Films Based in Minnesota

Several popular films have been made in Minnesota. There are also films where the storyline was based in Minnesota, but filmed elsewhere. This is a listing of films that were shot in Minnesota, or where Minnesota is highlighted in the storyline AND which featured nationally recognized actors, or received national recognition.

  • A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
    A look at what goes on backstage during the last broadcast of America’s most celebrated radio show. Shot mostly on-site at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. Cast includes Marylouise Burke, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin. Director: Robert Altman (his last film).
  • A Serious Man (2009)
    Nominated for two Academy Awards (Oscar). A black comedy drama centered on Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel through multiple sudden incidents. Filmed mostly in Bloomington, Minneapolis and Northfield, MN. Directed by Minnesota natives, Joel and Ethan Coen (“the Coen Brothers”).
  • A Simple Plan (1998)
    Nominated for two Academy Awards (Oscar). Stars included: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda. Filmed mostly in: Delano, MN; St. Paul, MN (studio shots); Golden Valley, MN. Directed by Sam Raimi.
  • Airport (1970)
    The first major motion picture to feature Minnesota. It grossed $45.3 million in North America alone. Directed by George Seaton, it starred: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Van Heflin, Helen Hayes, Maureen Stapleton, and many more. The field and terminal scenes were filmed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the rest was filmed at Universal Studios in CA. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (Oscar), but only won one for Helen Hayes as Actress in a Supporting Role.
  • Angus (1995)
    The majority of Angus was filmed at the Owatonna High School in in Owatonna, Minnesota. The film stars Charlie Talbert and James Van Der Beek in their first film roles, as well as Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, George C. Scott, Kathy Bates and Rita Moreno.
  • Aurora Borealis (2006)
    Film was partially shot in Minneapolis and included footage of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, Mall of America, Walker Sculpture Garden. Starring Joshua Jackson, Donald Sutherland, Juliette Lewis, and Louise Fletcher.
  • Beautiful Girls (1996)
    Beautiful Girls is about a group of small-town friends joining up for their first high school reunion. It’s a movie about growing up and facing reality. Mostly shot in the Twin Cities including the infamous Bryant-Lake Bowl.
    Drector: Ted Demme. Miramax Films
  • Catch Me If You Can (1989)
    Not the better known 2002 film by the same name. This one was filmed entirely in St. Cloud and included scenes at Cathedral and Apollo High Schools. It was directorial debut of Stephen Sommers who would later direct blockbuster films like The Mummy, The Mummy Return, Van Helsing and  G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sommers grew up in St. Cloud, MN.
  • Contagion (2011)
    An action-thriller based at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, MN and the University of Minnesota Medical Center. It was actually filmed in Illinois and Georgia. Features an A-list of stars; Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne. It’s a drama about efforts to contain a deadly disease.
  • D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
    Filmed mostly in the Twin Cities at different locations. Starred: Emilio Estevez. Director: Sam Weisman.
  • D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996)
    Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities at different locations. Starred: Emilio Estevez. Director: Robert Lieberman.
  • Drop Dead Fred (1991)
    Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities. A young woman finds her already unstable life rocked by the presence of a rambunctious imaginary friend from childhood. Featured Tim Mathison, Carrie Fisher.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
    A mockumentary about a vicious competition between two contestants in a rural Minnesota beauty pageant. Filmed in a variety of locations around the Twin Cities. Starred Denise Richards, Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Kirstie Alley, Brittany Murphy, Sam McMurray, William Sasso. This was also the film debut of Amy Adams. Director: Michael Patrick Jann.
  • Factotum (2005)
    Starring Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei. It’s about a writer who wanders around “Los Angeles, CA” works jobs that won’t interfere with his writing. Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities, including scenes at the infamous Augies Bar located at 4th and Hennepin.
