Despite the design functionality and aesthetic versatility of film studios, real backdrops are increasingly gaining popularity as location sets. Over the last two decades, more than 340,000 movies and television shows were filmed on location, according to
The world may be Hollywood's oyster, but sometimes its backyard works perfectly as a muse too. Hollywood Boulevard in sunny California has been the subject of many blockbusters in film history such as Borat (2006) and Iron Man 3 (2013). Western Los Angeles' beachfront neighborhood, Venice Beach, has also been a popular choice amongst filmmakers. The locale was famously featured in The Big Lebowski (1998), Million Dollar Baby (2004) and He's Just Not That Into You (2009). A landmark as iconic as the Hollywood sign is the Griffith Observatory, which commands a view of Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest as seen in Transformers (2007). In one of its most recent appearances, the vantage point can be recognized in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's waltz in La La Land (2016).
New York City, U.S.
A stroll through Central Park in New York City ignites a wealth of film nostalgia. Recognized as the most popular set location in the film and television world, the iconic green space has been seen in Men in Black II (2002), Spider-Man 3 (2007) and family favorite Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Similarly, the bustling area of Times Square has been the grounds for acclaimed scenes in King Kong (1976) and The Devil Wears Prada (2006). The image of Kong beating his chest atop the Empire State building is legendary in cinematic history. Greenwich Village has become the go-to for rom-coms, including Jennifer Garner's 13 Going on 30 (2004), P.S. I Love You (2007) and Julie & Julia (2009).
The historic institution of Old Royal Naval College was the backdrop to award-winning The King's Speech (2010) and Les Misérables (2012) while Piccadilly Circus played set to Bridget Jones' Diary (2001) and The Dark Knight (2008). Another tourist must-visit is Trafalgar Square, recognizable in Children of Men (2006) and 28 Days Later (2002). The square is prime eye candy in 28 Days Later's first 15 minutes, as the protagonist wanders the empty London streets in a zombie-infiltrated world. Beyond the City of Westminster, financial hub Canary Wharf served as set for the holiday season favorite Love Actually (2003). Boasting One Canada Square—the second tallest building nationally—the locale's skyscrapers also made the ideal setting for action films like Casino Royale (2006) and Batman Begins (2005).