A Handy Guide To The Filming Locations Of 'Back To The Future'
Ah, that idyllic California suburb of Hill Valley, home to notable residents Marty McFly, Doc Brown and Biff Tannen. Immortalized in the beloved Back To The Future franchise, the town, of course, is pure Hollywood fiction. Los Angeles doesn't play itself in the movies, but instead some of its anonymous and also a few of its famous locales are stitched together to create a town that actually feels more like a Midwest suburb straight out of a John Hughes production. To make Hill Valley's provenance even more tangled, the third film in the trilogy was shot mostly in Northern California and even partly in Utah and Arizona. Here's a guided tour of many of these locations, many of which were shot in and around Los Angeles.
1955 Hill Valley, Courthouse Square
Few towns in Los Angeles County retain enough of their postwar look to stand in as a town from a bygone era, so Hill Valley's town center is an actually a constructed set on the Universal Studios backlot. Hollywood Magic, everyone! While you aren't allowed to walk in Marty McFly's footsteps as he discovers what used to be his hometown, it's one of the many stops on the Universal Studio's backlot tour.
Twin Pines Mall (later Lone Pine Mall)
The JCPenney that served as the backdrop for Marty's time traveling and Doc Brown's death at the hands of Libyan terrorists (yeesh, that didn't age well) no longer remains, but the mall still stands. Today the JCPenny that was at the south end of the mall is now a Burlington Coat Factory. According to screenwriter Bob Gale, fans gathered at the parking lot on the date of October 26, 1985 just to see if anything happened. We doubt anything did.
Puente Hills Mall is at the corner of Colima Road and South Azusa Avenue in the City of Industry.
Hill Valley High School
Just a 15 minute drive from the Puente Hills Mall is Whittier High School, which stood in as Hill Valley High School. All of the exterior shots and interior locations (with one notable exception, see below) were filmed at the campus. The home of the Cardinals can also lay claim to another fun fact: they were Richard Nixon's alma mater.
Whittier High School is at 12417 East Philadelphia Street in Whittier.
Enchantment Under The Sea Dance
Marty invents rock 'n' roll and sets his parents up at the school dance in Back to the Future, which was actually filmed at a humble location quite near Universal Studios. Though many pass by it on the way to a show at the Hollywood Bowl, you wouldn't realize that Hill Valley High's school auditorium is actually the gym at the Hollywood United Methodist Church. The dance was recreated in the church's gym in 2010 to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary.
Hollywood United Methodist Church is located at 6817 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.
Doc Brown's House
Being a scientist must have paid well in 1955! When Marty visits the younger Doc Brown in the past, he runs up to a house that will be familiar to any architecture nerd. Pasadena's Gamble House, an Arts and Crafts-style house built in 1908, has been named a National Historic Landmark, but that honor was designated in 1977, before the Back To The Future films. The film was basically resume padding.
The Gamble House is located at 4 Westmoreland Place in Pasadena. Tours are available for the public.
The Starting Line
When Marty needs to take the DeLorean back to 1985, he has to take off just a mile down the street from the courthouse, in front of the Bluebird Motel. In reality, this location is North Vermont Canyon Road in Griffith Park, across the street from the Greek Theatre's parking lot. There's no Bluebird Motel sign to guide you, but the trees are still standing there. Use that screenshot above as a guide.
HillValleyCity.com has the exact coordinates you can punch into your GPS.
Pohatchee Drive-In Theater
Back To The Future is filled with many meta-moments, but few are quite as meta as the Pohatchee Drive-In, which has the legendary Monument Valley as its backdrop. Countless Westerns have used the scenic locale, including 10 by legendary director John Ford (The Searchers and Stagecoach are two of them). Although it is about 20 miles outside of Hill Valley, in real life it is along the Arizona/Utah border within the Navajo Reservation.
Monument Valley is off U.S. Highway 163. Click here for more information on visiting.
Hill Valley, 1885
For the third film in the franchise, the filmmakers went further north and shot in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, near the town of Sonora in Tuolumne County (not far from Yosemite National Park). The entire set was constructed in the Red Hills movie ranch and left after filming was completed, but sadly burned down in 1996. Red Hills Ranch has also served as the shooting location for TV series such as Bonanza and Little House On The Prairie and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven
Red Hills Ranch is located near the town of Sonora, 6 miles west of Chinese Camp. Click HillValleyCity.com has more information on visiting the location.