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This Is Where Shutter Island Was Filmed

Director Martin Scorsese understands the significance of a story's location. "Taxi Driver" wouldn't have had the same effect in a town in Florida as it did in gritty 1970's New York City, for example. Scorsese's period piece "Gangs of New York" also showcased the city in the 1800s. The film won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Production Design and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Director. In 2006, the acclaimed director headed to the city of Boston — specifically South Boston — for his crime-thriller, "The Departed," starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Both DiCaprio and Scorsese then returned to Beantown for the 2010 film "Shutter Island." 

Set in 1954, the movie tells the story of U.S. Marshals Edward "Teddy" Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who travel to the secluded Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. Nearly the entirety of "Shutter Island" takes place on the isolated grounds of the fictional facility, a haunting stretch of land surrounded by steep rock cliffs and violent waves and plagued with blinding rain. Fans may want to explore Ashecliffe Hospital for themselves, so if you're curious about where "Shutter Island" was filmed, read on to know which actual places to visit, and which locations were the result of movie magic.

Boston's abandoned insane asylum

According to Movie-Locations, the shuttered (no pun intended) chapel at Medfield State Hospital, located at 45 Hospital Road in Medfield, Massachusetts, served as the central building for Ashecliffe. The sprawling campus was the state's first psychiatric hospital and was active until officially shutting down in 2003. Unfortunately, many buildings had fallen into disuse before then. In 1994, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and as noted by Atlas Obscura, curious sightseers can walk the grounds of the historic site. Fans of "The New Mutants" and "The Box" will also recognize Medfield as the setting for both films. However, the foreboding entrance to Ashecliffe Hospital doesn't exist. The facade was built against a sidewall of the hospital exclusively for the film.

Despite its long history, Medfield Hospital isn't considered haunted. According to Locations of Lore, not much exists in the way of scary stories for the hospital. That hasn't stopped town residents from taking advantage of the location's spooky presence. In 2020, local organizations used the location for a quarantine-friendly haunted drive-thru (via Patch), and filming is still allowed (with permits) on the premises. Don't think about venturing inside one of the buildings to look for Teddy, though; they are dilapidated and closed to the public.

Other locations from Shutter Island

If you find yourself out at sea near the Boston shores, you won't see the lighthouse from "Shutter Island" guiding you home. The structure never existed. As discussed by Movie-Locations, a base structure was erected off the shore of Northeastern University Marine Science Center. The rest was done by CGI. Meanwhile, the precipitous rock cliffs used in the film are located in Maine. Those jagged rocks were combined with footage from the raging waves in Big Sur, California, to achieve the dangerous atmosphere in "Shutter Island."

As for the island itself? That's Peddocks Island, once the site of military base Fort Andrews. The buildings have been decommissioned, but the island is open to visitors as part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Ward C, which housed the most dangerous patients on "Shutter Island," was completely CGI'd into the film. Those wanting to emulate Ben Kingsley, who played the nefarious Dr. Crawley, can visit Massachusetts' Turner Hill Golf Club. Its sprawling sitting room served as the location for the hospital's executive mansion and Crawley's office.

According to Variety, Scorsese is currently set to direct "The Devil in the City," another period piece set in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair. The series and book of the same name (by Erik Larson) tell the story of real-life serial killer H.H. Holmes. The killer will be portrayed by Scorsese favorite Leonardo DiCaprio.