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10 Movies Filmed Around San Luis Obispo

Over the years, San Luis Obispo has been home to quite a few filming locations for Hollywood hits. From Alfred Hitchcock to Johnny Depp, the region has hosted film crews looking for the perfect location to bring silver screen magic to audiences since the 1920s.

In the spirit of Oscar season and the return of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, we’ve compiled a quick guide to some of the top movies filmed around SLO, both the city and the county. The movies range from cozy comedies to adrenaline-fueled action flicks along with some timeless classics. Here’s a look: 

The Fremont Theater was featured in the 2007 Lindsey Lohan movie “I Know Who Killed Me.”
Photo Credit @powlpow

“My Blue Heaven” — Steve Martin plays a mafioso in Witness Protection in this 1990 comedy that also featured Rick Moranis. San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles all stand in for a classic American small town in this box office hit that was filmed completely in the state of California. 

“Of Mice and Men” — This 1939 classic starred Lon Chaney Jr. and Burgess Meredith and tells the story of a mismatched pair of migrant workers seeking jobs during the Depression. Based on the John Steinbeck novel of the same name, the movie was filmed at Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, which also was the filming location for the 2010 Leonardo DiCaprio thriller “Shutter Island.” 

“I Know Who Killed Me” (2007) — Locals will easily spot the Fremont Theater, Morro Bay and SLO High School in this Lindsay Lohan flick which ultimately proved to be a flop. 

“The Lady From Shanghai” — In 1947, Alfred Hitchcock brought his star-studded cast of Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles down from principal locations in San Francisco to film in SLO County. A pivotal scene where Hayworth’s character goes for a swim was filmed at Morro Rock Beach in Morro Bay. The movie went on to become a favorite of noir film buffs everywhere and is a winner of the National Film Registry award from the National Film Preservation Board. 

“Commando” — It doesn’t get more action-packed than this Cold War-era 1985 tale of a former special forces soldier who sets out to rescue his daughter. Standing in for the fictional country of Val Verde, Heart Memorial State beach in San Simeon is the setting for a massive shoot-out scene. The barracks that were used for filming were later destroyed. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who would, of course, go on to become California’s governor 18 years after filming. 

Morro Bay and the surrounding hills have been the principal filming location for movies such as “The Ten Commandments” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”
Photo Credit @nickyp_pics

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — In 2007, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and crew made their way to San Luis Obispo to film the third installment in the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. The movie’s famous beach scene where the Black Pearl is stranded was filmed at the Guadalupe-Niopomo Dunes, offering visitors and locals the chance to spot the area’s instantly recognizable geological formations. Visit the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center for more on the area’s natural history as well as a tribute to the next film on our list…

“The Ten Commandments” — Arguably one of the 20th Century’s most watched films, 1923’s “The Ten Commandments” was helmed by legendary director Cecil B. DeMille (he later remade the film in 1956 with Charlton Heston in the lead). Retelling the biblical story of Moses, the movie was largely filmed around the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. In 2017, a prop sphynx head was recovered from the area to the delight of film and history buffs along the Central Coast. 

“Little Giants” — Late Cal Poly football legend John Madden makes an appearance in this 1994 sports comedy, which was filmed in San Luis Obispo along with scenes in nearby Arroyo Grande. Ed O’Neill from “Modern Family” and “Married With Children” stars. 

“Murder By Numbers” — Ryan Gosling and Sandra Bullock star in this 2002 thriller which was filmed around the city of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. Filming locations include Mission Plaza, the county courthouse as well as Chorro, Garden and Marsh streets. 

Mission Plaza has hosted several film crews over the years, including the 2002 Ryan Gosling thriller “Murder By Numbers.”


“Arachnophobia” — Just down the road from San Luis Obispo, Cambria was the principal filming location for this spine-chilling horror flick. Be careful with this one, though. Watch this 1990 thriller and you’ll likely develop a strong aversion to spiders!

Other movies filmed around SLO:

  • “Pete’s Dragon” (1977)
  • “To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985)
  • “Black Beauty” (2020)
  • “Personal Best” (1982)
  • “Ruby Gentry” (1952)
  • “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971 James Bond film)

Find more movies filmed in San Luis Obispo on the IMDB website

With its picturesque scenery, San Luis Obispo has been home to many Hollywood blockbusters over the years.
Photo Credit @the_californist

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

For the 28th year, SLO will play host to the annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, which is slated for April 26 to May 1 for in-person events and May 1 through 8 for virtual screenings. 

Among this year’s entries are “Princess,” the story of an alcoholic who develops a lifelong friendship with a young girl, “Holy Frit,” an art-themed, face-paced race against time, and “Sirens,” the tale of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band. 

Tickets to the event will cost between $10 and $15 per screening, and will go on sale in March on the SLO Film Fest website

Limited Offer: Stay and Save Midweekend 

Want to explore SLO movie filming locations on your next trip? Now through the end of March, when you stay in SLO during midweek, you’ll be rewarded with gift cards totaling $100. Here’s how it works: 

  • Between Feb. 1 – March 31, 2022, book and stay for at least 2 midweek nights (Sunday-Thursday) at one of San Luis Obispo’s qualified lodging properties.
  • Forward your new booking confirmation email to [email protected] to qualify your stay! Make sure to check blackout dates and the rules and regulations (below) prior to sending in your entry.
  • If your stay qualifies, we will send a confirmation email. You will need to bring this email (digital or print is okay!) with you to the Visitors Center to claim your gift card bundle and curated itinerary.
  • After checking in at your hotel, bring all items noted below to the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (895 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401): confirmation email, lodging confirmation showing proof of booking and travel dates and hotel room key!

Then, you’ll receive a curated itinerary developed by local experts in addition to your $100 gift card bundle to local businesses! Learn more about the promotion here

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