Iconic Filming Locations in Pasadena

May 26, 2020 | Posted in Arts & Culture

Driving around Pasadena, with its idyllic tree-lined streets and clusters of historic craftsman homes, it’s hard not to think you’re on the set of a movie. That is because Pasadena has been one of Hollywood’s go-to locations since the golden age, providing the backdrop for some of the most memorable films and TV shows of all time. Currently, Pasadena issues nearly 500 filming permits annually and has roughly 800 film days per year. So, the next time you think you see Pasadena in the movies – you’re probably right!

Father of the Bride
Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride

As Woody Allen did with Manhattan, some films feature a location so prominently, it feels like a character in itself. The house from the 1991 film, Father of the Bride, is a huge part of the plot, with most of the major action of the film occurring in or near the house.

Finding the right house was of the utmost importance to the filmmakers. It needed to provide the perfect “homey” quality but still make for a magical environment, as the house itself acts as the location for the wedding of the titular bride. And, as anyone who has seen the film can attest, they chose the exact right house.

Made Men
Mad Men

Mad Men

Across the street from the Father of the Bride house is another famous locale. For three seasons, this charming colonial-style house played the role of the Draper Residence on Mad Men. In the show, the house was supposed to be set in Ossining, NY, which highlights one of the reasons that Pasadena is such a desirable filming location: with its wealth of different architectural styles and vegetation, Pasadena can stand in for almost anywhere.

Fans of Mad Men will remember the bright red door on the Draper house, but in reality the house’s door is blue. In fact, according to the show’s crew, the door was painted red, then repainted blue every single time the show filmed at the location.

Gamble House Exterior
Back to the...

Back to the Future

Seeing Pasadena’s renowned craftsman homes is a transporting experience. And for the filming of Back to the Future, being transported was an important aspect of the filming locations. Pasadena provided the settings for the present (1985) as well as 1950s Mill Valley.

The location for Doc Brown’s garage and laboratory is none other than Pasadena’s architectural gem, the Gamble House – more precisely, the gift shop at the Gamble House, formerly its carriage house. Built in 1908 and designed by Arts & Crafts masters, Charles & Henry Greene, the Gamble House did not allow indoor filming, so the production team moved to another Greene & Greene design, the Blacker House, for the interiors of Doc Brown’s house.

Huntington Japanese Garden
Huntington Library,...

The Huntington

The Huntington’s sprawling and diverse landscapes have been featured in dozens of movies over the years, with its buildings and gardens standing in for locations ranging from Japan to the White House. Most uniquely, the gardens were featured in the hit NBC show, The Good Place, as a stand-in for heaven. And rightfully so. Anyone who visits The Huntington knows there is at least a little bit of heaven within its gates.

Colorado Street...

Colorado Street Bridge

Built in 1913, the Colorado Street Bridge made its film debut only eight years into its existence, in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. Since then, it has been featured in dozens of films and television shows, including as a frequent bungee jumping locale, as seen in Yes Man, The Bachelor and The Amazing Race. Most recently, its magnificence was (just barely) upstaged by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 2016’s La La Land.

City Hall
City Hall

Pasadena City Hall

Another stunning piece of Pasadena architecture is our City Hall building, completed in 1927. It’s such a stunning location, in fact, that its first role was the palace of Adenoid Hynkel in Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 satire, The Great Dictator. It has also stood in for countless other City Halls over the years, most notably, Pawnee City Hall throughout the 7-season run of Parks & Recreation. And, as a fun Easter egg, the building is shown in the background of the window of Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment in the Pasadena-set, The Big Bang Theory.

Pasadena Civic Auditorium
Pasadena Civic...

Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Built in 1932, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium’s design was inspired by Mediterranean Revival architecture and the 3,000-seat theatre set the stage for countless concerts, television shows, talent competitions, and award shows. Some of the most notable have been the Emmy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, People’s Choice Awards, America’s Got Talent, and So You Think You Can Dance. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is a part of the Pasadena Civic Center District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The auditorium’s historic exterior has been setting for many shows including Scandal, Alias, Penny Dreadful, and Little Fires Everywhere.

For information about filming in Pasadena, please contact the Pasadena Film Office.