Here are some notable Connecticut residents, past and present, who have received the Motion …
The 1955 crime caper film Rififi is, perhaps more than any other film, responsible for the c…
[UPDATE, APRIL 2021: This article has been expanded with entries for 34 more Connecticut-linked movies; see the complete list of additions at the bottom of the page.]
Connecticut may be far away from the red carpet and Hollywood glamour that will be on display at the 89th Academy Awards Feb. 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, but over the years the state has enjoyed its fair share of movie magic. Stars like Katharine Hepburn and Robert Mitchum were born here; many others have made the state their adopted home, including Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Daniel Day-Lewis, late greats Paul Newman and Gene Wilder, and many more.
Beyond these stars, the state’s history is rich with classic movie lore, serving as the location, setting or inspiration for a variety of classic films and film scenes. Here we look at some of the state’s most memorable classic film cameos.
Stories about Connecticut and the movies from the Connecticut Magazine archives:
Go to Redding for a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of The Stepford Wives. ("Stepford's Mechanical Wives," November 1974)
Meet some independent filmmakers who preferred working in Connecticut over New York or California ("Connecticut Filmmakers," June 1983), like Friday the 13th producer and Westport resident Sean Cunningham. ("Fade to Black," March 1981)
A professor of cinema takes a critical look at the (not always flattering) ways Hollywood sees us ("Connecticut in the Movies") and a quick overview of Connecticut's history as a filmmaking location. ("Everything But the Sahara," May 1987)
(Dates indicate year of the movie’s original release.)
The first movie studios in the U.S. are built near New York City, the financial center of the new industry. Filmmakers are known to have at least occasionally ventured into Connecticut.
By the early 1930s, however, major film production has moved almost entirely to the Los Angeles area. Connecticut, like most everywhere else, is represented mostly by West Coast backlots and soundstages for about two decades. On-location filming does not begin the return to the East until the late 1940s.
Sherlock Holmes (long thought lost; rediscovered in 2014): Hartford native William Gillette recreated the public’s perception of Sherlock Holmes, portraying the Baker Street detective in more than 1,300 performances, giving the character his signature deerstalker cap, curved pipe, large magnifying glass and “elementary” catchphrase. He also amassed a large enough fortune to build Gillette Castle in East Haddam. Though Gillette’s portrayal of Holmes was legendary and to this day remains the popular interpretation of the character, all copies of the only feature film Gillette ever made, 1916’s Sherlock Holmes, were lost for nearly 100 years … until 2014 when the Cinémathèque Française in France found a surviving print (it had been wrongly catalogued within Cinémathèque Française’s mammoth collection of archived films). One of the holy grails of early cinema, the find sent shockwaves through the world of silent-film scholars. Film expert Russell Merritt writes: “The film is not only a powerful reminder of how Gillette the actor helped shape our image of Holmes, but also how Gillette the playwright shaped our impression of [Holmes’ archnemesis] Moriarty. … If Holmes, like the detective genre he dominates, never quite escapes the confines of the silent B-picture, Gillette’s Moriarty soars, becoming the archetype of the evil genius and capturing the imaginations of directors and screenwriters worldwide. Great silent filmmakers ranging from Fritz Lang to Sergei Eisenstein pattern their criminal masterminds and their underground headquarters after Moriarty.”
Way Down East: It’s one of the most dramatic scenes in movie history. After getting lost and weakened in a blizzard, the film’s star, Dorothy Gish, becomes trapped on cracked chunks heading for a giant waterfall. In a daring rescue, actor Richard Barthelmess’ character jumps across the large pieces of ice. He is able to scoop up Gish’s character and carry her to safety just as the ice floe she is on is about to go over the falls.
The film was directed by D.W. Griffith, and the scenes for the ice sequence were shot at White River Junction in Vermont and the Farmington River in Farmington. The Connecticut location was not far from Griffith’s studio in Mamaroneck, New York (at that time the film industry had not yet entirely converged on California, and many top directors, including Griffith, were still based on the East Coast). A pioneer of realism in film, Griffith shot the blizzard scene during an actual snowstorm. During filming, ice froze on Gish’s eyelashes and is captured in a close-up (a filming technique Griffith helped develop). During the ice-floe sequence, the fear on the faces of both performers is real — they were performing their own stunts.
