5 Places You'll Recognize from the Background of Every Movie

If you have sharp eyes and an observant mind, you're going to ruin a lot of movies for yourself. Mainly because you'll see a scene that takes place on some alien planet and notice that a mountain formation in the background is the same one you just saw in a movie set in the Old West. There's only a certain number of distinct filming locations within easy driving distance of Hollywood, so you see the same ones turn up again and again, if you look for them. So from now on, see if you can spot ...

#5. Griffith Observatory -- That Sculpture on the Front Lawn Should Look Familiar ...

Matthew Field

Remember at the beginning of The Terminator when Arnold materializes in a time ball dressed in nothing but, well, his balls? And remember the building and the monument behind him as he met those young thugs and stole their clothes?

When James Cameron told Arnold his penis wouldn't be visible, Arnold asked for the biggest phallic symbol available.

That's the Griffith Observatory, which is located, perhaps unsurprisingly, in LA's Griffith Park. It turns out that those astronomy-loving tough guys Arnold beat up got off easy, because they were actually hanging out in MacGyver's backyard (according to his show's pilot episode).

CBS Television
"I built the place myself using a box of paper clips and a pack of gum!"
"Stop it, Mac. Just stop it."

Thanks to its futuristic look, Griffith Park has been a preferred location for sci-fi movies since 1935, including pictures like The Phantom Empire, The Man from Planet X, and Not of This Earth. We could show you pictures of those films, but you've never heard of them, so here are some Autobots clambering over the observatory in Michael Bay's Transformers instead:

DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures

Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu just can't get enough of the big pillar in Charlie's Angels 2.

Columbia Pictures
Herschel would later sue for sexual harassment.

This is the same place where Zooey Deschanel goes all Zooey Deschanel on some unsuspecting people in Yes Man.

Warner Bros.
Or Katy Perry goes all Katy Perry, we're not really sure.

Later, she makes out with Jim Carrey in front of everyone ...

Warner Bros.

... in the same part of the observatory where James Dean once got into a knife fight with a guy who called him "chicken" in Rebel Without a Cause.

Warner Bros.
"I'm going to turn you into the rebel without a spleen."

Someone else who resents being called a chicken is, of course, Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Well, as it happens, the observatory is right on top of Mount Hollywood -- and the Mount Hollywood Tunnel is where Marty got chased by Biff while trying to steal the sports almanac back in Back to the Future Part II.

Universal Studios, Universal Studios
"Almanac? I'm running him down 'cause of that fedora."

Where was Biff going in such a hurry, anyway? Toontown, apparently: This is the same tunnel Eddie Valiant went through to get there in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Walt Disney
Cheer up, Bob Hoskins, there are way worse places you could be transported to.

The tunnel has also appeared in shows like Charmed and The O.C. If time travel, living cartoons, and dumb TV characters aren't enough for you, how about full scale nuclear war? It's also the tunnel that leads to NORAD in WarGames starring Matthew Broderick.


Begin writing your Marty McFly/Jessica Rabbit/Ferris Bueller fan fictions ... now.

#4. Courthouse Square -- The Clock Tower from Back to the Future Appears in Dozens of Other Movies


Recognize the building above? No? Then simply picture Doc Brown swinging from a wire on top of it while Marty is about to reach 88 miles per hour in the DeLorean below, and it becomes one of the most recognizable settings from one of the greatest movies of the '80s.

Universal Studios
That's right. Top Gun.

And while many of you probably know the locations from Back to the Future better than your own homes, what you might not be aware of is that this particular set was actually built in the '40s and has been used in dozens of movies and TV shows since then.

Courthouse Square is located at Universal Studios in California and, as you can see, it hasn't changed a whole lot over the last 60 or so years -- in fact, during the opening credits of Back to the Future, you can see Marty skateboard past the same steps where villagers rushed to see a black man be wrongfully sentenced to death in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Universal Studios, Universal Studios
Clearly, Hill Valley's mayor doesn't care about black people ... Wait.

The courthouse has also been used in shows like the original Twilight Zone, Magnum, P.I., Weird Science, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Ghost Whisperer, and House M.D. After appearing in a few undesirable movie sequels (Psycho II, Escape from L.A., Batman & Robin), it showed up in several scenes key to the plot of Bruce Almighty.

Universal Studios
Yup, there actually was a plot besides "Jim Carrey and Steve Carell make strange sounds."

The set was also used as the town center in Gremlins -- you can even see the courthouse on the right during the opening credits.

Warner Bros.
Apparently Doc Brown never did bother to take down that cable.

And hey, remember the movie theater where the Gremlins were watching Snow White?

Warner Bros.

Turns out it's on the same street where Biff Tannen was acting all rapey toward Marty's mom in Back to the Future Part II.

Universal Studios
"This isn't over! You'll biff my tannen if it's the last thing I do!"

And where K.I.T.T. once drove in an episode of Knight Rider.

Universal Television
Another well-known sex offender.

#3. The Biltmore Hotel -- Home to Slimer, Tyler Durden, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Erection


The Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles is one of the most famous hotels in the world. In fact, you probably know every corner of this place even if you've never been to LA, because it's shown up in almost a hundred movies and shows. Let's start with the entrance -- if you have a refined taste in movies, you probably remember the Ghostbusters walking into this place in their first movie. Yep, this is the swanky hotel where they catch Slimer.

Columbia Pictures
We knew it looked way too nice for New York.

You might also recall seeing Jamie Lee Curtis walk through those same doors as you fast-forwarded your VHS copy of True Lies to get to the striptease scene; this is just a few minutes before that.

20th Century Fox
The prelude to the moment that turned more '90s boys into men than an entire decade of bar mitzvahs.

Also, the final scene of the movie was shot in this hotel's ballroom. If Arnold and Jamie Lee stuck around for dinner after that, there's a good chance they got to taste some of Tyler Durden's urine in their soup, because Brad Pitt works here in Fight Club.

20th Century Fox
Or Edward Norton, whatever. Spoilers.

Back to Ghostbusters, there's a vertigo-inducing shot of the characters going up the stairs of the hotel ... which is pretty appropriate, since Alfred Hitchcock filmed some scenes of Vertigo here.

Columbia Pictures
Hitchcock's ghost was so moved when it heard about the homage that it signed on to play Slimer.

Anyway, after the 'Busters bust Slimer, they go back down to the lobby. See that clock in the background?

Columbia Pictures

Well, here's the same clock, or one a lot like it, in the scene from Beverly Hills Cop where Eddie Murphy pretends he's a writer for Rolling Stone and makes everyone feel racist.

Paramount Pictures
Now he just makes us hate donkeys.

And see those stairs back there? They're in the scene from Splash where Tom Hanks realizes that his girlfriend is a mermaid.

Touchstone Pictures
"Goddammit! This is the fifth time a fish has tricked me into fucking it."

Those stairs also allow us to perform history's first-ever segue from Splash to Mad Men, since they're in an episode where the Biltmore doubles for the Savoy Hotel in New York.

Lionsgate Television
In case you're wondering, it's episode 2.01, "The One Where Don Can't Get It Up."

Other movies shot here include Chinatown, Rocky III, Spider-Man, Independence Day, Ocean's Eleven, Wedding Crashers, Daredevil, Pretty in Pink, The Bodyguard, and Cruel Intentions. We're gonna go ahead and assume now that all those characters drank some Durden juice at some point.

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