With statuesque bridges and a dazzling riverfront skyline, landmark attractions, and character-rich neighborhoods, Cincinnati is always camera-ready. Thanks to its friendly reputation, attractive tax incentives, and the dedicated efforts of the Film Cincinnati community, a number of filmmakers and television producers have already clued in to just how amenable — not to mention photogenic — the greater Ohio River Valley region really is. Here’s a look at famous Cincinnatians and Cincy’s growing list of movies and TV shows made in Cincinnati.
• In 2022, eagle-eyed audiences enjoyed glimpses of the University of Cincinnati’s Zimmer Hall, along with Chillicothe, Lebanon, Columbus, and Maysville, Kentucky sites in the crime-comedy “Bones and All” starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell. (And in another related regional nod, writer and producer David Kajganich happens to be an alum of Miami University in nearby Oxford.)
• Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman drive across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge to kick off their brotherly cross-country road trip in “Rain Man.” The 1988 film also showcased the Dixie Terminal Building, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport’s Terminal 2, Pompilio’s Italian Restaurant across the river in Newport, and the St. Anne Convent in Melbourne, Kentucky as Wallbrook, the mental institution where Hoffman’s character lives. Sadly, WOXY on the Miami University campus that Raymond obsesses over by repeating “97X. Bam. The future of rock and roll” to the point of annoying his brother ceased broadcasting in 2004.
Roebling Suspension Bridge (Photo: @phantomphotos_)
• Cincinnati stands in for 1950s Manhattan in the dramatic 2015 love story “Carol” starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and the gorgeous Art Deco trappings of the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel are also repurposed in the movie to represent Chicago’s Drake Hotel. Over-the-Rhine, Hyde Park, and Eden Park neighborhoods, as well as Lebanon, Hamilton and Wyoming and Alexandria, Kentucky, also receive a share of screen time.
Washington Park in OTR
• No stranger to the Cincy Region, George Clooney was born in Lexington, Kentucky just an hour down I-75, briefly attended the University of Cincinnati, and even tried out (unsuccessfully) for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. So it’s likely he felt right at home filming scenes for the 2011 political thriller “The Ides of March” in a variety of downtown Cincinnati, Newport, and Covington locations.
• Cincinnati is one of several destinations prominently featured in the sprawling crime drama “Traffic” released in 2000, representing the home city of a conservative United States drug czar played by Michael Douglas and his crack-addicted daughter portrayed by Erika Christensen.
• Oscar-winning Cincinnati-born actress Regina King embodies America’s first Black Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in Netflix’s upcoming “Shirley” biopic in scenes filmed at Arnold’s Bar and Grill and other locations in the area.
• “Turtles All the Way Down” by bestselling Young Adult author John Green technically takes place in Indianapolis about an hour and a half northwest up I-74, but the movie adaptation was filmed last year in Amberley Village and other Cincinnati-area locations.
• Hometown boys, brothers, and 98 Degrees bandmates Nick and Drew Lachey documented the process of opening their namesake sports bar in Cincinnati in A&E’s 2015 reality series “Lachey’s Bar.” The operation closed three years later in 2018, and Taglio Bar and Pizzeria now claims the Over-the-Rhine spot at 12th and Walnut.
• Drew Lachey also worked behind the scenes of “Miles Ahead,” a 2015 feature film starring Don Cheadle inspired by the life and music of legendary jazz musician Miles Davis. Locations were constructed to resemble 1970s New York City, but locals can easily spot familiar Cincinnati landmarks like the Cincinnati Bell building, OTR’s Wilkymacky Alley, and the Monastery Building in Mount Adams.
• Hardcore Molly Ringwald fans might remember her 1988 portrayal of an opportunistic rural temptress in “Fresh Horses” alongside Andrew McCarthy and a young Ben Stiller. The Ohio River and Kings Island make appearances.
• Although it was shot on a Los Angeles soundstage, “WKRP in Cincinnati” is often the first example that leaps to mind at the mention of Cincinnati and TV. Between 1978 and 1982, the popular sitcom kept audiences laughing with its stories of a struggling radio station and a lovable cast that included Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, and Howard Hesseman. The Thanksgiving Turkey Drop episode remains an enduring pop culture reference even today. Likewise, while the movie was technically filmed in New Orleans, classic film buffs consider Steve McQueen’s 1965 depiction of “The Cincinnati Kid” to be one of the star’s most iconic roles.
• Look for Cincy to step into the spotlight yet again when “Alto Nights,” a 1950s gangster movie starring Robert De Niro, hits national theaters later this year. The period drama was recently filmed in locations throughout the tri-state area including Arnold’s Bar and Grill, downtown Cincinnati, and Warren County.
Celebrities who hail from Cincinnati
Here are just a few famous folks that claim Ohio River region roots:
- Roy Rogers, actor and musician, born in 1911
- Tyrone Power, actor, born in 1914
- Doris Day, actor and singer, born in 1922
- Ted Turner, media mogul, born in 1938
- Steven Spielberg, director, born in 1946
- Amy Yasbeck, actor, born in 1962
- Sarah Jessica Parker, actor, born in Nelsonville in 1965, but moved to Cincinnati at age four
- Jeffery D. Sams, actor, born in 1968
- Hal Sparks, actor, born in 1969
- The Naked Cowboy, a street performer, born in 1970
- Katt Williams, actor and comedian, born in 1971
- Carmen Electra, actress and model, born in 1972
- Rebecca Buddig, actor, born in 1973
- E.R. Fightmaster, actor, born in 1992
Want to learn more? There isn’t an official Cincinnati movie guide or tour you can take, but it’s fairly easy to piece together a DIY itinerary of filming locations based on a little bit of online research. In the meantime, serious cinephiles may want to mark their calendars to attend the Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival and the Cindependent Film Festival—watch for announcements as to 2024 dates and other information to come.