One of my favorite parts about visiting Los Angeles is driving by Johnnie’s Coffee Shop, a now-vacant restaurant that showcases Googie architecture—a 1950s style that favored futuristic designs and colorful starbursts—at its finest. It’s the inside, rather than the exterior, that really counts to me, though. That’s where two of my favorite movies, The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs, shot some of their most memorable scenes. As much as I’d like to sit at the counter or one of the tables, the shop’s only available for film shoots now, and looking through the windows isn’t quite the same.
But there are plenty of locations all over the world where you can actually re-create other popular movies’ most iconic moments. If you’ve ever wanted to walk through a football field and pump your fist in the air à la The Breakfast Club’s John Bender, or sit on a park bench in the South and contemplate life’s similarity to a box of chocolates, here’s where you need to go.
Eat a Sandwich That’ll Make You Scream: When Harry Met Sally
Katz’s Delicatessen has been around since 1888 and has been a favorite sandwich spot on New York’s Lower East Side for almost as long, but it rose to national notoriety thanks to When Harry Met Sally. If you haven’t seen the famous scene, let’s just say Sally (Meg Ryan) has a rather enthusiastic response to her meal, prompting a neighboring diner (director Rob Reiner’s mom) to tell a waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.” There’s a sign above the spot where they eat that reads: “Where Harry met Sally … hope you have what she had!”
Stop a Wedding in Its Tracks (or Pretend to): The Graduate
The church where Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) loudly interrupts his ex-girlfriend’s wedding isn’t in Santa Barbara, as it was said to be in the movie. Instead, filming took place at the United Methodist Church of La Verne in Los Angeles County. The church was also used many years later for the exact same cinematic purposes in Wayne’s World 2. In a parody of The Graduate, Wayne (Mike Myers) wields an electric guitar menacingly as he dodges his own former flame’s angry family members.
Make It Suntory Time: Lost in Translation
Main characters Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel and spent much time in the hotel’s New York Bar. The bar is just as classy in real life, offering live jazz music every night, an impressive and costly drink selection, and a spectacular view of the city. The 178 rooms offer lovely views as well, since they’re all above the forty-first floor in the business-district skyscraper.
Channel Your Inner Teenage Rebel: The Breakfast Club
When Judd Nelson’s Bender pumps his fist in the air as he walks across the football field to the tune of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me,” the audience knows that the kids will be all right. To make a similarly inspiring trek of your own, go to Glenbrook North High School in Illinois, which is also where director John Hughes went to school. But if you want to re-create the library scene, you’ll have to travel a few miles down to Maine North High School, where the gym was transformed into the infamous detention space.
Change Lives While Pouring Coffee: Amélie
Amélie’s (Audrey Tautou) life revolved around her waitressing job at this small café in the 18th Arrondissement neighborhood of Paris’s Montmartre area. Café des Deux Moulins has retained its 1950s style throughout the years, and the menu has remained much the same as well, with one important exception: the crème brûlée’s named after Amélie now. To pay homage to the movie, order the crème brûlée and lightly crack its top with a spoon—supposedly, it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Tell Your Life Story to Anyone Who’ll Listen: Forrest Gump
Unfortunately, you can’t sit on the bench that Forrest occupied while narrating his life; it’s on display at the Savannah History Museum in the city’s Visitor Information Center. But you can go to Chippewa Square in the downtown historic district, where all of the bench scenes were shot. Forrest’s bench was on the northern end of the square, but you’ll find similar benches for storytelling all over the place. Don’t forget the box of chocolates.
Embrace Without a Hint of Embarrassment: Bridget Jones’s Diary
The snowy spot where Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) shared their first kiss was in front of London’s Royal Exchange Buildings, a shopping center near the Bank of England. The center hosts many upscale dining and retail options, like Bulgari and Mont Blanc, but to stay true to the movie, purchase a blank diary similar to the one Mark buys Bridget to symbolize their new start.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine Forrest Gump without the tree-lined square that Forrest sits in, or the bustling diner that Sally’s excited cries brought to a halt. Whether they appear briefly or frequently, these locations have become just as special and significant as the famous actors who once occupied them. How gratifying to know that their cinematic history can be relived all over again, this time with us playing the starring roles.