The initial portions of the sequence were shot in Vermont in March when the river was still frozen, so the crew sawed the ice into the chunks seen in the film. The scenes where Gish is approaching the falls were shot in Connecticut near Winchell Smith’s grist mill dam in the spring. The falling water for the dam suggested the rushing waterfall, shown in other scenes. The ice had already melted in Connecticut, so the “ice” in those scenes was made from painted plywood, but these prop ice chunks were no less difficult and potentially hazardous to navigate.
In Society Secrets, a rural Connecticut couple must learn to speak "proper" English before they can visit their now-sophisticated children in Manhattan.
A traveling theater group visits the Goodspeed Opera House (as recreated on a Hollywood studio set) in Little Eva Ascends.
In the lost film The Heart Specialist, a New York City advise columnist travels to Essex to prove to her editor that there's still romance in the world.
Turn to the Right is the story of a poor Connecticut country boy who goes to the big city to make his fortune so he can marry his hometown sweetheart.
The very existence of the Charles W. Morgan, which resides at Mystic Seaport, is something of a window into the past, to a way of life gone completely extinct. As the last wooden whaling ship, it is the only remaining example of a breed that once crawled the oceans of the world. For an even more surreal and fascinating window into the past, check out the Morgan’s appearance in the 1922 silent film Down to the Sea in Ships, a romantic drama that features some of the best footage in existence of that old style of whaling. The cameramen filmed from the small whaling boats that chase whales in the famous “Nantucket sleigh ride.” To watch the film is to look back in time, and a Connecticut treasure is right at the heart of it. What’s more, you can watch the whole film on YouTube.
Though mostly set and filmed in the Bronx, D.W. Griffith’s final film, The Struggle, begins with a brief segment shot in Stamford.
Set in the fictional small town of Lynnfield, Connecticut, the screwball comedy Theodora Goes Wild stars Irene Dunn as the author of a racy novel which scandalizes her uptight neighbors.
Upper-crust Connecticut society is the milieu in the supernatural comedy Topper, with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as a pair of fun-loving ghosts. (Bennet continued the act in 1939's Topper Takes a Trip and 1941's Topper Returns, but by then Grant's star had already outgrown the series.)
Bringing Up Baby: It doesn’t get any better than this quintessential screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Though shot primarily on the West Coast, the comical mayhem of this film is set amid the country clubs and homes of Connecticut. Grant plays Dr. David Huxley, a straight-laced paleontologist who is drawn into a series of increasingly ridiculous situations involving Susan Vance (Hepburn) and her pet leopard Baby.
Huxley bears many similarities to Othniel Charles Marsh, who founded the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven. In the film, Huxley is trying to assemble the skeleton of a Brontosaurus; in real life, Marsh discovered and named the Brontosaurus, and this first specimen still stands on display in the museum’s Great Hall. In fact, Marsh founded the Peabody Museum thanks to an endowment from his wealthy uncle George Peabody; the film’s Huxley is seeking a million-dollar donation from a character named Mr. Peabody, who represents the interests of the wealthy Mrs. Elizabeth Random. Because of its special connection to the Peabody Museum, the film was screened in September 2016 by the museum as part of the celebration of the Peabody’s 150th anniversary.
Character actress Margaret Hamilton appears in her most famous role, as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. The performance terrified generations of youngsters; ironically, in real life Hamilton loved children and spent much of her life advocating for them. She would live out her later years in Millbrook, New York, near Litchfield County, and finally in Salisbury.
Barbara Stanwyck’s conwoman in The Lady Eve swings by our state after she falls for Henry Fonda, resident of “Bridgefield” and owner of a vast fortune from a brew known as Pike’s Ale (“The Ale That Won For Yale”).
Waiter: "They want ‘The Ale That Won For Yale.’ Rah. Rah. Rah."
Bartender: "Well, tell them to go to … Harvard."
From The Lady Eve
The first time Bing Crosby dreamed of a white Christmas was when he (with a little help from Fred Astaire) turned his idyllic Connecticut farm into a holidays-only entertainment venue in Holiday Inn.
The World War II film Crash Dive, set and filmed in New London, offers Technicolor views of the submarine base. (Word is Miss Porter's School can be spotted, too.)
Foreshadowing Martha Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck plays a celebrity columnist famed for her culinary and domestic skills (the twist, of course, is that Stanwyck hasn’t a clue about either) in the screwball holiday classic Christmas in Connecticut.
