camp and his “El Paraiso” lunch stand—all take place in various parts of Los Angeles. Sorry, movie buffs, but the Scarface’s compound is in sunny California!
8 Selma (2014)
In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. decided that Selma, Alabama, would be his best choice as a marching ground for gaining equal rights for African Americans. However, the depictions of the famous Selma marches in this 2014 blockbuster were actually shot in Atlanta, Georgia.
Director Ava DuVernay certainly does a fantastic job of not sugarcoating the way things were, and it’s easy to see that she brilliantly directed all the stars in this picture. Besides the city of Selma, scenes in Selma were also shot in multiple locations around Georgia.
For example, the Alabama courtroom where Judge Frank Johnson rules in favor of the second Selma march in 1965 was actually filmed at the Rockdale County Courthouse in Conyers, Georgia.
Other scenes were shot at Marietta Square and the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art in Marietta, Georgia. There were also scenes filmed at Georgia Tech and other locations in and around Atlanta.
Selma won the Oscar for Best Original Song and was also nominated for Best Picture.
7 The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Actually: Culver City, California
The title says it all, right?
Nope. We certainly hate to admit it, but this Hollywood classic had almost no scenes filmed anywhere near the “City of Brotherly Love.” Instead, the movie was filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Culver City, California.
In the movie, Tracy Lord, a newly divorced woman from Philadelphia, must come to grips with whom she truly loves after facing a deeply challenging choice between three men. This popular classic received a 100 percent on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10 rating on IMDb.
6 Cloverfield (2008)
Allegedly: New York City
Actually: Los Angeles
Money changes lots of details in a film, especially the backdrop to this 2008 thriller directed by Matt Reeves. What appears to be New York City under attack by a mass-murdering monster is mostly shot in Los Angeles.
A group of friends enjoying a going away party must make a break for it once the city comes under attack by the creature. This film was innovative for its handheld camera techniques depicting a human-killing beast thriller rather than a simple ghost/paranormal flick.
Unfortunately, what you didn’t realize is that the army is fighting the creature on Warner Bros. Burbank lot in California. Sorry to spoil the fun, but the entire scene showing the Statue of Liberty’s head being hurled into a crowded New York street was completely filmed on the West Coast.
5 Chicago (2002)
This movie adaptation of the musical didn’t have even one scene filmed in the “Windy City.” Set during the Jazz Age, the story is about two threatening women who are put to the ultimate test when they’re accused of murder and sentenced to death. Throughout the film, the ladies must defend themselves by fighting for the fame that will save their lives.
What does any of this have to do with the city of Chicago?
Nothing! The movie musical is titled Chicago but was shot entirely on Canadian soil—Toronto, to be exact. On the other hand, the Broadway version of this six-time Oscar winner plays out on US soil in New York City.
4 The Amityville Horror (1979)
Allegedly: Amityville, New York
Actually: Toms River, New Jersey
Known as one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time, The Amityville Horror dives into the lives of the Lutz family—a young married couple who have found the perfect home for their wants, needs, and desires. Or so they thought.
They soon discover that this Long Island dream home has an infamous secret. Even more eerie, this classic is based on a true story that was written as a book prior to the film’s production. However, it’s not the house that interests us currently, it’s the location.
Part of the thrill of The Amityville Horror is that we want our bones to shiver if we ever find ourselves riding through a creepy Long Island town. We want to be terrified of going near the coordinates of this cursed home.
Unfortunately, the film was not shot in New York at all. Rather, the “Garden State” took the spotlight here as the town of Amityville denied the request to shoot the movie in the frightening real-life location. As a result, the production team was forced to scout a new place for filming and eventually sealed the deal with the Ocean County safe haven of Toms River.
3 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Allegedly: Normandy, France
There are no right words to sum up how we feel about this landmark in cinema, put forth by the great cast and crew who helped create Saving Private Ryan. On June 6, 1944, over 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in the hopes of ridding the world of tyranny and dictatorship during World War II. The viewer almost forgets that he’s watching a film created with equipment and professional acting.
Another aspect you may not realize is that all the actors who portrayed the righteous men in this film didn’t set foot in Normandy at all. In reality, this movie was shot in Ireland for various reasons. The D-day events depicted in the first 20 minutes of the movie were filmed on Ballinesker Beach, Curracloe Strand, in County Wexford, Ireland.
About 2,500 men from the Irish Defense Forces were extras in the movie.
2 Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Actually: New Orleans
Set in 1980s Dallas, an audacious swindler uses his hustling tactics to acquire medication for AIDS patients once he is diagnosed with the illness. Dallas Buyers Club is filled with grief and lots of corruption. The only absence in this film is the city of Dallas.
This might come as a surprise to some, especially since Matthew McConaughey is said to enjoy working in Texas-based films. In an interview on the matter, McConaughey stated:
New Orleans has been doubling for Texas for a while. I fight to shoot in Texas, but I don’t know if I have the pull or the leverage or the pocketbook to get productions to shoot there. Obviously, if we could shoot this in Dallas for the same price, we’d shoot it in Dallas.
Unfortunately, this just goes to show how the budget of a film can place controls on various components. Dallas Buyers Club took home three Oscars at the 2014 Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.
1 Casablanca (1942)
Actually: California And Possibly Arizona
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
If these words mean anything to you, then you have been blessed with having viewed the great Casablanca. This film for the ages seems to come as a breath of fresh air to all who appreciate moving pictures. The movie challenges your perception on acting, proper screenwriting, and appropriate blocking.
Set during early World War II, a nightclub owner in Casablanca, Morocco, faces his ultimate test once he is challenged with an obstacle that will determine which side of history he falls on. Without spoiling too much about this three-time Oscar winner, we’ll just cut to the chase.
Casablanca was not filmed anywhere near Morocco or even the continent of Africa. Instead, this well-received classic was shot mainly on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, California, although the arrival of Major Strasser was filmed at what is now the Van Nuys Airport. There are also unconfirmed rumors that a hotel scene was shot at Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Avery has written lists for Listverse and several other sites. He is CEO and current director of two widely renowned film festivals and current social media manager on five entertainment companies. He greatly admires the art of film and screenwriting and looks forward to continuing success in the field. You can find out more about him on IMDb and Twitter. You can learn more about Macoproject FilmFest on Facebook and Twitter.