  • Fargo (1996)
    Filmed in Minneapolis and Brainerd, MN. Directed by Minnesota natives, Joel and Ethan Coen. A film not widely  embraced by Minnesotans who felt that the Minnesotans in the movie were portrayed as being slow or dumb. Nominated for seven Academy Awards (Oscar) and won two (Actress in a Leading Role – Frances McDormand, and Writing – Joel and Ethan Coen).
  • Far North (1988)
    Directed by Sam Shepard. Starring Jessica Lange and Charles Durning. Filmed in Duluth, MN. The story of a city woman who, upon learning her father’s been hospitalized, returns to the North Country where she grew up.
  • Feeling Minnesota (1996)
    Steven Baigelman
    Jersey Films / Fine Line Cinema
  • Foolin’ Around (1980)
    About a working-class boy who falls for a girl from a wealthy family. With Gary Busey, Annette O’Toole, Chloris Leachman and Tony Randall.  Filmed at the University of Minnesota MSP Campus, and the Pillsbury Mansion on Lake Minnetonka.  Other scenes were filmed at the St. Paul Cathedral, the Northwestern National Life Building (now the Reliastar Building in MSP) and Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Source: Carole Ostlund, an extra in the film)
  • Grumpy Old Men (1993)
    All star cast with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith and many others. Story about a lifelong feud between two neighbors that only gets worse when a new female neighbor moves across the street. Directed by Donald Petrie. Filmed entirely in locations around Minnesota. Fishing scenes done at Lake Rebecca, Rockford, MN.
  • Grumpier Old Men (1995)
    Sequel to Grumpy Old Men starring Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret and many others. Directed by Howard Deutch. Released by Warner Bros. / Lancaster Gate. Filmed entirely in locations around the Twin Cities. Fishing scenes filmed in Stillwater, MN.
  • Heartbreak Kid, The (1972)
    Starring Charles Grodin and Cybill Shepherd. Filmed partially in Minnesota.
  • Here on Earth (2000)
    Story about a rich college kid who is taught a lesson after a joy ride ends up destroying a country restaurant. Filmed mostly in locations around Minnesota. Starring Chris Klein, Leelee Sobieski and Minnesota’s own, Josh Hartnett. Director: Mark Piznarski. Production: Friendly Productions / Fox
  • Ice Castles (1978)
    The original Ice Castles film, partially filmed in Minnesota at Mariucci Arena – University of Minnesota, and the now demolished Met Center in Bloomington, MN. Starring: Robby Benson and Lynn-Holly Johnson. Nominated for one Academy Awards (Oscar) – Original Song.
  • Iron Will (1994)
    A Disney movie based loosely on a true story. A college age gets involved in a dogsled race to try to win money for college, and take care of his family. Much of the film was shot in Northern Minnesota on the North Shore and Iron Range. Starred: Mackenzie Astin, Kevin Spacey, and David Ogden Stiers. (submitted by Mike ___)
  • Jennifer’s Body (2009)
    Waterfall sequences filmed at Devil’s Kettle in the Judge C. R. Magney State Park in Northeast Minnesota.
  • Jingle All The Way (1996)
    About a father who decides to get that year’s hot toy for his son just before Christmas Day. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad and Phil Hartman. Filmed mostly in the Twin Cities. Director Brian Levant. Released by New Line Cinema.
  • Joe Somebody (2001)
    When Joe is beat up by a co-worker in front of his daughter on “Bring Your Child To Work Day”, he decides to fight back. Starring Tim Allen, Julie Bowen and Kelly Lynch. Directed by John Pasquin. Filmed in location around the Twin Cities. Released by 20th Century Fox.
  • Juno (2007)
    Nominated for four Academy Awards (Oscar). Won for Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody). A coming-of-age story about a teenager’s unplanned pregnancy. The main character, Juno, lives in the Twin Cities and takes trips to visit the adoptive parents of her unborn child in St. Cloud, MN. Other Minnesota references, but was not filmed in Minnesota. Written by Diablo Cody (Brook Busey), a former resident of Minnesota. Cody received the Academy Award (Oscar) for “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen”.
  • Leatherheads (2008)
    Loosely based on the Duluth Eskimos, a professional football team that existed in Duluth, MN from 1926 to 1927. Directed and starred George Clooney with Renee Zellweger. Mostly filmed in North and South Carolina.
  • Little Big League (1994)
    A family oriented comedy about a 12-year-old who suddenly becomes the owner of the Minnesota Twins after his Grandfather dies. Starred Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Ashton and Jason Robards. Filmed in a variety of locations around the Twin Cities
