Cinematic Legacy: Monterey Film Locations

November 24, 2023
Monterey's Film Landmarks

Monterey needs to look more beautiful to be in movies. Monterey has actually been the filming location for nearly 200 movies over the years. The list of movies filmed in Monterey includes classic, Oscar-winning, and contemporary films. Are you hoping to work a little bit of movie magic into your Monterey trip? Check out these seven iconic Monterey film locations.

1. "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935)

While Monterey was a big filming location all throughout the era of silent film, 1935's "Mutiny on the Bounty" is notable as one of the first major productions in the area because the film won the award for Best Picture at the 1936 Academy Awards. The memorable ship scenes took place at Monterey Harbor.

2. "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986)

Monterey Bay Scene from Star Trek IV

Do you remember the humpback whales from this 1986 hit starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy? In the film, the whales were housed at a research facility located in Sausalito, California, called the Maritime Cetacean Institute. In reality, footage of the whales was actually from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Visitors today often spot humpback whales from the facility's ocean-view decks.

3. "Cannery Row" (1982)

This comedy-drama film starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger is centered on love and romance in a California coastal town in the 1940s. Those who are familiar with Monterey will recognize the title as referring to the Cannery Row section of the city that was once the hub of the country's sardine-packing industry. Many scenes in the film were filmed along the Monterey waterfront area. However, scenes that took place on Cannery Row were actually filmed in a sound studio.

4. "Play Misty for Me" (1971)

Play Misty for Me - Fairgrounds

Most people know "Play Misty for Me" as being Clint Eastwood's directorial debut. However, this psychological thriller about love turned bad is actually a bit of a love letter to Monterey. Most of the film's exterior shots were filmed in Monterey. Spots that are visible on screen throughout the film include the Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey Municipal Wharf, and the Sardine Factory restaurant on Wave Street.

5. "East of Eden" (1955)

Film buffs will know that "East of Eden" is the only James Dean film to be released while the iconic actor was alive. Based on a John Steinbeck novel, the film chronicles family turmoil in the coastal town of Monterey. While background shots were filmed in Salinas and Monterey, most of the film was actually shot about four hours north in Mendocino, California.

6. "Edge of Darkness" (1943)

Edge of Darkness (1943)

Many people who assumed that this 1943 classic was filmed in a Norwegian village might be shocked to learn that the "village" was actually Monterey, California. The plot of this World War II film starring Errol Flynn, Walter, Huston, and Ann Sheridan focuses on a small resistance in a Nazi-occupied fishing village called Trollness. Monterey Marina was transformed into a realistic Norwegian fishing village during filming.

7. "Big Little Lies" (2017)

This popular HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman is primarily filmed in Monterey. In fact, fans of the series will only be able to walk around in Monterey if bumping into places they'll recognize from the screen. Filming locations include Monterey Lanes, Paluca Trattoria, and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Other Monterey-adjacent filming locations for "Big Little Lies" include Bixby Bridge, Lover's Point Park, and Point Lobos Natural Reserve.

Plotting Your Stay in Monterey, California

Checking out popular Monterey film locations lets you fall in love with the scenery that countless movie directors and film stars have admired over the years. You should also consider going off the script a little by checking out some of the hidden gems that only locals know about. This list of the best breweries near Monterey is a great starting point.


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