The following represents a list of the top 10 movies, in terms of their respective box office hauls, in which at least a portion of the filming was done in Maine. As you’ll see below, in some cases, it’s a very small portion.
Nonetheless, the list shows that some of Hollywood’s biggest name actors have come to Maine to work, not just retreat to secluded vacation homes. Four of these movies made more than a quarter billion dollars at the box office, and one topped a half billion.
To be clear, this is not a list of all the movies ever filmed in Maine, it’s a list of the top 10 movies in terms of ticket sales.
Honorable mention: Disney’s 1994 “Iron Will” and the 1993 Warner Bros. drama “The Man Without A Face” just barely missed the top 10, with box office hauls of $21 million and $25 million, respectively. But they’re both worth mentioning, because “Iron Will,” a cross-country dogsledding adventure which included scenes shot in Bingham, featured the venerable Kevin Spacey, and “The Man Without A Face” — which was filmed at Bowdoin College, the Lincolnville General Store and a private home on Deer Isle — represented A-lister Mel Gibson’s first try at acting and directing in the same flick. Another reader made a compelling argument since this post first went up that the 1957 drama “Peyton Place,” starring Lana Turner and filmed in the Camden area, should be included. “Peyton Place,” which was racy for its day and influential for stretching the boundaries, also made nearly $26 million at the box office.
Without further ado, the top 10:
10. Head Above Water, box office haul: $32 million. This 1996 movie was filmed in Phippsburg, where a temporary beach house was constructed to serve as the family summer home for the character played by actress Cameron Diaz. The film is a comedy thriller that also stars Harvey Keitel and Billy Zane. (Note: A previous version of this list included the 2000 Ben Affleck movie “Reindeer Games” as being tied for 10th place with ticket sales of $32 million as well, but a reader correctly pointed out that it was another movie titled “Reindeer Games” that was filmed in Maine. Affleck’s “Reindeer Games” was filmed in British Columbia.)
9. In the Bedroom, box office haul: $43 million. Shot in Camden, this 2001 drama isn’t quite as kinky as the name might suggest. The title actually metaphorically refers to the rear chamber of a lobster trap, where two lobsters confined together will often turn on each other. This movie was shot on what for Hollywood is a shoestring budget — $1.7 million — and made back all that and more. It was critically acclaimed for strong performances by Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek. Academy Award-winner Marisa Tomei was also in this one.
8. The Preacher’s Wife, box office haul: $48 million. This 1996 Christmas romance starred the late Whitney Houston and two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington. It had relatively little to do with Maine — it was set in New York City, but Houston and Washington did come up to Portland’s Deering Oaks Park to film an ice skating scene. Read more about that by clicking here.
7. Pet Sematary, box office haul: $57 million. This is somewhat surprisingly the first — and only — movie of a Stephen King book in the top 10, although that’s due in part to the fact that while many of King’s bestsellers are set in Maine, the movie versions are not often filmed here. The 1989 horror is also the oldest movie on the list, with filming done in a range of places including a home in Hancock and Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor.
6. The Cider House Rules, box office haul: $89 million. The first one on the list to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, this 1999 drama is based on the John Irving novel of the same name and was filmed partly in Bernard and at Acadia National Park. Actress Charlize Theron was in this one, as well, and was joined by Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine. Although the movie lost out to “Shakespeare in Love” for Best Picture, Caine and Irving took home Oscars that year for their work on the film.
5. Message in a Bottle, box office haul: $189 million. Although this 1999 romance movie is set in the Outer Banks — a stretch of barrier islands that crosses from North Carolina into Virginia — the beach scenes were filmed on Phippsburg’s Popham Beach after town councilors from Tangier Island, Virginia, objected to the sex and swearing scenes and refused filmmakers permission to shoot there. The movie starred top draw actors Kevin Costner, Robin Wright and Paul Newman.
4. Jumanji, box office haul: $263 million. The first of four movies on the list to make more than a quarter billion dollars in ticket sales, this 1995 fantasy adventure sticks out now because it starred the beloved Robin Williams, who took his own life last week in California after battling severe depression. An actor who spanned genres, playing everything from a cross-dressing dad in the comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” to a troubled therapist in “Good Will Hunting,” Williams in this movie portrayed a boy who’d been trapped in a magical board game for 26 years. The Parrish Shoe Factory scenes were filmed in the 1861 Olde Woolen Mill in North Berwick. One reader pointed out that portions of this film were shot in Kennebunk, as well. A young Kirsten Dunst also appeared in this movie.
3. Casper, box office haul: $288 million. A little surprised to see this movie this high on this list? The 1995 family movie based on a series of old “Casper the Friendly Ghost” cartoons and comic books cleaned up, making five times as much in ticket sales as the $55 million it cost to produce it. The movie was set in Friendship, but was actually filmed in Camden. Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman starred alongside an animated ghost in this one.
2. Shutter Island, box office haul: $295 million. Director Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller, based on a Dennis Lehane novel of the same name, is the most recent movie on this list, released in 2010. While the vast majority of this film was shot elsewhere, the scene in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, conflicted federal marshal Teddy, climbs on a coastal rock face was filmed at Acadia National Park.
1. Forrest Gump, box office haul: $677 million. Unfortunately, the top two movies on this list had the least connection with Maine. This 1994 movie about the wide-ranging and historic adventures of a good-hearted — but slow-witted — man won a slew of Academy Awards, including ones for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. The title character of Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, seemed to travel to all corners of the planet at one time or another in this fictitious biographical movie, playing ping pong in China, fighting in Vietnam, fishing for shrimp in the Atlantic and — during his distance running phase — jogging all the way to Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde.