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Brainstorm movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Brainstorm filmed?


City Locations

Durham, Outerbanks, Pinehurst, Raleigh, Moreno Valley

Location Types

America, Hotels/Motels, Studios, Schools/ Colleges

Location Styles

Luxury Hotel, Office Building Style, Resort

About Brainstorm

Brainstorm is a science fiction film released in 1983, helmed by Douglas Trumbull. The film features Christopher Walken as Doctor Michael Brace, the late Natalie Wood as his wife, Karen Brace, Cliff Robertson as Alex Terson, and Louise Fletcher as Doctor Lilian Reynolds.

The premise centers on a cutting-edge machine devised to allow human beings to experience other people’s thoughts and feelings. The team working on the project includes Dr. Michael, his estranged wife Karen, Dr. Lilian, and the project CEO Alan Fudge (Robert Jenkins). After demonstrating how the brain-computer interface works, the team gets financing from investors.

Karen dons the recorder while working with the duo, and when Michael plays the tape, they realize that the brain interface also picks up emotions. Michael hooks himself up to the device and tapes his recollections of the moments he shared with Karen. After playing back his tape, it leads to their reconciliation.

Those backing the project pressure Lilian to let Dr. Landan Marks (Donald Hotton) join the team. She isn’t all too happy about it because the investors want the system weaponized for military use.

Tensions increase once the team becomes aware of the various ways the interface could be abused. Dr. Lilian has a heart attack and realizing that she is on her deathbed, she records her last breath.

Michael modifies the taping of Lilian’s death and when playing it back, he sees snippets of her life. Another project member, Gordy Forbes (Jordan Christopher), experiences the tape in its original form and dies from a heart attack, just like Lilian.

Realizing that the invention isn’t serving the greater good, Michael and Karen team up with Hal Abramson (Joe Dorsey) and his wife Wendy (Georgianne Walken) to destroy the system. Before shutting down the system, Michael is able to play back Lilian’s tape and he witnesses the afterlife.

Brainstorm Locations

Before filming started, Trumbull and the main cast members took a trip to the Esalen Institute in North Carolina. The experimental research facility hosts new-age workshops and classes, which benefited the filmmakers in terms of understanding the subject matter of the film.

The Brainstorm production process officially started in September 1981. The team shot the bulk of the movie’s scenes in North Carolina for six weeks. Having run over budget, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios halted the filming process. It was around the time of Wood’s untimely passing.

Trumbull would later say that MGM got cold feet about backing up the rest of the film. The insurance company Lloyd’s of London provided an additional $2.75 million to keep the production going, and they added $3.5 million towards the post-production process.

MGM eventually worked things out with Trumbull, and Wood’s sister Lana stepped in to film some of her character’s remaining scenes. Filming finally wrapped in October 1982.

For composing the Brainstorm score, James Horner won a Best Music Saturn Award. Here is a recap of some of the best scenes in Brainstorm and details about where they were filmed.

Fun facts:

Sadly, Brainstorm is the last screen credit Natalie Wood added to her lengthy list before her untimely passing. She died before filming concluded, and while she had filmed the bulk of her scenes, the ending was constructed from her previously recorded footage.

Karen’s taping scene in Brainstorm

Elion-Hitchings Building, Research Triangle Park, 3030 E Cornwallis Rd, Durham, NC

The film revolves around the brain-computer interface as a character in itself. When someone is hooked up to it, the device converts their feelings, reactions, and perceptions of taste, smell, and sight into taped format. When another person views the recording, they experience the taped sensations.

The biggest breakthrough comes when they hook up Karen to the machine and learn that it can also tape emotions and memories. It helped Michael and Karen reconcile, and his sentiments explain it. “Look, you're married to the first man in the history of the world, who has a chance to take a scientific look at the scariest thing a person ever has to face.”

The Elion-Hitchings Building located within the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina served as the setting for the Brainstorm scene. Paul Rudolph designed the building, and its construction concluded in 1972.

It served as the headquarters for the Burroughs Welcome company, which Glaxo P.L.C acquired in 1995. The futuristic appearance is one of the reasons why the production unit chose it as a film-shoot location.

While it’s marked as temporarily closed, buses 700 and 805 can get you to the Research Triangle Park area for a photo op.

Hal experiencing Gordy’s taping scene in Brainstorm

Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Gordy, one of the team members, records his experience having intercourse and shares it with the rest. Hal, another project member, splices one section of the tape and then loops it so that it continuously replays the sensation of having an orgasm.

Hal explains his actions by saying, “something happened to me. It was more than just a sexual fantasy. It was - it was a feeling I had. I'm more than I was.” The outcome is a sensory overload, and Hal is forced into retirement.

That is also when the team realized that the system wasn’t foolproof when it came to abuse. Unfortunately, it only went downhill from there and Gordy also lost his life when experiencing Lilian’s taping.

at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina functioned as a Brainstorm film set for some of the scenes. The Duke University Chapel at 401 Chapel Drive also had a cameo in the movie for Lilian’s funeral scene.

