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12 Famous Movies Filmed In Michigan

Michigan might not have the glitz and glamor of New York or Hollywood, but there have been plenty of popular movies filmed in Michigan through the years.

From recent Hollywood blockbusters to beloved Michigan-centric films to cinema classics, the Great Lakes State has been the setting for plenty of drama and thrills on the silver screen.

Before a $25-million cap was announced by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011, Michigan filmmakers were getting up to 42% of their production costs back in tax rebates. In 2008 alone, 32 films were shot in Michigan, leading to a trove of well-known movies.

So whether you know some of these Michigan classics or you’ve never heard of some of them, take time to watch them and keep your eyes peeled for any scenes featuring well-known Michigan landmarks.

Old Abandoned Train Station In Downtown Detroit | Michigan Central Depot
Michigan Central Depot, Detroit

Transformers (2007)


Detroit’s magnificent architecture made a great showing in this summer smash hit of 2007. In one scene, the ever-twitchy Shia LaBeouf goes tearing through the Michigan Central Station train depot, the imposing Motor City landmark that was built more than 100 years ago.

The building stands up to its punishment at the hands of the alien robots about as well as can be expected in a Michael Bay production.

Guardian Building-Detroit
Guardian Building, Detroit | photo via christmatt

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)


One of the most highly anticipated comic book films in recent years, which saw Batman and Superman face off on the big screen, was filmed partially in Detroit with many scenes shot there in 2014.

Ultimately, the production spent $199 million in the state, filming everywhere from Belle Isle to Woodward Avenue to the Guardian Building and other downtown Detroit spots.

Viewers may recognize the famous Michigan Central Station as the setting for Batman and Superman’s climactic fight, Fort Street standing in for downtown Metropolis, or the Detroit Public Library as the site of a gala scene.

Highland Park, Michigan - Sept. 23, 2017: Designed By Albert Kahn, The Highland Park Ford Plant Was The First Factory To Build Cars On A Moving Assembly Line With Its Introduction In 1913.
Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park | photo via BD Images/Shutterstock

Gran Torino (2008)


Clint Eastwood’s turn as Walt Kowalski, a grizzled Korean War veteran living in Highland Park has the Motor City’s fingerprints all over it. Several actors in the movie are from Michigan as well.

The production spent more than $10 million shooting in Detroit and was one of the first major movies to take advantage of Michigan’s new law providing incentives to movies filmed in the state. Scenes were shot in Highland Park (including the site of Kowalski’s house), Grosse Pointe Park, Warren, Royal Oak, and Center Line.

Viewers will likely catch references to Ford Motor Company, the Detroit Lions, and other Michigan staples as well as quite a bit of screen time for the Ford Gran Torino.

Escanaba | photo via visitescanaba

Escanaba in da Moonlight (2001)


Michiganders, especially deer hunters, know well Jeff Daniels’ story of Reuben Soady and his lifelong quest to bag a buck in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The movie is set and was filmed in Escanaba. Michiganders, especially Yoopers, will enjoy a boatload of Michigan references, including the Mackinac Bridge, pasties, euchre, Mackinac Island fudge, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse And B&Amp;B-Marquette
Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Marquette | photo via _sovereign_photography_

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Upper Peninsula

This 1959 courtroom classic, which stars Jimmy Stewart, takes place in the Upper Peninsula and follows Stewart’s character Paul Biegler, an attorney defending a solider who claims insanity led to his committing a murder.

The story is inspired by a real-life that happened in Big Bay in 1952. As such, the movie was shot on location in Big Bay, Marquette (which was the site of courtroom scenes), Michigamme, and Ishpeming.

Some of the scenes filmed in Big Bay took place just a block from the tavern that was the site of the murder which inspired the story. Screenings took place at the Butler Theatre in Ishpeming and the Nordic Theatre in Marquette before the world premiere in Detroit. 

Michigan Theater Building, Aka Michigan Palace
Michigan Theater Building in 1926 | Photo Credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

8 Mile (2002)

Detroit & Metro Detroit

This semi-autobiographical story of rapper Eminem is a favorite among Michiganders, who enjoy the story of Eminem’s character B-Rabbit’s attempt to launch a hip-hop career, the award-winning soundtrack, and the film’s Detroit setting.

The majority of the film was shot in Michigan with filming taking place in Detroit, including the Chin Tiki Club and the Michigan Theater, as well as Sterling Heights, Warren, Southgate, Southfield, and Highland Park.

Ford Rouge Complex-Dearborn
Ford Rouge Complex, Dearborn | photo via twoguysandaride

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)


Eddie Murphy’s turn as Detroit detective Axel Foley was a box office smash that spawned two sequels and another forthcoming sequel.

In line with Murphy’s character, the film’s opening sequence was shot in Detroit and Wayne. In the opening montage, viewers can catch glimpses of the Ramsey Bar, the Viking Motel, different Detroit streets, and the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn.

Ann Arbor Michigan: University Of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The Ides of March (2011)

Detroit & Ann Arbor

This political drama starring George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Ryan Gosling is an adaption of the play Farragut North, which is loosely based on Howard Dean’s 2004 Democratic primary election campaign.

