Exterior of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield (photo courtesy of Destination Mansfield – Richland County)
Ohio Life

20 Movies That Were Made in Ohio

Academy Award-winning tales, lesser-known finds and, yes, even a couple of couple box-office bombs have been filmed in the Buckeye State.

When it comes to movies made in Ohio, “A Christmas Story” and “The Shawshank Redemption” are often the first two those who live here think of as being tied to the Buckeye State. That’s not to mention the time Marvel took over downtown Cleveland and pseudo-wrecked East Ninth Street for a month during the summer 2011 filming of “The Avengers” or when northeast Ohio natives Joe and Anthony Russo brought Captain America to their hometown two years later.

But that’s just the start of the list of films that have been made here over the past five decades. Here are 20 movies — some longtime favorites and other lesser-known finds — that were partially if not completely filmed in Ohio.

The Deer Hunter, 1978 • Cleveland and Mingo Junction
This Academy Award-winning war drama starring Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken tells the heartbreaking tale of friends fighting in the Vietnam War. It is set in the steel town of Clairton, a few miles south of Pittsburgh, but much of the filming took place in Cleveland, including the opening scenes at the U.S. Steel Central Blast Furnace. Two of the other noticeable landmarks in the film are the St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Lemko Hall in the city’s Tremont neighborhood, which are both featured prominently at the beginning of the film. The bar scene that takes place early in the movie was filmed in the Jefferson County city of Mingo Junction, Ohio.

A Christmas Story, 1983 • Cleveland
The fictional town of Hohman, Indiana, was the setting for the beloved holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” but the real-life Parker family home is in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. Today, it operates as a museum that offers tours of the iconic abode that has been restored to its on-screen appearance. (Photo ops abound as each tour also includes plenty of time for taking pictures.) Cleveland’s Public Square and the former Higbee’s department store downtown (now occupied by Jack Casino) are also prominently featured, including in the famous scene where Ralphie is warned by Santa that he can’t get a Red Ryder BB Gun because “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” 

Howard the Duck, 1986 • Cleveland
Before Marvel struck box-office gold and brought “The Avengers” to Cleveland, there was “Howard the Duck.” The odd tale of a human-like duck who crash-lands into Earth was the first of any Marvel comic books to be adapted to film in the post-World War II era, and it didn’t go so well. The movie was a confusing flop, even though it starred Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson and was produced by Star Wars creator George Lucas. Those with a keen eye will see that the Cleveland Museum of Natural History makes a cameo in this set-in-Cleveland box-office disaster.

Light of Day, 1987 • Cleveland
This film starring Michael J. Fox soon after his guitar-toting role in “Back to the Future” finds the star in a rock ’n’ roll band with his sister, played by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Joan Jett. Top that off with a Bruce Springsteen-penned anthem (“Light of Day”) and it’s no wonder that filmmaker Paul Schrader chose a gritty, 1980s-era Cleveland as the backdrop for the tale. (Schrader disclosed years later that his original idea was to bring Springsteen to Cleveland to film a rock ’n’ roll movie but the idea never materialized.) The on-screen band, The Problems, played on-stage at the Euclid Tavern, which served as a significant location for the movie.

Rainman, 1988 • Cincinnati
The Queen City has a role in this Oscar-winning film starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Cincinnati’s iconic Roebling Bridge is the most prominent and recognizable landmark in the movie and is featured in the scene after Charlie (Cruise) picks up his brother Raymond (Hoffman) and they begin their journey. The bridge’s architecture can be easily spotted in the background as their convertible makes its way across the bridge, with its light-blue metal structure and stone arches being the easiest details to pick out. Downtown Cincinnati’s Dixie Terminal Building was used to stand in for a bank, and the arches of the Roebling Bridge can be spotted from the building’s large window.  

Major League, 1989 • Cleveland
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team is the backdrop for this late-1980s classic starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen and Corbin Bernsen. (And, when this film was released, the idea of the Cleveland Indians going to the World Series really did seem farfetched.) Although the film was mostly shot in Milwaukee, the opening credits are all Cleveland, featuring the Guardians of Traffic, Public Square, Terminal Tower and freighters on the Cuyahoga River, all set to the music of Randy Newman’s 1972 song “Burn On” (inspired by the infamous fires on the river caused by industrial pollution). The aerial shots of Municipal Stadium were taken at a home game during the summer the movie was filmed.