  • Mallrats (1995)
    The storyline takes place in New Jersey, although the movie was partially filmed at the Eden Prairie Center located in Eden Prairie, MN and the Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport. Directed by Kevin Smith and starring Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London and Jason Lee.
  • Memorial Day (2011)
    Filmed entirely in Minnesota. Takes us on a journey into a father’s complicated wartime past, but also his son’s wartime future where they share parallel experiences in combat, they come to realize how a magical day on the porch shaped both of their lives. This film features Minnesota’s own Red Bull Brigade (National Guard). Starring James Cromwell, Jonathan Bennett, and John Cromwell and directed by St. Paul, MN resident Sam Fischer.
  • Miracle (2004)
    Theatrical release. Although not filmed in Minnesota, the storyline of “Miracle” tells the true story about Minnesota native Herb Brooks, the coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team (the “Miracle On Ice” team) to victory over the seemingly unbeatable Russian Red Army Olympic hockey team. Kurt Russell was great in his portrayal of Herb Brooks. “Miracle” won the ESPY for “Best Sports Movie” in 2004.
  • Miracle on Ice (1981)
    Made for TV version. Starred Karl Malden (as Herb Brooks) and Steve Guttenberg (as goalie Jim Craig). The TV version (unlike the theatrical release version) uses the actual calls by Al Michaels and Ken Dryden. The TV version goes into more background about the players. This was released shortly after the Olympics.
  • My Run (2011)
    Documentary about Minnesotan Terry Hitchcock who, after losing his wife to breast cancer, became a modern day Forrest Gump and ran 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days to bring attention to challenges faced by single-parent families. Narrated by Billy Bob Thorton. Directed by Minnesota native, Tim VandeSteeg.
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
    Although not based or filmed in Minnesota, part of the opening credits feature at least three Minnesota landmarks. These landmarks include “The Big Fish” in Bena, MN; the “Fairyland Cottages” in Detroit Lakes, MN; and “Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox” in Bemidji, MN.
  • New In Town (2009)
    Starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., about a Miami businesswoman who adjusts to her new life in a tiny Minnesota town that she has been asked to re-locate to. We don’t normally do reviews, but our take is that this is a slightly above average movie with really campy Minnesota accents. It’s almost like the director was using “Fargo” as the template for anything Minnesotan, though we like the mention of “hot dishes”.
  • North Country (2005)
    Nominated for two Academy Awards (Oscar). Niki Caro – Director. Fictionalized accounting of Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, the first sexual harassment class action lawsuit in America. Starred Charlize Theron. Filmed mostly in Chisholm, MN.
  • Purple Rain (1984)
    Featuring Prince, Apollonia, and Morris Day and The Time. Filmed almost entirely in Minneapolis and featured many local landmarks including the Crystal Court of the IDS Center. Most club scenes were filmed at the former real-life hangout for Prince, the First Avenue nightclub. Loosely based on Prince’s life story, he wrote the treatment and played the lead role. Received the Academy Award (Oscar) for Original Song Score.
  • Rio (2011)
    A 3D animated feature film about a rare blue macaw named “Blu” who lives in a book shop in Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu is stolen on a visit back to his original homeland, Rio. He wants to get back to Minnesota, but he needs to learn how to fly first, something he never had to do as a domesticated pet.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
    Comedy, Drama about a man who is emotionally scarred by his experience in WWII and believes that he has come unstuck in time, but never knows where or when he will find himself next. Filmed in various locations around the Twin Cities, as well as in the Czech Republic. Nominated for several awards including a Golden Globe for Lead Actor, Michael Sacks.
  • Sugar & Spice (2001)
    A somewhat dark comedy about a popular high school cheerleader who becomes pregnant and turns to crime to support the lifestyle she wants to live. Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities.
  • Survivors: The Blues Today (1984)
