12 Real-Life Locations Behind Out-of-this-World Films


When filming horror, sci-fi and fantasy movies, set construction is often necessary to achieve a believable effect. But, some real-life locations are a surprisingly perfect fit even when the movie is set in the distant post-apocalyptic future or on another planet. From gritty abandoned power stations and mental hospitals to a town so impossibly perfect it played a film set, these 12 locations have played prominent roles in movies like ‘Terminator’, ’12 Monkeys’ and ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’.

Danvers State Hospital, ‘Session 9’


(images via: Opacity)

Perhaps the most famous abandoned place in America, Danvers State Hospital served as a fittingly bleak, creepy setting for the 2001 horror movie ‘Session 9’. In an unusual twist, Danvers didn’t just stand in for a fictional asylum, but actually appeared as itself. The hospital was closed in 1992 but stood abandoned until its demolition in 2005. It was reportedly the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Sanitarium, which in turn inspired Arkham Asylum in the Batman comic book series.

Aldwych Tube Station, ‘V for Vendetta’



(image via: IGN, Wikimedia Commons)

Disused since 1994, the Aldwych Tube Station in London is relatively well preserved, making it an ideal location for film shoots. Built on the site of the Royal Stand Theatre, it opened in 1907 and was used as a public air-raid shelter during World War II. In the movie ‘V for Vendetta’, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, the Aldwych Tube Station acted as the setting for the final climactic scenes. Other films shot there include ‘Patriot Games’, ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘Atonement’.

Griffith Observatory, ‘Terminator’


(image via: James Cameron Online)

When a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger first emerged into the past to find Sarah Connor in 1984’s ‘Terminator’, it was in front of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. It was also revisited in 2009’s ‘Terminator: Salvation’ as a ruin. The observatory, a popular tourist spot set against downtown LA, also appeared in Rebel Without a Cause, The People vs. Larry Flynt and the Transformers movie among many other films and television series.

Westport Power Generation Station, ’12 Monkeys’


(images via: Urban Atrophy)

While many notable locations were used to film ’12 Monkeys’, the creepiest was undoubtedly Westport Power Generation Station, an abandoned power plant used to create some of the interior shots set in the post-apocalyptic future from which the movie’s protagonist, played by Bruce Willis, originates. Located in the Baltimore Bay, this power plant bore spray-painted “The Army” tags on its walls until its demolition.

Seaside Florida, ‘The Truman Show’


(image via: SeasideFL)

Truman Burbank lived in an impossibly perfect town, where picturesque little pastel houses with impeccably white picket fences and thriving rose bushes stood against a stunning ocean backdrop. And, though it played a film set in the movie ‘The Truman Show’, Seaside Florida is a very real place. It’s a master-planned community in the Florida Panhandle an is often cited as the first New Urbanist development.

Toronto City Hall, ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’


(images via: Joey DeVilla, Torontoist)

Toronto stands in as fictional Raccoon City in ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’, the second movie in a series based on a popular video game. Torontonians will recognize their home town in virtually every segment of the movie, from the Prince Edward Viaduct to Nathan Philips Square, where Toronto City Hall was nuked along with the rest of the city.

Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House, ‘Blade Runner’



(images via: jplouis, architettura.supereva.com)

Not many pre-existing buildings could fit the dark, futuristic vibe of 1982 classic ‘Blade Runner’, but the Ennis House fit the bill perfectly. Designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Ennis House in north Los Angeles is constructed mostly of pre-cast concrete blocks with a design based on ancient Mayan temples. The blocks were cast to serve as a backdrop on a studio set for Deckard’s apartment.

The Stanley Hotel, ‘The Shining’


(images via: ecoan80)

On a sunny day, the bright white exterior of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado hardly seems like it could serve as inspiration for one of Stephen King’s greatest horror novels. But, it was during a stay there in the 1970s that King conceived of the basic idea for ‘The Shining’. The hotel is purportedly haunted, and King is said to have had some paranormal experiences during his stay. Contrary to popular belief, King did not write the novel while staying at the Stanley Hotel, nor was the Kubrick-directed film version of the story shot there – though parts of the 1997 television series were.

Battersea Power Station, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’


(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

At one time, the Battersea Power Station was a gleaming symbol of human progress. It’s Europe’s largest brick building and boasted a lavish, Art Deco interior that has since deteriorated significantly. It appeared in the Beatles’ movie Help! and is also pictured on the front of Pink Floyd’s album Animals. As the years wore on, the station fell into disuse, though it remained one of London’s most iconic landmarks. In addition to ‘Children of Men’, ‘Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life’, ‘MacGuyver’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and an episode of ‘LOST’, the Battersea Power Station was used as the external façade of the Victory Mansions in Michael Radford’s 1984 film adaptation of George Orwell’s novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant, ‘The Abyss’


(images via: Historic Decay)

Many of the scenes in science fiction thriller ‘The Abyss’ were filmed in eerie, claustrophobic underwater chambers at the Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant near Gaffney, South Carolina. Millions of gallons of water were brought in to fill existing unfinished structures on the site, making it the largest underwater movie set in the world. It was abandoned in 1983 after the Three Mile Island accident, but is now back under control of Duke Power and Southern Company, who plan to redevelop the site for one of the first new nuclear power plants in over 30 years.

Alnwick Castle, ‘Harry Potter’



(images via: johndal, zoewanamaker)

Children may never really be able to visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Alnwick Castle in England stands in quite well for the younger set. The castle was featured as Hogwarts in the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films, most notably during the broomstick flying lesson scene and the scene in which Harry and Ron crash land the Weasley family flying car. Other locations that stood in for interior and exterior Hogwarts settings include Oxford University, Gloucester Cathedral, Durham Cathedral and Christ Church College.

Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Star Trek



(images via: memory-alpha.org, Universal Locations)

Trekkies will recall the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, a religious retreat in the hills above Simi Valley in Southern California, as Camp Khitomer in ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ and Lore’s Borg compound in the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episodes ‘Descent’ and ‘Descent, Part II’. It was also the setting for Marilyn Manson’s video for ‘The Dope Show’ and appeared as the Rock & Roll History Museum in ‘Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny’.