Cemeteries can either evoke shudders or tears, and no more so than in a movie. There are so many movies that have made everyone afraid of looking behind a tombstone or stepping on an unmarked grave in fear of being grabbed by a supernatural entity.
But there are some movies that have been filmed in real cemeteries that aren’t horror movies. Yes, there actually are! And we’ve got 10 of them you don’t want to miss.
While some people may think it’s strange, there have been plenty of films and TV shows with pivotal scenes located in real cemeteries. They range from dramas to comedies, thrillers to (of course) horror. Some of them are classics you’ve already seen, and some are lesser-known.
Spoiler Alert: We will be mentioning major plot points or referencing quotes from iconic movies released between 1965 and 2019 such as Night of the Living Dead, The Sound of Music, and The Godfather.
1. Burying the Ex
Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles, California
The late Anton Yelchin starred in the 2014 movie, Burying the Ex. One scene was filmed there near the south end of the cemetery’s pond. Ironically, the scene where his character’s ex-girlfriend was buried was shot near where Yelchin would be buried after his untimely death in 2016.
His gravesite location can be seen in the background for a few moments. You can’t miss it today, as there is a lifesize bronze memorial in his likeness, surrounded by the plants and flowers that Yelchin’s mother personally tends to.
Hollywood Forever is also home to many famous graves, from silent film stars Florence Lawrence and Rudolf Valentino to other famous movie stars like Judy Garland. It also features musicians like Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.
2. Steel Magnolias
American Cemetery - Natchitoches, Louisiana
Revolving around a group of long-time friends in a Southern town, the movie centers on Sally Fields’ character M’Lynn and her daughter Shelby, played by Julia Roberts. Shelby announces that she’s pregnant, and M’Lynn worries about her survival due to a severe medical condition.
While the close-knit group of friends rally around Shelby to celebrate her pregnancy, M’Lynn has some doubts. Unfortunately, after giving birth, Shelby goes into a coma and eventually dies.
One of the most memorable scenes – if not the most memorable – in the movie was filmed in American Cemetery. The powerhouse cast of women have gathered around M’Lynn after the funeral of her daughter. As in real life and death, the scene hits all the emotions that rush at us. Devastating grief, disbelief, anger...finally erupting in hysterical, cathartic laughter.
3. Hocus Pocus
Old Burial Hill - Marblehead, Massachusetts
The beloved Halloween classic from 1993 stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. They portray the Sanderson sisters, the film’s legendary witches of Salem.
While none of the scenes with the sisters take place in an actual cemetery, the first daytime scene was the only one filmed in a real one. It was shot on location in Old Burial Hill, one of the oldest cemeteries in New England. You’ll see beautiful real slate gravestones located near the top of the hill. If the camera were to pan up, you’d see the sea in the distance.
The other cemetery scenes were filmed on a set, where it would be much easier to make the Sanderson sisters fly above it on their brooms.
Watch for when the main character Max is riding his bike home through the woods. Once he’s out in the open, he rides right into the cemetery.
4. Night of the Living Dead
Evans City Cemetery - Evans City, Pennsylvania
Here is yet another classic movie often played during the Halloween season. In 1968 director George Romero co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with John Russo, unleashing the walking dead on the world all from a small city outside of Pittsburgh. The iconic opening scene was filmed in Evans City Cemetery, Evans City, Pennsylvania.
Night of the Living Dead is the zombie film that started it all. While there were movies featuring the undead before, none of them had the impact (or hoards of the shambling dead) this one did. Once this low-budget movie hit the screens, it burst the door open wide for a new type of horror.
It also turned the small town of Evans City and its quiet cemetery into a tourist attraction for horror movie lovers. Travelers from all over come to the cemetery and find the graves where the scenes were filmed. Even the bravest fan may get the chills in this cemetery when someone sneaks up behind them and says, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
5. Interview with the Vampire and Double Jeopardy
Lafayette Cemetery, No. 1 - New Orleans, Louisiana
Number five is actually a two-for-one. A number of movies have been filmed in Lafayette Cemetery, and one of the famous ones is the 1994 flick Interview with the Vampire starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The gothic look of the cemetery fits in well with the dark yet romantic themes of the movie.
One of the most unforgettable scenes in 1999’s Double Jeopardy, starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, was also filmed in Lafayette No. 1. Judd’s character is knocked unconscious and locked in one of the upright tombs. Not only that, but she’s also locked inside a casket – one already occupied by a corpse!
Spoiler Alert: She breaks out. We didn’t want to leave you hanging with that disturbing thought!