Edward G. Robinson chases fugitive Nazi Orson Welles to the fictional small town of Harper in The Stranger.
In Dragonwyck, Gene Tierney is an unrefined, 19th-century farm girl from Greenwich (a reversal of the usual stereotype) is recruited to live with upper-crust relatives in New York's Hudson Valley relatives.
Boomerang!: Directed by Elia Kazan, this movie is inspired by the real-life Bridgeport case of Harold Israel, a vagrant and discharged army soldier indicted for the murder of a popular priest in 1924. Israel confessed under duress to the crime, but was ultimately acquitted in a landmark case. The docudrama-style film is set in Bridgeport, but was shot primarily in Stamford and provides a vintage look at the city in the late 1940s.
It also provides a look at the development of our modern legal system and the evolving notion of a coerced confession. Dana Andrews plays State’s Attorney Henry L. Harvey, a fictionalized version of Homer Cummings, the real state’s attorney who oversaw the case and who ultimately became convinced of Israel’s innocence. Cummings later served as U.S. attorney general from 1933 to 1939 and was charged with mounting the legal defense for many of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the 1930s.
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, director Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement stars Gregory Peck as a journalist who pretends to be Jewish to investigate and understand anti-Semitism first-hand. Though filmed on location in Darien, it does not paint a flattering picture of the region. The film received eight Oscar nominations and won a total of three, including Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm and Best Director for Kazan.
Mickey Rooney stars in Summer Holiday, adapted from Eugene O’Neill’s play Ah, Wilderness!, set at the turn of the century in fictional Danville, Connecticut. Little-noticed at the time, it has since become regarded as a minor musical classic.
Cary Grant tries to rescue his family from their cramped city apartment, but things don’t exactly go as planned when Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House in Connecticut. The movie was based on an autobiographical novel, and the New Milford house that inspired it all is still standing. The movie was actually filmed just outside Los Angeles, although there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it back projection shot of Grant and Myrna Loy driving up the Merritt Parkway.
Two young men plan to prove they are above the law by getting away with murder in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. Connecticut is not depicted, only mentioned as the tranquil home of one of the would-be killer's mother, but it is used to signal the man's upper-class privilege and belief in his own invulnerability.
Adam’s Rib stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as married lawyers who take opposing sides in the case of a woman accused of shooting her husband. The footage of the couple’s home was filmed at the Newtown estate then owned by the film’s screenwriters, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.
Bing Crosby is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in the most enduring of several film adaptations of Mark Twain’s famous story. (Bing, seeing Camelot for the first time: "That can't be Bridgeport.") Previous adaptations were in 1921 and 1931 (the latter starring Will Rogers.)
It wasn't filmed here, but Come to the Stable, based on a Clare Booth Luce story, follows two nuns trying to secure land in Bethlehem, Conn., for a children's hospital.
The Academy’s Best Picture winner for 1950, All About Eve features footage of College Street in New Haven, projected behind Anne Baxter and George Sanders when their characters visit the Shubert Theatre. (Some footage may have also been shot at Yale, but none appears to be in the final film.) The Bette Davis-starring film was nominated for a whopping 14 Oscars and won a total of six, including Best Supporting Actor (Sanders) and Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz).
"To the theater world, New Haven, Connecticut, is a short stretch of sidewalk between the Shubert Theatre and the Taft Hotel, surrounded by what looks very much like a small city."
From All About Eve
Strangers on a Train: “Everyone has somebody that they want to put out of the way,” says Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker) in one of the most quoted lines from this classic Alfred Hitchcock film. After Anthony meets amateur tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) on a train, he mistakenly believes he and Haines have struck upon a deal to “swap murders” and if “each fella does the other fella’s murder, then there’s nothing to connect them. Each one has murdered a total stranger.” Several of the train scenes early in the film that are the catalyst for the plot were shot in Danbury at the former Danbury Union Station on White Street, today the home of the Danbury Railroad Museum. Danbury is called “Metcalf” in the film, and additional scenes were filmed in the city at Heim’s, a long-since-closed Main Street record store. These early train scenes help set the film’s suspenseful atmosphere, and contain one of the most famous of the director’s signature cameos: as Granger’s character gets off the train, Hitchcock climbs aboard, carrying a bass fiddle.
