Most viewers pay more attention to the storyline than the setting, but sometimes it’s the setting that steals the shot. Here are a few films where the house really does steal the scene and sets the tone.
FILM: The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Sheats/Goldstein House, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills
The Sheats/Goldstein house in Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills, California was built between 1961 and 1963 by John Lautner, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Lautner’s distinctive style make his homes a favourite for film directors, particularly given the organic nature of Lautner’s designs. The Sheats/Goldstein house was built into the sandstone of the hillside and intended to mimic a cave—which made it the perfect party crib of fictional pornographer Jackie Treehorn from The Big Lebowski. The house was also used in Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle (2003).
FILM: Home Alone (1990)
This 1920s Georgian house located in Chicago’s North Shore suburb is probably the most famous house ever burgled on the big screen. While, the home no longer sports the green-tiled countertops and floral wallpaper seen in the movie, the main elements, such as the staircase MacCauley Culkin slid down on a sled, are still intact. The 4,250-square-foot house was originally listed for US$2.4 million by Coldwell Banker in 2011, but after 10 months on the market, it finally sold for US$1.585 million.
FILM: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Anyone that’s seen this film will recall the glass garage—the space where Camerson sent a Ferrari owned by his father spinning off the blocks and crashing through the glass walls. But the glass garage is actually the smaller of two structures on the Highland Park, Illinois, property that was used for the film. The main house was designed in 1952 by A. James Speyer and is notable for its boxy and progressive design. The second structure, added in 1974 to showcase the owner’s car collection, also has a kitchen and a bedroom. After the original owner’s death in 2009, the house was on and off the market for five years and was sold in 2014 for US$1.06 million, down from the original US$2.6-million asking price.
FILM: The Money Pit (1986)
Shelly Long and Tom Hanks were the iconic couple that suffered through the on-screen tribulations of a house renovation gone bad. Sadly, the real-life couple Rich and Christina Makowsky met a similar fate with the same Lattingtown, New York, house that was used for the movie’s exterior shots. The Makowsky’s purchased the eight-bedroom mansion in 2002, when the house had fallen into disrepair. In a New York Times article about the house, the couple described the reno as “life imitating art.” A 30-person crew spent a year and a half updating everything from the plumbing to the landscaping, even adding intricate moldings, medallions, hand-carved balustrades, and chandeliers imported from Europe. Realtor Shawn Elliot, who listed the house for US$12.5 million in 2014, said the homeowners spent upwards of US$10 million on the reno. A year later, the home appears to still be on the market, but now reduced to US$8.5 million.
FILM: Blade Runner (1982)
Known as Ennis House and located in Los Angeles, California, the famous futuristic looking house was actually built in 1924, by Frank Lloyd Wright. It has been named as one of the best examples of Mayan Revival architecture, resembling the symmetrical reliefs of Mayan buildings in Uxmal. While the home actually starred in a number of movies, TV shows and commercials, it really only gained notariety after appearing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner as bounty hunter Rick Deckhard’s cyberpunk apartment. Reported to be in a crumbling state, it was put on the market in 2009 for US$15 million but was later sold for almost half the listed price.
FILM: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
You could say Oakley Court in Windsor, England is the go-to mansion for classic cult films. Originally built in 1859 for Sir Richard Hall, it changed owners a few times before being abandoned and left to crumble. Obviously this dilapidated state was the perfect backdrop and the home was soon featured in over 200 films. One of the most memorable is the chateau that housed Dr. Frank-N-Furter—the self-proclaimed “Sweet Transvestite” from Transsexual Transylvania and antagonist of the cult 1975 rock musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other films include: The House in Nightmare Park (1973), Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), and Plague of the Zombies (1986). The property has since been extensively renovated and is now operating as a prestige hotel.
FILM: Sleeper (1973)
This unusual clamshell house, perched on Genesee Mountain in Colorado was built in 1963 by architect Charles Deaton. It’s best known, however, as the house Miles wakes up in after being cryogenically frozen in Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi comedy Sleeper. In 2006, Denver entrepreneur Michael Dunahay purchased the house, but four short years later the Jefferson County public trustee sold the home by foreclosure. Dunahay had neglected to pay the US$2.8-million mortgage—at the time, the home was valued at US$3.1-million.
FILM: The Godfather (1972)
Remember that famous scene when Jack Woltz (played by John Marley) wakes from sleep to find his stallion’s slaughtered head in bed with him? It’s one of the most memorable scenes in The Godfather (1972) and it was shot in a 20,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills, California. The property was listed in 2014 for US$135 million but didn’t sell; the 2013 listing of US$115 million had no takers either. Architect Gordon Kaufmann designed the house in the 1920s for banking executive Milton Getz, and the 3.7-acre property was later owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The house features, among other amenities: a private nightclub, a billiards room, projection rooms, a tennis court, full spa facilities, and an outdoor dining space that can accommodate up to 400 guests.
FILM: Diamonds are Forever (1971)
The magnetic on-screen personality of Sean Connery helped to make James Bond films box office successes, but so did careful selection of backdrops and props. So, it wasn’t easy to find the top villian’s liar for the film, Diamonds are Forever. It had to be dazzling, futuristic and iconic. Then along comes the summer home of recluse billionaire, Willard Whyte. The Elrod House, located in Los Angeles, California, is another John Lautner masterpiece and was not only featured in the Bond film, but also in a number of Playboy shoots. It was listed for US$13.9-million.
FILM: Anne of Green Gables (1956)
Directed by Norman Campbell and starring Toby Tarnow as Anne, the made-for-TV-film, Anne of Green Gables, brought the beloved book to life for viewers around the world. Another movie, produced in Canada, was made in 1985. The famous home is open to tourists virtually year-round.
Want more? Check out Hookedonhouses.net blogger Julia’s comprehensive list of houses that were used on the big-screen and on TV.
Sources: New York Times, The Telegraph, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, IMBd
NOTE: An earlier version of this article misstated, at one point, that Ferris (from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) sent the Ferrari through the glass window garage. It was, in fact, Cameron, who sent the car flying. Thank you to reader Ken who caught the mistake and made us aware. Also, the Oakley castle was built in 1859 not 1959, as previously written.