Mansion Hunters Goes Hollywood: The Top 10 Real Estate Movies
07.11.14 by Ryan
Have you recovered from Mansion Hunters debut yet? After the amazing properties we saw on Wednesday's episodes, we can't wait to see the over-the-top mansions that this series is sure to have in store for us.
With the Image Locations team working so often for production companies and movie shoots, it got us thinking: what are the best movies about real estate? Check out our Top Ten list and see what we came up with.
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As movie villains go, Lex Luthor has always had an obsession with real estate. For instance, in his 1978 outing, Luthor's (Gene Hackman) grand scheme is to buy up acres of worthless desert land and then divert a nuclear bomb test to the San Andreas fault, thereby sinking California and making his worthless land beachfront property. Luthor's real estate obsession only gets more fervent in 1981's Superman II, where Luthor offers to help General Zod (Terence Stamp) in his plan for world domination in exchange for the right to Australia. By 2006's Superman Returns, Luthor's real estate schemes had escalated to the point of trying to create a new land mass in the middle of the North Atlantic. (While there's little to redeem Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, its the sole Superman movie that has Luthor in a more familiar, mad scientist role.)
Of course, all of Luthor's villainous real estate plans were thwarted by Superman, which begs the question: "if Luthor was so intent on making money through real estate, why not find a more traditional route?" Such are the problems of villainy.
Those afraid of purchasing a "fixer-upper" house beware of this 1986 comedy, which starred Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a young couple who purchase an old mansion from two con artists only to discover a litany of problems, like broken doors and collapsing floors. While the interior scenes were shot on a sound stage, the exterior was indeed a 19th-century, New York mansion, which sold last month for a mere $12.5 million dollars. And yes, that was after Hanks himself finished the gut rehab on the inside. Ok, so maybe it wasn't Hanks, but it was completely remodeled.
Speaking of new homes, sometimes inheriting one comes with a whole new set of problems. In this 1986 horror movie, William Katt plays a horror novelist who moves into his deceased aunt's house in order to finish his new novel only to discover it contains a gateway to another dimension in his medicine cabinet. While he is able to finally recover his long-lost son, the zombie corpse of an old Vietnam buddy is also hellbent on killing him. Hey, at least the house was free (annual taxes notwithstanding)!
While we're on the subject of unfortunately located houses, we have to mention this 1982 horror classic, co-written and produced (and ostensibly directed) by Steven Spielberg. The Freeling family is looking to enjoy a quiet, suburban existence in a new development not knowing that it was built on top of an ancient burial ground (don't forget to do your research; no one's going to mention that on the brochure). Their quiet lifestyle comes to a halt when the family's youngest daughter starts talking to ghosts coming from their TV. After she's kidnapped by the ghosts and disappears, the Freelings work with a group of parapsychologists to figure out how to get their daughter back.
Poltergeist might not be a documentary, but it is true that landlords and agents tend to forget to mention when grisly things occur on a property. This is something a St. Louis woman recently learned when she discovered a serial killer had lived in her house by watching a television documentary. Buyers and renters beware, because even when you move away from the ancient burial ground, that malevolent spirit has a way of following you, as the Freelings discovered in Poltergeist II and III.
Divorce is tough. Just ask Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, who respectively play Oliver and Barbara Rose, a successful couple who refuse to move out of their renovated mansion home once they decide to get a divorce. While destroying property and using chandeliers as weapons is one way to split valuables after a divorce, there are civil paths as well. Neither love nor property values last forever, but as Oliver and Barbara find out, there may be a battle to the death in store for any couple that wants to seize control of the family home.
According to this 1992 adaptation of David Mamet's award–winning play, the real estate game is a cutthroat business that can either lead to a promised land of Cadillacs and steak knives or the back of the unemployment line, depending on whether anyone can get their hands on those precious Glengarry leads. Stand out performances from Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin and a young Kevin Spacey anchor the arguably most dramatic real estate movie of all time, and it's the movie, not the play, that brought audiences the infamous ABC acronym: "Always Be Closing".
Even living in Hawaii has it's fair share of problems. Attorney Matt King (George Clooney) has just learned that his comatose wife has had an adulterous affair, while he struggles with the decision over whether to sell his family's beachfront Kauai property or keep it in its pristine, undeveloped state. It's how Clooney traverses his feelings of loss and heartbreak while absorbing the pressure coming from his cousins and Hawaiian natives about his family property that gives The Descendants its heart. Of course, Clooney may have just been holding out for a competitive offer over the property — a smart move if he was looking to sell.
As the saying goes, what happen in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and that's how it's always been. Like the title implies, Bugsy is a biopic about notorious New York gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Malone (played by Warren Beatty) that explores his relationship with actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), but the movie is also ostensibly about how Las Vegas became the gambling capital of the United States. Malone was instrumental in funding some of the earliest hotel and casinos in Vegas, in particular The Flamingo. For his troubles in helping create America's discreet playground, Malone was ultimately shot to death in Hill's home. Or maybe he was shot because of his time in the mafia. Could have been that, too.
Is there a real estate mantra any better than "if you build it, he will come?" Of course, the voice heard by Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) was talking about a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, but that's beside the point. Actually built over two different farm properties, the Field of Dreams baseball field still exists to this day, and receives tens of thousands of visitors each year, proving the "if you build it" mantra a reality, even in the state of Iowa.
American Beauty is about a lot of things: suburban life, mid-life crises, infatuation, personal secrets and, real estate. Much of the movie's tone is drawn from the neighborhood in which it takes place, but the movie also has Annette Bening playing a materialistic real estate agent who is cheating on her husband (Kevin Spacey) with her business rival (Peter Gallagher). While the movie is often remembered for its rose petal-laden dream sequences, who could forget Bening's meticulous open house preparation?
Elderly widower Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) never got to fulfill his promise of visiting Paradise Falls with his deceased wife, but when construction surrounds his home, Carl ties balloons to his home and sets out to fulfill his destiny. While Up tackles the issue of urban development taking over neighborhoods, the second half of the movie is also dominated by the real estate of Paradise Falls and the reality of visiting a place that has been idealized for so long. Kids, don't try this on your home, it would never actually work. Right? It wouldn't, right?