Massachusetts is a favorite location among filmmakers, not only for the tax incentives offered, but also for popular landmarks, diverse landscapes, and stunning architecture.
Some of the films we’re featuring below include stories set in some of the state’s historic locations. There’s Salem in the coastal city in Essex County, known for the Salem witch trials of 1692, and was the subject of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. There’s also Good Will Hunting, set in M.I.T in Cambridge and shot in the Greater Boston area.
In this feature about the Bay State, we’re going to list some popular films that have the state as their background, from classics like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to adaptations of classics like Little Women. We’ll take a look at not only the creators and actors featured in the films but also the diverse geography that makes the state an excellent filming location.
Movies filmed in Massachusetts
One of the most popular shark movies of all time, Jaws is a Steven Spielberg-directed film based on a novel by Peter Benchley and stars Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. This is the first major film to be shot in the ocean.
The film was shot on location at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts—an island south of Cape Cod. One of the reasons why this location was chosen is the sandy bottom of the surrounding ocean that allowed the mechanical sharks to be filmed while being beyond sight of the land.
2h 4min | PG
Hocus Pocus (1993)
A cult classic, Hocus Pocus is a fantasy comedy directed by Kenny Ortega and stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. The film is set and was shot in Salem, Massachusetts, a city known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
The film is about how a kid who recently moved to Salem and awakening three witches who were executed in the 17th century. The Massachusetts locations include Salem and Marblehead, but there are also many scenes filmed in Burbank, California.
1h 36min | PG
Shallow Hal (2001)
This one’s a fantasy rom-com starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow, and directed by the Farrelly Brothers. Hal, a superficial man, is hypnotized into seeing a person’s inner beauty. He falls in love with 300-pound Rosemary, who he sees as a tall, trophy blonde.
The filming locations in Massachusetts include Sterling and Princeton, towns in Worcester County. Other locations include North Carolina and Los Angeles.
1 h 53 min | PG-13
Little Women (2019)
Little Women, a coming-of-age movie based on a novel of the same name, is a period drama film written and directed by Greta Gerwig. The film, which tells the story of the March sisters, is set in Concord, Massachusetts in the late 19th century.
The film tells the story of the March sisters Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth, played by Saorsie Ronan, Emma Watson, Florrence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen. Filming mostly took place in Harvard, Massachusetts. Other locations include Harvard University, Lancaster, Cambridge, and Crane Beach.
2h 15min | PG
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Directed by Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting is a drama starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Affleck.
The story is about Will Hunting (played by Damon), a janitor at M.I.T. in Boston who has a special gift for mathematics, and his relationship with Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams), a psychologist who will help him find direction.
There are a number of scenes shot on location n the Greater Boston area, but many of the interior shots were shot in Toronto Canada—like the University of Toronto for shots of Harvard, which only allowed limited filming.
2h 6min | R
The Town (2010)
Another one by Ben Affleck (he co-wrote, directed, and starred), The Town is an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves. The film tells the story of a group of bank robbers from Boston who rob a bank and hold a manager hostage.
Filming took place in Boston. The bank that was used for some scenes is a former MASSBank branch in Melrose, Massachusetts; and others were filmed outside of the Cambridge Savings Bank in Harvard Square. Other locations include the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, and the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn.
The Crucible (1996)
The Crucible is a 1966 historical drama written by Arthur Miller, who adapted his own screenplay released in 1953. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, whose performances received critical praise.
The film is inspired by the Salem witchcraft trials. During the 1692 witchcraft trials in Salem, a resident attempts to frame his ex-lover’s wife for being a witch.
Filming took place in different spots in Massachusetts, including the House of Seven Gables in Salem and Hog Island in Ipswich. Danvers and Plymouth were also used as filming locations.
2 h 3 min | PG-13
Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, or simply Borat, is a mockumentary film co-written by Sacha Baron Cohen, who also stars as the film’s lead character.
Borat is a TV talking head dispatched in the United States with a documentary crew, to learn more about the “greatest country in the world.” The film was well-received by critics but faced controversy was banned in almost all Arab countries and denounced by the Kazakh government.
The film was shot in many locations around the U.S., including the Four Season Kosher Bed & Breakfast in Massachusetts, an accommodation run by a Jewish couple.
1 h 23 min | R
Field of Dreams (1989)
Award-winning sports fantasy drama Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Kevin Costner, is based on W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe.
The film tells the story of a farmer who builds a baseball field that attracted ghosts of baseball legends.
The filming took place in Iowa, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Some of the Massachusetts locations include Fenway Park and Jersey Street in Boston.
1 h 45 min | PG
The Finest Hours (2016)
Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Chris Pine, Case Affleck, and Ben Foster, The Finest Hours tells the story of the 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue of the oil tankers SS Pendleton, destroyed during a blizzard.
The film is set and was shot at the Coast Guard Station Chatham, Massachusetts. Filming also took place at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, as well as the town of Marshfield in Plymouth County.
1h 57min | PG-13
American Hustle (2013)
The critically-acclaimed, all-star black comedy crime film American Hustle tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld, a con man who is forced to work for an F.B.I. agent. The film is directed and co-written by David O. Russell and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner.
Filming took place in Massachusetts—Worcester, Natick, Boston, and Norwood. The scenes were shot in places like the Essex Superior Courthouse, Worchester Art Museum, and Union Station. Filming was put on hold after the lockdown due to the Boston Marathon bombings and resumed in New York City.
2h 18min | R
Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey, Amistad is based on the 1987 book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy by Howard Jones.
The film, which is about the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish ship, has a number of locations including Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and Rhode Island. Massachusetts locations include the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
2 h 34 min | R
This biographical comedy-drama directed by David O. Russell is about the life of Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire who invented the Miracle Mop and other popular inventions.
The story is set in New York, but filming took place in Massachusetts, in locations like Haverhill, Wilmington, Framingham, North Reading, Salem, and Boston.
2h 4min | 2015
The Departed (2006)
Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen, crime thriller The Departed is a remake of Hong Kong Film Infernal Affairs, released in 2002.
The film takes place and was shot in Boston, Massachusetts. It tells the story of an undercover cop and a mole in the Massachusetts State Police.
The Departed won many awards, including four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Editing.
The film was shot on location in Massachusetts, in Boston, Charlestown, Lynn, Quincy, and Chinatown. Some scenes were also shot in New York City.
2h 31min | R
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
This is a 1966 drama directed by Mike Nichols and stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This is one of the only two first movies that was nominated in every eligible category in the Academy Awards (it took home five of them, including Best Actress for Taylor).
The film is an adaptation of the 1962 play by Edward Albee. The film is set entirely in a house owned by Martha and George, the two main characters—a married, aging couple.
The film’s exteriors were shot on location in Smith College in Northampton. Scenes for the exterior of the roadhouse were shot on Red Basket at 151 College Highway.
2 h 10 min | 18+