Right across the border from Canada, with only Lake Erie separating the two, Cleveland boasts of quite the scenic landscape. Of course, the city and its landmarks make for quite the sights too. From the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Museum of Art to the Fountain of Eternal Life Statue and the James A. Garfield Memorial, you might have noticed these Cleveland landmarks in many a movie. And thanks to films with storylines set against the backdrop of the city and its suburbs, Cleveland enjoys quite the representation in the entertainment industry too! And here we are with a list of 10 Awesome Movies Straight Out of Cleveland to prove to you just that!
With the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Guardians, and the Cleveland Cavaliers ruling the roost, the City of Cleveland has quite the presence when it comes to major league professional sports teams, so it is only natural that the city features in several sports films and documentaries. One of the many films is Major League, a sports comedy that helps audiences on a fun-filled ride with a team from the city, the Cleveland Indians baseball team. The immense success of this film inspired two sequels — Major League II and Major League: Back to the Minors — but none of them even came close to the success and popularity garnered by this first installment. So how successful was the movie? Well, apart from enjoying nods from the industry’s strongest critics, as well as enjoying a fan following from audiences, the movie also raked in a cool $75 million at the box office, with production costs only pegged at a relatively lower $11 million. Starring Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Margeret Whitton, James Gammon, Rene Russo, Dennis Haysbert, and others, Major League was written and directed by David S. Ward.
The Shawshank Redemption
One of the most loved films of all time, with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, as well as other members in the cast winning the hearts of audiences, The Shawshank Redemption may not have done as well as expected immediately after it was released (even then, it raked in a cool $73.3 million against original production costs of only $25 million) but the fan following it has garnered since then has been phenomenal. Based on the Stephen King novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and directed by Frank Darabont (Frank also managed the screenplay department of the film), this film has also made its way into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Depicting the wrongful imprisonment of Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, his subsequent time at the Shawshank State Penitentiary where he forges friendships and has quite a few adventures as well as misadventures, and then, his daring escape defying all odds, The Shawshank Redemption is a slow-moving yet deliberate piece of work that leaves you speechless and hooked. If you’ve watched it once, there’s no way you cannot go back to this one a second or third time, at least! Only an hour and twenty minutes or so from the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the Ohio State Reformatory and Mansfield, which served as the backdrop for the film, are still one of the most renowned places to visit for diehard fans of the film.
The Soloist may have tanked at the box office, managing to get into its coffers only a little over $38 million as against the production costs that went up to $60 million, but it has since been recognized as one of those movies that depict a power-packed performance from its unique talented cast. Starring Jamie Foxx in a memorable role, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander, and LisaGay Hamilton, among others, the film was directed by Joe Wright. Based on The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez and retelling the true story of a musician who develops from schizophrenia and later roams the streets as a homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers. Residents of Cleveland may recognize some of the locations in the film as the primary filming for The Soloist took place in Cleveland and Los Angeles. The timing of the movie’s release as well as the postponement of the release date, along with the feedback from critics outlining how the narrative of the film could have been a lot better, were all factors that contributed to the poor performance of the film. Nevertheless, it’s a movie worth watching!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The ninth film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier stands out with Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, donning his role as a supervillain who stands up against Captain America. With Sebastian as James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes aka the Winter Soldier and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers aka Captain America leading the way, and the usual culprits of the MCU, Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka Falcon, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 serving as the perfect backup, the film turned out to be yet another successful one for the Avengers franchise, raking in a cool $714.4 million against production costs of around $170 million or so. As for the Cleveland connection, although it will be hard to tell amidst all that fast-moving action, there are indeed quite a few Cleveland streets and landmarks in the movie. In fact, there was even talk of tax credits on the part of the Cleveland administration and thankfulness on the part of the studios for the collaboration between the city and the filmmakers. All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier may not be an all-out Cleveland movie but it surely made good use of the city in it!
Welcome to Collinwood
A caper comedy written and directed by the Russo brothers Anthony and Joe, Welcome to Collinwood brings to audiences the misadventures of a group of misfits from the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland who dare to test their luck in trying to rob a jeweler’s safe. But considering the great minds at work, even the “Bellini” or the perfect heist, soon goes haywire. Filled with hilarious twists and turns and paying homage to the fact that simpletons don’t really make for great criminals, the film received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. Starring William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington, Sam Rockwell, Michael Jeter, Luis Guzman, Patricia Clarkson, Andrew Davoli, George Clooney, Jennifer Esposito, and Gabrielle Union in significant roles, Welcome to Collinwood does make for some good laughs. And there’s plenty of Cleveland in here!