The Shawshank Redemption, 1994 • Mansfield and other Ohio locations
The Ohio State Reformatory is one of the stars of this 1994 Oscar-nominated film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. Although the site of the prison-yard scenes is now gone, the magnificent structure that served as Shawshank Reformatory, Mansfield’s own Ohio State Reformatory, still stands and is open for tours. Within it, movie fans will find the on-screen warden’s office, the prison dining hall and the interior of the hotel room where the words “Red Was Here” were written on the beam. (Yes, the latter scene was filmed within the walls of the prison.) A Shawshank Trail highlights the prison and 13 other Ohio sites seen in the film, such as the Pugh Cabin at Malabar Farm State Park, the Wyandot County Courthouse and more.  

Air Force One, 1997 • Columbus, Cleveland and Mansfield
This 1990s thriller starring Harrison Ford as the President of the United States features several locations across Ohio, including Columbus’ Rickenbacker International Airport (Ramstein Air Base on screen) and the Ohio State Reformatory. The most recognizable might be the Cleveland Orchestra’s home of Severance Hall, which is presented as the presidential palace in Kazakhstan during the film’s opening scene in which men with parachutes land on the building’s roof. For the interior of the presidential palace, filmmakers headed a few miles away to the ornate interior of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse downtown. A scene in the movie depicting a Russian prison was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory.

Welcome to Collinwood, 2002 • Cleveland
Anthony and Joe Russo, Cleveland-born brothers who later went on to film the blockbuster superhero movie “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, filmed this comedy caper in their hometown. Although there is a Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland that serves as the setting for the film, the movie was made largely in the city’s Slavic Village neighborhood. The film got mixed reviews from audience and critics, but it didn’t lack for star power with George Clooney, William H. Macy and Sam Rockwell the big names at the heart of the movie.

American Splendor, 2003 • Cleveland and Lakewood
The biopic of Harvey Pekar, the creator of the groundbreaking comic book “American Splendor,” is a love letter to Cleveland as much as it is to the man himself, who appears on screen with his wife Joyce Brabner during interludes in the film and serves as the film’s narrator. Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti portrays Pekar in this film that delves into the life of the man who shined a light on how “ordinary life is pretty complex stuff” in his autobiographical comic title. Although Pekar lived in Cleveland Heights, a lot of the filming was done in the inner-ring suburb of Lakewood. Locations like Shay’s Pizza in Cleveland, where Pekar pitches his comic series idea to comic-book artist R. Crumb in the film, and Elmwood Home Bakery in Lakewood, where Pekar runs into an old friend, are just two of the many Cleveland-area locations seen on-screen.

Spiderman 3, 2007 • Cleveland
Everyone’s favorite web slinger swung into downtown Cleveland in spring 2006, becoming the first of three Marvel movies to film in the city during the next several years. In the scene where Spiderman fights Sandman while he is attempting to rob an armored truck, the vehicle appears to be racing through busy Big Apple streets, but a keen eye will notice that it’s traveling down Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue. The armored truck races past the Wyndham Hotel and the Hallie Building before It flips at the junction of Euclid Avenue and East Ninth Street, where the Avengers did battle with alien forces in summer 2011 as that film took over the city, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Ides of March, 2011 • Cincinnati
This star-studded thriller, follows a Democratic primary race for President of the United States. Ryan Gosling and George Clooney lead the way in this movie set throughout Ohio. A large amount of the movie’s filming took place in Cincinnati at locations like the Millennium Cincinnati hotel, Stock Yards Bank & Trust and bars throughout the Mount Lookout neighborhood, although Gov. Morris’ (Clooney) “Cincinnati” headquarters scenes were filmed in Detroit. The scene in which Meyers (Gosling) meets with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) was filmed at the now-closed Head First Sports Cafe that was located next to the Cincinnati Bengals’ stadium along the riverfront.

