The Keystone State sure has a lot of firsts to brag about: first baseball stadium (Pittsburgh 1909), first computer (Philadelphia 1946), first piano (Philadelphia 1775), first service station (Pittsburgh 1913), the first zoo (Philadelphia 1874) and of course, the signing of the Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia 1776).
One of the original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania is steeped in history. You can even “live” through part of history again at Colonial Williamsburg, an outdoor “living” museum that celebrates America in the 18th century.
Many visitors flock to the second state to enter the Union for food. There’s the chocolate in Hershey, the cheesesteaks of Philly, and the mushrooms of Kennett Square. They also come for the Amish way of life, as the state has the second-highest population of this community of people.
And amongst its nearly 45,000 square miles, there are 121 parks to recreate at (all free of charge) as well as over a dozen amusement and water parks to enjoy. And the Appalachian, Allegheny, and Pocono mountains all call the state founded by writer William Penn their home.
Due to its rich American history and diverse cities, towns, and natural areas, it’s also an ideal spot to film many Hollywood movies. See below for a list of some of the most famous that set up shop in the Quaker State.
Movies filmed in Pennsylvania
Director Jonathan Demme’s 12th movie, this legal drama starred Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. It was the first-ever Hollywood movie to deal with the then-taboo topics of homosexuality and AIDS. It won two Oscars (Best Actor for Hanks and Best Original Song for Bruce Springsteen). Filming was done in Philadelphia as well as Lower Merion.
2 h 5 min | PG-13
Marley and Me (2005)
Based upon a 2005 memoir by John Grogan, this tearjerker about the long life of a lovable Labrador retriever starred Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. The story was set in Florida initially, but the family and storyline move out to Pennsylvania eventually, where some filming was done in both West Chester and Philadelphia.
1 h 55 min | PG
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
This teen romance movie was based upon a 2012 book by John Green. The story involves two teens with cancer, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort), who meet (and eventually fall for one another) at a cancer support group. The story was set in Indianapolis; however, filmmakers utilized Pittsburgh as a stand-in for filming.
2 h 5 min | PG-13
This comedy set at an amusement park in the mid-80s starred Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds. Although the park was based on a still-existing one in Farmingdale, New York, the movie took place in Pennsylvania. Filming was done at Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin as well as Carnegie, Coraopolis, and Beaver.
1 h 46 min | R
The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988)
You may not have ever heard of this film, but you’ve certainly heard of its star. Keanu Reeves plays Rupert, AKA the prince of Pennsylvania, a young man searching (and scheming) for his fit in the world. He was supported by Fred Ward and Amy Madigan. Filming locations included Mars, Zelienople, Harmarville, Houston, and Slovan.
1 h 33 min | R
This sports drama starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker. Boxer Billy “The Great” Hope must overcome the tragedies of his past in order to maintain a future as not only a boxer but more importantly, a father. The story was set in New York, but filming was done in Pittsburgh, McKeesport, and the town of Indiana.
2 h 3 min | R
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The movie that made fava beans and Chianti scary, this psychological thriller about a young FBI agent who seeks guidance from a serial killer was adapted from a 1988 Thomas Harris book. It won the top five Oscars and spawned three other movies. Film locations included Canonsburg, Shaler Township, McKeesport, Perryopolis, Layton, and Pittsburgh.
1 h 58 min | R
Named after both where it took place and also the battle, this war movie was based upon a 1974 novel by Michael Shaara. It starred Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. A prequel was released 20 years later. Filming locations included the Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as several other areas, including Cashtown.
4 h 31 min | PG
Director Kevin Smith’s 4th film, this comedy had an all-star cast, including Ben Affleck, George Carlin, and Alan Rickman. When two fallen angels realize that they can get around the whole “cast out of heaven” situation, it’s Bethany Sloane’s job to stop them. Filming locations included Pittsburgh, Trafford, and New Kensington.
2h 10m | 15+
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The final movie in director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, now it’s Bane (Tom Hardy) who threatens Gotham City and forces Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne back into his Batman suit. Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine were amongst their costars. Film locations were all over the world and included Pittsburgh (posing as Gotham City).
2 h 44 min | PG-13
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan’s 3rd (and first critically-acclaimed) film, this is, of course, the one where Haley Joel Osment says “I see dead people” to Bruce Willis. Although it was up for six Oscars, despite the movie’s popularity, it did not take any home. The film is set in Philadelphia, with some shots done there as well as Blue Bell and Bryn Mawr.
1 h 47 min | PG-13
This romance about a welder by day and professional dancer at night was set in Pittsburgh, with some filming done there. It had Jennifer Beals in the starring role (although she famously had a body double for dancing). The film itself was very successful as was the soundtrack, with “Flashdance… What a Feeling” winning an Oscar.
1 h 34 min | R
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
This early-80s summer camp comedy film was written and directed by comedian David Wain. It had a cast that included some of the top names in the business, such as Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Chris Meloni, Amy Poehler, and in his first-ever film, Bradley Cooper. The camp was set in Maine; however, it was filmed at Camp Towanda in Honesdale.
1 h 37 min | R
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Back when the zombie apocalypse theme was still something of a rarity, horror legend George Romero wrote and directed this horror movie, his first. The zombies that have awoken are desperately trying to get into a house full of people (and brains) in Pennsylvania. Filming locations included Evans City, Pittsburgh, and Zelienople.
1 h 35 min | 16+
The Village (2004)
M. Night Shyamalan’s 6th movie, this thriller about a secluded village in Pennsylvania and the dangerous creatures they are trying to keep out of it starred Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Adrien Brody, among others. The fictitious village of Covington was in Pennsylvania, with some filming locations done in Philadelphia.
1 h 47 min | PG-13
Both written by and starring actor Sylvester Stallone, this sports movie about boxer Rocky Balboa and his rise from working class to championship boxing was the first of eight. It also signified the beginning and rise of Stallone’s career in Hollywood. The film was set in Philadelphia with scenes done there as well as in Los Angeles.
1 h 59 min | PG
This drama about a military school and the lengths its students will go to in order to keep it running was based on a 1979 novel by Devey Freeman. It starred Timothy Hutton, and a few names that meant virtually nothing then, but are household names now, like Tom Cruise and Sean Penn. Some scenes were filmed in Wayne, Valley Forge, and Philly.
2 h 6 min | PG
This is just a smattering of films that have had scenes done in Pennsylvania. With Hollywood continuing to branch out of its more comfortable and commonplace filming zones, it is sure to remain in the list of top states to bring and set a film crew up in.