Filming sites for movies have to meet a unique set of criteria. Towns with a pre-established film industry can provide the support staff to complete the job professionally. The town also has to meet the aesthetics of the film itself, and certain settings seem to be featured more often than others in the stories Hollywood likes to tell. When movies aren't set in specific, iconic towns, they're set in a versatile city that can handle any story. Once a city has been established as a good place for filming a movie, it tends to get repeat business from filmmakers. Here are the top eight cities for filming.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
As the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires offers a rich architectural history and a vibrant modern art scene, making it an excellent place to film. Argentina also has stunning scenery that has been used in iconic movies. The city is nicknamed "The Paris of the South," and it has long been influenced by European culture. Sometimes the films shot there are even set there. This was the case with the 1996 film Evita, which starred Madonna as infamous Argentinian Eva Perón. However, the city has also been a stand-in for many other locales. The list includes China, for the filming of the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet, and Chile, for the filming of the 2015 film The Colony. It has also provided futuristic and fantasy settings such as those portrayed in the 1996 comedy Mars Attacks! and the 2006 drama Children of Men.
San Francisco, California
California is the logical home of many Hollywood productions since Hollywood itself is in the state. Furthermore, San Francisco has long been a captivating locale for screenwriters and storytellers. Its huge tourism industry and reputation as a countercultural touchstone makes it loom large in many people's hearts and minds. As the central scene of iconic 1960s hippie culture and a central location in the gay rights movement, San Francisco has come to represent freedom and the fight for ideals. However, the filming history in San Francisco is not limited to films that are specifically about the city. San Francisco's long history as a film site gives it claim to iconic films like Hitchcock's 1963 film The Birds, the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, and the 1957 film The Ten Commandments. It is also a frequent location for shooting action films such as Superman (1978) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).
Films set in the middle of the United States typically need a location that doesn't scream out an association with coastal L.A. or New York City. Chicago is a popular film setting, and many of the movies made there also have characters who live in the Midwest. Frequently, the setting of Chicago becomes central to the film itself. This was the case for the 1997 film My Best Friend's Wedding, in which a White Sox game takes center stage. The Untouchables (1987) is another film where Chicago's culture and history are crucial to the plot, this time in an exploration of Al Capone. The 1980 hit The Blues Brothers was filmed all over the city, and many iconic landmarks are featured in the background. Barbershop (2002) uses film to explore Chicago's South Side. Hoop Dreams (1994) is another classic film that explores the inner workings of the city, this time by following the lives of two inner-city high school basketball stars.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is a frequent site for filming, but the city is often used as a stand-in for other locations. The city's rich art scene may help support its film locale status. One particular boost to its overall popularity is the city's campus for the University of British Columbia (UBC). UBC has been used more than 90 times as a filming location, with multiple sites within the university caught on film. Vancouver's frequent appearance as a movie backdrop has even earned it the nickname "Hollywood North." It has appeared as a stand-in for San Francisco in Tim Burton's 2014 film Big Eyes, New York in the 2014 comedy The Interview, and even the Minnesota suburbs in the 2007 film Juno. While the city may rarely get portrayed for itself, it clearly offers a lot of opportunity for film artists. It also has a vibrant art culture to support such creative endeavors.
Toronto, the capital of Ontario, has a lot to offer filmmakers. The city actively recruits film crews as part of their commerce plan with promises of top-notch talent and facilities to make the jobs more manageable and the final products nicer. Like Vancouver, Toronto is frequently a stand-in for other (typically American) cities and rarely is used to portray itself. The city can add to its recruitment pitch that it has been the site of filming for some big blockbusters. The 2017 Best Picture winner The Shape of Water was filmed there. It was also the site for The Incredible Hulk (2008), Good Will Hunting (1997), and, much to the chagrin of Chicagoans, the musical hit Chicago (2002).
The only location on the list that's outside of the Americas, London is frequently a site for filming. London's rich architectural history and diverse settings make it a great location for filming. British actors have also become more and more popular on the international stage, so the talent available for filmmakers in London is also a draw. There are lots of great iconic places available, too. However, some of them are so bustling that filmmakers have to plan well to get the shots they need. For example, 28 Days Later (2002) had to be filmed in the very early morning to achieve the empty look necessary for the film. Other films shot in London include Rogue One (2016), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).
New York, New York
New York is understandably near the top of the list. For one thing, the city offers such a wide variety of locations. In fact, Central Park is the most filmed location in the world. It is joined on the list by other New York locations, including Greenwich Village, Times Square, Coney Island, Harlem, Greenpoint, and East Village. With so many different potential filming sites and one of the world's most famous art scenes drawing talent from across the globe, filming in New York is an excellent choice. It's been the site of filming for such movies as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), You've Got Mail (1998), Sex and the City (2008), and The Avengers (2012).
Los Angeles, California
Of course, the most popular film site in the world is the home to Hollywood itself. Between the gorgeous weather, the wealth of talent and industry experience, and the wide range of filming locales, there are not many places that can compete with Los Angeles. Venice Beach, UCLA, and Hollywood Boulevard are all among the most-filmed locations in the world. Many of these films prominently feature L.A. as their backdrop, making it hard to tell where fiction ends and reality begins. Movies shot in Los Angeles include hits such as La La Land (2016), The Big Lebowski (1998), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Boyz N the Hood (1991).