In Hurricane Katrina, a lot of New Orleans’ institutions were destroyed, including their Six Flags theme park. The New Orleans Six Flags was ultimately abandoned after the 2005 tragedy, and it didn’t make headlines again until it was announced that Jurassic World was going to shoot scenes at the dilapidated theme park. After the Jurassic World crew left, the area was once again abandoned.
The Hawthorne Plaza Mall in Hawthorne, California, was – like most former malls in America – at one time very popular. In the late 1990s, this mecca of capitalism took a turn for the worse and declined to the point of complete abandon. In 2014, it was used for a scene in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. People aren’t strictly allowed in the crumbling ruins, but that hasn’t stopped people taking ‘tours’.
28 Weeks Later
Even prior to its closure in 1994, the London Underground’s Aldwych tube station operated as a part-time movie set, appearing in the likes of Death Line, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Patriot Games, V for Vendetta and Sherlock. One of its creepiest cameos, however, was in the sequel to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, when Tammy and Andy Harris take refuge.
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings being filmed in New Zealand is hardly news to anyone today. The green valleys and startling mountains provided the perfect backdrop to Peter Jackson’s adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s famous series of books. The village of Hobbiton was picked to be filmed on Alexander Farm, a 1,250-acre sheep farm in the Waikato region. The set from the series of films stands strong today.
Tatooine, the fictional home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars universe, is probably the second most famous setting across the films after the Death Star. Scenes set on this desert planet were shot in Tunisia, and a lot of the set from George Lucas’ 1977 original movie remains intact today. What’s more, it’s a highly popular attraction to those in and visiting the country.
Gangs of New York
Minus the obligatory shots in Times Square or Central Park, most films set in New York are actually filmed elsewhere, given that the city tends to be too hectic to shoot a movie in. However, Martin Scorsese’s 2002 movie Gangs of New York, as an epic set in an older version of the city, required New York be built entirely from scratch. The film’s huge Five Points set was built in Rome at the legendary Cinema City, the largest film studio in Europe.
Popeye Village was constructed in 1979 for the live-action film version of Popeye, starring Robin Williams. After filming wrapped, the set – built in Anchor Bay in the northwest of Malta - – was abandoned, only to be later revived by the government, who turned it into a family-friendly theme park. Open seven days a week, visitors can expect to meet Popeye himself, along with other favourites like Olive Oyl and Bluto.
Pirates of the Caribbean
If you’re a die-hard fan of the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and ever find yourself on the west coast of Caribbean island St Vincent, make sure check out the Wallilabou Anchorage. The original Pirates set was built around this restaurant, and Captain Jack props from the first film can still be found there.
Unmade Viking movie
This is not just the abandoned set of a movie, but the abandoned set of an abandoned movie. Built in 2010 at the bottom of Mount Vestrahorn, near the fishing village of Höfn, Iceland, this detailed Viking town set has remained unused since the film it was built for ran out of money. Check it out if you’re in the area, before it gets locked down by some other production.
Full Metal Jacket
Fans of Full Metal Jacket may be surprised to hear that this film about the disastrous Vietnam War wasn’t filmed in southeast Asia at all, but on London’s Isle of Dogs. American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick made the majority of his films in England, where he was based from 1961 onwards. Most of Full Metal Jacket’s battle scenes were shot by a renovated decommissioned coal works factory called Beckton Gas Works, which had been altered to resemble a Vietnamese city.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Hardly anyone noticed the production of Transformers: The Last Knight at the time, given that the area of the desolate Packard Plant in Detroit, Michigan, is seldom explored. Also, a caved-out, abandoned building sadly isn’t out of the ordinary in Detroit today. There are several props and deserted vehicles still hanging around the now-disused set.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Though most of them were set in Wild West of America, many of the greatest spaghetti westerns weren’t filmed in the States at all. The place to be for a lot productions was the Tabernas desert, near the Spanish town of Almería. Dozens of classics including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More were shot in this southern Spanish town.
