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The Best City Backdrops for Holiday Movies

November 21, 2011 By CityPASS

Holiday movies are a favorite activity during this special time of year, and a blockbuster cast will no doubt draw throngs of movie-goers to the theater. Often overlooked, but just as important as the cast, is the city a movie is set in. After all, would Home Alone be the same if it were set in Alton, Ill., instead of New York City?

Just in time for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season, here’s our list of some of the best cities for holiday movies, along with some of the famous films that have used them as their backdrop.


Chicago kicks off our holiday cities in regal fashion with movies such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, Home Alone, While You Were Sleeping and Dutch; Chicago is the perfect holiday setting because of its snowy winters, picturesque cityscape, and recognizable landmarks.

New York City

A very popular home for holiday films, New York City has a blockbuster line up of holiday hits. From classics like Scent of a Woman and Holiday Inn to more modern takes on the holidays like Elf and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, New York is truly the perfect setting for a holiday film. Other prominent holiday films set here include Bill Murray’s Scrooged, the true classic Miracle on 34th Street, and the drama The Ice Storm.

San Francisco

While less known for its holiday beauty since snow is less prevalent here than other holiday movie cities, San Francisco has a few titles to its credit. Adam Sandler’s dark comedy Funny People is set here, as is Jennifer Aniston’s Four Christmases.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, movie stars and palm trees, brings its own unique films to the holiday scene. Son-In-Law, Pauly Shore’s comedic classic, tells a tale of his journey from Los Angeles to South Dakota to meet his girlfriend’s parents at Thanksgiving. While only part of the film is set in LA, all of Pauly Shore’s attitude is – which more than makes up for any scenic differences. Bruce Willis’s classic Die Hard is also based in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

Small Town USA

Small Town USA: a picturesque and quaint place, ranging from Hammond, Ind., to Vermont, it deserves as much credit as any when it comes to holiday movies backdrops. Classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas make their homes in small towns, as does the brilliant comedy A Christmas Story. And since some of these small towns don’t technically exist, don’t mind if we include A Charlie Brown Christmas in the list of small town holiday films that need a mention!

Honorable Mentions

Some cities didn’t have enough movies to deserve their own place on our list, but we couldn’t help but mention a few of the classic and modern day holiday movies.

  • Trading Places – set in Philadelphia during the holidays, this is a classic comedy with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy that follows their antics after fate plays a trick on them both.
  • Home for the Holidays – Baltimore makes an appearance on our list for this brilliant film directed by Jodie Foster and starring Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr.
  • A Christmas Carol and Love Actually – both are set in London, and both are must sees when it comes to holiday films.

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