Top 10 Minnesota Film Destinations

By Explore Minnesota

"A Prairie Home Companion" (2006)

In 1981, Garrison Keillor brought his radio program, "A Prairie Home Companion," to the World Theater, which was renamed the Fitzgerald Theater in honor of St. Paul native and American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. When Keillor teamed up with director Robert Altman to make the film version of "A Prairie Home Companion" with Hollywood stars like Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Woody Harrelson, the Fitzgerald naturally served as the primary location. In fact, all but one scene of the movie were shot in the historic venue, which is St. Paul's oldest surviving theater space.

Where was the only scene not at the Fitzgerald shot? At Mickey's Diner, another St. Paul landmark that is the single most-filmed location in Minnesota.

"Grumpy Old Men" (1993)

Grumpy Old Men festival This classic movie, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau, highlights the longtime Minnesota tradition of ice fishing. The ice fishing scenes were filmed on Lake Rebecca, part of the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, a 2,200-acre park in Rockford, Minn., with gently rolling Big Woods landscape, wetland areas and hiking trails that provide glimpses of trumpeter swans. During the winter months, the frozen lake is populated with ice fishing houses, where anglers wait in comfort for muskies to bite.

Further south, the scenic Mississippi River town of Wabasha served as the model for the town depicted in the movie. Every February, Wabasha celebrates this distinction by hosting the Grumpy Old Men Festival, which features ice fishing, a pet pageant, bingo, a cribbage tournament and live music.

"North Country" (2005)

The title of the film "North Country," starring Charlize Theron, refers to the geographic area in northeastern Minnesota commonly referred to as the Iron Range, encompassing cities such as Duluth, Ely, Eveleth, Grand Rapids and Hibbing. "The Range" is known for its rich iron ore deposits but also for its pristine beauty. Visitors find themselves in unspoiled nature that includes millions of acres of forest, thousands of lakes and beautiful vistas. Opportunities for outdoor recreation in both summer and winter abound.

"Purple Rain" (1984)

First AvenueThe 1984 classic "Purple Rain" featured the iconic Minneapolis rock club First Avenue & 7th Street Entry as the setting for a story about the young upstart performer Prince. Since 1970, First Avenue has been integral to the Twin Cities' vibrant music scene, showcasing a vast array of live music every night of the week. Throughout the years First Avenue has played host to homegrown acts, like the late Prince, The Replacements and Atmosphere, to national headliners like The White Stripes, Public Enemy and The Ramones.

Since Prince's death in 2016, his star on the exterior of the building has been painted gold. Memorabilia from the film is on display at Prince's former residence and studio Paisley Park, now a museum.

"The Good Son" (1993)

northeast_palisade_09-1.jpgPalisade Head in Silver Bay, Minn., played a pivotal role in "The Good Son," a thriller starring Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. The climactic fight scene at the end of the film was supposed to be on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, but a suitable location could not be found. After scouting all over the U.S., Palisade Head, located in Tettegouche State Park, was chosen for its dramatic views 180 feet above the North Shore of Lake Superior. On clear days, visitors can see the Sawtooth Mountains to the northeast, historic Split Rock Lighthouse to the southwest and the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin across the lake to the south. The site is a popular regional center for rock climbing with many routes up the lakeshore cliffs.

"Beautiful Girls" (1996)

This drama about a piano player at a crossroads who returns home to his friends and family in Minnesota featured an all-star cast, including Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman and Natalie Portman. The movie was shot at many Twin Cities locations, including Bryant Lake Bowl, the eclectic Lyn-Lake neighborhood mainstay. BLB, as it's commonly known, has it all – a funky bar, great food, old-school bowling (no electronic score-keeping here) and a theater that features plays, comedy, live music and screenings throughout the year.

"Jingle All the Way" (1996)

Mall of America Christmas In this holiday movie classic, Howard Langston (played by Arnold Schwarzeneger), tackles holiday shoppers at Mall of America on Christmas Eve in order to get his son the last Turbo Man action figure. Today, MOA remains an international shopping and entertainment mecca. It's the second-largest mall in North America, with 520+ retail stores and more than 40 million visitors per year. In addition to shopping, visitors can enjoy Nickelodeon UniverseSea Life Minnesota Aquarium, and restaurants offering a wide array of cuisines.

"Sweet Land" (2005)

"Sweet Land" is a love story set amidst the farms of southwest Minnesota's prairie grasslands, where the land has sustained life and inspired creativity (the area is home to several renowned authors and artists) for hundreds of years. The city of Montevideo is the place to visit to experience the rich history of life on the prairie. The city is home to many historic sites, museums, National Register properties and parks, including Historic Chippewa City, the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Depot and the Swensson Farm Museum, which features a 22-room brick farmhouse, grist mill and timber frame barn.

"The Mighty Ducks" (1992)

Winter Carnival ice palace_Jim Hoffman_800x533
Saint Paul Winter Carnival / Jim Hoffman

Minnesota is well known as a hockey-loving state, so it's fitting that "The Mighty Ducks" (along with its sequels) was filmed here. Rice Park, a public square in St. Paul established in 1849, is featured in the film along with ice sculptures from the annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival. The park is a peaceful haven in the heart of downtown, surrounded by such St. Paul landmarks as The Saint Paul Hotel, Landmark Center, Ordway theater and St. Paul Public Library. You can also catch the team riding attractions at Nickelodeon Universe (formerly Camp Snoopy) at Mall of America.

"Fargo" (1996)

For many viewers, "Fargo," written and directed by Minnesota natives Joel and Ethan Coen, immortalized Minnesota as the land of funny accents, snow-swept landscapes, shady car dealers and duck stamp artists. The production shot in many locations throughout the state, but few capture the Minnesota lifestyle depicted in the movie more than the small resort towns of the Brainerd Lakes area. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy everything from golfing, canoeing, snowmobiling and skiing, the Brainerd area also features year-round fishing on many of its 465 lakes.