A movie fanatic ranks famous flicks filmed at Biltmore Estate in Asheville
In Selma, the muddy and mighty Alabama River curves under the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge where the infamous Sunday Civil Rights March took place. I worked in one of those buildings, next to the bridge. Working next to an iconic location you get used to a few things, including the idea there are going to be times the thing is shut down for special events as well as television and film crews.
But when “Selma” was filmed, they didn’t shoot a lot of it in Selma. Georgia, it seems, has better incentives for film crews. But they had to shoot some on the bridge. For the movie, they changed the direction from which the marchers approached the bridge. Specifically, they came in from the west instead of the east so they walked right under the same newspaper awning where I worked for a handful of years. Of course, you’re not supposed to focus on that background. You’re supposed to focus on the actors and the action.
With that in mind, if you’re not really paying attention to the small details, Hollywood can do things like shoot scenes that are supposed to be in New York or London or Chicago in Toronto. The iconic buildings and grounds of The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina fill in for many other locales in a variety of movies. It turns out that George Vanderbilt’s dream makes for one of the best movie locations in the United States. Now, let’s get to the movies filmed at the Biltmore Estate, ranked by yours truly.
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1. Last of the Mohicans
The Biltmore grounds provided the old-growth forest and mature trees to capably serve as the Catskill Mountains of the early 19th Century. Based on the classic novel and starring a young Daniel Day-Lewis, this is literature come to life. And the magnificent Biltmore Estate grounds – designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – make for a perfect location.
2. Forrest Gump
At one time, the biggest movie in the world, “Forrest Gump” has taken a few critical hits over the years, mostly for beating out “Pulp Fiction” and “Shawshank Redemption” at the Oscars. Gump isn’t either of those movies, it’s certainly not my favorite movie but it is still a classic. And one of the best in the category of movies filmed at Biltmore.
3. My Fellow Americans
James Garner and Jack Lemmon play former presidents on the run in this movie. This mostly forgettable comedy is trying to tap into that “Grumpy Old Men” energy that gave Lemmon a late-career box office resurgence. And it is memorable chiefly for the presidents revealing their personal lyrics for “Hail to the Chief”.
The sequel to the popular movie “Silence of the Lambs” isn’t particularly good. The plot features Dr. Hannibal Lector trying to reconnect with disgraced FBI agent Clarice Starling – now played by Julianne Moore, not Jodie Foster – and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim. Always a good idea to take a bad guy with a habit of eating people and turn him into something of an anti-hero.
5. Patch Adams
This much-maligned Robin Williams vehicle isn’t as bad as you remember but that doesn’t make it good. Based on a real-life doctor, Williams plays the title character who “ventured where no doctor had ventured before, using humor and pathos.”
6. Mr. Destiny
I have vague memories of this Jim Belushi vehicle. Oh yeah, kids. There was a time there in the late 80s when we felt so bad about John Belushi’s untimely passing we let his brother Jim make a whole lot of movies. In this one, Jim plays an umpire given the “Wonderful Life” esque chance to see what his life could have been like if he’d made that winning home run as a teenager. Michael Caine was also in this movie as was a pre-“Friends” Courtney Cox.
7. The Swan
This Grace Kelly film stars the future Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness. The romantic comedy is set in Europe in the early 1900s. Kelly plays a minor princess pressured to wed so she can win back the family’s throne which was taken by Napoleon. This qualifies as the first movie shot at George Washington Vanderbilt’s dream estate. The Biltmore website helpfully notes that part of the Biltmore’s collection includes a game table and chess set once owned by Napoleon – because that’s a perfectly normal thing to have. But it wasn’t used in the movie.
8. The Private Eyes
Barney Fife (Don Knotts) and Dorf (Tim Conway) play a pair of Scotland Yard detectives sent to investigate foul play at a mansion outside 1920s London. It’s exactly the kind of movie you think it is, in the way that only Knotts can bring comedy to a crime drama.
9. Being There
This Peter Sellars classic is a true work of genius – or so I’m told. But I’ve never really gotten it if I’m being honest. Sellars’ “Chance the Gardner” is truly one of his all-time classic characters, but honestly, the whole thing is over my head. It won or was nominated for dozens of awards. It’s all an allegory for something. Great movie. Iconic film. Not for me.
10. Richie Rich
They made this Macaulay Culkin vehicle a couple of years too late. “Home Alone” era Mac was growing up and he couldn’t save this horrible, horrible effort based on the comic about the richest kid in the world that also featured Edward Herrmann and John Larroquette.
11. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Spoiler Alert. I don’t do movies where dogs or kids pass away. Sometimes, you can’t help it. You go in unsuspectingly to watch a movie and the next thing you know, you’re a weeping mess. No, thank you. In fact, my brother is still mad that our mom let him watch “Turner and Hooch.” Of course, if we’re being technical, Timothy Green – who has leaves growing on his legs – doesn’t exactly pass away. Specifically, he fades into nothingness as he performs good deeds and his leaves fall off. But it’s a very weird sort of deal and I want no part of it. For the record, this was not based on a true story.
12. A Breed Apart
Somehow this movie starring Rutger Hauer, Powers Boothe and Kathleen Turner was made in 1984 at the height of their collective powers and yet was not good. Not even memorable enough to be considered a cult classic. How is that possible? Oh, wait. The plot summary says a conservationist and a widow meet a mountain climber hired to steal bald eagle eggs. So there’s your answer.
13. A Biltmore Christmas
Finally, we have the newest movie to make this list, Hallmark’s “A Biltmore Christmas”, which debuted in 2023. Spoiler alert – it’s the classic Hallmark tale of a writer who doesn’t believe in love, ya know, falling in love. It’s Hallmark predictable. However, I will give this movie credit for having more on-site shots at Biltmore, at least what I can spot, than any other movie on this list. In fact, it appears the vast majority of the film was shot on-site or nearby. And before you ask, “His Merry Wife!” is not a real film. It’s a piece of fiction created for the purposes of storytelling in “A Biltmore Christmas”.
Have you ever spotted the Biltmore Estate in a movie? Let us know in the comments!