America’s birthplace on the silver screen: Movies filmed in Boston

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Emily Beatty

Boston Common as seen from Beacon Street. The Common was restored to its original state to be used as the set for the 1989 war-drama “Glory,” set in the time of the Civil War.

The city of Boston is home to many things: historic landmarks, the best sports teams (most of the time) and, surprisingly, some of the most well-known movie sets of all time.

The latest film to set up shots on Boston’s streets is Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” a comedy-drama that follows a professor at prep school Deerfield Academy as he watches over students during Christmas break in the 1970’s. Actor Paul Giamatti, known for his roles in “Straight Outta Compton,” “Billions” and “Big Fat Liar,” was seen filming the new movie in Downtown Crossing last week, with some Suffolk University students catching a glimpse of the actor outside of the 10 West dorms. Giamatti is set to be playing Paul Hunham, the very hated professor. 

Though ‘iconic’ may be too strong a term, dozens of movies have made their mark on Massachusetts’ historic capital city. Partially due to tax incentives from the state, and somewhat due to various unique locations within the city, Boston has become home to many well-known and award-winning films. 

“The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)

The 1968 classic “The Thomas Crown Affair” had multiple scenes shot around Boston. As frequent fliers in Beacon Hill, cast and crew spent ample time among the neighborhood’s brick and cobblestone streets. The title character, Thomas Crown, owned a luxurious home on Mount Vernon Street, only moments from the Boston Common and our very own Suffolk University. 

The movie itself opens with the robbery of the Boston Mercantile Bank, and, though the bank is known only in the world of the film, the building itself still stands strong today. Located at 55 Congress Street in the Financial District, one can walk by and still see the gold-plated double doors that were showcased in the film. 

Other locations for this film include the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground in the North End, Cambridge Cemetery in Cambridge and Pier 4 Boulevard along Boston Harbor. A remake of the movie was filmed in 1999, but used New York City as opposed to the original set of Boston.

“Glory” (1989)

This action movie, starring Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman, tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment. The infantry was one of the first Black regiments to fight in American wars, as these men fought for the Union during the Civil War. 

The movie was filmed in Boston due to its historical value. Many scenes were shot in the Boston Common, which is America’s oldest public park and has been in the center of the city even prior to the founding of the United States. 

Beacon Hill served as a secondary shooting location for this film, as it played the backdrop for the home of the regiment’s white commissioner, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Beacon Street proved to be an additional location, as well.

“Fever Pitch” (2005)

A romantic comedy directed by brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, “Fever Pitch” tells the story of two people falling in love as the Red Sox play their championship-winning 2004 season. Jimmy Fallon plays Ben, a school teacher with season tickets, and Drew Barrymore plays Lindsey, a successful lawyer clueless about baseball. 

The movie wouldn’t be complete if not filmed in Fenway Park. Built in 1912, it has been home to the Red Sox and their Green Monster since. Many scenes in the movie have Fallon and Barrymore enjoying game after game as they fall in love. 

East Boston High School, on White Street in East Boston, serves as the setting for the school where Ben teaches. 

 “The Departed” (2006)

Martin Scorsese won an Academy Award for Best Director for this 2006 movie, filmed almost entirely in the city of Boston. With a star-studded cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Boston natives Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed” is a crime thriller based partially on real events.

The Special Investigation Unit of the FBI in Scorsese’s film can be found not far from the city’s North Station, though the building has nothing to do with law enforcement in real life. The Hurley Building of the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center was used as the outside for this part of the movie.

Suffolk University’s very own law library was featured in this Best Picture-winning movie. The top floor of the Sargent Building, located at 120 Tremont Street, is home to the beautiful view of the Massachusetts State House, which stands out with its golden dome along the Beacon Street skyline in the film. 

“Spotlight” (2015)

Another award winner, Spotlight highlights the making of the groundbreaking set of stories from an investigative team that goes by the same name at The Boston Globe, exposing the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for hiding years of sexual abuse between priests and children. 

For one scene, filming took place in one of Boston’s most famous sports arenas: within the bright green walls of Fenway Park. Globe writers can be seen discussing details of their developing story over Fenway franks, a few beers and a good game of baseball in America’s oldest ballpark.

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