It should be no surprise to hear that Michigan (Detroit specifically) is the car capital of the world. It is, after all, where Henry Ford founded his motor company in 1903. But there are a few other things about the 26th state that might be more of a surprise to hear about.
Out of the five, Michigan borders four Great Lakes: Superior, Huron, Erie, and Michigan. Anywhere you are in the state, you are never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. This contributes to it having the longest freshwater coastline in the world. Michigan even derives from a Native American word translating to a large or great lake.
And don’t forget the state’s one and only national park: Isle Royale National Park. This special island park located on Lake Superior is only accessible by watercraft or a seaplane. It is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve.
With all this and so much more, it is not uncommon for filmmakers to drag their crew out to Michigan for either a few location shots or even a full movie. See below for a list of some of the best movies that owe scenery credits to Michigan:
Movies filmed in Michigan
The Evil Dead (1981)
Chockfull of campiness, gore, and demons, this horror film was the first of four movies (and a TV series) with Bruce Campbell as Ash. While the main setting is of course the cabin in the woods (which was filmed in Tennessee), there were some scenes done in Marshall and Detroit. The film continues to hold a particularly high cult status.
1 h 25 min | R
Gran Torino (2008)
Similar to well over a dozen movies, Clint Eastwood not only starred but also directed and produced this film. The drama, the first big movie to feature Hmong Americans, was set (and also shot) in Highland Park, despite the original script using Minneapolis. Additional locations included Center Line, Royal Oak, and Grosse Point Park.
1 h 56 min | R
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd, and Alan Arkin, this crime comedy was about a contract killer who heads back to his hometown for his ten-year high school reunion. And for a job, although no one believes he is an assassin until it is literally demonstrated in front of them. Some film locations were done in Gross Pointe.
1 h 47 min | R
Only the Lonely (1991)
Director Chris Columbus’s fourth film, this romcom starred John Candy as a middle-aged man who still lives at home with his very domineering mother (Maureen O’Hara). This becomes a bit complicated when he falls for and wants to marry Ally Sheedy’s Theresa. The film was set in Chicago, but there were some scenes filmed in the city of Niles.
1 h 44 min | PG-13
Need for Speed (2014)
Based on a racing video game first released in 1994, this movie had Aaron Paul in the driver’s seat with supporting actors like Michael Keaton and Rami Malek, to name a few. To avenge his friend’s death and his own wrongful imprisonment, Tobey Marshall embarks on a cross-country race to San Francisco. Filming locations included Detroit.
2 h 10 min | PG-13
Mr. Mom (1983)
Before he was Batman (or at least one of the many actors who has played the superhero), Michael Keaton was Jack Butler, a man who takes on the homemaker/childrearing role after he loses his job and his wife must go to work. This comedy was set in Detroit, with some scenes done there, although it was shot in California for the most part.
1 h 31 min | PG
True Romance (1993)
This crime romance had Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in the lead roles as a married couple trying to evade the mob. Supporting costars included Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, and many others. It was written by Quentin Tarantino although he did not get into the director’s chair on this one. Filming locations included Detroit.
2h | R
Another Marvel comic book character brought to life on the big screen, this one had Ryan Reynolds in the lead as a man trying to find the source of his new superhuman abilities and altered appearance (AKA his Deadpool-ness). There was a sequel two years later and a third movie will be forthcoming. Some scenes were done in Detroit.
1 h 48 min | R
Hostel Part III (2011)
The final movie in the horror trilogy, this film actually skipped theaters and went straight to video. It also moved the main action of the Elite Hunting Club from Slovakia to Las Vegas. But no worries, the kills and torture scenes are just as gruesome as before. While exteriors were shot in Vegas, interiors were done in Detroit.
1 h 27 min | R
It Follows (2014)
This horror movie was about a young woman who gets a curse passed on to her after having sex with her boyfriend. Now she is stalked by an evil, murderous entity that comes in any form, and if it catches her, she dies. The film was set in Detroit, with locations there as well as in Berkley, Clawson, Northville, Sterling Heights, and Troy.
1 h 40 min | R
Scream 4 (2011)
The last installment in the horror series from director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson brought back vets like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courtney Cox. Like the first movie, it is set in Woodsboro, California. Locations for filming included Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Plymouth, Northville, and Detroit. It was Craven’s final movie.
1 h 50 min | R
The first in the series, this sci-fi movie about a murdered cop who gets another chance (and an upgrade to a cyborg) is set in a future Detroit that has been inundated with crime. But despite this obvious setting, most of the film was actually done in Dallas, with only a few scenes filmed in Detroit. A reboot was released in 2014.
1 h 43 min | R
This Will Ferrell-led sports comedy about a pitiful ABA team and its fall and rise included costars like Woody Harrelson, DeRay Davis, and André Benjamin 3000 on the court. The film took place in the mid-1970s and the team was the fictional Flint Tropics. Locations for the movie were done in both Detroit and Flint.
1 h 31 min | NR
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)
This documentary about the “Queen of Pop” was done during her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. It was a mix of live performances along with backstage material and commentary. The film was a success when compared to other documentaries, as it took in $29 million at the box office. Detroit, where Madonna actually hails from, was among the tour stops.
1 h 59 min | R
Director Kathryn Bigelow stayed true to the name and the storyline in her 10th movie. The film retells a part of the city’s 12th Street Riots of 1967, specifically what happened at the Algiers Motel on the night of July 25th-26th. Stars included John Boyega and Anthony Mackie. Besides Detroit, locations were done in Mason and Hamtramck.
2 h 22 min | R
The first in the franchise based on Hasbro toys, this sci-fi movie was directed by Michael Bay and starred Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, and Megan Fox, among others. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons was filmed all over the United States, including Detroit. There have been four sequels with another due to release in 2022.
2 h 23 min | PG-13
For this biopic, actor Danny DeVito went behind the cameras to direct his fifth movie. It is a retelling of the life of American labor movement leader Jimmy Hoffa, right up until his famous 1975 disappearance. Jack Nicholson took on the lead role, with John C. Reilly, and Armand Assante, among others, costarring. Some scenes were done in Detroit.
2 h 20 min | R
At just under 10 million people, the Wolverine State comes in at number 10 in the most populated. And at nearly 100,000 square miles, it is the 11th largest state by area. It has the Mackinac Bridge, which is the 25th-largest suspension bridge in the world, and the only floating post office, which delivers mail to ships while on the water.
And it has also been somewhat of a hub for many filmmakers over the years. While not as popular as Hollywood or other big cities in the United States, it certainly has a decent-sized list of locations that have been used in some of the most famous movies!