In France, director and Middletown native Jules Dassin's most acclaimed film, the heist noir Rififi, is released.
Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones star in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, about a veteran and his problems in civilian life following the war. It is set in southern Connecticut, and was filmed in New York City and Westport.
Also paying a nod to the Shubert Theatre (via Hollywood soundstage) is the eccentric New York socialite-turned-actress played by Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. Later in the film, she confronts a bigoted family from the fictional Connecticut town of Mountebank (said to be near Darien).
The Gene Kelly-misdirected romantic farce The Tunnel of Love stars Doris Day and Richard Widmark and is set in Westport. The titular tunnel is the the Heroes Tunnel (formerly known as the West Rock Tunnel) on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in New Haven.
The film version of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms stars Burl Ives, Sophia Loren and Tony Perkins as three people whose motivations revolve around a piece of Connecticut land, though the movie itself was filmed on a soundstage.
Real-life couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward play residents of "Putnam's Landing," Connecticut, in the farce Rally Round the Flag, Boys! Their on-screen marriage is threatened by two divisive elements: plans to build a missile base in their town, and neighbor-on-the-make Joan Collins. Leo McCarey directed, from the novel by then-Westporter Max Schulman.
Though the story takes place in Maine, Doris Day and Jack Lemmon filmed It Happened to Jane in and around Chester. A number of town landmarks can be seen, including the Deep River railroad station, as well as dozens of locals who appeared as extras. Scenes were also shot on the New Haven Railroad, on board one of the line’s last surviving steam locomotives.
Elizabeth Taylor's character chooses Connecticut as a place to find peace — in this case, of the permanent sort — in BUtterfield 8.
Gone With the Wind’s melodramatic romance between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, set in the Deep South against the backdrop of the Civil War and its aftermath, is an undying film classic. Connecticut had its own version: Parrish. Starring teen idol Troy Donahue and Claudette Colbert (in her final film role), the 1961 film tells the tale of power struggles and romance in the tobacco fields of northern Connecticut. Several establishing shots in Parrish were filmed in the tobacco fields of Windsor and East Windsor, with the distinctive long barns and white cloth covering the famous Connecticut shade tobacco. Full of sensationalized romance, swelling orchestral scenes and (in your best movie trailer voice) “passion!” the film didn’t exactly change the course of cinematic history, but viewers have the pleasure of seeing a distinctly Connecticut industry featured on the big screen.
Classic horror gets spoofed in I Was a Teenage Mummy, in which Westport is terrorized.
Four Connecticut men (most of them married) seek to escape their regular lives by renting a New York apartment to carry out their dalliances in Boys' Night Out.
Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal, a look at the intersection between the church and fascism prior to World War II, was shot mainly in Italy and Boston, but some scenes were also filmed at St. John’s Catholic Church in Stamford after churches in Boston refused to grant permission.
Broadway star Debbie Reynolds collapses on stage and is ordered to return to her home in peaceful Connecticut to recuperate in My Six Loves.
In Wives and Lovers, Van Johnson's sudden writing success spurs him to buy a house in Connecticut to escape his sudden fame.
Sidney Lumet's drama The Pawnbroker, about the fallout from the Holocaust, was set and filmed mostly in New York City but contains some scenes shot in Connecticut.
Relatives gather in an old Connecticut house for the reading of a will, but the deceased millionaire comes back and starts killing his family members in The Curse of the Living Corpse. The Stamford estate of Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum is the setting. It was Roy Scheider’s film debut.
The cult film The Horror of Party Beach was a no-budget attempt to mash up horror with the then-hot “beach party” genre. It was shot in the Shippan Point area of Stamford over a period of about three weeks.
The Group, another early film from director Sidney Lumet, follows the lives and friendships of several young women after their graduation from a Vassar-type, all-girls college. The campus scenes were shot at Connecticut College (then Connecticut College for Women) in New London.
Scenes involving the home of Barbara Parkins’ character from Valley of the Dolls, adapted from Jacqueline Susann’s bestselling novel, were shot in Redding.
Paul Newman’s directing debut, Rachel, Rachel, stars his wife, Joanne Woodward, as a shy spinster. The Connecticut power couple made the film locally, in Danbury (look for Japonica Street), Bethel, Redding and Georgetown. The movie received four Oscar noms: Best Picture, Actress (Woodward), Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Adapted Screenplay.
