6 Real Places That Show Up In The Background of Every Movie

Hollywood loves to recycle things -- plotlines, ideas, even specific phrases -- but sometimes it's a bit jarring to see the same locations being reused over and over, like backgrounds in a Flintstones episode. We've already told you about things like the Quality Cafe and the most famous clock tower in movies, but there are many other places that get passed around shoots like a blunt at Snoop Dogg's house. Such as ...

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6
Santa Fe's Historic Railway Yards Are Home Of The Best Action Shootouts

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At the height of its industrial glory, the Santa Fe Railway Shops (or simply "The Yards") was the largest employer in Albuquerque, with over a quarter of the city's population working there. These days, it hosts no more than a few crumbled buildings, the odd illegal rave, and just about every other grimy movie fight you've ever seen.

You might recognize the interior of the largest building (what used to be the machine shop, where steam engines were repaired) as the background in Breaking Bad's "All Hail the King" poster.

AMCWhich suddenly seems a bit excessive for a some storage boxes and a folding chair.

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That building also shows up in the prequel series, Better Call Saul. You can make out those distinctive windows in the scene in which Mike executes two crooked cops.

AMCAnd police corruption was never an issue in American ever again.

It's also the place where Hulk lands in The Avengers, smashing through the roof of a disused warehouse before having a short chat with Harry Dean Stanton.

Walt Disney StudiosPresumably about where all those bricks came from if he fell through a steel roof.

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Filmmakers love The Yards because that warehouse is so vast and empty. It's great for large-scale action setpieces while still offering enough space for a camera to swing around.

Walt Disney Studios

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In fact, it's so big that you can even have a car chase in it, like in Transformers when Sam, Mikaela, and Bumblebee encounter their first Decepticon.

Paramount PicturesAnd Michael Bay encounters his first automotive erection.

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In Gamer, it's the location of Gerard Butler's first arena fight, and the first live venue where an armed killer teabags someone in the flesh.

Lionsgate

It also shows up in the pilot episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as a safe house used when trying to evade the terminators.

FoxWe guess the terminators would never think anyone could be dumb enough to hide in a big echoy building that’s all windows.

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And you may also remember seeing the exterior of The Yards in Terminator: Salvation ... if you remember having seen Terminator: Salvation. Check out the walkway coming from the roof ...

Bryan Jurus/YouTube

... and now see what that looks like during the robot apocalypse:

Columbia PicturesLeave it to a post-apocalyptic movie to make an abandoned machine shop seem bright and colorful by comparison.

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5
The MacArthur -- The World's Most Versatile Hotel

The MacArthur

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Originally built in 1925 for the "Benevolent Order of the Elks" (as opposed to the Malevolent Order of the Elks), the MacArthur was eventually sold and turned into a hotel. Then it was sold again and repurposed into every Art Deco building in every movie ever.

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The entrance has appeared in some tense scenes in Tango & Cash ...

Warner Bros. Pictures

... The Bodyguard ...

Warner Bros. Pictures

... and Gangster Squad:

Warner Bros.We’re pretty sure buildings that look like this get colonies of hard-faced 1940s triggermen the way other places get termites.

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During When Harry Met Sally's climactic scene, in which Harry races to the NYE party to tell Sally his feelings for her, we can see the lobby and stairwell right beyond the doors.

Columbia Pictures

The MacArthur/flickr

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The stairs feature in a whole bunch of movies, the most memorable of which is probably the violent opening scene of David Lynch's Wild At Heart, wherein Nicolas Cage breaks a dude's head open on the gorgeous marble floor.

The Samuel Goldwyn Company

But you might have also seen them in the parody of The Untouchables' Union Station scene from Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.

Paramount Pictures

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The MacArthur's cinematic piece de resistance has to be its majestic ballroom / banquet hall.

The MacArthur/flickr

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This gorgeous throwback has been featured inThe Prestige, Hocus Pocus, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the movie), and Changeling, to name a few.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Buena Vista Pictures

Associated Film Distribution

20th Century FoxHey, if you’re gonna fight unholy monsters from beyond the veil, might as well style it up a little.

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Then there's the Terrace Room:

The MacArthur/flickr

You can recognize its Art Deco swank easily enough in the Coco Bongo club scene in The Mask.

New Line Cinema

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But it's practically unrecognizable in the mock advertisement in Starship Troopers.

TriStar PicturesThe only shot in the movie without nudity or gore.

The Terrace Room is also the location of every apartment in the movie Drive. According to to the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, they built the entire apartment complex set inside the spacious MacArthur.

FilmDistrictClearly this was easier than some harebrained scheme like filming in an actual apartment.

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Even the MacArthur's toilets are famous! Tim Roth's legendary fake story in Reservoir Dogs was filmed there. And so was the awkward bathroom scene in Barton Fink.

Miramax Films

20th Century Fox/Universal PicturesNot a lot of places have famous toilets. Not in a good way, at least.

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4
Bob's "Big Boy" Broiler -- Hollywood's Favorite Hangout

Bob’s Big Boy Broiler/Facebook

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Nothing says "Americana" like a good old-fashioned roadside diner. The space-age neon signs, the leather booths, the surly waitresses with their pointless white hats. But with the rise of Starbucks and cheap takeaway, these diners are slowly dying out. Fortunately, there's one place where root beer floats and jukeboxes will never die: Hollywood movies.

Meet Bob's Broiler, formerly known as Johnnie's Broiler, Archie's Broiler, or Harvey's Broiler, depending on the decade. Founded by Harvey and Minnie Ortner in 1958, the 24-hour diner is LA's go-to location whenever a director wants to tap into an ageless, nostalgic vibe. You know, like in Mad Men ...