Principal photography took place in Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit. Filming at the University of Michigan, which stands in for Kent State University in the film, included 1,000 extras.

Additionally, Detroit serves as a stand-in for a campaign headquarters in Ohio; the Dearborn Inn is the site of an interview with Charlie Rose; and Cliff Bells in Detroit serves as the setting for another meeting with a journalist.

Campus Martius - The Fountain, Detroit - Campus Martius
Campus Martius, Detroit | photo via @picturespan

Need for Speed (2014)


This crime thriller is based on the popular racing video game Need for Speed and stars Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Michael Keaton among others. In the movie, Paul’s character takes a cross-country trip to avenge the death of a friend.

Part of the movie takes place in Detroit, where Paul’s character Tobey Marshall causes a chase with the Michigan State Police on the interstate. While the production counts locations in Georgia and Alabama, part of the film was shot at Campus Martius in Detroit.

Reindeer Ranch-Kalamazoo
Reindeer Ranch | photo via combatreadyart

Prancer (1989)

Three Oaks

This Michigan Christmas movie tells the story of a young girl who nurses a reindeer who may be Santa’s reindeer Prancer back to health before Christmas and is set in Three Oaks in Berrien County.

The town exteriors were filmed in Three Oaks and additional filming took place in Illinois and two towns in Indiana. A sequel made in 2001 was filmed in Canada but made references to Three Oaks because a young boy visits the town to learn the Prancer story.

Capitol Theatre, Flint Michigan
Capitol Theatre | photo via @artandmuse_

Semi-Pro (2008)

Flint & Detroit 

In between Blades of Glory and Step Brothers, Will Ferrell’s sports comedy about semi-pro basketball has plenty of Michigan ties. Farrell stars as Jackie Moon, a star of the Flint Tropics of the American Basketball Association.

As the namesake of Jackie Moon’s ABA team, it only makes sense that parts of the movie were shot in Flint. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice Jackie Moon driving through downtown Flint just minutes into the movie and the Vehicle City arches, the Flint River, the Capitol Theatre, and Brush Alley are among other Flint spots that make appearances in the movie.

Detroit also gets a cameo in the movie with the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum standing in as the fictional Flint Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Lafayette Building - Detroit
Lafayette Building, Detroit | photo via Mike Russell/Wikimedia

Red Dawn (2012)

Harper Woods

One of the biggest factors that drew Red Dawn to Michigan was its natural beauty. The producers were looking for a place that had forests, hills, and other natural features that Michigan has in abundance.

This film, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, tells the story of a group of teenagers defending their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers. Viewers can keep an eye out for Harper Woods High School as the new home of the Wolverines – the name which, in an interesting local coincidence, the heroes of the movie adopt for their band of warriors.

Filming Taking Place At Kellogg Park In Plymouth, Michigan, July 2010
Kellogg Park, Plymouth | photo via Kellyanne Berg/Wikimedia

Scream 4 (2011)

Ann Arbor

Many of the scenes for this movie were shot in Ann Arbor, but additional filming also took place in other towns in the area. A flashback sequence was shot at Woodworth Middle School in Dearborn, while the movie’s police station is the old 16th District Courthouse in Livonia.

The bookstore featured is the Next Chapter Bookstore Bistro in Northville, a location that Wes Craven picked himself.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport-Romulus
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Romulus | photo via jasonenglish

Up in the Air (2009)


Up in the Air could have been filmed in any airport in the country, so it’s heartening to know that the movie business thinks highly enough of the Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus to have selected it for this honor.

The movie, another starring George Clooney, sees him as a corporate downsizer traveling from city to city firing people. Next time you fly out of DTW, see if you recognize any of it from scenes in this production, especially in the Berry and McNamara terminals.

Hamtramck High School, Hamtramck Michigan
Hamtramck High School, Hamtramck

Whip It (2009)


Not only was Whip It shot in Michigan, but Michigan, in the heat of July, was able to do a passable imitation of Texas. Local roller derby teams The Detroit Derby Girls, and the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls contributed skaters, lending authenticity to the film’s action scenes.

The film, which was directed by Drew Berrymore and stars big names like Eliot Page, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kristen Wiig, focuses on Page’s character who joins a Texas roller derby team.

Viewers might also recognize Hamtramck High School as well as locations in Novi, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Frankenmuth, Saline, Royal Oak, and Detroit.

Enjoy More Movies Filmed in Michigan

We’re only scratching the surface with this list – there have been many other great movies made in Michigan, and hopefully, there will be more in the future. If you’re interested in seeing what other titles you might recognize, check out the Michigan Film Office’s list of productions.

So whether you’re the buffest of film buffs or you haven’t seen any of the dozen films on our list, there’s no better time to sit down and watch (or rewatch) these movies filmed in Michigan.

No matter what kind of movies you enjoy, you’re enjoyment of these movies will be heightened knowing there’s a connection to Michigan in all of them. 

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