Burt Lancaster stars in The Swimmer, a philosophical and slightly psychedelic character study about a man determined to get home by swimming from pool to pool through his suburban neighborhood. Along the way, each encounter with his neighbors gradually reveals more about the man and his backstory. It takes place in Connecticut and was filmed mostly in Fairfield and Westport.
In Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, set during the Northeast blackout of 1965, Doris Day is a Broadway actress who retreats to Connecticut when she discovers her husband's infidelity. It is unclear where the movie was shot, but it may have been either Killingworth or Chester.
A Lakeville widower's money problems are made worse by his daughter's extravagant riding bills in Disney's studio-made The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit.
In Loving, George Segal and Eva Marie Saint are an upper-crust couple living in Westport; some of the scenes were also shot there.
Marlo Thomas plays the title role in Jenny, about an unmarried Connecticut woman who leaves Connecticut for New York. (The Connecticut scenes were actually filmed in New Jersey.)
The low-budget cult thriller Let’s Scare Jessica to Death takes place on “a Connecticut island” and was filmed in Old Saybrook, Essex and Chester.
Together is a softcore pseudo-documentary "about Esalen, Gestalt, and similarly trendy psychological phenomena of the late 1960s." The first film from producer Sean S. Cunningham, it features an early appearance by fellow Westport resident Marilyn Chambers (then Marilyn Briggs).
Marilyn Chambers, a 20-year-old model and “Ivory Snow girl,” caused a national sensation when she starred in the hit X-rated film Behind the Green Door.
Shot in Redding and Westport, the low-budget cult horror film The Last House on the Left launched the careers of director Wes Craven and producer Sean Cunningham.
Elia Kazan’s little-known cult film The Visitors is about a family’s unexpected and unwelcome visit from two members of the husband’s former platoon (one played by a young James Woods). It was filmed with a minimal crew in and around Kazan’s own Newtown home.
Set in 1935, the supernatural thriller The Other was based on the novel written by Hartford-born Tom Tryon about two young twin boys, one good and one evil. The story's town of Pequot Landing is an apparent stand-in for Wethersfield, though the movie was made in in California.
Producer-director Paul Newman claimed he decided to make the hard-edged drama The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds in in a dreary section of Bridgeport (even though the story is set on Staten Island, New York) "because it's only 17 minutes from my house."
The generally undistinguished psychological horror film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, partially set and filmed in Massachusetts, also contains a scene filmed at Bradley Airport.
The Stepford Wives: This cult classic, science fiction and horror film is based on the Ira Levin novel of the same name. Levin was inspired to create the fictional town of Stepford after living in Wilton for a time in the 1960s. The film was shot in Fairfield County with primary locations in Darien, Westport and Fairfield and tells the classic tale of a suburban town filled with pretty, smiling wives who are actually human-like killer robots under the control of their husbands. It was remade in 2004 starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick. The remake was also shot primarily in Fairfield County. The novel and the film made the term “Stepford Wife” a part of the collective vernacular and helped fuel the Hollywood stereotype of Connecticut as a creepily perfect place filled with wealthy, beautiful and soulless people. The latest incarnation of this theme can be seen on the new ABC comedy American Housewife, which was originally titled The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, and chronicles the trials and tribulations of a non-perfect mother, as well as Fox’s The Mick, set in Greenwich.
The graphic, controversial revenge-thriller I Spit on Your Grave, which critic Roger Ebert called “the worst film ever made,” was set and filmed in the town of Kent.
Promises in the Dark stars Marsha Mason as a doctor newly arrived to the state whose life is affected by her friendship with a 17-year-old cancer patient. The film was shot and takes place in Hartford and West Hartford.
Westporter Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th was ambiguous about its location, but it's generally agreed that Crystal Lake in Ellington was at least the inspiration for the name of the deadly camp where the film is set. (It was filmed in New Jersey.)
Friday the 13th Part 2 was filmed in Western Connecticut, primarily New Preston and Kent.
Director Milos Forman featured the Valley Railroad station in Essex in a key scene in Ragtime.
Connecticut is the setting for the autumn portion of The Four Seasons, Alan Alda's tale of friendly and marital strife among an upper-middle class group of couples; some filming took plays at Wesleyan in Middletown.
