Explore Astoria's Cinematic Allure, Past and Present

By Dante Zuniga-West | Wednesday, February 5, 2020

One of the things that makes the North Coast such a unique place is the picturesque landscape so stunning that it looks like something straight out of a movie. This fact has not been overlooked by Hollywood producers, searching for a breathtaking aesthetic or a small-town backdrop to accentuate many a feature film. Astoria sits front and center when it comes to Oregon’s connection to cinema, and it’s no small wonder that the movie industry keeps coming back for more in this city where the river meets the sea.   

Hey, you guys, it is impossible to start talking about Astoria’s film history without first mentioning the 1980s cult classic movie, The Goonies. Filmed mostly at Cannon Beach, this epic story of children, pirate maps and adventure puts the stoically scenic north coast of Oregon on the map in terms of pop culture. Places like the east end marina, the Flavel House Museum or the actual Goonies house on U.S. Highway 30 are places you can go visit in Astoria and feel the touch of movie magic that continues to pervade the collective cinematic consciousness. If you’re going for the full-on Astoria movie tour, this should be your starting point.     

The Goonies (1985); photo credits to IMDB

Just a few blocks from the Goonie house is the John Jacob Astor Elementary School. (A note: This is where locals would prefer that you park when you go to check out the Goonie house). But the school itself is a little piece of Astoria film history, by way of the movie Kindergarten Cop. This film was made in 1990, starring the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger who plays the role of an undercover cop moonlighting as a kindergarten teacher. If you visit today, it's worth mentioning the school faculty would appreciate it if you checked in, should you choose to tour the actual campus. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in Kindergarten Cop (1990); photo credits to IMDB

The house on 197 Hume Avenue, in Astoria, may not ring a bell right away, but it is a quintessential piece of the movie Short Circuit. You know, that 1986, bizarrely iconic flick about an experimental military robot that gets struck by lightning and gains the equivalent of a human soul? This is a must-see location for the true science-fiction film buff, touring the treasure troves of Astoria’s past. Fun fact: The house was up for sale last year, and not surprisingly, sold quickly.

Short Circuit (1986); photo credits to IMDB

So, if you’re a movie producer looking to replicate ancient Japan in a film that stars mutated amphibians with advanced martial arts skills, where do you turn? Astoria, obviously. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is a movie that does not possess landmark features you can visit unless, that is, you enjoy the lush temperate rain forest of the North Coast. Take a walk along any of the coastal trails that often spill onto sandy beaches or overlook craggy tidal zones, and you’ll understand why the folks who made TMNT sought out this particularly awe-inspiring environment to recreate the beauty and aesthetics of Japan’s coastal landscape.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993); photo credits to IMDB

Oh, and when it comes to films that chose to present Astoria’s littoral wilderness in all of its raw aesthetic, let us not overlook Benji the Hunted, the childhood classic that follows a family dog on his harrowing adventure amidst mountain lions, bears and wolves. If you're one who is willing to take the roads less-traveled, I’d suggest the Cathedral Tree Trail or the Fort to Sea Trail.

Although Astoria is a time capsule of movie history, I’d be remiss to leave out attractions with film-ic flair that you can enjoy, at present, during this upcoming week on the North Coast. Such events include checking out this year’s Oscar Nominated Short Films at The Ten Fifteen Theater on Saturday, February 8, at 7 p.m., or the Oscar Viewing Party that will be at The Oar House & Grill on Sunday, February 9, at 5 p.m. For more goings on around the North Oregon Coast, check out our Daytime Events and Nightlife calendars.

About the Author Dante Zuniga-West
Dante Zuniga-West is a writer and outdoorsman who thrives in the backcountry. He is passionate about environmental conservation, leadership, primitive skills and connecting young people to the natural world. A published novelist and working freelancer, Dante’s articles can be found in a variety of outdoor adventure journals, alternative newspapers and lifestyle magazines. Away from work Dante spends his time on public lands, hunting and fishing. He lives off the grid in the coastal mountain range of Oregon.