The Arch and St. Louis at the Movies

Being a native of St. Louis, it’s always a kick to see your hometown in the movies. That moment when you smile at the sight of the Arch, Laclede’s Landing or perhaps Grand boulevard. It’s a small proud moment. Sometimes, films don’t actually film there but basically show an air shot that they put into their movie without actually shooting a single take there. Movies like the Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy comedy, Identity Thief.¬†Parenthood, the 1989 Ron Howard film, was set in St. Louis but shot in Orlando.

Due to St. Louis’ high tax rate for film crews, a lot of films aren’t actually shot in St. Louis but the coverage is basically taken for a location device. Sometimes, a film uses exteriors and shoots in The Lou.¬†Here are a few.

American Flyers(1985)-This Kevin Costner bicycle riding flick opened its film with a moving shot of Laclede’s Landing and the Arch. Before he became a star with No Way Out and his numerous baseball titles, Costner shot a movie in St. Louis with director John Badham.

White Palace(1990)-This James Spader-Susan Sarandon romance shot in numerous locations across St. Louis, including Duffy’s Restaurant, Laclede’s Landing, The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and Lemp Mansion. They shot at a diner called White Knight(a place that still stands today at 18th Street and Olive) several times, renaming the diner in the film “White Palace”. I visited this place numerous times with my dad before school as a kid. A poster of the film hangs in the place.

Planes Trains & Automobiles(1987)-The John Hughes film starring Steve Martin and John Candy shot briefly at Lambert International Airport and featured a shot of the Arch.

National Lampoons Vacation(1983)-A scene where Clark Griswold drives lost through East St. Louis asking for directions and having his car vandalized was actually filmed on a Hollywood backlot and not in East St. Louis, which sparked a controversy. Only exterior shots were used for this film. The infamous scene where Chevy Chase utters the words “Excuse me homes” was not shot in St. Louis.

Manhunter(1986)-The Michael Mann classic with William Petersen chasing a serial killer shot at Lambert International Airport in a brief scene.

Up in the Air(2009)The George Clooney film is the most recent and notable St. Louis film because it didn’t just show the Arch but shot in many locations in St. Louis. They shot at Afton High School, Cheshire Inn in Clayton, and at Lambert as well. They shot many scenes at business buildings right next to KSDK on Market Street off 7th, 8th and 9th street.

Escape from New York(1981)-The Kurt Russell adventure film shot scenes at Union Station, Chain of Rocks Bridge and the Fox Theater as well as featuring the Arch.

King of The Hill(1993)-Steven Soderbergh’s indie shot set in the Depression Era in Soulard’s Market as well as other locations around St. Louis.

Mississippi Grind(2015)-The Ryan Reynolds gambling film features several locations in St. Louis but has a long single take where Reynolds talks with Sienna Miller on a boat going down the Mississippi River and the Arch and Riverfront are in the background.

Showing the Arch is one thing but it’s extra special when actual famous locations in St. Louis are used in films. Sometimes a film just wants exterior shots but sometimes they want both. I hope you enjoyed this list as much I did bringing it to you.

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