Featuring an ensemble cast headlined by Burt Reynolds, The Cannonball Run is a hit comedy about an illegal cross-country race that originates in Connecticut. It is based on a real, unofficial event that took place several times in the 1970s, in which drivers started in New York City or Darien, and raced to Redondo Beach, California. In 1984, the less successful sequel Cannonball Run II reversed direction, with a race from California back to Connecticut; this time, unlike the original, some filming actually took place in Darien.
CHP Officer: "What are you boys trying to pull?"
J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds): "There’s been a nuclear meltdown and we’re transporting some contaminated materials to Connecticut."
CHP Officer: "Well, why Connecticut?"
J.J. McClure: "They ran out."
from Cannonball Run II
The climax of Without a Trace, about a New York City woman’s search for her abducted son, takes place and was filmed at least partially in Bridgeport.
The low-budget horror-drama Disconnected was filmed in Waterbury, and shot at least one scene at Toad's Place in New Haven.
The coming-of-age story Mystic Pizza is famous for featuring Julia Roberts in an early role, and for putting the real restaurant on the map. Most of the filming took place in Rhode Island, Groton, Stonington, and yes, Mystic — but the restaurant interiors were actually shot in a converted home in Stonington Borough.
Seeking to remove the obnoxious new owners of their Connecticut country home, a recently deceased married couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) say Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) three times, and soon regret it. Filming took place in East Corinth, Vermont.
The Canadian TV-movie thriller Hitting Home, about a woman pursuing the driver who killed her teenage son, is set partially in Connecticut and filmed a key scene at the Riverside train station in Greenwich. It was filmed under the title Hit & Run, and is also known as Obsessed. (During filming it was likely planned for a theatrical release.)
Scenes in the uptight town of "Woodsmoke," Connecticut, in Reuben, Reuben were actually filmed in North Carolina.
Jacknife is an intimate personal drama about a Vietnam veteran (Robert De Niro) and his relationships with a fellow veteran and his sister. It was filmed in New Britain, Meriden, Cromwell, Wethersfield and Wallingford.
Everybody Wins, shot primarily in Norwich, stars Debra Winger and Nick Nolte. Poorly received, the film is based on the infamous 1973 Peter Reilly case, in which the 18-year-old Canaan man was accused of murdering his mother, Barbara Gibbons. The case had previously been dramatized as the 1978 made-for-TV movie A Death in Canaan.
Shot in Waterbury and set in the fictional town of Laurel, Connecticut, Stanley & Iris again features Robert De Niro, this time as an illiterate factory worker. During shooting, co-star Jane Fonda’s presence was met with protests by war veterans whose bumper stickers declared “I’m not Fonda Hanoi Jane.” Look for the Waterbury train tower.
Parts of Tom Clancy’s Cold War thriller The Hunt For Red October were filmed at the U.S. Naval base in Groton. (The film was nominated for three technical Oscars and won for its sound effects editing.)
Danny DeVito’s corporate liquidator battles Gregory Peck’s folksy small business owner in the comedy-drama Other People’s Money. Though set in Rhode Island, it was filmed partly in Seymour, Georgetown and Redding.
In a switch, Connecticut gets a chance to stand in for California: Woody Allen’s L.A.-set Scenes From a Mall (co-starring Bette Midler) was shot primarily inside the Stamford Town Center.
A high school teacher learns a lesson from the ghosts of bullies from his school days in Stephen King’s Sometimes They Come Back, a made-for-TV horror flick. The protagonist returns to teach in his hometown of Stratford, but filming took place at a high school in Kansas City.
Dennis Leary’s thief in the black comedy The Ref targets residents of fictional Old Baybrook, Connecticut, at Christmastime, but the movie was actually shot in Ontario.
"Connecticut is the fifth ring of hell."
From The Ref
Scenes from the third film in the Bruce Willis series, Die Hard With a Vengeance, were filmed along the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield County.
The wartime mystery-thriller Courage Under Fire, starring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan, was filmed partially in Bloomfield.
In the fictional Fairview, Connecticut, an obese lawyer crosses a group of gypsies, is cursed and quickly becomes much, much Thinner. The Stephen King adaptation was filmed in Maine.
The production of Barry Levinson’s crime thriller Sleepers stopped by the state: the scenes at the boys’ detention center were filmed at Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newtown.
