Inception (2010)

The 2010 Christopher Nolan film “Inception” shot in a variety of locations around the world, including France, England, Japan, Morocco, Canada and the United States.  Quite a few scenes were filmed around Southern California.

At this intersection in Downtown Los Angeles, Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, goes over plans with his team to execute a mission within a dream.

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LOCATION: Wilshire Blvd / Hope St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Directly across the street are the corner steps where Cobb picks up a man in a taxi and kidnaps him.  The same steps were used in “The Social Network,” when Jesse Eisenberg shows up to a business meeting wearing a robe.

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LOCATION: 707 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Cobb’s wife Mal, played by Marion Cotillard, believing she’s trapped in a dream and will only awaken by leaping to her death, sits on the ledge of this building.

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LOCATION: 215 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Cobb walks with Mal though a deep dream state called “limbo,” where the dreamers risk being unable to awaken.  This area is part of The Music Center building in Downtown Los Angeles, facing toward The John Ferraro Building.  Cobb also walks with Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, through the same area.

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LOCATION: 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Cobb and Ariadne continue walking through the surreal landscape, where old houses are seen partially submerged in water.  This was filmed at The John Ferraro Building, which has been featured in countless films and television shows, such as “The Nice Guys,” “Hancock,” “The Omega Man” and more.  The buildings submerged in water were CGI, replacing the L.A. skyline on the left, but the section of the Ferraro Building on the right side is the real location seen in the film.

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LOCATION: 111 N Hope St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Big Fish (2003)

In Tim Burton’s 2003 film, “Big Fish,” an older Ed Bloom, played by Albert Finney, recounts tales of his life to his estranged son, Will, as he is sick and dying.  The Bloom house, from which most of the tales are told, can be found in the town of Wetumpka, Alabama.  The house sits perched in close proximity to a street full of local businesses and it’s almost easy to confuse it as another business space, but it is a private residence.

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LOCATION: 401 E Bridge St, Wetumpka, AL 36092

One of the most underappreciated film locations we’ve ever visited is the fictional town of “Spectre,” which is actually Jackson Lake Island in  Millbrook, Alabama.  We can only conclude the location isn’t more widely appreciated due to it’s lack of proximity to any destination cities.  It’s a real gem if you can make it there, however.

The island is privately owned, but the owners are quite accommodating to visitors, charging a very modest fee and offering anything from short term visits to overnight camping.  The island is fully accessible by car.  Upon arrival, you’ll reach a gate where you must pay the small entrance fee.  There are signs posted for a number to call after paying the fee.  After calling the number, you are given an access code to open the gate.  The island in general is beautiful and quiet.  It’s a great place to camp, even if you’re not a film lover.  More often than not, when locations such as these are used for a film, they usually get destroyed at the completion of production and the owners do their best to discourage visitation.  Jackson Lake Island is a refreshingly opposite case.  The property owners fully embrace the island’s connection to the film and preserved much of the look of Spectre.  It really does feel like you walked straight into the film when you arrive.

Here are the trees where a young Ed Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor, first arrives at Spectre.  As you can see, the trees were artificial props, but still remain standing.

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LOCATION: Jackson Lake Island, Millbrook, AL 36054

A sign stating “Welcome to Spectre,” just like the one seen in the film.

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One of our favorite touches is the fact that there is still a line strung, with shoes hanging from it, just like the little girl does to all visitors of Spectre, so that they might never leave.  Clearly the number of shoes has multiplied since filming ended.  If you’ve got an old pair you’re willing to part with, you too can add your shoes.

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Not all of the buildings seen in the film are still standing.  The town is shown a few different times in the film, first as a vibrant community, then in a nearly abandoned state of disrepair and finally as a restored town, thanks to Ed Bloom.  The buildings left now do not exactly look vibrant, but it’s still a great experience walking through the fictional town.  Here we’ll run through the remaining buildings, one by one.

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Last, but not least, is of course the town church.  Yes, those are goats standing in front of (and underneath) the church.  They are quite friendly.

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As far as filming locations go, we’d rank Jackson Lake Island among the best we’ve ever visited.  From the friendly owners, to the modest prices, to the beautiful scenery and of course the extraordinary preservation to how the town appeared in the film, there really isn’t much more you could ask from a filming location.  It may be out of the way from your usual tourist destinations, but it’s well worth making a detour.

Related articles: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Ed Wood (1994), Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)