It’s no secret that when it comes to just about any aspect of life, Michigan can hang with the best of them. With a blend of big cities, miles of coast, dense forests, and small rural towns, Michigan can provide just about any location a movie needs. Over the years, movies large and small have used Michigan as a location for filming. Here’s a list of some of the biggest, best, and weirdest Michigan Movies that you need to watch ASAP.
Escanaba in Da Moonlight
The first film on the list should come as no surprise. The 2001 adaptation of the play Escanaba in Da Moonlight was written, directed, and starred in by Jeff Daniels, who grew up in Chelsea. Daniels can range from comedic (Dumb and Dumber) to serious (The Newsroom) in his roles. Escanaba in Da Moonlight leans on both of those skill sets. Daniels also wisely chose to not stray from the title of the film, with the entire film being shot in and around the far northern reaches of Escanaba. This is a must watch for everyone, but especially all of our Yooper readers.
It’s hard to believe that its been 10 years since the first of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies graced the big screen. The first one is a fun popcorn flick. As the franchise marched on, critical reception to the movies have dropped precipitously, even as each release remains a box office winner. All but the second film, 2009’s Revenge Of The Fallen, have used Detroit as a filming stand-in for other places. So if you’re from the area and have ever been watching a Transformers movie and thought, “Hey, that looks familiar,” you’re not just being bamboozled by all the giant robots and explosions.
It Follows is a horror movie set in Detroit. It makes sense for the filmmakers to use Detroit and the surrounding areas for filming. This film is the story of a group of teenagers stalked by a monster that’s transmitted through sexual activity. The monster can take on the appearance of anyone, and simply walks unceasingly towards their target forever until it catches them. The film is a masterclass in building dread and suspense, as any background character could be the monster. Any Detroit native will instantly recognize the Redford Theatre. Clawson High School alumni are sure to recognize their pool during one of the film’s climactic scenes.
Die Hard 2
Die Hard 2 is the sequel to the greatest Christmas movie ever made. In the first Die Hard, John McClane (the always excellent action star Bruce Willis), had to fight terrorists in a building. In the 1990 sequel they’re now on a plane and in an airport. Different location, same butt-kicking action from Willis. At the end of the film (spoiler alert for a 27-year-old movie), there’s a whole sequence with another plane crashing. The plane that was hijacked makes an emergency landing as McClane saves the day. Those last scenes were filmed at the Alpena Airport, which is still in operation today. It’s slightly less chaotic on a day-to-day basis than in the movie, thankfully.
30 Minutes Or Less
I would pay a lot of money just to see a documentary about how this movie came about. The comedic story of a pizza delivery man who is forced to commit crimes after getting a bomb strapped to him is all sorts of weird, both in plot and in background. It’s directed by Ruben Fleischer, the creator of Zombieland. It’s main character is played by Jesse Eisenberg, a year after his star turn as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. His buddy is played by Aziz Ansari, pre-Masters of None, when Parks and Recreation was just beginning to morph into a cult classic. Nick Swardson and Danny McBride are the bad guys. The film is set in Grand Rapids, and the vast majority of shooting occurred there as well. 30 Minutes Or Less is definitely not for everyone, but those who do watch it will instantly recognize the city.
When you think of “Michigan movie,” this is probably the film that comes to mind. Was there ever a possibility that the dramatized origin story of rapper Eminem’s rise to stardom would not be filmed in Detroit? I don’t think so. Besides being a fantastic movie in its own right, Eminem’s heavy involvement insures that 8 Mile feels authentically Detroit. The film shows the automotive plant where main character Rabbit works and the streets of Detroit. The rich culture and music displayed shows there’s no question where Eminem’s heart and home reside. It’s also worth the re-watch to appreciate the amazing performance by the late Brittany Murphy. Of course, the fantastic rap battles make up the movie’s centerpieces.
What other Michigan Movies do you love? Let us know what we need to watch!