Travel Blog

October 10, 2018


Photo by Garrick Ramirez

It’s not just masked superheroes that will dazzle audiences in theatres this year. Santa Cruz will soon grace the silver screen as the seaside setting for the upcoming action flick “BumbleBee.” Given its cinematic landscape and blockbuster attractions such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz has enjoyed many starring roles dating back to the early 20th century. In addition to the Steamer Lane surfers-and surfing seal-featured in “The Endless Summer,” Santa Cruz has played host to vampires, Dirty Harry, and even maniacal clowns from outer space. Break out the popcorn and roll out the red carpet, Santa Cruz is taking you to the movies.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

BumbleBee Transforms Santa Cruz

In the upcoming spin-off of the popular Transformer series, Santa Cruz plays the fictionalized town of Brighton Falls, the stomping ground of a certain shape-shifting, yellow VW bug. Set in 1987, the film featured local extras clad in 80s attire parading around the municipal wharf and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk…rather, the Brighton Falls Boardwalk. Come watch the action flick in Santa Cruz when it opens December 21, 2018.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

On Location in Santa Cruz County

Before playing host to transforming VWs, Santa Cruz played starring roles dating back to 1911 when the San Lorenzo Valley served as the dusty, Old West setting for numerous silent, black-and-white westerns featuring actors such as Broncho Billy Anderson and Mary Pickford. You can see the complete list of films shot in Santa Cruz on the site for the Santa Cruz Film Commission which serves as a resource for contemporary production companies coming to town. Here are a few of our faves:

  • The Lost Boys (1987) – Perhaps the most celebrated of locally shot films, this 80s staple pairs the two Coreys-Haim and Feldman-with Kiefer Sutherland in the vampire-filled town of Santa Carla. The local classic usually kicks off the free summer movie series at the Boardwalk, and even inspired a drink menu at Abbott’s Square’s cocktail bar, Front & Cooper. The iconic vamp flick celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, and we honored the occasion with a self-guided film location map.
  • Chasing Mavericks (2012) – This endearing film tells the true-life story of surfer Jay Moriarity and his quest to conquer the legendary big waves of Mavericks. Unlike most films, Chasing Mavericks was filmed almost exclusively in Santa Cruz, and you can use this map of film locales as a de facto tour of Santa Cruz’s vibrant surf community.
  • Frog & Wombat (1998) – Gal pals Alli and Jane (codenames: Frog and Wombat) set out on a mission to detect if their new principal is involved in a murder. In the process, they traipse all over Santa Cruz County including Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz High School, and Deer Park Shopping Center in Aptos.
  • Dangerous Minds (1995) – Based on a true life story, Michelle Pfeiffer plays a teacher to disenfranchised teens who enjoy a break from a hardscrabble life on a field trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

  • Sudden Impact (1983) – This 80s thriller made our day when it filmed in Santa Cruz. “Dirty” Harry Callahan chases criminal in the seaside town of ‘San Paulo’ which shows off West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz Wharf, and the Boardwalk. Watch Callahan resolve things with a bang near the historic Giant Dipper in the film’s climactic ending.
  • Harold & Maude (1971) – A cult fave telling a darkly humorous story about an unlikely twosome who play games and whirl round rides at the Boardwalk. The film offers a great peek of the pinball-filled Casino arcade that predates Pac Man and Frogger.

Not every feature filmed in Santa Cruz was an Oscar contender. Here are some fun flicks you may have missed:

  • Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988) – The name says it all in this delightfully trashy film where monstrous, circus clown aliens wreak havoc on the small town of Crescent Cove (née Watsonville) and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
  • Romeo.Juliet (1990) – Distinguished film actors such as Ben Kingsley, Vanessa Redgrave, and Maggie Smith lent their voices to this Belgian take on the Shakespeare classic whose characters were played by-wait for it-real, live feral cats.
  • The Tripper (2006) – Big Basin Redwoods State Park served as the setting for David Arquette’s campy horror flick that had modern day hippies being terrorized by a Ronald Reagan-masked killer and featured Courtney Cox and Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens.

It’s not just the big screen, either. Santa Cruz has appeared in TV movies such as the Hallmark Channel’s 2005 “Annie’s Point” whose drama played out along our sunny shores. And before we roll the credits, check out the spring campaign for ModCloth which featured the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Capitola Village, as well as this mesmerizing 2018 video for Robert Talbott clothiers whose smartly dressed lads stroll Capitola’s easy-on-the-eyes shores.