Contrary to popular belief, New Jersey is not just highway and beach towns. The Garden State is home to a multifarious display of temperate deciduous forests sprinkled with concrete jungles. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Fort Lee, NJ was once the epicenter for film studios on the East Coast. This four-seasoned state isn’t the industry giant it once was, but its scenic landscape is still used as a backdrop for filming movies ranging from indies to blockbusters. It is very common for a multitude of locations to be used in the production of a movie. Each of these 15 movies were filmed in New Jersey, and not just a scene or two.
A tribute to movies filmed in New Jersey would be remiss if “Clerks” wasn’t the first mentioned. Director Kevin Smith filmed this cult classic over a 21-day period with a mere $28,000 budget. It was filmed at night after his work shift at the Quick Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey. Needless to say, he no longer works at Quick Stop due to the success of his comedic ventures.
Chasing Amy (1997)
Smith also stuck to his roots with “Chasing Amy,” filming virtually every scene in New Jersey. Asbury Park and Red Bank are the main stages of this film, with a fleeting glimpse of New York City. The apartment above Jack’s Music Shop in Red Bank is used as the abode of Holden and Banky, (played by Ben Affleck and Jason Lee), and is located across the street from Smith’s store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Incidentally, I am the proud owner of a near-mint Led Zeppelin II record thanks to Jack’s Music Shop.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
“A Beautiful Mind” is one of my favorite films from the early 2000s, and I still fight the urge to solve equations on windows. The mathematical genius suffering from schizophrenia, John Nash, is impeccably portrayed by Russel Crowe. This emotional and Oscar-winning drama was filmed at Princeton University and Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. Scenes were also filmed in Jersey City, Belleville, Newark and East Orange.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Being someone with a deep love for classic horror, and a former Boy Scout, Camp Crystal Lake from “Friday the 13th” is a favorite. The film’s famed campground is none other than the North Bergen Boy Scouts camp located in Hardwick, New Jersey. Other filming locations for one of the most revered slasher series are Blairstown, Hope and Freehold. Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco is still a functioning Boy Scouts of America summer camp today, but I’d probably avoid the water.
Tom Hanks is always getting himself into predicaments. While I would never travel with him (for obvious reasons), I too shared his character’s wish in “Big.” What kid didn’t want to be an adult so they could take their crush to the carnival? The most important locations in this beloved family film were all shot here in New Jersey. The carnival that houses the mystical Zoltar was in New Jersey’s historic film town, Fort Lee. The school, drugstore and the houses of Josh and Billy are all located in Cliffside Park.
Cop Land (1997)
“Cop Land” may not be “Rambo,” but it still has Sylvester Stallone being a badass. This star-studded film is one of many featuring New Jersey as the premier location for mobsters and organized crime. The movie is set in a fictional New Jersey town called Garrison, but most of “Cop Land” is filmed in Edgewater and Fort Lee.
The Wrestler (2008)
Nominated for two Oscars, “The Wrestler” stars Mickey Rourke and was filmed throughout New Jersey over the course of 40 days. Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a retired wrestler that can’t shake his love of the ring. This movie is filmed in various NJ towns like Asbury Park, Elizabeth, Rahway, Garfield, Hasbrouck Heights, Linden, Roselle Park and Dover. Rourke even improvises serving real customers in a Bayonne supermarket during filming.
Chemical Hearts (2020)
“Chemical Hearts” is a coming-of-age story released this year on Amazon, based on a 2016 young adult novel written by Krystal Sutherland. The film’s director Richard Tanne grew up in Livingston and chose to film the movie completely in his home state. The high school used for filming is in Emerson, and other propelling scenes take place in Paterson and Newark. The film also displays the Essex County towns of Montclair, Glen Ridge and West Orange. For a more in-depth look at the different New Jersey locations used in “Chemical Hearts,” click here!
Garden State (2004)
It’s no surprise that with a title like “Garden State,” this film is almost entirely shot in New Jersey. The writer, director and star of the film, Zach Braff, used his hometown of South Orange in the movie’s production. Much of the surrounding area is also chosen as a backdrop for this rom-com. Cranford, Livingston, Maplewood, Newark, Tenafly and Wallington are all locations used for filming this New Jersey-based indie film.
The Family Man (2000)
“The Family Man” is a great change of pace if you’re used to Nicolas Cage being an absolute maniac. “Successful” businessman, Jack Campbell, wakes up one day magically void of his Ferrari and swanky job at an investment firm. Instead, he’s married to his college girlfriend that he let slip away. He learns to love his New Jersey suburban life, outfitted with his own children and less than ideal mini-van. “The Family Man” was filmed in the New Jersey towns of Closter, Teaneck and Tarrytown. Newark is also used for some of the scenes meant to be taking place in New York.
Lean On Me (1989)
From the director of “Rocky,” “Lean On Me” was inspired by the true story of a teacher that is appointed principal of an inner-city school that’s deemed hopeless. Joe Clark, (played by Morgan Freeman), will do whatever it takes to repair the broken Eastside High School of Paterson, New Jersey. The film is actually shot at Eastside High, and The Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Franklin Lakes is also shown in the film.
Be Kind Rewind (2008)
“Be Kind Rewind” is a zany comedy, spawned from the mind of director Michael Gondry. Two goofy video store clerks take it upon themselves to recreate fan-favorite films after the tapes have been magnetically erased. Most of this movie is filmed in Passaic, but it also uses locations in Hackensack, Teterboro and River Edge.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
This legendary 1979 film is another horror classic that is filmed in New Jersey. The true story behind “The Amityville Horror” may have taken place in Long Island, but the house used for the movie is located at 18 Brooks Road in Toms River. The church featured in the film can be found in Point Pleasant, and the Sunken Garden of Georgian Court University in Lakewood can also be seen in the film.
In & Out (1997)
“In & Out” is a unique rom-com about questioning sexuality, starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack and Tom Sellick. There’s no way this film could be excluded from a list of movies filmed in New Jersey. Each filming location is no more than 20 minutes away from where I grew up. My best friend went to Pompton Lakes High School, where the fictional Greenleaf High is set, and the film’s bar scenes were shot just down the road in Riverdale and Sparta. The nearby towns of Warwick and Montclair are also used in the filming of this movie.
Guess Who (2005)
There’s just something about New Jersey that makes it the perfect place for a romantic comedy. “Guess Who” stars America’s favorite practical joker, Ashton Kutcher, fighting to gain the approval of his soon-to-be father-in-law, Bernie Mac. This heartwarming and hilarious story about acceptance is filmed mostly in Cranford, NJ, with some scenes shot in Madison.