Where was Knives Out filmed?
Boston, Berlin, Easton, Marlborough, Natick, Wellesley, Maynard, Waltham and Medfield
Architectural, American, House, Mansion, Victorian, Miscellaneous
Dated/Retro, Gothic/Victorian, Luxury, Modern Car
About Knives Out
One look at the artwork for Knives Out tells you almost everything you need to know about the film – it’s a comedic murder mystery with strong similarities to Clue, Death on the Nile and other days-gone-by classics. With rich sets, award-winning costumes and amazing attention to detail, Knives Out takes viewers on a time traveling journey to any era they wish. Is the film set in the 1920s? The 1970s? Today? Yes!
Knives Out has garnered critical praise since its release, sustaining an impressive 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was chosen one of the Top 10 Films of 2019 by Time Magazine, the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review.
It helps that Knives Out is anchored by an incredible ensemble cast, including veteran actors like Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer and Don Johnson. Relative newcomers like Ana de Armas, Katherine Langford and Shyrley Rodriguez add a fresh excitement to a house full of dysfunctional family members who would otherwise be considered stuffy at best.
Horror novelist and patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) is dying. Or at least that’s what viewers are led to believe when he kicks the bucket on his 85th birthday. Except it just so happens that nearly every dysfunctional family branch is present, and the old man turns up with his throat slit rather than drifting off peacefully in his sleep.
Cue the arrival of private detective Benoit Blanc (Craig), hired anonymously to discover whodunnit while a house full of potential beneficiaries with motive and opportunity anxiously await the reading of Thrombey’s will. Imagine the shock, thinly-veiled anger and sinister sniping between siblings, nieces and nephews when the will is read and everything has been left to – Marta Cabrera (de Armas), Harlan’s nurse.
Desperate to invalidate the will and claim the inheritance for themselves, the siblings and their children resort to manipulation and even blackmail. Ransom Dryer (Evans), Harlan’s nephew, aids Marta while hiding secrets and motives of his own. Even the family housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson), gets in on the actions, blackmailing Ransom after discovering his plan to implicate Marta in Harlan’s death.
Ultimately, Harlan’s death was ruled a suicide, with little evidence to prove murder. Marta inherits Thrombey’s fortune, his children are the beneficiaries only of certain knowledge the old man was keeping from him, and Blanc arrests Dryer – but only for the attempted murder of Marta.
Complete with a twisty-turny plot and a razor-sharp script, Knives Out is a respectful send-up of the murder mystery film genre without taking itself too seriously. The film was so successful, in fact, that director Rian Johnson decided to make Knives Out the first in a series of mysteries starring Daniel Craig as Blanc.
Knives Out Locations
Nearly everything about Knives Out oozes old money – and in fact, that’s the catalyst for the entire film. America’s old money resides in some of its oldest city, including Boston, where Knives Out was filmed. Other locations around Massachusetts were also used, including the towns of Berlin, Easton, Marlborough, Natick, Wellesley, Maynard, Waltham and Medfield.
Most of the action takes place in Thrombey’s home – a Gothic revival mansion that looks exactly like it would be the domain of an eccentric old murder mystery novelist. Johnson actually turned three different mansions into Thrombey’s home. Hill Hurst, a private home located in Hunnewell Estates in Natick, was used for filming the exterior shots. It gives off the perfect creepy vibes.
Most of the interior shots, however, were filmed at the Ames Mansion, a historic preservation site located in Massachusetts’ Borderland State Park. Although the mansion doesn’t look anything like the grand Gothic revival home used for the exterior, Johnson said its interior rooms had just the sort of personality he was looking for – like a giant Clue board.
Neither home, however, had the one thing Johnson was looking for in terms of the film’s plot – Harlan Thrombey’s office, his sacred place, the seat of his magical, mystery-writing powers. For these scenes, an office was built on a sound stage and coordinated to match up with the layout of the Ames Mansion.
For the few scenes that were shot outside the house, the nearby towns of Maynard, Marlborough, Medfield, Waltham, Berlin and Lincoln, Massachusetts. Nearly all of these locations are public, so let’s take a look at where you can find some of these Knives Out filming locations in the Greater Boston area.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a voice-over cameo in Knives Out – he has had a role in every one of Rian Johnson’s films since 2005.
The death of Harlan Thrombey scene in Knives Out
You can’t expect a man to become an inhumanly wealthy, best-selling murder mystery novelist without a flair for the theatrical, and Harlan Thrombey delivers. After his nurse, Marta, discovers she has overdosed him with morphine and both think his death is imminent, Thrombey comes up with a plan to save Marta at his own peril.
In addition to giving a glimpse at how his Clue-loving mind works, viewers also discover that Harlan is a kind man, even though there’s no love lost for most of his conniving, dysfunctional family.