Fargo: “This is a true story,” begins the Coen brothers’ modern classic. “The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” All that is untrue. The story is pure fiction. As Ethan Coen recently told The Huffington Post, “We wanted to make a movie just in the genre of a true story movie. You don’t have to have a true story to make a true story movie.”
However, one of the movie’s most famous, and gruesome, scenes is inspired by a real Connecticut event. In the movie, Grimsrud (played by Peter Stormare) attempts to dispose of the body of a recently murdered woman by pushing it into a woodchipper. The scene was influenced by the tragic real-life murder of Newtown’s Helle Crafts, who was killed by her husband Richard Crafts in 1986. After the murder, Richard attempted to get rid of Helle’s body by putting it in a woodchipper.
Although mostly filmed next door in Rhode Island, parts of Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Amistad were shot in Mystic (though not in New Haven, where the captives from the actual events had been put on trial). The film received three Oscar nominations, including one for Anthony Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor.
During the production of Ang Lee’s drama The Ice Storm, set and filmed in New Canaan (including the town library), many residents became irate over the ’70s-set story of suburban ennui, drug use and “key parties.”
“King of All Media” Howard Stern’s early days in Hartford radio at WCCC are recreated in his biopic Private Parts.
Holding the distinction of being the last movie to be directed by "Alan Smithee" (a now-retired pseudonym long used by directors to disavow their own films), Woman Wanted stars Kiefer Sutherland (also the actual director) and Holly Hunter. The love-triangle story was based on a novel and screenplay by Guilford playwright Joanna Glass and takes place in Connecticut, but it was filmed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over a decade prior Mia Farrow had been attached to star in a version of the film, which at one point was scheduled to begin shooting in New Haven in August 1987.
Guilford native Jennifer Westfeldt wrote and co-starred in Kissing Jessica Stein, about two women exploring a same-sex relationship. The film was partially shot in her hometown.
Julianne Moore’s unhappy housewife may reside in 1950s suburban Connecticut in Far From Heaven, but the movie was made in New Jersey.
Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder filmed much of Mr. Deeds in New Milford, standing in for the fictional Mandrake Falls, New Hampshire.
Halle Berry’s character worked in an asylum for criminally insane women in Connecticut in the underwhelming thriller Gothika, but the film was actually made in Quebec.
The crew from This is Spinal Tap traded their electric guitars for acoustic in A Mighty Wind, a mockumentary about the reunion of a folk music trio. Part of the filming took place at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville.
The Julia Roberts vehicle Mona Lisa Smile filmed some scenes at Yale University to represent Wellesley College in the 1950s, though little of that footage made it into the final cut.
Like the original, Nicole Kidman’s remake of The Stepford Wives was filmed in the state — also in Fairfield County — but this version proved to be far less memorable.
Steven Spielberg’s big-budget version of War of the Worlds filmed a few scenes of destruction — and victory — in Naugatuck.
The remake of the 1968 comedy Yours, Mine & Ours takes place in New London and shot some footage at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy there, but most of the film was produced in California.
Some scenes from the spy drama The Good Shepherd — starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, and produced, directed and co-starring Robert De Niro — were shot in Greenwich. The story was inspired in part by Connecticut CIA operative Richard Bissell.
Sienna Miller plays Edie Sedgwick, the socialite protégé of Andy Warhol, in Factory Girl, shot partially in Stamford.
The drama Reservation Road, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo, was set and filmed in Fairfield County.
The Uma Thurman-starring thriller The Life Before Her Eyes was shot in Darien, Greenwich, New Haven (including Yale), Norwalk and Stamford.
Spielberg returned to the state to film parts of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In New Haven, the Conservatory of Music and parts of Yale University stand in for the fictional Marshall College, and a number of shops on Chapel Street get a full 1950s makeover for a chase scene; meanwhile, the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat museum becomes the film’s New Bedford railroad station.
Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme, gave Anne Hathaway her breakout role and earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. It was filmed in Fairfield and Stamford.
Not unlike Far From Heaven a few years before, Revolutionary Road with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is about suburban dissatisfaction in 1950s Connecticut; this time the movie was actually filmed here, in Fairfield County. It received three Oscar nominations, including Michael Shannon for Best Supporting Actor.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro star in Righteous Kill, a crime drama filmed partially in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Milford.
