6 Famous Movies That Show Off American Cities The Best

Discover 6 famous American cities that have been showcased in some of the most iconic movies, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Miami, and New York (Manhattan).

One of the best things about the United States is its sheer number of varied cityscapes. The next biggest export that America has to offer is movies. Of course, these movies all need a decent location to film. In most cases, the streets of American cities provide the perfect setting for an avid director.

Some of the most famous movies have even worked to show off some of these cities in the best way possible. As such, here are some big movies that show off certain American cities in the best way.

Detroit: Detroit

Of course, a film called Detroit had to be filmed in the city itself. This 2017 best picture nominee may have some serious subject matter, but the filming location of Detroit only serves to bolster the city’s importance when it comes to race relations in the United States. The film is based on the real riots that took place in Detroit in 1967 about police violence. This police brutality was mainly aimed at African American citizens at the time, and the riots escalated into a highly aggressive event that resulted in some serious bloodshed. As such, the source material for the film had to be treated delicately.

Director, Kathryn Bigelow, chose to film in Detroit because it is a city where the scars of its past are still on show. Since the city still has a large African American population, a lot of the residents still remember the tragedy that the film was based on.

Independence Day: Houston

The state of Texas is massive. In fact, it is so big in fact that the UK can fit within its borders almost ten times. With this large area comes a variety of scenery and cityscapes, including Houston. The city of Houston has a remarkable history with science and technology, most importantly because the city was the first word uttered when humans first landed on the moon. All this combined made it the perfect location for Roland Emrick to film his most recognizable disaster movie, Independence Day.

While the film depicts famous landmarks from across the globe being destroyed by aliens, the real sets and surroundings in the blockbuster movie are unmistakably Houston. The scope of the film required the director to have access to filming locations in the desert, science labs, and large cities. Fortunately, Houston is home to all these locations. Also, the city’s connection to the first moon landing helps with the premise of aliens landing on Earth and space travel.

Romeo + Juliet: Miami

Adapting Shakespeare’s most well-known play to fit modern times sounded like a struggle enough for director Baz Luhrmann in 1996, but finding a place realistically portray this story would pose an all-new challenge. The original play was set in sunny Verona, a highly popular republic of Venice that was often under mafia rule. Since Verona and Venice were large tourist destinations in the mid-nineties, the studio couldn’t accurately recreate the play in these locations.

Fortunately, the sunset strip of Miami provided enough of the right vibe for the film. Miami is a city drenched in the sun that also has a lavish party scene and casino scene. It is certainly a place to try gambling with real money in the presence of a live dealer casino. This made it the perfect place to stage one of history’s best love stories, albeit with a few tweaks. No matter what your opinion is of the odd 1996 retelling of Romeo and Juliet, you cannot deny that Miami was an inspired choice for the backdrop.

Spiderman: Manhattan

It is rare that anyone will ever receive a birds-eye tour of the most recognizable cities in North America. However, that’s exactly what viewers got when they sat down to watch the very first Spiderman film in 2002.

Spiderman is a character that can maneuver through a city skyline by web-slinging. This was a bit too dangerous a stunt to ask of any actor or stunt person, so director Sam Raimi had to compromise with some clever CGI and camera trickery. To film the scenes where Spiderman web swings from one location to another, a camera was attached to two bungee cords and a crane that moved through the city. This way, the special effects artists could superimpose a digital Spiderman into these frames. Not only did this approach give viewers a way to watch the titular character swinging through the city, but you also got an aerial shot of Manhattan at the same time. From here, you could get a sense of the island’s historic skyscrapers and bustling streets.

The Dark Knight: Chicago

The incredibly popular dark detective, Batman, has always called the streets of Gotham his home on the comic book page. Unfortunately for film directors, the city of Gotham is entirely fictional. This leaves a difficult conundrum for filmmakers.

While director Christopher Nolan used parts of Chicago to film Batman Begins, viewers didn’t get a full taste of what the city had to offer until the sequel rolled around. For the first installment of this hugely successful superhero trilogy, Nolan took inspiration from his predecessors, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, and added CGI fixtures to real Chicago and London locations to make Gotham feel like a truly nightmarish, fantasy city complete with a high-speed monorail. For The Dark Knight, the production team strove to create a more realistic tone. That is why the Chicago backdrop appears much cleaner than it did in the subsequent film, with the tall buildings demonstrating a successful part of American architecture.

The Departed: Boston

Since the Oscar-winning film, The Departed, was set in Boston, it only made sense for the director, Martin Scorsese, to film a majority of this street-level thriller there. This often-overlooked part of New York is full of historical architecture and scenic drives. Fortunately, audiences get to see most of this on display in the Matt Damon-led action film. The historical nature of Boston also makes the twenty-year time jump in the film much easier to swallow. It also helps that some of the flat rooftops provide the perfect location for a shoot-out.

While Boston is a huge artistic city hub, it has many catholic and working-class citizens that have planted roots in the city. This may be one of the reasons why it is often the home of highly dramatic and authentic films like The Departed.

Statistics on filming locations that are not necessarily a city of a US location

The following data ranks US locations that are not a city, according to a 2021 article in New York Post.

LocationNumber of Films
Central Park, New York City, New York532
Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles, California285
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, Agua Dulce, California253
Table 1: most popular filming locations in the US

And now, these are the most popular filming locations around the globe, but not Hollywood, according to the same source.

LocationNumber of FilmsCountry
Central Park, New York City, New York532United States
Cabo de Gata, Almería, Andalusia99Spain
St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Veneto54Italy
Atacama Desert, Chile50Chile
Alexanderplatz, Mitte, Berlin38Germany
Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, Wilsonova, Prague35Czech Republic
Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt29Egypt
Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, County Wicklow26Ireland
Iguazu Waterfalls, Misiones25Argentina
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia21Cambodia
Ait Benhaddou, Morocco21Morocco
Table 2: popular filming locations around the globe


It may not have been the filmmaker’s original intention, but the filming locations of some of these iconic films have seen a spike in popularity in these cities. Also, these decisions helped to shape the films you love, sometimes without you even noticing.