It isn’t the only time that the private research university has appeared on our screens. The higher learning institution also hosted production units filming “Dawson’s Creek,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “Kiss the Girls.” Bus 700, 405, and 6 can get you to Duke University.

Chris watches Lilian’s taping scene in Brainstorm

Wright Brothers National Monument, Route 158, Kill Devil Hills

Following Gordy’s death, Michael gets curious about witnessing Lilian’s full tape. Alex, who has locked up the tape, won’t allow Michael to view it. Later, when Michael walks in on the CEO and other technicians reviewing his modified recording of Lilian’s passing, his protests get him the boot.

His attempts to hack the system from home prove futile, and Hal tells him to look for the “Brainstorm Project.” Michael finally accesses Lilian’s tape, but its disturbing nature prevents him from viewing it to the end.

Unfortunately, Chris (Jason Lively), Michael and Karen’s son, gets a hold of the tape and upon viewing it he experiences a psychotic breakdown leading to his hospitalization. Michael confronts Alex about the secret military project, but he denies having any knowledge about it.

The Wright Brothers National Monument at Route 158, Kill Devil Hills was another Brainstorm filming location. The Monument commemorates the Wright Flyer, which was the first heavier-than-air controlled aircraft. At the Visitor Center, there is a museum that displays machines, tools, and models used by the Wright brothers during their flight experiments.

Karen and Michael go on a vacation scene in Brainstorm

Pinehurst Resort, 80 Carolina Vista Dr, Pinehurst, NC

When he decides to destroy all his work, Michael and Karen retreat to the Pinehurst Resort. Realizing that they are under surveillance, the pair stage a fight, and Karen leaves for Hal’s house. That’s when the pair threw around the series of “you go to hell” sentiments.

They later feign reconciliation over the phone, while Michael uses another line to access the Brainstorm computer. On the other hand, Karen hacks into the system and damages the robots responsible for manufacturing the terminals.

The Brainstorm production unit also filmed some scenes at the Pinehurst Resort. Located at 80 Carolina Vista in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the premiere Hotel is revered for its golf scene. The grounds house nine golf courses and the establishment has hosted numerous tournaments over the years.

Other highlights of the century-old Resort include an award-winning spa, beach club, tennis, and an active Kids Club. From Raleigh, head south on the U.S. Rt 1 to get to the Pinehurst Resort.

Hal offers to help Michael scene in Brainstorm

Riverside International Raceway, 22255 Eucalyptus Ave, Moreno Valley, CA

Hal offers to help Michael with his mission to shut down the system. Michael says he doesn’t want to get him in trouble. Hal is adamant about his offer saying, Hell, I don't care. I’ll open the project file.”

Hence why Karen retreats to Hal’s house after feigning the fallout with Michael. Once she shuts down the security system, it locks other staff from accessing it. Hal and Wendy pick it up from there and send out the final commands that shut down the plant computers.

IMDB lists Riverside International Raceway at 22255 Eucalyptus Avenue as the sight for the “observation of film.” Located within Moreno Valley, the race track hosted various motorsports events from 1957 to 1988.

Some of the noteworthy events held at the grounds include the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, the 1960 U.S. Grand Prix, and the 1988 SCORE International Off-Road World Championships.

Besides serving as a Brainstorm filming location, the Riverside International Raceway also had cameos in “The Rockford Files,” “Knight Rider,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and Hardcastle & McCormick.”

Michael experiences Lilian’s taping scene in Brainstorm

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, 245 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA

When Karen shut down the system, it also allowed Michael to plug into Lilian’s tape and experience it without interruptions. She left Hal’s house to meet up with Michael and found him playing the tape.

His vision of the afterlife included experiencing hell before he traveled through the universe. Even after the tape stopped playing, he continued having visions of angels and brushing shoulders with departed souls.

Michael collapses, and thinking he is dead, Karen implores him, “get up! Micheal! Mike! Get up! Get up! Mike! Get up! Mike, get up. Mike.”

The Sony Pictures Studios complex in Culver City formerly housed the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio. Some of the Brainstorm film sets” were constructed at the lot. Members of the public can access the lot via the daily studio tour.

The studio houses sixteen soundstages and has churned out several other productions. That includes “Wheel of Fortune,” “The King of Queens,” and “Shark Tank.” Hop onto bus R12, 33, CC1, or CC3 to get to the Sony Pictures Studios.


If you are planning to set out on a Brainstorm locations tour, you undoubtedly have plenty of references. Perhaps even more riveting are some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits.

For instance, to create the scenes in “Heaven,” the filmmakers placed a quartz bulb behind a piece of sheet steel with a poked hole. A piece of scratched plastic went in front of the setup to conjure up the effect. Backlit footage of a dancer clad in a long costume was recorded at high speed to create the rivers of “angels.

The nature of Wood’s death is the reason why several scenes didn’t make it to the final cut. That includes one where her character and Michael jump into the pool at their house and another where they are on a pond in canoes.