Real colleges where 20 movies and TV shows were filmed
For the young, college is often considered the final exciting academic journey before entering the so-called real world. For those who have already cruised campus quads and endured late-night study sessions and dorm life, it can even symbolize a sweet nostalgia for those simpler times before work and adulting took over. For filmmakers, though, college offers a setting unlike any other—one that can serve as a fictional college, a real-life prestigious Ivy League, or a boarding school.
StudySoup compiled a list of real colleges where 20 movies and television shows were filmed using numerous entertainment and college websites. The list includes films and television shows from all genres, and the colleges are located everywhere from Arizona to Massachusetts to Canada.
One university banned almost all filmmaking after the film’s crew damaged the campus, and another has been used in the film industry since the days of the Marx Brothers and is so popular it employs an on-site film coordinator. This list also includes one of the greatest college comedy films ever made, a dystopian tale of a theocratic dictatorship that has taken over the U.S., and a horror film anthology by the modern master of the zombie film who was an alum of the university where they shot the film.
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Arizona State University: ‘Jerry Maguire’
Located in Tempe, Arizona State University (ASU) was where Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell, played college football before embarking on a career in the NFL. “Jerry Maguire” stars Tom Cruise as a disenchanted sports agent who writes a mission statement that ruins his career. Forced to become an independent agent, Gooding, whose Tidwell plays for the Arizona Cardinals, becomes Maguire’s one and only client.
ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium served as a major filming location in the movie; in fact, Tidwell’s injury in the final game and the hallway scene outside of the locker room were both filmed at the stadium.
Berry College: ‘The Following’
This 2013 crime thriller drama followed Kevin Bacon, who portrays Ryan Hardy, an FBI agent who tracks the diabolical English professor and serial killer Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy. The charismatic killer recruits a network of like-minded psychopaths, creating a killer cult.
According to the college’s website, the show filmed several scenes at the Charter School of Education and Human Sciences and the Campbell School of Business at Berry.
Carnegie Mellon University: ‘Creepshow’
An alum of the Pittsburgh college, filmmaker George A. Romero filmed a great deal of the 1982 film “Creepshow” in Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall. The anthology horror comedy film tells five scary stories inspired by horror comics of the 1950s.
Former alums Ted Danson and Tom Savini were involved in the film, with Danson starring in “Creepshow” and Savini working on special effects. Margaret Morrison Hall was known as Amberson Hall in the film and was used in “The Crate,” a story about a professor and janitor who opened something better left closed.
Duke University: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
The prestigious university in Durham, North Carolina, served as a filming location for the 1990 film adaptation of the dystopian tale about a theocratic dictatorship overtaking the U.S. government and forcing women to act as concubines—all in the name of God.
Gallows were set up in the university chapel, which caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. The film is based on Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name, which the author had set in and around Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, due to its ties to Puritan America. Atwood received her master’s degree from Radcliffe College in Cambridge.
Johns Hopkins University: ‘The Social Network’
While the tale of Facebook’s beginnings started at Harvard University, where creator and social media titan Mark Zuckerberg attended, Harvard refused to let “The Social Network” film there because they had issues in the past with other films being shot on campus.
Instead, filmmaker David Fincher used Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, for the film’s campus scenes. Several Homewood campus locations were used in the film, including the walkway between Rogers House and University Baptist Church and the Keyser and Wyman quads, as were several of the campus’ academic buildings.
Harvard University: ‘Love Story’
Based on the 1970 novel by Erich Segal, the film featured Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw as two students from very different backgrounds who fall in love while studying at Harvard and are met with a horrific tragedy. While “Love Story” was filmed in many locations, from Tercentenary Theatre to the Bright Hockey Center, the film crew was kicked off Harvard’s campus shortly after they started filming.
Harvard was not only upset about the disruption filming caused to its students, but the damage to the campus also prompted the school to take a hard pass on allowing filming to take place in its hallowed halls, leaving filmmakers to seek other campuses as stand-ins for the Ivy League university.
EQRoy // Shutterstock
Occidental College: ‘Arrested Development’
The 2003 comedy that follows the dysfunctional Bluth family whose patriarch is arrested at the start of the series was filmed at the Los Angeles college in 2012. The school stood in for the University of California, Irvine, where young George Michael Bluth (played by Michael Cera) is a freshman.
Occidental is a popular college filming location because of its prime California real estate and its openness to the film industry. The college even employs an in-house film coordinator and has served Hollywood since the early days of filmmaking—the Marx Brothers used it in their 1932 film, “Horse Feathers.”
Deborah Kekone // Shutterstock
Pomona College: ‘Gilmore Girls’
The TV series, which followed the relationship between a single mother and her teenage daughter, filmed some scenes at Pomona College in Claremont, California. However, in the series, the college served as Yale University, which daughter Rory Gilmore (played by Alexis Bledel) visits for a campus tour. Filming season three’s eighth episode took place in October 2002—one filming location of note includes Bridges Auditorium, which served as the Dean of Admissions Office. Rory eventually does go on to attend Yale University.
Kit Leong // Shutterstock
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” garnered cult status and featured a young girl and her loyal group of friends fighting vampires and all other forms of evil in the Southern California town of Sunnydale. The University of California, Los Angeles is one of the California colleges that serve as the fictional University of California, Sunnydale, where Buffy attends college with her friends. Several exterior shots in the series capture the university’s famous Royce Hall.