The Hills Have Eyes
The 2006 reboot of the 1977 Wes Craven classic The Hills Have Eyes may not have packed as big a punch as the original, but it still spooked audiences. The desert outside of Ouarzazate, Morocco, served as the American West (New Mexico specifically) in the film. One location, the Gas Haven petrol station where the family first learn of a shortcut, stands strong today.
If you aren’t satisfied by The Hills Have Eyes’ petrol station, worry not: Ouarzazate has also played host to sets for more exotic films including Gladiator and The Mummy. This location, known as ‘Hollywood in the Desert’, has been in operation as a studio since 1983, its consistent weather handy for productions in need of a biblical location.
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia functioned as a real prison back in the day, housing the infamous likes of Al Capone before it was closed down in 1971 and left subject to decay. This made it the perfect setting for the asylum in Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Fans can tour the building today, with an audio tour provided by Steve Buscemi.
The ruins of the real Plasznow labour camp in Krakow, Poland were destroyed after WWII for obvious reasons, so when it came to the filming of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in 1993, a replica of the building was created and has hung around ever since in the Krakus Mound Quarry. Those interested in seeing the remains of the movie’s set can book a tour for around $20.
Some of TV’s serial killer drama Dexter was filmed in a very real abandoned hospital, the Linda Vista Community Hospital. Opened in 1924 and closed in 1991, the Los Angeles location has also been used as a spooky setting in the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood and the movies Deadgirl and Zombie Strippers. Take a look for yourself – it was born to be utilised by horror directors.
Fans of The Fugitive will remember the scene in which Harrison Ford’s character jumps off a moving bus right before it slams into a train, a shot that was astonishingly caught on one take. Well, the chewed up remains of said bus and (a bit of the train) were never cleaned up and can be found along the Smoky Mountain railroad near Dillsboro, North Carolina.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
When it comes to fantasy films like 2013’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, entire sets have to be designed to meet specific magical standards. In this case, a whole medieval village had to be built. If you want to check out the semi-abandoned remains of this set, you’ll need to cough up some money to visit the Babelsberg Film Studio in Germany, where you can purchase a ticket to a studio tour.
One of James Cameron’s lesser known films, The Abyss follows a diving team tasked with searching for a lost nuclear submarine deep underwater, where they’re met by extraterrestrial beings. Most of the film’s major scenes were shot at the uncompleted and promptly abandoned Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant in Gaffney, South Carolina.
In 2016, Mark Wahlberg, a Boston native, made Patriots Day, a semi-fictionalised drama concerning the Boston Marathon Bombing. Shooting on location wasn’t exactly an option, not just because of costs, but it was felt that the sensitive story wouldn’t go down well with locals. As a result, a replica set was created on the South Weymouth Naval Base and remains there today.
Based on the Salem witch trials of Massachusetts in 1692, this TV series from 2014-2017 saw an entire village built to resemble the old Salem town. Constructed in Shreveport, Louisiana, this is hands down one the biggest abandoned production sets you will ever be able to see with your own eyes.
A big chunk of Rian Johnson’s sci-fi flick Looper is shot in a classic American diner, one found slap bang in the middle of the country. After production came to a close in 2012, the diner was left untouched. Located near Napoleonville in Louisiana, the diner is free to visit for any budding explorers, though it’s now even more dilapidated than it was in the movie.
In 1970, production on David Lean’s epic Ryan’s Daughter prompted the construction of a whole town outside of Dingle in Ireland. A lot of said town withered away with the harsh weather conditions of the country, but some of the set remains sturdy to this day, including the stone schoolhouse.
The Hunger Games
Adapted from the Suzanne Collins bestseller, The Hunger Games tells the story of a future civilisation which is segregated into poverty-ridden districts forced to participate in an annual fight to the death. District 12 was filmed at the former cotton mill town of Henry River Mill Village in North Carolina. It served as the hometown of Katniss Everdeen, played by the then-emerging Jennifer Lawrence.