The Avengers, 2012 • Cleveland and Sandusky 
As the Avengers fight for the sake of humanity in what appears to be New York City, it is extremely believable that the Hulk is crushing aliens in the Big Apple. The reality? Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow and the rest of the gang are battling in downtown Cleveland. Most of the filming for the movie’s pivotal fight scene happened on East Ninth Street in downtown Cleveland, which was blocked off and filled with rubble as production took place during the summer of 2011. Other noticeable Cleveland landmarks on-screen include the 1907 Cleveland Trust Co. Building (where Heinen’s Supermarket is now located downtown), where Captain America rescues civilians from “Manhattan Bank” and the can’t-miss cameo by the Terminal Tower that rises behind Loki when he crashes the museum party in Stuttgart Germany (in reality, Cleveland’s Public Square). Scenes early in the movie depicting the lab where the tesseract was being worked on were filmed at NASA’s Plum Brook Station facility in Sandusky.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014 • Cleveland
The second installment of Marvel’s Captain America heavily features landmarks around Cleveland and even involved shutting down a western stretch of the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway for a few days to film a car chase during which vehicles were flipped over. It probably comes as no surprise that Clevelanders Joe and Anthony Russo (who later filmed “Avengers: Endgame” for Marvel) were at the helm of this production that features the city so prominently. A couple other Cleveland landmarks to keep an eye out for: the Nick Fury assassination-attempt chase scene occurs on Euclid Avenue near Playhouse Square before ending on the street in front of the Cleveland Public Library, while the scene depicting the headquarters for S.H.E.I.L.D. was filmed in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s atrium.

Draft Day, 2014 • Cleveland
This football-focused flick starring Kevin Costner features the fictional tale of a Cleveland Browns general manager and was filmed at locations throughout Cleveland and the surrounding area. (The film was originally meant to be the fictional tale of a Buffalo Bills team but was switched to Cleveland.) Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland Browns Stadium and the team’s practice facility in Berea are all featured prominently throughout the film. Keen-eyed movie viewers can also spot Kent State University’s Dix Stadium (which hosted the fictional on-screen game between Ohio State and Wisconsin in the film) and the field at Case Western Reserve University (which stood in for the University of Wisconsin on-screen).

Carol, 2015 • Cincinnati
This slice of the 1950s delivered on-screen is set in New York City, however, almost the entire movie starring Cate Blanchett was filmed in downtown Cincinnati. Architecture in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood as well as other areas of downtown made it a perfect backdrop for this period piece. Look for the scene in which Therese take a photo of Carol buying a Christmas in the park. It was filed at Eden Park just northeast of downtown.

Killing of a Sacred Deer, 2017 • Cincinnati
This eerie horror film starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan is set in Cincinnati, but it was also made there. Many of the scenes of Steven Murphy (Farrell) working as a surgeon were filmed in Christ Hospital, but other prominent landmarks are featured as well. As Keoghan and Farrell are walking together in a scene, the Roebling bridge is featured in the background. There is also a scene filmed in the Red Fox Grill, with Kidman sitting in the window looking out onto the streets of Cincinnati.  

Cherry, 2021 • Cleveland
Yet another masterful creation by the Russo brothers, this film follows a veteran who served in Iraq (played by Tom Holland), only to come back to his hometown of Cleveland and make his living by robbing local banks. Like most of the Russo brothers’ projects, this was filmed all around Cleveland and includes many familiar sights to Clevelanders, including Gordon Square and Little Italy.

Judas and the Black Messiah, 2021 • Cleveland
A biopic about Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party, this film is set in 1960s Chicago. However, most of the filming for the movie took place in Cleveland over the course of three months in 2021. The filmmakers turned Cleveland’s Slavic Village into a 1960s Chicago neighborhood. The Black Panther headquarters in the film is the Zverina Building within Cleveland’s Broadway Avenue Historic District. Also featured is the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, most popularly known for its starring role in the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption.”

White Noise, 2022 • Various northeast Ohio locations 
Don DeLillo’s book White Noise won the 1985. U.S. National Book Award for Fiction with its depiction of an “airborne toxic event” that upends the life of a college professor and his family. Director Noah Baumbach brought the book to the screen in 2022, filming his dark comedy at locations across northeast Ohio. The exterior of the fictional College-on-the-Hill was Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby, while classroom scenes were filmed at the University of Akron. The movie’s family home was in Oberlin, while the A&P Supermarket scenes were filmed at a vacant former grocery store in Bedford. The scene where residents are evacuated was filmed at Camp Manatoc Scout Reservation in Peninsula.