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Do You Recognise These Film Set Universities?

20th March 2017 Posted by: Lina Cárdenas

UNIVERSITIES are where people acquire knowledge, but many people might be surprised to learn that campuses aren’t only the home of study. The film industry has a long history of using universities for film locations.

Whether the film portrays university life or only features the location without referencing it, campuses around the world are included in many movies. It would take a lot of time to list them all, but here are some of the most popular:

1. Oxford University, England

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the second-oldest in the globe, this alma mater has attracted the attention of film makers.  Some say it is the history and medieval architecture of the dreaming spires that justifies the 30 or so movies there. The Harry Potter saga used the place to recreate the magical world of Hogwarts: Christ Church College was the perfect “Great Hall”, and the Bodleian Library and New College Tree were also sets of the most memorable scenes. James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The Saint (1997), Brideshead Revisited (2008), An Education (2009) and X-Men: First Class (2011) are among the other highly acclaimed box office movies filmed in Oxford University.

A view inside a courtyard at New College in Oxford England. It is one of the historic constituent
colleges of Oxford University and where some scenes of the Harry Potter movies were filmed

2. Harvard University in Massachusetts, USA

This is the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning and it has the world’s largest academic and private library system. No doubt many students dream of going to further their knowledge at Harvard, which has established itself as the University of the Elites. Among its alumni are eight US presidents, more than 60 billionaires, around 130 Nobel laureates and many world leaders. Unlike Oxford, since 1970 Harvard has a policy of only permitting filming inside its facilities on rare occasions, so probably won’t be seen so often in cinema. However, in films like The Social Network (2010) and Legally Blonde (2001) the Harvard building’s front appears. The Oscar winner for best Original Screen Play, Good Will Hunting (1997) was perhaps one of the rare occasions when a movie could be filmed in Harvard. Actually, many scenes took place in its Dunster House, one of the 12 undergraduate residential houses.

Harvard has been the setting for many university based films, such as
Good Will Hunting (1997) and Legally Blonde (2001) 

3. Columbia University in New York City, USA

The oldest college in the state of New York, the first one in United States to grant the M.D Degree and the one who grants the Pulitzer Prize, Columbia is second to Harvard in the number of notable alumni, having three US presidents, more than 20 billionaires, 31 Oscar winners, 29 world leaders and 100 Nobel laureates. Its modern architecture and renown make it the perfect location for the film industry, exceeding Oxford in the number of movies shot here at 40 and counting. Notable inclusions are: the Toby Maguire Spiderman saga, the original Ghostbusters movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Still Alice (2014), August Rush (2007), Malcom X (1992), Hitch (2005) Anger Management (2007), and Mona Lisa Smile (2003). That’s quite a list!

4. Princeton University in New Jersey, USA

Also part of the traditional Ivy League universities in the United States, Princeton has featured in many films throughout its history. Perhaps one of the most notable movies that portrayed Princeton University alumni and took place there is the winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind (2001). Other films that were shot in Princeton University’s campus are: I.Q (1994), The Happening (2008), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and Admission (2013).

Princeton University can be seen in the film A Beautiful Mind (2001) starring Russell Crowe

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA

Described as one of the world’s most prestigious universities, the MIT is famous for its research and technology development. Its school of engineering is often the first in various rankings. Also, the companies founded by MIT’s alumni are proving to be successful and time-lasting and this is depicted in many films. Again, Good Will Hunting (1997) used the MIT campus as a set, same as Patriots Day (2016), Knowing (2009) and Blown Away (1994). And this is not including the movies referencing MIT.

6. Yale University in Connecticut, USA

Yale is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and was the first in the country to award a PhD. Despite mentions in many films where characters had attended Yale, few films have been shot there. The most recent and popular is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

Yale University was seen in the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

7. University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada

As one of the most notable universities in Canada, UBC has also been the set of the most amount of Hollywood movies in the last decade, thanks to its modern architecture and low filming fees. Among the films are: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: The Last Stand (2007), X2 (2003), The Age of Adaline (2015), The Butterfly Effect (2004), Fantastic Four (2004), The Day Earth Stood Still (2008), Passengers (2008), Josie and the Pussycats (2001), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), and Final Destination 3 (2006). And those are just some of the most well-known ones.


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