A film that appealed more to the teen audience than the general crowds, The Land is a drama film revolving around the choices made by a bunch of teenagers from Cleveland and how these choices come to define them in many ways. Trying to make their way out of the poverty-stricken lives they lead and looking up to skateboarding as the one thing that is capable of lifting them up, it all goes downhill when they are involved in a car heist and get into trouble with the local queenpin. While the storyline of the film has oft been repeated before, and the premise of fighting the right fight but in the wrong way has indeed been explored quite a bit too, the film nevertheless leaves you with some cool twists and turns and manages to reach out to you through some well-structured sequences. Of course, all this couldn’t really save The Land from tanking at the box office, managing to collect only $43,756 against the million dollars it took to produce.
A biographical comedy with dramatic sequences, American Splendor is a mix of several genres including live acting, documentary-like featurettes, and animation, and brings to audiences a refreshing cinematic experience. With Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, and Judah Friedlander leading the cast, the film is directed and written by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. With real-life interspersing with the one that plays out in the subconscious of the main protagonist, and with the comic book adding to the narrative, the film is indeed a cool mix of thoughts and platforms, making it, in the words of a critic “a portrait of a true underground original”. With a perfect cast that lets us in all the intricacies and complications of a Cleveland family, and gives us a peek into their fears as well as ambitions, American Splendor sure makes for a great movie. Moviegoers thought the same too, helping the film rake in a cool $8.7 million against the initial investment of $2 million in production costs.
The Kid From Cleveland
Old movies have a charm of their own and The Kid From Cleveland is an endearing one indeed, depicting how a young kid is adopted by the Cleveland Indians team and learns how to live life the right way with the right attitude. Released in 1949, this sports drama was particularly a Cleveland favorite because it had several real-life players from the city’s baseball team making an appearance in the film, including the team owner Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg. co-owner of the team at the time and Major League Baseball icon. In addition to the many players and coaches who made an appearance, the film also featured the favorite Cleveland haunts of baseball fans at the time, League Park and the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Led by a star cast consisting of George Brent, Lynn Bari, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Cook, Ann Doran, Louis Jean Heydt, K. Elmo Lowe, and John Beradino, The Kid From Cleveland is a loving tribute to the spirit of the city and its people, showing how there’s always a helping hand — or an entire team of helping hands — to be found around here!
Yet another feel-good romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl in the lead, Jenny’s Wedding is written, directed, and co-produced by Mary Agnes Donaghue and has Alexis Bledel, Tom Wilkinson, Linda Emond, Grace Gummer, and Matthew Metzger adding to the list of main cast members. The film revolves around the family adventures of Jennifer “Jenny” Farrell, played by Katherine Heigl, who is not only tasked with revealing to her family that she is a lesbian but also has to let them in on the fact that she is engaged to her longtime partner Kitty Friedman, played by Alexis Bledel. With dramatic sequences playing out with each member of the family, some supportive and others completely against the new developments, the film portrays the change in the social fabric of Cleveland and how the definition of family has come to change in accommodating even those who are different from the crowds! A beautiful depiction of love and understanding, Jenny’s Wedding has a whole lot of Cleveland in it, with Downtown Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, and the Trinity Cathedral featuring prominently. Cleveland locals will also recognize several streets and neighborhoods too.
Draft Day may not have done extraordinarily well at the box office, barely making it through by collecting $29.5 million against the production costs of $25 million but there’s no denying that this sports drama has plenty of elements in it that make it a must-watch. Of course, considering how the movie revolves around Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, the professional NFL team that represents the city, it is even more of a must-watch for residents of Cleveland as well as those who are about to pay it a visit! The film portrays both the brilliance as well as shortcomings of the main protagonist as someone who carries the weight of an entire team and a city on his shoulders while struggling with his own life and follies. Directed and co-produced by Ivan Reitman, the film, in addition to Kevin Costner, also stars Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, and the late Chadwick Boseman in one of the early roles of his career. As a Cleveland Browns movie, Draft Day is also all about the city and its dedicated following for all things sports!
Let’s Wave Cleveland Goodbye For Now!
The Cleve, The 216, City of Light, The Land, Prodigy of the Western Reserve, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World, The Forest City, The CLE, or simply CLE, The Best Location in the Nation, and C-town or C-land — these are only some of the many nicknames given to the city by the people that hold it dear and for more reasons than one, the City of Cleveland is quite the one that you would immediately take a liking to. And a peek into any of these movies on our list of 10 Awesome Movies Straight Out of Cleveland will tell you that even in addition to its landscapes and popular filming locations, the city has a lot more to offer in terms of stories and settings.
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