Joshua Rainey Photography // Shutterstock
University of Oregon: ‘Animal House’
The 1978 quintessential college comedy starring John Belushi and Karen Allen sees the battle between the rowdy Greek fraternity Delta Tau Chi and Dean Vernon Wormer at the fictional Faber College. Several of the University of Oregon’s locations made their way into the film, including the Memorial Quadrangle, Gerlinger Hall, and Hayward Field. While the university, located in Eugene, originally wanted nothing to do with the film, the school has since embraced a role in its creation and are now proud of their place in film history.
University of Toronto: ‘Good Will Hunting’
The 1997 film, about a young janitor working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is a math prodigy, won a Best Screenwriting Oscar for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who are co-stars in the film. While “Good Will Hunting” was set in the Boston area, the film also used several Toronto locations, including the University of Toronto, which stood in for MIT and Harvard. The university’s McLennan Physical Laboratories were used as an MIT lecture hall, and the Whitney Hall residences served as Minnie Driver’s dorm.
Bryan Pollard // Shutterstock
University of North Carolina Wilmington: ‘Dawson’s Creek’
The coming-of-age story of a teenage boy named Dawson Leery and his group of friends was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, which stood in for the fictional coastal town of Capeside, Massachusetts. Capeside High, where Dawson and his friends’ many adventures unfolded, was actually the University of North Carolina Wilmington. One of the most recognizable locations used as a location in the series is the university’s Kenan Auditorium.
Bryn Mawr College: ‘How to Get Away with Murder’
Starring Viola Davis as a law professor who gets caught up in a murder plot with several of her students, “How to Get Away with Murder” is set in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though the series was filmed mainly in Los Angeles, Bryn Mawr—a college located in Pennsylvania—stood in for Middleton University, the fictional prestigious university where Davis’ Annalise Keating teaches in the show’s first season. The drama series also featured filming locations from Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.
University of British Columbia: ‘Smallville’
The 2001 series “Smallville” focused on Clark Kent’s teenage and young adult years growing up in Smallville, Kansas, all while trying to manage his powers as Superman. The University of British Columbia (UBC), located in the city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, was used as the setting for the fictional Metropolis University.
Kent receives a football scholarship to the school but decides to attend another school to remain closer to his parents. Several UBC locations were used in the series including the exterior of the Walter C. Koerner Library and the chemistry building on the Point Grey Campus.
Diliff // Wikimedia Commons
Agnes Scott College: ‘Scream 2’
Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, doubled for Windsor College in “Scream 2,” where Neve Campbell’s final girl Sidney Prescott attends college. “Scream 2” finds Prescott trying to get on with her life following the brutal murders that occurred in her hometown of Woodsboro, however, villain Ghostface stalks her on campus.
The college’s Inman Hall served as Sidney’s dorm, and Letitia Pate Evans Dining Hall was the spot where Sidney’s boyfriend Derek surprises her by bursting into song in front of a crowd as he sings “I Think I Love You” by The Partridge Family. McCain Library, Buttrick Hall, and Rebekah Scott Hall can also be spotted throughout the film.
California Institute of Technology/University of Southern California: ‘Legally Blonde’
Though Elle Woods, the college coed in “Legally Blonde,” followed her boyfriend to Harvard, and the film was primarily set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, most of the filming for this comedy took place on the opposite coast in Southern California.
The fictional Gamma Theta sorority house featured in the film is part of the California Institute of Technology campus, and the university also served as the California University Los Angeles, the fictitious university Woods attended for undergrad. The Bovard Administration Building at the University of Southern California was featured in many exterior shots showing Woods’ Ivy League law school, Harvard University.
Felix Lipov // Shutterstock
Manhattan College/Bronx Community College: ‘A Beautiful Mind’
A brilliant mathematician finds the lines of reality are blurred as he struggles with mental illness in this 2001 film based on the life of John Nash. Manhattan College stood in for Harvard University, while City University of New York’s Bronx Community College served as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Nash taught. The Gould Memorial Library at Bronx Community College was a stand-in for the Great Dome at MIT, and the college also served as a hospital in the film.
Wangku Jia // Shutterstock
Wellesley College: ‘Mona Lisa Smile’
The 2003 film starred Julia Roberts as an art professor who shakes up the lives of female students at Wellesley College during the 1950s by assuring them they could be more than they imagined. According to Wellesley, “Mona Lisa Smile” was filmed on the picturesque college campus, located in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 2002 and 2003.
Per the college’s website, the fictional version of the film saw Roberts’ character introducing her students to modern art, but in reality, Wellesley began offering courses in modern art in the late 1920s, when the man who would go on to found New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr Jr., taught a class there.
Fotoluminate LLC // Shutterstock
Tulane University: ‘22 Jump Street’
Tulane University in New Orleans doubled for the fictional MC State University where Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s characters go undercover in the follow-up to the 2012 comedy “21 Jump Street.” Posing as college students, the two police officers attempt to find a drug supplier of the synthetic drug known as “WHY-PHY.” Several university locations appeared in the film, including both interior and exterior shots from Monroe Hall, an office in Hebert Hall, the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, and Gibson Hall, to name but a few.
Pepperdine University: ‘Zoey 101’
The Nickelodeon comedy followed teenager Zoey Brooks as she navigated life at the fictional boarding school Pacific Coast Academy (PCA), which formerly was an all-boys school. Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, served as PCA for the first two seasons of the series before production moved to a sound stage in Santa Clarita for season three.
Lounges in Towers on the Pepperdine campus stood in for dorm rooms, allowing camera crews more room to navigate, and the university also permitted filming during the summer to better accommodate students and the show’s cast and filming crew. According to Pepperdine University Graphic, the school was paid somewhere in the area of $350,000 for its accommodations.
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