    Documentary; filmed at the legendary Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in St. Paul, MN. Featured musicians: John Lee Hooker, the Gravanetes Band, Lady Bianca, Ben Sidran, Doctor John, Willie and the Bees, the Minnesota Barking Ducks and more.
  • Sweet Land (2006)
    Ali Selim – Director. A Norweigan woman travels to Minnesota to meet her husband in the 1920’s. Filmed entirely in Minnesota. Winner of Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Feature”.
  • That Was Then… This Is Now (1985)
    Filmed entirely in Minnesota. Starring: Emilio Estevez, Craig Sheffer Director: Christopher Cain
  • The Emigrants (“Utvandrarna” in Swedish) (1971)
    Film based on the first two books of The Emigrants Suite, written by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg. Tells the story of a Swedish group who emigrate from Småland, Sweden to Minnesota in the 19th century. The Emigrants starred Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.
  • The Good Son (1993)
    With Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. Film locations included the North Shore of Lake Superior.
  • The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
    Also known as “Great Northfield Minnesota Raid”. The gangs of Jesse James and Cole Younger join forces for a bungled robbery of the bank in Northfield, MN. Starred Cliff Robertson (Cole Younger), and Robert Duvall (Jesse James ). It was filmed in Jacksonville, Oregon.
  • The Mighty Ducks (1992)
    Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities at different locations. Many of the hockey players were also local. Starred Emilio Estevez. Director:Stephen Herek.
  • The New Land (“Nybyggarna” in Swedish) (1972)
    Foreign Film; The life of an immigrant family from Sweden who came to Minnesota in the mid 19th century. Based on the last two books of Vilhelm Moberg’s epic The Emigrants Suite. The movie starred Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann. Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (Oscar) in 1973. Filmed in Sweden and Wisconsin.
  • Thin Ice (originally titled “The Convincer”) (2011)
    Starring Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, and Minnesota native – Lea Thompson. Story takes place in Wisconsin and Chicago, but the scenes were all shot in the Twin Cities with the violin shop scenes were filmed at Dahl Violin Shop in Minneapolis. The original titled film “The Convincer” was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but then rights to the film were sold and it was re-edited and retitled “Thin Ice”.
  • Trauma (1993)
    Directed by Dario Argento, a award winning Italian film director, producer and screenwriter best known for his work in the horror film genre. “Trauma” is his first feature length American production. Filmed entirely in Minneapolis, Hopkins and St. Paul.
  • Untamed Heart (1993)
    Starring Christian Slater, Marisa Tomei and Rosie Perez. Directed by Tony Bill. Filmed entirely in the Twin Cities.
  • The Wrestler (1974)
    Not to be confused with the 2008 film of the same name (with Mickey Rourke). The 1974 version starred Edward Asner and many local professional wrestling legends like Verne Gagne, The Crusher, The Bruiser and more. Vince McMahon and Ric Flair also make an appearance. Filmed mostly in Minneapolis.
  • You’ll Like My Mother (1972)
    Filmed at the Glensheen (Congdon) Mansion and other areas around Duluth, MN. Starring Patty Duke and Richard Thomas. This is a psychological thriller about a pregnant military wife (Patty Duke) who’s husband is killed in combat. She then travels to the remote Minnesota home of his family, whom she’s never met, and discovers terrifying and deadly secrets about her husband’s family.
  • Youngblood (1986)
    A hockey film about a player on a Canadian minor league hockey team. Starring Rob Lowe (as Youngblood), Cynthia Gibb, Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.  Rob Lowe had to be taught how to skate before filming began. Filmed partially in Mendota, Minnesota.


6 Responses to Films Based in Minnesota

  • Also have you heard of You’ll Like My Mother? It was filmed mostly in the Congdon mansion in Duluth, MN. It has Patty Duke & Richard Thomas in it and cam eout in 1972.

  • I don’t know how much of this was in the Twin Cities, but “Slaughterhouse Five” from 1972 had a chase scene in it that was filmed near North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN. (border of Robbinsdale and No. MPLS.) The cars were driving on and around the overpass of (then) Broadway/HWY 52 (now HWY 81) over Lowry Ave. N. This may have been the only part filmed in MN.

  • What about Catch Me If You Can from the late 80’s? It was filmed entirely in the Saint Cloud area.

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