One Of The Most-Filmed Locations In Florida Isn't What You'd Expect

Think of a museum; chances are, ancient exhibits, dusty archives, and perhaps a dinosaur or two will spring to mind. So, a 2023 study by the Hawaiian Islands, which reveals the top 10 most filmed U.S. museums in movie history, may be a surprise. Put this way, No. 1 on the list is NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where the adjacent visitor complex is anything but your average museum.

The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is renowned for launching U.S. astronauts into orbit since 1961— from the first Americans in space and the Apollo moon landings to more recent missions. Consequently, the location has long been a draw for moviemakers, with the James Bond film "Moonraker" (1979), real-life rocket story "Apollo 13" (1995), and asteroid epic "Armageddon" (1998) all filmed at this iconic spot.

What is perhaps less well known, however, is that a separate state-of-the-art visitor complex is not far from the main space center. Here, space fans can experience a mix of interactive productions, sensational simulators, 3D films, behind-the-scenes tours, and even the chance to watch rocket launches. So, it's a museum of sorts — but not as we know it.

More museums in the movies

Coming in at No. 2 is another institution that is not your typical museum: The Huntington in San Marino, California. While the center's art museum certainly fits the traditional mold, featuring works from around the world spanning some 500 years, the site is also home to a leading research library containing more than 11 million items. It's all set in beautiful botanical gardens spanning 130 acres.

With such a diverse setting, it's perhaps no wonder that this place also has a long list of screen appearances to its name. Among these are "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987), "24: Redemption" (2008), and "Iron Man 3" (2013). Even "The Muppets" paid a visit back in 2011.

Another unusual contender in the run-down is the cargo ship S.S. Lane Victory, in Los Angeles, California, used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Today, this atmospheric vessel, designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark, acts as a living museum and memorial to all who have served at sea. Appearing at No. 6 on the list, the ship's impressive screen credits include "Titanic" (1997), "Pearl Harbour" (2001) and "The X Files" (2001). 

Best films for the traditionalists

Of course, not all museums in the line-up will come as a surprise. Also featured are such archetypal institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, appearing at No. 3, 4, and 6, respectively. According to the study, they have a collective roll call of some 70 film and TV appearances.

Perhaps most famous of all, though, when it comes to museums in the movies, is the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Found at No. 5 on the list, it is best known for its starring role in the fantasy comedy "Night at the Museum" (2006). Featuring Ben Stiller in the lead role, the film tells the story of a night watchman at the museum who discovers that an ancient curse brings all the exhibits to life at night. Although many scenes were shot in a studio, the museum's building is featured.

While this particular research only covers U.S. museums, when you also factor in films shot further afield, such as "The Mummy Returns" (2001), "The Da Vinci Code" (2006), and Museum Hours (2012), it's clear there's still a great affection for the traditional museum setting. So, while more unusual venues are proving a draw for moviemakers, we haven't seen the last of mysterious mummies, fusty skeletons, and archaic times.