“When you think of movies, you think of Hollywood. But before Hollywood, New Jersey was the movie capital of the world,” boasts the New Jersey government website. Film and motion pictures were invented in New Jersey by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson right here at Thomas Edison’s West Orange laboratory. In honor of this massive — and sometimes forgotten — achievement, we decided to round up some noteworthy movies and TV shows that were filmed right here in North Jersey. Read on to learn more about these 12 movies and TV shows that were filmed in Essex County.
A Beautiful Mind | 2001
This 2001 drama starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly follows the life of mathematician John Nash at Princeton University as he deals with schizophrenia. In addition to Princeton University, scenes from this movie were shot in Belleville, Newark, and East Orange.
The Dark Knight Rises | 2012
While the third movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is set in “Gotham,” several scenes were shot right in Newark. City Hall on Broad Street and the Military Park Light Rail station were used in the movie.
Garden State | 2004
New Jersey’s own Zach Braff stars alongside Natalie Portman in the 2004 romance comedy Garden State. Most of the film was shot in Zach Braff’s hometown of South Orange, although filming also took place in a variety of Jersey towns such as Cranford, Livingston, Maplewood, Newark, Tenafly, and Wallington.
Joker | 2019
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian turned villain in this Batman villain origin story, Joker. One of the first scenes in the movie is filmed on Market Street in Newark, where you can see Arthur Fleck working dressed as a clown spinning an “Everything Must Go” sign.
Law & Order: SVU | 1999 –
Law & Order: SVU officially became the longest-running primetime TV drama in history back in 2019 when it aired its 21st season. This crime television drama follows Manhattan detectives as they investigate sex crimes. The series has been filmed in hundreds of locations across the tri-state area, including right here in Essex county. One location to note is Montclair High School, which is featured in season five, episode twenty-five, which is called, Head.
Many Saints of Newark | 2021
Many Saints of Newark stays true to its title. This Tony Soprano origin story and prequel to the hit HBO series, The Sopranos, follows a young Tony and his uncle Dickie Moltisanti into the making of the most iconic mob boss of all time. Many Saints of Newark is filmed in Newark, along with other Jersey towns such as Bloomfield, Paterson, and Jersey City.
Mean Girls | 2004
That is so fetch! Mean Girls, one of the most iconic and quotable movies from the early 2000s, has roots right here in Jersey. Some interior shots of Northshore High School are actually Montclair High School.
The Sopranos | 1999 – 2007
This one comes as no surprise to many. If you’re an Essex County native, we’re sure you’ve recognized a few locations in the hit HBO series, The Sopranos. The hit HBO series stars James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster as he tries to balance family life while being a leader of a criminal organization. The Sopranos was filmed all throughout New Jersey and New York, and a full list of filming locations can be found here. Notably, the Soprano family home is located in North Caldwell and the final episode of the series takes place at Holsten’s, an ice cream shop/diner located in Bloomfield.
Spider-Man: Far From Home | 2019
The Marvel cinematic universe made its way into Essex County in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Although this movie mostly takes place in Europe, a few exterior shots were taken at Newark International Airport.
War of the Worlds | 2005
Steven Spielberg’s 2005 alien invasion movie, War of the Worlds, stars Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier as he protects his two children from these catastrophic events. Filming took place throughout Virginia, Connecticut, California, New York and — of course — New Jersey. In the movie, Ray’s house appears to be in New York; however, filming actually took place in Bayonne. Several shots in the movie were also filmed in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark.
West Side Story | 2021
West Side Story (2021) is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 stage musical. The film was shot in many locations on and off set throughout New York and New Jersey. The National Newark Building was used for the facade of Bamberger’s Department Store. Additionally, a few sets were built in Paterson as well. Its leading lady, Rachel Zegler, was also born in Hackensack and raised in Clifton.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga | 2019 –
The Hulu television series, We-Tang: An American Saga, tells the story of the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan in the early 1990s. The show is filmed entirely in New Jersey in locations such as East Orange, Elmwood Park, Kearny, Newark, Paterson, Plainfield, and Secaucus.