What Are The Best Movies Shot In Maryland?
For those hailing from California, New York, or Georgia (seemingly, the film tax credit capital of the world) seeing your home state depicted in Hollywood pictures is pretty routine. But for Marylanders, it’s a rarity.
That said, there’s plenty of noteworthy, and award winning, films shot in state. To shine a light on the best, BetMaryland.com took a break from Maryland sports betting and decided to rank the best movies that’ve been filmed here.
Because deciding the “best” movie is a thorny proposition, we’ve taken a data-driven approach here.
We utilized the following data points — IMDB rating, Rotten Tomatoes Audience score, Rotten Tomatoes Critic score and Oscar recognition — to create a scoring system.
Now be warned, while this is a list of great movies, the degree to which they reflect Maryland varies widely. But we’ll dig into all of that below.
Here’s the list.
Best Movies Shot In Maryland
*The Social Network was primarily shot in Massachusetts, but also did significant filming in Baltimore.
Top Gun: Maverick Takes The Crown
To say the No. 1 movie on our list, last year’s mega-blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick,” was shot in Maryland is a bit of a reach. The Tom Cruise starring sequel to the 1980s classic was filmed almost entirely on the West Coast, and is set primarily in San Diego, California. Nevertheless, the Maryland connection is essential — without it the flyboy action flick may never have taken off.
If you’ve seen the film, you were no doubt blown away by the dazzling aerial sequences. To achieve this high-octane look, six separate cameras were mounted on the interior and exterior of the Boeing Super Hornets piloted by Maverick, Rooster, and the rest of the amusingly nicknamed cast.
This had never been done before, and the filmmakers worked closely with the military engineers at NAVAIR (The Naval Air Systems Command), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, MD. This epic Hollywood-Department of Defense collaboration used shock, vibration and wind-tunnel testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station to ensure that there would be no issues while filming.
Whether this qualifies "Top Gun: Maverick" as “Maryland-shot” is dubious (although it’s possible some test footage made it into the film). But hey, for now it's the film to beat!
Best Of The Rest
No. 2 on the list also comes with an asterisk. David Fincher’s Facebook origin story “The Social Network” takes place largely at Harvard University, and then later in Silicon Valley, California. However, Harvard would not allow the production to film on campus. The Ivy League school has had a prickly relationship with Hollywood since the late-60s, when the production of the movie “Love Story” caused major damage on campus. Since then it tends to reject filming requests.
But of course Mark Zuckerberg famously dropped out of Harvard to build Facebook, so the filmmakers opted to use Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland to fill-in for the home of The Crimson.
No. 3 on our list is 1988’s “Hairspray,” which is more likely to appeal to film buffs looking for some authentic Maryland representation. Baltimore-born director John Waters is arguably the state’s best known filmmaker. Waters rose to prominence in the 1970s with a string of subversive and campy underground films starring the iconic drag queen Divine. With low-budget (Baltimore-set) films like “Pink Flamingo” and “Female Trouble,” Waters helped establish the lewd “midnight movie” phenomenon of the ‘70s.
“Hairspray” marks the beginning of Waters making films considered more accessible to mainstream audiences.
Set in the early-60s, the film follows Tracy Trunblad, an overweight teenager who becomes an unexpected star on a local dance show, and pushes the show’s producers to integrate the local black community into the program. The ‘80s film would go onto inspire a 2002 Broadway musical, which was then adapted into 2007’s “Hairspray,” starring John Travolta in the Divine role. Sadly, the 2007 movie was filmed in Toronto.
At No. 4 is the 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen mockumentary “Borat,” which follows a fictional Kazakhstani journalist traveling across America. Early in his trip, Borat arrives in Maryland to take a driving lesson. The scene is best summarized by the $100,000 lawsuit filed by the driving instructor duped into appearing in the film.
According to the suit: “When filming began, Borat did a hugging and kissing routine, struggled with his seat belt like a child, drove on the wrong side of the road, made ethnic slurs, said women had small brains and rolled down a window and offered a female pedestrian $10 for ‘sexy time.’”
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2009.
Die Hard Well-Represented
Fifth on our list is 1979’s “…And Justice For All” starring Al Pacino. Notably, co-written by Maryland-born writer and director Barry Levinson, the legal drama was filmed inside the courtrooms and halls of the Baltimore City Courthouse (although the more stately looking downtown War Memorial was used for the exteriors).
The movie is probably best known for it’s climatic scene in which Pacino delivers a nearly eight minute monologue culminating in the oft-parodied line, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!”
The second half of the list includes a pair of Die Hard sequels, 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard” at No. 6 and 1995’s “Die Hard with a Vengeance” at No. 8. While much of “Live Free or Die Hard” was filmed in Baltimore, only a few scenes from “Die Hard with a Vengeance” were filmed in Maryland — namely, the rainy car chase scene near the end of the movie, which was filmed along I-95 and Route 175 near Jessup, Maryland.
The final film on the list is one of the few that reps its location with pride. “Charm City Kings” is a coming of age drama set in Baltimore about a young boy who gets swept up in the city’s underground motorized dirt-bike scene — and turns to crime to help fund his new obsession. Executive Produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (pre-Oscars slap), and featuring rapper Meek Mill in a supporting role, “Charm City Kings” received positive notices from critics following its Sundance premiere in 2020.
However, like many movies from that COVID-plagued year, it was released on streaming with little fanfare, and never really found its audience. Still, “Charm City Kings” is worth seeking out for its young star Jahi Di’Allo Winston’s performance alone.
Horror fans may be wondering about one glaring omission to this list — that would be the 1999 found footage classic “The Blair Witch Project,” which was shot in Seneca Creek State Park in Montgomery County. While it didn’t crack our top 10, we don’t want to upset the Blair Witch by not shouting her out.
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