When it comes to movies, Hollywood gets all the glory. But for the past few decades, Wilmington NC has developed a reputation as the ideal backdrop for blockbuster movies, indie productions and TV shows. Now known as ‘Hollywood East’ and ‘Wilmywood’, Wilmington was even named one of the “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2021” by MovieMaker magazine, despite the obvious challenges of the pandemic. Don’t believe us? Grab your popcorn and check out these seven famous movies filmed in Wilmington NC.
Famous movies filmed in Wilmington NC
1. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Best locations: Southport – Amuzu Theatre and the Fishy Fishy Cafe
We couldn’t write a list about famous Wilmington NC without mentioning I Know What You Did Last Summer, even if it’s not the cheeriest way to begin. Starring a starry-eyed Jessica Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar, this horror movie tells the story of four young friends bound by a tragic accident and reunited by a hook-wielding stalker. Terrifying stuff.
Southport provided the perfect backdrop for most of the movie, with its looking oak trees and slightly spooky Victorian homes. You can visit the spot where Helen becomes Croaker Queen and where Barry meets his fate at the Amuzu Theatre. Or head to the Fishy Fishy Cafe aka Barry’s gym.
2. The Choice (2016)
Best locations: Dockside Restaurant and Bar, Brasserie due Soleil, Airlie Gardens
In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, The Choice is a real tear-jerker. The 2016 heartwarming tale tells the love story of two neighbours as they navigate their relationship through redefining life events. Starring Benjamin Walker as Travis and Teresa Palmer as Gabby, filming mostly took place in Wilmington and Beaufort.
You can visit Travis’ go-to hangout spot at Dockside Restaurant and Bar. If you’re feeling romantic, you could make reservations at Brasserie du Soleil just like Travis and Gabby. For something extra special, you can even rent out a canoe or take a boat out to Masonboro Island for some seaside frolicking.
3. We’re the Millers (2013)
Best locations: Port City Java, Penders Cafe, Market Street
This hilarious crime comedy film might take place in Denver, but look closely and you’ll spot an awful lot of Wilmington. Starring Jennifer Anniston and Jason Sudeikis, the film follows the small-time pot dealer trying to convince his neighbour to help him by pretending to be his family to smuggle drugs from Mexico into the United States.
Head to Port City Java – Burklyn Coffee – in the movie for a steaming cup of coffee. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s Penders Cafe, where David gets abducted. Take a stroll down Market Street and Brunswick Forest for a glimpse of the famous apartments too.
4. Empire Records ( 1995)
Best locations: Rebellion
This coming-of-age classic tells the story of a group of young employees at a record store. Starring Rene Zellweger and Liv Tyler, the movie follows a day in the lives of the employees as they try to save the independent store from being absorbed by a chain.
Get a photo outside Rebellion in downtown Wilmington, which stood in for Empire Records. Die-hard fans should take a stroll down Forest Hills Drive to catch a glimpse of Corey Mason’s House too.
5. The Conjuring (2013)
Best locations: University of North Carolina, Kenan Memorial Fountain, Market Street.
James Wan directed this seriously spooky supernatural tale. The plot tells the story of Ed and Lorrain Warren as they investigate paranormal activities at the Perron family’s farmhouse in Rhode Island. But if you think that isolated farmhouse is far away near New York, you’re sadly mistaken – that’s all North Carolina.
Most of the indoor scenes were shot at Screen Gems Studios, but there are a few real-life locations to visit too. The University of North Carolina, Kenan Memorial Fountain and Carolinian Inn, as well as the Carolina Apartments, feature throughout the movie. You can also visit Father Fordon’s church on 411 Market Street.
6. The Longest Ride (2015)
Best locations: Temple of Israel, St. Mary’s Catholic School the Union Station Building, as well as the Gravestone Inn
Another classic Nicholas Sparks film adaptation, the Longest Ride tells the story of a former bull-riding champion Luke and college student Sophia. Despite being very much in love, they’re torn apart by a sad sequence of events. So far, so cheery.
Fans have dozens of filming locations to visit in Willmington. Start in the historic district at the Temple of Israel, St. Mary’s Catholic School and the Union Station Building. Don’t miss the Gravestone Inn, where the famous party scene also takes place.
7. Safe Haven (2013)
Best locations: Wilmington Riverwalk, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, the Southport Ferry Terminal and the American Fish Company
This Valentines Day classic tells the story of Katie, played by Julianne Hough, who hides a mysterious past. She winds up in Southport, North Carolina, where she gets lovey-dovey with a local widower.
Fans can follow in her footsteps along the Wilmington Riverwalk, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, the Southport Ferry Terminal and the American Fish Company (aka Ivan’s Fish Shack, where Katie works).