AMC“Welcome, sir! Would you prefer to sit in smoking or reduced-visibility-grade smoking?”

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... or the '80s flick License To Drive ...

20th Century Fox

... or the most erotic Jeff Goldblum alien sex romp (and he has many), Earth Girls Are Easy.

Vestron Pictures

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It's also where Ben Affleck parks his car in Bounce:

Miramax Films

Here's Rose McGowan parking in the same place in Jawbreaker:

TriStar Pictures

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Inside, those green chairs have probably touched more famous butts than Harvey Weinstein, serving as a location for such fascinating sitdowns as the one in Heat ...

Warner Bros.

... or in Robin Williams' creepy stalker romp One Hour Photo ...

Fox Searchlight Pictures

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... Reality Bites ...

Universal Pictures

... The Game ...

Polygram Filmed Entertainment

... and What's Love Got To Do With It?.

Buena Vista Pictures

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And who better to investigate this weird celebrity nexus than Mulder and Scully?

Fox"I keep telling you, Mulder, just because there are a bunch of weird people in one place doesn't mean there's some kind of ‘multiversal time vortex’ event.”

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3
Aldwych Station -- The Default Creepy Subway Station

Aldwych tube station in London was intended to connect to other, busier lines, but it must have smelled funny or something, because it never took off. Well, not with commuters, anyway. Aldwych is probably London's most recognizable subway station due to the many films, music videos, and TV shows it's appeared in. It was the reverse-Mohawk guy's nest in Prodigy's Firestarter music video:

XL RecordingsIt’s really a shame the reverse Mohawk never took off.

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That took place in Tunnel B, the same used in another grimy '90s music video, Everlast's Black Jesus:

Tommy Boy Records

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Here it is in Sherlock ...

BBC

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... Creep ...

The Orchard

... The Imitation Game ...

The Weinstein Company

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... and Atonement:

Universal Pictures

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Aldwych's Platform B was shut down in 1917 (and is reportedly haunted), but Platform A was maintained until 1994, and still has a functioning train on its track -- a train that has a better resume than most working actors. You might recognize it from a scene-stealing turn in V For Vendetta:

Warner Bros. Pictures

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And here's Superman squaring off against it as it speeds out of control in Superman: IV: The Quest For Peace:

People really didn't expect a lot from their superheroes in 1987.

It also shows up in Patriot Games and 28 Weeks Later, just to round off its IMDb page.

20th Century Fox

Paramount PicturesHey, can’t have an IMDb page without at least one unnecessary sequel.

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2
Torrance High -- Where All Teenagers Go To School

Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons

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Torrance High School in California is one of the nicest schools in the world. It's so nice that students don't seem to want to leave. How else could you explain all the 30-year-olds running around there, still pretending to be 16?

Fox“Don’t shoot such a high angle; you'll show all the bald spots.”

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Torrance High serves as the shooting location of most high school stories in Hollywood. It's most well-known for standing in as West Beverly Hills High in Beverly Hills 90210:

Fox

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But the stairs behind Jason Priestley and Shannon Doherty have seen a lot worse than teen drama and pregnancy scares.

Fox

Like the principal being eaten by a demon mayor in Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

The WB“Demon mayor? What kind of school do you think this is?”

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Yup, West Beverly Hills High is also Sunnydale High, the most vampire-laden school outside of Transylvania.

The WB

While Torrance High School has been in movies as diverse as Bruce Almighty and Cursed ...

Miramax Films

Miramax Films

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... it also serves as the main setting for just about every raunchy teen comedy from the last 30 years, like the James Franco romp Whatever it Takes ...

Columbia Pictures

... or the original "nerd girl takes off glasses and turns out to be hot" teen movie, She's All That:

Miramax FilmsAnd if “She was hot all along” seems like a twist worthy of Shyamalan, well, there’s a reason for that.

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Torrance High has been in so many teen movies that it was the only logical choice for the teen movie spoofing all of those teen movies, Not Another Teen Movie.

Columbia PicturesWe're now sick of typing the word "teen."

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1
The Los Angeles Theater Has Starred In More Movies Than It's Shown

Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons

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No cinema has a film resume more storied than the Los Angeles Theater, with filmmakers citing its lavish lobby as a "major selling point." It doesn't take a keen cinematographer to see why.

Broadway Theatre GroupThe downside is that after that lobby, any movie you see is guaranteed to seem like a steaming turd in comparison.

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It has classed up movies as varied as Charlie's Angels, Hail Caesar!, and The Muppets.

Columbia Pictures

Universal Pictures

Walt Disney Studios

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See that chandelier-thing behind Kermit's head? Here it is in The Master.

The Weinstein CompanySadly, the chandelier is all it borrowed from the Muppets. The old hecklers would’ve really spiced up that movie.

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In fact, it's so classy that it even stood in as a casino in Batman Forever ...

Warner Bros. Pictures

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... the best hotel in Escape From LA ...

Paramount Pictures

... and even a strip club in Armageddon:

Buena Vista PicturesCan’t enjoy topless women and buffalo wings without a chandelier.

Aaron is a freelance writer and researcher who lives in Edinburgh. You can check out some of his other articles here, or follow him on Twitter here.

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If you write your own scripts with a beginner's guide to Celtx, you could film at one of these places someday too.

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For more, check out 23 Props And Sets That Hollywood Won't Stop Reusing and 6 Places You'll Recognize From The Background Of Every Movie.

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