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Movies Filmed in Michigan, Part II: the 1980s

Beverly Hills Cop II
Warner Brothers

Michigan's movie and film industry has been a part of state history since long before the recent movie production tax incentives. For the official history of motion picture production in Michigan we would have to go back to the beginning of the Post–World War II baby boom when MGM’s This Time for Keeps was filmed using the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel as a set. This was in 1947.

Since then, according to the Michigan Film Office website a list of 319 filmed in Michigan titles have been shot in Michigan Although, some of these titles were only arguably Made in Michigan based on title alone, they are still part of this list which keeps growing today at a record pace.

The Michigan film industry from the 1970s

The 1970s proved to be a benchmark decade in the development of cinema, both as an art form and a business. With young filmmakers taking greater risks and restrictions regarding language and sexuality lifting, this period produced some of its most critically acclaimed and financially successful films since the "golden era ". The 1980s saw an increased amount of nudity in film.

In 1984, the MPAA instituted the PG-13 film rating to accommodate films that straddled the line between PG and R. Although largely intended for Hollywood, Michigan made movies were no exception. Michigan movies such as Scarecrow, The Betsy and Hardcore among others, would receive this new designation.

The1980s also saw an increasing emphasis in film franchises, especially in the action, horror and science fiction genres. It was reasoned, and perhaps mistakenly so, that if the first movie was a box office hit, the second would produce profits as well.

With Beverly Hills Cop, with box office gross of $284 million making it one of the top grossing films of the 1980s giving rise to Beverly Hills Cop II, and Evil Dead, a cult classic, amping up the blood and gore in its sequel Evil Dead II, it was naturally assumed that both films would be shot here in Michigan. However, according to sources, neither of these films were very much connected to Michigan.

Beverly Hills Cop II was shot almost entirely in Los Angeles; Evil Dead II, except for a fleeting few minutes, was shot almost entirely in either Wadesboro and Wilmington, North Carolina.

The 1980s saw an increase in movie production in Michigan, with the later 1980s really taking off. Here with is a look at movies credited with having been produced in Michigan in the 1980s.

Beverly Hills Cop II
Beverly Hills Cop II Warner Brothers

Beverly Hills Cop II

The premise for this movie is this: A Detroit cop goes to Los Angeles, stays in Los Angeles until the end of the film, but not before being chewed out by Inspector Todd over the phone, after Egan called Todd to congratulate him on allowing Foley to assist them on this case. What more can you say? At least the original Beverly Hills Cop had more connection with Michigan.

According to the IMDB, all 25 filming locations were in southern California. But we will take what we can get, correct?

Although it made less money than the original Beverly Hills Cop and received mixed reviews from critics, the film was still a box office success. It did make $153,665,036 domestically. Box office success aside, the film was nominated for an Academy Award and for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, for the Bob Seger song "Shakedown".

Here is the original trailer for Beverly Hills Cop II.

The Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn
The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn Paramount Pictures

The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Funded almost entirely by Dino De Laurentiis, who was interested in Raimi directing a theatrical adaptation of the Stephen King novel Thinner, this second in the Evil Dead franchise was filmed at Wadesboro, North Carolina, not far from De Laurentiis' offices in Wilmington, at a large white farmhouse Steven Spielberg had previously filmed The Color Purple. Most of the film was shot in the woods near that farmhouse, or J.R. Faison Junior High School, which is where the interior cabin set was located.

Evil Dead II opened in 310 theaters on March 13, 1987 to a weekend gross of $807,260. However, since its initial release, the film has reached an estimated total of $10,900,000 in box office revenues. It has accumulated a cult following, and is widely considered one of the greatest horror films of all time.

Watch the original trailer for Evil Dead 2 Dead by Dawn.

But Raimi is still from the Michigan area and we will take credit for this.

The Rosary Murders
The Rosary Murders New Line Cinema

The Rosary Murders

The Rosary Murders is a 1987 neo-noir mystery film starring Donald Sutherland as Father Koesler, based upon the novel by William X. Kienzle. The film was shot in Detroit, Michigan at Holy Redeemer parish, a century old Roman Catholic church on Detroit's Southwest side.

Father Koesler is put in a dilemma when the serial killer who has been murdering priests and nuns confesses to him. He is unable to break the seal of confession by going to the police.

