Architecture has made its presence felt in many fields and facets. When it comes to the movie business, one of the unmissable elements that shape the way we perceive a film is its setting. The landscape directs the eye from the beginning and sets the mood of the film. It is a language on its own. Throughout the years, there have been numerous instances, where the buildings have gained as much importance as the cast of the film. More often than not, the audience tends to miss its significance in the presence of other cinematic elements. However, the architecture silently weaves a tale that is unlike any component. 

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US Bank Tower in 2012 ©

Empire State Building, built-in 1930 in New York, unarguably remains one of the most famous high-rises in the world. It has been extensively used in movie franchises for years as a venue for action or as a prop in the background to accentuate the New York skyline. Taking a trip down memory lane to 2005 was when the blockbuster movie, King Kong was released. The film featured the gorilla traversing the length of the then tallest building in the world in its penultimate scenes before being shot down by military jets. The 2003 movie Elf starring Will Ferrel also features the famous structure in a few scenes. Whereas, the building makes an appearance in many iconic films like Sleepless in Seattle, Empire, and The Independence Day.

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King Kong 2005 ©

Ever wondered where the Avengers headquarters sit in real life? The famous high-rise is none other than the MetLife building on 200 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, a jewel on the Manhattan skyline. The audience gets glimpses of the interiors in the 2012 movie, The Avengers while the exterior was designed through CGI. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark buys the MetLife building and remodels it into the facade as shown in the movies. The MetLife building also appears in Godzilla, where the monster creates a massive hole destroying the structure.

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Stark Tower ©Marvel, Disney and

Talking about the tallest buildings in the world reminds us of one of the most unforgettable scenes in the history of Hollywood films. The Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol released in 2011 featured Tom Cruise climbing the high rise without the aid of a harness. In reality, though, all the safety precautions were put in place meticulously to avoid any accidents. The scene was difficult to film as the team had to take permission and punch holes in the building. To everyone’s delight, the result was equally jaw-dropping. 

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Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ ©Paramount Pictures

Bradbury Building, located in Los Angeles, is also a part of the classic buildings recurring in movies. The national landmark built-in 1893 is best known for its ornate interiors and the skylit atrium. The building plays a prominent role in setting the scene for the ultimate showdown in the 1982 classic, The Blade Runner. The oldest commercial building of Los Angeles is also the place of the climax in the more recent movie, 500 Days of Summer, based on the romantic life of an aspiring architect in L.A. The building forms the perfect backdrop for the 2011 Oscar-winning period film, The Artist captivating the essence of 1927. Other movies in which the high-rise plays a part include Pay it Forward(2000), Double Indemnity(1944), and D.O.A.(1950).

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Bradbury Building ©Christopher Reynolds

Moving across the ocean to the United Kingdom, lies the ecological skyscraper, The Gherkin. From the beginning, most eyes were set on it because of its revolutionary design, as it took spatial and environmental concerns into account. The Gherkin has since then become a signature of the London cityscape. The award-winning landmark features in many British television series, including Sherlock. Apart from that, Woody Allen’s Matchpoint and Basic Instinct 2 also star in the high-rise. 

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The Gherkin ©Nigel Young

In many movies, science fiction is one of the major_ genres, fictional buildings take on a central role. Some of these are based on real-life high rises. For example, in the 1988 classic, Die Hard, a 31 story building is taken over by a group of terrorists. In the movie, it went by the name Nakatomi Plaza. However, it was the 20th Century Fox’s Los Angeles headquarters, Fox Plaza. 

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Nakatomi Plaza ©Wikipedia

When talking about skyscrapers, it would be a travesty not to include the city of Chicago. Chicago is world-famous for its bold architecture and a skyline dotted with numerous high-rises. The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is one of the most notable high rises of the city and has therefore been used in many Hollywood films. Dystopian films such as Divergent, its sequel, Insurgent as well as Jupiter Ascending have made thorough use of the structure. The 2018 movie Rampage shows an epic climax with fight scenes and a plane crash that ultimately culminates in the collapse of the tower.

Willis Tower in Rampage 2018 ©Pinterest

It is hence a concrete fact that high-rises will always be used in movies in one way or the other. From getting destroyed by alien attacks, providing astonishing visuals, or just being the site of adrenaline-filled fight scenes, buildings will never fail in making a mark of their own.


Kriti Shah is a student of architecture with a keen interest in writing. When she’s not involved in college submissions,she can be seen reading about travel, design, art and popular culture. An eager travel-buff, she plans to sail across the oceans and write about her adventures