Blockbuster Backdrops

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Lake Lure by Jon Bilous -

North Carolina sets the scene for Hollywood family fun


The Tar Heel State has lured many Hollywood location scouts in search of the perfect setting for bringing their director’s vision to life. These North Carolina towns offer a glimpse of movie magic and opportunities for family fun. Go for the nostalgia, but stick around to discover what made them worthy of a highlight reel.


“Dirty Dancing” (PG-13)
Lake Lure
The fictional Kellerman’s resort is the real-life Lake Lure, where fans of this film can reenact favorite scenes from the 1987 classic.

“Forrest Gump” (PG-13)
Tom Hanks shot part of his famous running scene on what is now called Forrest Gump Curve on Grandfather Mountain.

“The Fugitive” (PG-13)
Harrison Ford leapt off the Cheoah Dam in an action scene for this flick, and the site of the train wreck during his character’s prison transport is located about an hour east of the dam.

“The Hunger Games” (PG-13)
Asheville, Black Mountain and Shelby
The first movie in the bestselling book trilogy was shot entirely in western North Carolina. The Henry River Mill Village—about an hour from Asheville and abandoned since the 1970s—came back to life as Katniss’ home of District 12, and DuPont State Recreational Forest was used for much of the games’ forested setting.

Photo of Lin Cove Viaduct by PGIAM/Getty Images


“The Color Purple” (PG-13)
Lilesville, Marshville and Wadesboro
This award-winning movie was primarily shot in Anson and Union counties. Director Steven Spielberg approached a Lilesville homeowner in hopes of using his property for filming, perhaps due to its field of purple flowers growing in the yard.

“Leatherheads” (PG-13)
Salisbury and Spencer
The Historic Salisbury Foundation’s Depot and
North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer serve as backdrops for this George Clooney gem.

“Days of Thunder” (PG-13)
Charlotte Motor Speedway is the setting for much of this blockbuster hit, and City Chevrolet—the sponsor for
Tom Cruise’s character—is a real-life dealership owned by Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick
also supplied race cars for the movie.

“Patch Adams” (PG-13)
Chapel Hill and Asheville
In the summer of 1988, UNC–Chapel Hill’s campus was transformed into Virginia Medical University for Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

“Shallow Hal” (PG-13)
This comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black
was shot in and around the Charlotte area, with notable scenes filmed in Freedom Park.

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad
of Ricky Bobby” (PG-13)
Many of the scenes from this Will Farrell comedy were shot at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Ricky Bobby’s home can be seen on the shores of Lake Norman.

Photo of Bald Head Island by Fotosearch/Getty Images


“Iron Man 3” (PG-13)
Many of this movie’s action scenes, including the helicopter and parachute sequences, were recorded just off the coast of Oak Island. The penultimate dockside battle scene between Iron
Man and Aldrich Killian was shot
under the towering cranes at the
Port of Wilmington.

“Muppets from Space” (G)
The exterior of the Muppet Boarding House is actually the Fennell-Crump House on North Seventh Street in Wilmington. Cape Doom, where Gonzo meets his alien family, was set at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.

“Weekend at Bernie’s” (PG-13)
The Hamptons scenes were taped on Bald Head Island, and Bernie’s house was located at Fort Fisher. The ferry scenes were filmed on Wrightsville Beach. Old Baldy lighthouse takes center stage when one of the characters, Richard Parker, is temporarily blinded.


These R-rated movies were also filmed in North Carolina:

“Bull Durham” (R), Durham

“The Conjuring” (R), Wilmington and Currie

“The Green Mile” (R), Blowing Rock

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” (R), Southport and Durham

“The Last of the Mohicans” (R), Chimney Rock

“Sleeping with the Enemy” (R), Wrightsville Beach

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (R), Sylva

Photo of Rodanthe beach home by APGOUGE/WIRESTOCK CREATORS -

The ‘Nicholas Sparks Effect’

An impressive 11 of North Carolina author Nicholas Sparks’ 21 bestselling novels have made it to the big screen, creating what is known as the “Nicholas Sparks Effect”—a tourism spike for the towns featured in his novels-turn-movies.

These include:

“A Walk to Remember” (PG) – New Bern

“Safe Haven” (PG-13) – Southport

“The Choice” (PG-13) – Wilmington

“The Longest Ride” (PG-13) – Wilmington

“Nights in Rodanthe” (PG-13) – Rodanthe

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