The Best Movies Ever Filmed in Florida - and Each Location’s Impact

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

There are many things that Florida is known for. From its iconic beaches and weather to its amusement parks and luxurious vacation spots, the southernmost state in the US is famous across the country. The state also boasts considerable cinematic significance; it is home to Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World, as well as various theme parks. Florida was incredibly alluring to actors, directors, and producers in the early 20th century, as it served as a popular prime location for feature film production. Times have not remained quite the same, of course, but plenty of blockbusters and culturally significant films have still been shot there in recent years. We’ve gathered some noteworthy examples of the best movies ever filmed in Florida for you below.

The Florida Project

After shooting his 2015 movie "Tangerine" on iPhones, Sean Baker wrote and directed his slice of life drama The Florida Project. Released in 2017, this was truly one of the best movies ever filmed in Florida from a cinematographic and artistic perspective. On a modest budget of $2 million, it grossed $11.3 million at the box office and was received with near-unanimous critical acclaim. Notably, it was chosen by both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review as one of the top 10 films of the year. Brooklynn Prince’s performance in it earned him the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer, while Willem Dafoe’s earned him Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and BAFTA Awards.

Like Tangerine, iPhones were also used to film the final scene of The Florida Project

The film follows a struggling mother and her daughter through their daily lives, their impoverished state a stark contrast to the Walt Disney World Resort nearby. Their inability to afford both day-to-day essentials and recreational luxuries lifts the plot from a simple, fictional story and serves to illuminate the real, darker corners of poverty that persists in some parts of Florida. Those same hardships are still what many families face, before moving to NYC from Florida on economic grounds. 

The film was shot entirely on location in Osceola County, Florida on 35mm film. The final scene was shot at Walt Disney World on an iPhone, much like Tangerine was before it, without Disney’s knowledge. To do so, Sean Baker employed the bare minimum crew needed for the scene and maintained secrecy as the scene was shot.

2 Fast 2 Furious

An undisputed commercial success, 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious became the highest-grossing film in the Fast and Furious franchise – as well as the 16th highest-grossing film of 2003. While its action sequences were praised, it was not released to critical acclaim; it received generally mixed reviews at the time of its release, and it was even nominated for two awards at the 24th Golden Raspberry Awards. Some critics have reconsidered in recent years, however, calling it an underrated entry to the franchise and an overlooked gem.

The film follows two prosecuted childhood friends, Brian O’Conner and Roman Pearce, as they go undercover at the behest of US Customs Service operatives to bring down a drug lord – in exchange for the erasure of their criminal records. The plot does not weigh the movie down, however, as it serves the undeniable strength of the franchise – stunning action sequences.

Much of the 2 Fast 2 Furious movie was shot in Miami

As the majority of the film’s action sequences take place on the streets, Florida’s iconic scenery provides the perfect backdrop.  Filming equipment saw lots of relocations, as shooting included such iconic, recognizable locations as;

  • Miami – and even Sylvester Stalone’s private mansion there
  • Boca Raton
  • Hollywood
  • West Palm Beach

Despite a relatively lukewarm critical response, then, it’s only fitting that, on commercial grounds, 2 Fast 2 Furious deserves a spot in a list of the best movies ever filmed in Florida.

Edward Scissorhands

A truly spectacular romance fantasy film, Edward Scissorhands was one of Tim Burton’s most known movies. It was released to critical acclaim and was a clear financial success, considering its relatively modest budget for the time. Following its reception, it received multiple nominations at the Saturn Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Academy Awards – also winning the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

The film tells the story of the titular Edward, an unfinished, artificially created man who has scissors instead of hands. As his creator dies and he is left to lead his life alone, he is taken in by a suburban family and ends up falling in love with their daughter Kim. A dark, romantic fantasy movie in an unusually pure form, it is often described as heartfelt and culturally impactful for the 90s decade.  

Most of the filming took place in Lutz between March 10 and June 10, 1990, as well as the Southgate Shopping Center in Lakeland. For its suburban setting, Tim Burton initially intended to use Burbank, California – but Florida’s own Tampa Bay area was his final choice. Florida’s sunny weather and scenery can be argued to add to the movie’s essence in a very meaningful way – juxtaposing the bright surroundings with the dark internal conflict of the titular character is a powerful analytic approach.

The sunny Florida weather served as a great contrast to Edward’s darker hues

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

This infamous 1994 comedy film has often been argued to not have aged well – particularly on grounds of depictions of transgenderism. Notably, the film has even been subtly satirized in an episode of the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine in 2016, for this very reason. Be that as it may, it did not seem to be as unfit to the cultural landscape of its time; it did receive mostly negative to mixed reviews, but it was also a financial success. In numbers, it grossed a total of $107 million worldwide, on a budget of $15 million. Most notably, it launched Jim Carrey’s film career, the performance of whom earned the film a cult following to this day. It also spawned a franchise on the Ace Ventura brand, including two sequel films and a three-season animated series.

The Miami Dolphins’ abducted mascot was, fittingly, a dolphin

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective follows the titular Ace Ventura, an eccentric detective with a gift for retrieving tame or captive animals, as he is tasked with finding the Miami Dolphins football team’s abducted dolphin mascot.  Ace Ventura begins his investigation with billionaire Ronald Camp, and soon the comedic mishaps begin to unfold.

This cult 1990s comedy was also filmed in Florida – specifically, Miami. Among other locations, the movie depicted such famous landmarks as Villa Vizcaya and Sun Life Stadium (formerly Pro Player Stadium at the time of filming).

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About the Author

Cassandra Southard
Cassandra Southard is a freelance journalist who writes on various topics. A frequent movie-goer, she is interested in the magic of cinematography and the logistics of the relocation industry.

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