Lights, Camera, Action: Famous Films, Commercials, TV Shows Shot in the Keys

Keys enticing locales inspire tourism yet also attract advertising, television and movie industries casting the inter-connected islands as a character themselves. Much like a Caribbean island, the Florida Keys are linked to the U.S. mainland, often a budget-saving value for actors, crew and equipment providers.

Television: Drama Series

'Bloodline' actors Kyle Chandler (left) and Ben Mendelsohn
Bloodline actors Kyle Chandler (left) and Ben Mendelsohn

In 2015, Netflix, an online streaming media provider, launched the blockbuster 13-episode psychological thriller Bloodline, starring Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek and Emmy-winner Kyle Chandler. The engaging series follows the dramatic accounts of an island family, the Rayburns.

Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn (who plays Danny Rayburn) has been nominated for a Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy Award, Critics Choice Television award and a Satellite award.

Kyle Chandler has also been nominated for an Emmy Award and Satellite award for his portrayal of John Rayburn.

Islamorada and several other Keys locations are featured prominently in the series, now in its second season of filming.

Television: Reality TV

The Keys have also appeared in reality television shows. Recently, Destination America's Buying the Beach documented a local musician's pursuit of buying a private island for himself and his wife.

Florida Keys captains were cast in Reel Rivals
Florida Keys captains were cast in Reel Rivals

Florida Keys sportfishing received primetime broadcast attention during a 2013 reality series, Reel Rivals, on The Weather Channel.

Along with its beauty and the diversity of species, the Keys' natural attractions and climate added to the show's appeal.

The series featured the daily competiveness of Keys sportfishing captains, and centered on relationships — on and off their boats — between George McElveen, Nick Stanczyk, his uncle Scott Stanczyk and Augie Wampler.

The four skippers base their boats at Bud N' Mary's Fishing Marina, a 70-year-old Islamorada marina steeped in Keys sportfishing history.

Other reality shows include MTV's The Real World Key West, Amazing Race, House Hunters, HGTV’s 2008 Dream Home, King of Fishers, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, Hotel Impossible, Top Gear, Wife Swap, South Beach Tow, Shipwreck Men and The Profit, among others.

Television: Destination Travel

The Keys are the setting of countless weddings, as couples live out their love stories for audiences. Platinum Weddings was filmed on location in Islamorada to document the million-dollar wedding of two New York investment bankers and their guests at Cheeca Lodge and Spa.

Several foreign and domestic travel shows have been filmed in the Keys, including Travel Channel's Trip Flip, Man vs. Food, and Samantha Brown. Film crews from all around the world including France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Scotland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have selected the Florida Keys as a shoot location.

Films & Documentaries

The iconic Seven Mile Bridge links Marathon with the Lower Keys
The iconic Seven Mile Bridge links Marathon with the Lower Keys

Before becoming California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in a 1994 film with Jamie Lee Curtis called True Lies, shot partially in the Keys. The madcap caper, about a spy whose personal and professional lives collide, involved action sequences of helicopter stunts, a warehouse explosion and bridge blast — depicting segments that, constructed on Sugarloaf Key, in the movie replicated the iconic Seven Mile Bridge in the Middle Keys.

Scenes from Red Dragon starring Anthony Hopkins (2002) were filmed next to the popular Islander Resort at a resident doctor's home in Islamorada. The hideaway was portrayed as an escape for Edward Norton's FBI agent character to the Keys from Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter.

Actor Tyrese Gibson and director John Singleton on set of '2 Fast 2 Furious'
Actor Tyrese Gibson and director John Singleton on the set of 2 Fast 2 Furious

Also in 2002, the normally idyllic blue and green hues of water and palm trees flashed before viewers' eyes during the high-speed car chases along U.S. 1 and the Seven Mile Bridge in The Fast and the Furious franchise's second installment, 2 Fast 2 Furious, starring Tyrese Gibson and the late Paul Walker.

Key Largo's Caribbean Club bar has appeared in movies, famously in John Huston's 1947 classic, Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The movie's release created subsequent tourist attention for the island. Key Largo honors the man the American Film Institute named "America's greatest male screen legend" with an annual Humphrey Bogart Film Festival.

Key Largo

Filmed in whole or in part in the Florida Keys:

  • 1948 — Key Largo, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
  • 1954 — The Rose Tattoo, Burt Lancaster, Anna Magnani
  • 1959 — Operation Petticoat, Tony Curtis, Cary Grant
  • 1962 — PT 109, Cliff Robertson
  • 1974 — 92 in the Shade, Peter Fonda, Burgess Meredith
  • 1979 — The Last Resort, Eartha Kitt
  • 1985 — Running Scared, Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines
  • 1988 — License to Kill, Timothy Dalton
  • 1994 — True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis
  • 1995 — Up Close and Personal, Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • 1996 — The Spanish Prisoner, Steve Martin, Ben Gazzara, Campbell Scott
  • 1997 — Speed 2: Cruise Control, Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe
  • 1997 — Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan
  • 1998 — Office Space, Jennifer Aniston
  • 2000 — Heartbreakers, Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt
  • 2002 — 2 Fast 2 Furious, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Cole Hauser
  • 2002 — Red Dragon, Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes
  • 2004 — Meet the Fockers, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Robert DeNiro
  • 2004 — The Pacifier, Vin Diesel, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot
  • 2005 — Miami Vice Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Li Gong
  • 2008 — Repo Man, Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga
  • 2010 — I Am Number Four, Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron

Mary Lilly (Flagler's wife) and Henry Flagler arriving at Key West on January 22, 1912
Mary Lilly (Flagler's wife) and Henry Flagler arriving at Key West on January 22, 1912

The Florida Keys' unique ecology, delicate natural resources and historical significance also has inspired documentarians to explore these topics in more depth.

In 2012, WPBT Channel 2 in Miami premiered a one-hour documentary, Flagler's Train: The Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Henry Morrison Flagler's arrival aboard the first passenger train to Key West on January 22, 1912.

This celebrated historic event marked the official opening of the Florida East Coast Railway's Key West Extension connecting Key West to the mainland.


The beach at The Moorings resort
The beach at The Moorings resort

Iconic Keys roads, bridges, beaches and crystalline waters repeatedly appear in ads. Jeep and Ford recently used Marathon and Key West as backdrops, and the Fiat 500 'swim' from Italy spot was partially shot in the upper Keys.

A 1996 Ralph Lauren Polo extravaganza featured Terra's Key, a private Atlantic Ocean island with a four-bedroom home, tennis court, pool, dock, saltwater lagoon and beach.

Islamorada's luxurious The Moorings resort is favored among fashion photographers, including Bruce Weber.

For a comprehensive listing of Florida Keys film productions, visit the website for the Florida Keys & Key West Film and Entertainment Commission.