“The Turning,” a new horror movie that’s a contemporary retelling of Henry James’ classic ghost story “The Turn of the Screw,” opens in theaters this weekend. As part of the modern-day adaptation of a story originally set in 1890s rural England, the setting has been moved to rural Maine — or at least, the Hollywood version of it, since it was actually filmed in Ireland.
Regardless, it’s likely few people would have noticed that this movie was set in Maine if we hadn’t stumbled across that fact while researching other things — especially considering that “The Turning” currently has just a 27 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which does not bode well for its popularity.
But that got us thinking: what other films and TV shows are set in Maine that we didn’t realize were actually set here? Which Maine-set movies managed to slip by without many people noticing they took place here, either because they weren’t actually shot in Maine (as is the case with most Hollywood films), or because they did such a bad job of representing the Pine Tree State that people didn’t even realize Maine was what they were representing.
Here are some of the most famous films and series set in Maine. We bet you didn’t know about at least one of these, if not all of them. And, if you’re curious, many of these films will be screened during the Maine at the Movies Film Festival, which will tour the state as part of the Bicentennial, March 6-15.
Simon Birch (1998)
This tearjerker was based on John Irving’s 1989 novel “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” which was actually set in New Hampshire. Director Mark Steven Johnson changed the setting from New Hampshire to Maine, and changed the protagonist’s name to Simon Birch. The film itself was shot in Ontario, Canada.
Lake Placid (1999)
With a name like “Lake Placid,” you’d think this ridiculous movie about a monstrous, man-eating saltwater crocodile would be set in the upstate New York town of the same name, which hosted the Winter Olympics twice. It’s not, however — it’s set in Maine, along the shores of the fictional Black Lake in Aroostook County. It stars Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda and a wonderfully salty Betty White, and it was shot almost entirely in Canada.
Children of a Lesser God (1986)
This Academy Award-winning film, based on the Tony Award-winning play, is actually set in Maine, at a fictional school for the deaf. Its location isn’t particularly front and center in the movie, however, as the focus is on the relationship between the two main characters.
The Iron Giant (1999)
The utterly delightful film — the first from Brad Bird, who went on to write and direct “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” for Pixar — is set in Maine in the 1950s.
Hope Springs (2012)
This romantic drama starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell, is set in large part in a coastal resort town in Maine — Camden, basically. Or maybe Boothbay? Bar Harbor? Hard to tell, since it was shot entirely in Connecticut (ouch).
Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
This film noir classic starring Gene Tierney is set at a fictional Maine estate called Back of the Moon as well as in Bar Harbor, along with a few early scenes in New Mexico and Georgia. Regardless, the whole thing was shot in California.
The Weight of Water (2002)
This Sean Penn-starring, Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama, based on the bestselling novel by Anita Shreve, is technically set in Maine — on the Isle of Shoals, which is off the coast of Kittery, so nearly in New Hampshire. Regardless, it was shot in Nova Scotia.
The Lighthouse (2019)
This unsettling black-and-white film, up for an Oscar next month, is set at a Maine lighthouse, though it was shot entirely in Nova Scotia.
Nancy Drew (2019-present)
The new teen drama on The CW, based on the classic young adult mystery series, is actually set in Maine, in a fictional town called Horseshoe Bay.