6. Saving Private Ryan
Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Normandy American is a World War II cemetery that “contains the graves of nearly 9,400 war dead, and nearly 1,600 names on the Walls of the Missing.” Many died on D-Day, June 6, 1944, on the shores of Normandy.
The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan shows an American family of multiple generations walking down the path to visit Normandy American Cemetery. The oldest man, clearly a veteran from the War, finds the marble cross at the grave he’s seeking.
He falls to his knees in tears. For a film that is known for its powerful impact, this opening scene foreshadows the emotional journey about to begin.
The movie closes back in the cemetery again. The audience realizes the grave is not that of Private Ryan, as was assumed, but of Captain Miller who was sent to save him.
People who have visited Normandy American Cemetery often talk about what a moving experience it is. The cemetery rests on the bluff above Normandy Beach. To stand among the tombstones of the fallen while looking down to the place where so many of these lives were lost is emotional indeed.
7. The Godfather and Zoolander
Calvary Cemetery - Queens, New York
The view from the cemetery of the New York City skyline is as striking as the cemetery itself. Calvary is its own city of the dead with a similar but smaller skyline of gravestones.
In The Godfather, it’s the funeral and burial site of Marlon Brando’s iconic character Don Vito Corleone. In actuality, Calvary Cemetery is also the resting place of real-life mobsters including Joe Masseria, Peter “Clutch Hand” Morello, and Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano.
In Zoolander, Ben Stiller plays the clueless, titular character. Dressed inappropriately in an attention-getting white suit, Zoolander gives the “eugoogoogly” for his fallen supermodel friends. This scene, of course, takes place in Calvary Cemetery.
8. Pet Sematary
Mount Hope Cemetery - Bangor, Maine
For Stephen King fans, Mount Hope Cemetery is one of the must-see locations in Bangor, Maine. As it was King’s hometown for many years, people would take a pilgrimage to see both his unique, orange Victorian house with its bats and gargoyles standing guard on the fences and Mount Hope.
There’s a scene in the original 1989 movie Pet Sematary, based on King’s book of the same name, where a child’s funeral takes place in Mount Hope Cemetery. If you saw it in the theater, you may have been surprised to hear some people cheer or laugh. It wasn’t because funerals are funny but because the presiding minister was portrayed by Stephen King himself.
Whether you’re a King fan or not, Mount Hope is a beautiful rural/garden-style cemetery that is worth a visit. It should also be noted that the 2019 remake was filmed in Quebec, Canada -- far from the original location of Bangor, Maine.
Unfortunately, you can’t visit the “Pet Sematary” or Micmac Burial Ground – at least as they were. They were set up just for the movie, though you can scout out the locations if you’re really determined.
9. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Cementerio de Sad Hill - Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos, Spain
The final scene of the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1966 takes place in Sad Hill Cemetery (Cementerio de Sad Hill). It’s the location of the iconic Mexican standoff between Clint Eastwood’s character and the two others over the gold buried in one of the graves.
But the cemetery wasn’t even real. The Spanish army created 5,000 gravesites at the location in Spain three days before the scene was filmed.
10. The Sound of Music
St. Peter’s Monastery & Cemetery & Catacombs - Salzburg, Austria
When you first think of this beloved movie, you probably think of Julie Andrews singing in the mountains among the flowers. It, of course, ends on a serious yet hopeful note.
St. Peter’s Cemetery dates back to the 7th century, making it one of the oldest in the world. In The Sound of Music, the Trapp family was on the run from the National Socialists. So, they “fled through St. Peter’s Cemetery, finding a secure hiding place in the dark rocky recesses before ultimately escaping safely to Switzerland,” according to a tourist website about Salzburg.
More Than Just Cemeteries
As you can see, cemeteries are more than just places for the dead. They are a part of our lives, as depicted in the media and in real life. While some movies choose to bring out the creep factor and make folks afraid of cemeteries, they are still places of serenity and peace for those who are laid to rest.
Final note: Not all movies filmed in these locations have been mentioned, just one or two. Many other cemeteries have been movie locations as well.
- “Salem, Massachusetts – A ‘Hocus Pocus’ 20th Anniversary Walking Tour.” Life at Cloverhill, October 2013, lifeatcloverhill.com/2013/10/salem-massachusetts-20th-anniversary-hocus-pocus-tour.html
- “Normandy American Cemetery.” American Battle Monuments, www.abmc.gov/multimedia/videos/normandy-american-cemetery
- “St. Peter’s Monastery & Cemetery & Catacombs.” Salzburg: Stage of the World, www.salzburg.info/en/sights/churches-cemeteries/st-peters-monastery-cemetery