Field of Dreams
After shooting wrapped on 1989’s Field of Dreams, in which Kevin Costner plays a corn farmer turned baseball maverick, the baseball diamond that had been specifically built on a farm in Iowa, was left behind. The Lansing family, who owned the farm, decided to maintain the set as a tourist attraction, even building a small hut where visitors could buy souvenirs. Unlike a lot of entries on this list, this is one former set you’ll be welcomed onto.
Zero Dark Thirty
Blue Cloud Ranch in Santa Clarita provides the setting for an endless rotation of films and TV shows, including Iron Man and American Sniper. In 2012, it offered its services to the production of Zero Dark Thirty, a slightly fictionalised account of the events leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden. You can get a pretty good virtual tour of the ranch through their website.
Gunsmoke was an incredibly popular western TV show back in the day, running for 20 years from 1955 to 1975. When CBS tried to cancel it in 1967, the outrage of the public forced the network to backtrack – though the show did finally end eight years later, leaving behind an entire town set. Though the show was set in Kansas, a lot of it was filmed in in Utah, and some of the abandoned set is still standing.
With a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2009’s Year One isn’t exactly a high point in the careers of either Jack Black or Michael Cera. A comedy concerning a hunter-gatherer duo, most of the film of was shot near the town of Sibley in Louisiana, which served as the biblical city of Sodom. This abandoned movie set probably doesn’t have the same appeal as, say, Tatooine, but it’s there to see should you be so inclined.
Some films like Big Fish, in which a son reconciles with his dying father, are set in completely fictional towns. In this case, the invented ‘Spectre’ serves as the location for Tim Burton’s 2003 flick. The Spectre set was built on Jackson Lake Island, along the banks of the Alabama River near Montgomery. The island remains privately owned, but visitors can see Spectre with their own eyes for a reasonable fee of just $3.
2000 historical drama The Patriot, as well as being an early vehicle for then-promising newcomer Heath Ledger, was also one of the last major films Mel Gibson headlined before his notorious fall from grace. Shot on location in the Cypress Gardens nature reserve in South Carolina, a Spanish Mission was built specifically for the movie, which can still be found there today.
Starting life as a 1968 novel which was adapted into a 1970 film by director Robert Altman, M*A*S*H really seared its way into the cultural landscape as one of the best-loved, longest-running sitcoms of all time, running from 1972 to 1983. Though set in the Korean War, the show was shot in Malibu Creek State Park in Los Angeles County, California, and the iconic signs are still there for visitors to admire.
The launchpad movie of the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe sees Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark create his first metal super-suit in a cave in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, the filmmakers didn’t actually head out there to shoot the scenes, instead staying far closer to home at the Cerro Gordo Mines in Inyo County, California. Technically this wasn’t a set built specifically for the film, but it’s easy to get Iron Man vibes visiting the location.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
One of Clint Eastwood’s best-loved westerns is his 1976 film The Outlaw Josey Wales. Eastwood’s post-Civil War drama was shot in Paria, Utah, and while the barn building erected specifically for the film no longer stands on the same spot, it was moved to a nearby location in Kanab, Utah (nicknamed ‘Little Hollywood’ due to the number of movies shot there) where it can still be visited today.
The Ten Commandments
Cecil B DeMille was one of the early pioneers of what would become the blockbuster filmmaker mentality: everything in his movies had to be big. For his 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments, DeMille’s crew essentially built an Egyptian city in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes of California – and after the film was complete, the set was sneakily buried there. The remains of the set were dug up decades later.
CSI: Miami’s David Caruso takes the lead in 2001 psychological horror movie Session 9, in which a crew of workmen start fixing up a disused mental asylum only to encounter a supernatural presence. The movie was made extra creepy by the fact that it really was shot in an abandoned sanitarium, Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, which still sits unused.
The Blues Brothers
Comedy classic The Blues Brothers is famous for featuring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, scores of musical icons, and a ridiculously over-the-top car chase in the final act. The automobile action goes off the road and into a shopping mall – and the filmmakers used a real, existing mall in Illinois, the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, which had closed a few years earlier and still stands dormant and crumbling.