The Rosary Murders had two filming locations. It was filmed in Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan. It had a box office gross of $1,730,337.

The original trailer for The Rosary Murders.

The Carrier
The Carrier Swan Productions

The Carrier

Of the Michigan movies made in the 1980s, this one had without a doubt the craziest premise. In it the main character is stricken with a horrible disease, but it doesn't affect him. Instead it spreads to every inanimate object that he touches, then if another person touches the object, they are dissolved into it.

The people of the community use cats to test inanimate objects for the disease (what are you going to check under your bed with a cow?) , covering themselves in garbage bags for protection.

The Carrier was filmed in the small town of Manchester, Michigan. Watch the original trailer for this movie here and tell us whether you agree.

Action Jackson
Action Jackson Lorimar

Action Jackson

A 1988 American action film, Action Jackson starred Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Sharon Stone, and Vanity, who was was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as Worst Actress. It was directed by Craig R. Baxley. Paula Abdul was the choreographer. The film was released by Lorimar Film Entertainment.

The premise of this movie involves a tough Detroit cop driven by vengeance to stay on the trail of a power hungry auto magnate who's systematically eliminating his competition.

With a budget of $7,000,000, Action Jackson has had gross box office receipts totaling $20,256,975. It was filmed almost entirely in Detroit. Here is its original trailer.

Midnight Run
Midnight Run Universal Pictures

Midnight Run

A 1988 American action-comedy film starring Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin. Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano and Philip Baker Hall and directed by Martin Brest, Midnight Run was shot in part in Niles, Michigan--a very small part.

Chameleon Street
Chameleon Street Prismatic Films

Chameleon Street

Chameleon Street is a 1989 independent film based on the life of Detroit con artist and high-school drop-out William Douglas Street, Jr., who successfully impersonated professional reporters, lawyers, athletes, extortionists, and surgeons, going so far as to perform more than 36 successful hysterectomies. It was written by, directed by and starring Wendell B. Harris, Jr.

Filmed in Detroit and on the University of Michigan Central Campus, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Chameleon Street won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. Here is its original trailer.

Collision Course
Collision Course De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Collision Course

Starring Pat Morita and Jay Leno, this movie plays upon the culture clash between Detroit - whose economy is largely built on the automobile - and Japan - whose export of cars was blamed for Detroit job losses. It was directed by Lewis Teague and unreleased in the U.S. until 1992, when it debuted on home video.

Collision Course is a 1989 action-comedy film starring Jay Leno as a Detroit police officer and Pat Morita as a Japanese officer forced to work together to recover a Japanese turbocharger stolen by a thief played by Chris Sarandon.

Collision Course was filmed in Detroit. You can watch the original trailer here.

Moontrap Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment


A 1989 science fiction film from Magic Films, written by Tex Ragsdale and directed by Robert Dyke, Moontrap was released on April 28 at WorldFest Houston. A comic book adaptation, featuring the movie's production notes, was released on the same year by Caliber Comics. Featuring Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell and Leigh Lombardi as a group of astronauts — Lombardi playing one from the distant past — who face an alien invasion by a race of predatory cyborgs this film was shot entirely in Troy, Michigan.

The sequel to Moontrap, Moontrap:Target Earth has recently been approved for Michigan film incentives. To see what this approval was based on, here in Moontrap's original trailer.

Prancer Orion


Directed by John D. Hancock, starring Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and Rebecca Harrell, Prancer is a 1989 family film set in Three Oaks, Michigan, where town exteriors were filmed, and Old Republic House in New Carlisle, Indiana, La Porte, Indiana, and at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.

Prancer involves Jessica, the daughter of an impoverished farmer. Jessic still believes in Santa Claus and when she comes across a deer with an injured leg, she assumes it belongs to Santa.

A charming film, here is it in its entirety.

Roger and Me
Roger and Me Warner Brothers

Roger and Me

Roger & Me is a 1989 American documentary film directed by Michael Moore. In it Moore pursues GM CEO Roger Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing. and the regional negative economic impact of General Motor's summary closing of several auto plants in Flint, Michigan, costing 30,000 people their jobs at the time (80,000 to date).

Filmed primarily in Flint, Detroit and Frankenmuth, Michigan, Roger and Me was selected in 2013 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

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