Parts of the Barry Levinson comedy What Just Happened, also starring De Niro, were shot in Stamford and Ridgefield.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 filmed its way through Bridgeport, Danbury, Kent, Stamford, Weston and Westport.
Robert De Niro returned to film Everybody’s Fine mostly in various cities around the state, and the romantic comedies Away We Go and Confessions of a Shopaholic also filmed some scenes here. The John Travolta comedy Old Dogs was shot in various locations including the Palace Theater in Stamford. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, written and directed by Roxbury native Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur) was set and produced entirely within the state. The retro-horror flick The House of the Devil was shot here, too; but both The Haunting in Connecticut, based on alleged incidents in Southington, and Orphan, which seems to take place in Hamden, were shot entirely in Canada.
All Good Things, with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst and based on the 1982 Robert Durst murder case, was filmed mostly in our state. Ben Affleck’s crime drama The Town shot some scenes at Mohegan Sun, and Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take is set in Massachusetts but was filmed primarily in Connecticut.
Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly star in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was filmed partly in Stamford and Norwalk. Director Mike Cahill shot the indie sci-fi drama Another Earth in his hometown of West Haven. The Innkeepers features an otherworldly encounter in the form of ghosts haunting Torrington’s Yankee Pedlar Inn. Elizabeth Olson, as Martha Marcy May Marlene, finds refuge in Connecticut when she escapes from a sinister cult, but the film was actually shot in New York.
Two romantic comedies filmed in the state were Hope Springs, with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a middle-aged couple looking to rejuvenate their relationship, and the indie favorite Hello I Must Be Going. Meanwhile, two baseball players fend off post-apocalyptic Connecticut zombies in the micro-budget The Battery.
State-made film takes an unlucky turn in '13. Even with an ensemble including Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams, The Big Wedding wasn’t a very big deal. Comedian Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington’s Peeples was a dud, and the crime drama Pawn (shot partly in West Hartford) didn’t deliver many thrills when it when straight to DVD.
The "Conjuring Universe" franchise kicked off with The Conjuring, based on the real-life exploits of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The movie is set in Monroe, Connecticut, but was filmed in North Carolina.
David Duchovny stars in Louder Than Words, filmed in the state and based on the real story of a Connecticut couple’s efforts to build a children’s hospital following the tragic death of their daughter; the movie was not well received. Also faring poorly were the Rob Reiner-directed And So It Goes (mostly shot here) and the Underground Railroad drama Freedom, with Cuba Gooding Jr. The Drew Barrymore-produced horror thriller Animal was filmed in Manchester.
Boychoir (also known as Hear My Song) stars Dustin Hoffman as the head of a boys’ choir who tries to inspire a young orphan; it was filmed largely at Fairfield University and Yale.
A college freshman in New York City befriends and goes on an adventure with her soon-to-be-stepsister in Mistress America, including a trip to Connecticut to find an investor for a restaurant idea.
The British-made drama The Wife follows several decades in the life of a married couple: he's an under-talented writer whose great success results from the fact that she secretly ghostwrites his work. When "his" first book becomes a hit, you know they've made it because they move to a home in Connecticut.
The climactic scenes in the acclaimed Adam Sandler drama Uncut Gems were shot at Mohegan Sun.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Connecticut Magazine. It has been updated in April 2021 to include entries for the following films: Society Secrets (1921), Little Eva Ascends (1922), The Heart Specialist (1922), Turn to the Right (1922), Dragonwyck (1946), Rope (1948), Come to the Stable (1949), The Tunnel of Love (1958), Desire Under the Elms (1958), Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), BUtterfield 8 (1960), Boys' Night Out (1962), My Six Loves (1963), Wives and Lovers (1963), Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (1968), The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968), Loving (1970), Jenny (1970), Together (1971), The Other (1972), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), Friday the 13th (1980), Ragtime (1981), The Four Seasons (1981), Disconnected (1984), Hitting Home (1988), Reuben, Reuben (1988), Woman Wanted (1999), The Conjuring (2013), Animal (2014), Mistress America (2015), The Wife (2017) and Uncut Gems (2019). Additionally, the entries have been slightly expanded for Topper (1937), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), It Happened to Jane (1958), Rachel, Rachel (1968), Stanley & Iris (1990) and The Ice Storm (1997).