Director James Mangold’s 1999 film Girl, Interrupted was an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s non-fictional account of her time in psychiatric care in the late 60s, with Winona Ryder in the lead and an Oscar-winning supporting turn from Angelina Jolie. It was largely shot in a real medical facility, the Harrisburg State Hospital in Pennsylvania, which was closed down several years later.
Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra
2002 French comedy adventure Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra was the second live action adaptation of the famous Asterix comic book series, and saw the heroic Gauls head to Egypt. In reality, the filmmakers went to Atlas Film Studios in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where a suitably massive Ancient Egyptian set was erected, most of which is still there.
1951 western Silver Canyon is just among a great many movies and TV shows shot in Pioneertown, California, a location built in the 1940s specifically to cater to the then-flourishing western market. Since westerns fell out of fashion by the late 70s, Pioneertown has been in less demand, although some films have been shot there since, including 1995’s direct-to-video horror movie The Howling: New Moon Rising.
End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1999 action horror End of Days saw the Austrian Oak do battle with Satan himself, in the form of Gabriel Byrne. Scenes were shot at Linda Vista Community Hospital in Los Angeles, an abandoned hospital which was been subject to numerous paranormal investigations, as well as being a shooting location for other movies including Addams Family Values and the Insidious sequels.
Anna and the King
A 1999 drama from the same story that inspired musical The King and I, Anna and the King starred Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat. Set in the kingdom of Siam (today known as Thailand), the film was shot primarily in Malaysia, and a lot of the sets that were built specifically for the movie remain there today as tourist attractions.
1996’s Lone Star, writer-director John Sayles’ Oscar-nominated neo-western with a supporting turn from Matthew McConaughey, was shot in the Texas ghost town of Contrabando. A lot of the town’s buildings were lost due to flood damage in 2015, but its main landmark the Casita still stands for visitors to admire.
Man of Steel
Some of the most epic moments in 2013’s Superman movie Man of Steel were shot in the suitably epic location of Edwards Air Force Base in California. A major site for US Air Force test piloting for many years, the site has since been used as a shooting location for lots of blockbusters including the Iron Man movies, the Transformers movies and Captain Marvel.
The African Queen
Director John Huston’s 1951 epic The African Queen is renowned for having one of the most difficult shoots in Hollywood history at the time, filming on location in Uganda and the Congo. The boat from which the film takes its name has changed hands numerous times over the years, and today resides in Key Largo, Florida where visitors can buy tickets for tour boat rides.
1963 epic Cleopatra (infamous for introducing lead stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who went on to one of Hollywood’s most troubled romances) cost so much to make that, adjusted for inflation, it’s still one of the most expensive movies ever. A lot of the money went on the sets built at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, which are still there and have been used on other films including The Passion of the Christ.
The Hook & Ladder Firehouse in New York City – made famous as the Ghostbusters HQ in the 1984 comedy classic – isn’t technically abandoned, but it has been a major tourist destination for decades. The building remains instantly recognisable even without the signature Ghostbusters sign outside, although on occasion the sign has indeed been hung there.
Star Wars (sequel trilogy)
Some of the most memorable scenes in latter day Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi took place in the remote island on the mysterious far-off world where Luke Skywalker lived. This is in fact a very real, earthly location, an Irish island called Skellig Michael, and most of the structures on the island that we see in the movie are real, ancient ruins.
Late 60s TV classic The Prisoner has long enjoyed a massive cult following around the world, and fans of the show should be delighted to learn that the enigmatic ‘village’ where the show was set is in fact a real place. Situated in Gwynedd, North Wales, the village of Portmeirion has long been famous for its colourful and eccentrically designed buildings, as well as the beautiful surrounding landscape.
Tim Burton’s groundbreaking 1989 blockbuster Batman brought the Gothic world of DC’s Dark Knight to the big screen like never before. The film’s Gotham City sets were constructed in Buckinghamshire, England, and believe it or not some of the structures from the classic comic book movie are still standing all these years later.