“Your mom is still undocumented, and if this is your fault, she’ll be found out and at best deported and your family will be broken,” Harlan says. “But we’re not going to let that happen, are we?”
And thus, Harlan lays out an elaborate plan to stage his own suicide (or murder?) to cover for Marta, who, it turns out, didn’t actually make a mistake and overdose him in the first place.
This scene was filmed at the Ames Mansion, part of Borderland State Park in Easton, Massachusetts, just south of Boston. Tours are available from the Friends of Borderland organization on a daily basis. The tour covers the history of the house itself with few, if any, references to Knives Out, but you’ll notice each and every room as you walk through the three-storey estate.
The reading of Harlan’s will scene in Knives Out
Hill Hurst mansion in Hunnewell Estates
“All my assets, both liquid and otherwise, I leave in their entirety to… Marta Cabrera,” says Harlan’s executor at the beginning of the scene.
And with that, it becomes clear that every member of the Thrombey family, as high-class and socially-connected as they are, are nothing but money-grubbing, ungrateful kids and grandkids.
All except for Ransom, it seems, whose cryptic smile when Marta’s name is read over and over as the sole inheritor is the only real surprise in the scene. As he begins to laugh and eventually leaves the room, all hell breaks loose between the gathered family, with more than one loudly accusing Marta of having a sexual relationship with Harlan.
As the family descends on Marta, with many different versions of the good cop/bad cop dynamic, Ransom arrives and whisks Marta away, telling the bickering family members that it (being left out of the will) was the best thing to happen to all of them.
While the will reading scene occurred in the Ames Mansion along with most of the other interior scenes, Marta’s great escape at the hands of Ransom was filmed at the Hill Hurst mansion in Hunnewell Estates, Natick. The Gothic revival mansion was only used for exterior shots, and is a private home in a gated community. It is not open to the public.
The problem with lying scene in Knives Out
One of the many amusing idiosyncracies in Knives Out is Marta’s apparent inability to lie without spilling her guts. Literally.
“How to put this delicately,” says Blanc, “you have a regurgitive reaction to mistruthing.”
After Marta answers in the affirmative, Blanc decides to test this bizarre reaction by asking her to answer a question about other members of the Thrombey family, in order to see what kind of information Harlan may have revealed to her.
When asked if Richard, Ransom’s father, was having an affair, Marta thinks back to the day when Harlan showed her evidence of the transgression. She answers no, but then quickly runs to the back of the deck to throw up, confirming both pieces of information for Blanc.
This scene was filmed at the Ames Mansion.
The car chase scene in Knives Out
Dubbed the “dumbest car chase scene of all time,” Marta and Ransom lead Detective Blanc and his officers on a medium-speed chase down a rural highway and into town.
After going to the medical examiner’s office and discovering that it was burned down the night before, Marta and Ransom turn and run when they’re seen by Blanc. Driving her tiny Hyundai, Marta doesn’t have the speed to really run from the police vehicles, which Blanc emphasizes by pulling up beside her and motioning for her to answer her cell phone.
Panicked, she looks over at Ransom and asks if he regrets helping her yet. In yet another response that shows he feels no loyalty to his own family, Ransom simply replies, “I regret not taking the Beamer.”
Realizing she’s going to be caught soon, Marta careens through a series of back alleys too small for the large police vehicles to fit through, eventually losing them and pulling over into an abandoned parking lot.
How to get there: The car chase scene travels through downtown Maynard, a small town about 20 miles west of Boston. You’ll recognize many of the historic buildings and narrow streets of the small bedroom community.
The blackmailer gets nailed scene in Knives Out
John’s Cleaners, Maynard
After receiving a blackmail letter containing Harlan’s toxicology report – which would have shown the excessive amount of morphine Marta thought she dosed him with – Marta goes to meet the blackmailer at John’s Cleaners and Tuxedos.
When she gets there, she makes an unexpected discovery. The blackmailer turns out to be Fran, Harlan’s supposedly loyal housekeeper. At first, Marta tries to help her friend, discovering that she’s been drugged with morphine and is close to death.
She takes a copy of the toxicology report from Fran’s hand before the housekeeper uses her last breath to tell Marta, “It was you. You did this.”
It’s not clear whether she’s talking about her own death or Harlan’s, but Marta dials 9-1-1 and leaves as Fran dies alone in the abandoned laundry.
John’s Cleaners, the abandoned laundry where Fran is set to blackmail Harlan’s killer, is located in Maynard, near where the car chase scene passed through. It’s located at 127 Main Street, although you’ll have to go around to the back of the building if you want to get a shot of the exterior.
The confession scene in Knives Out
Sound Stage at Harlan’s Office
In one of Knives Out’s few action scenes, the long-awaited plot twist jumps out of the shadows and startles the audience, although it was probably obvious the entire time for observant viewers. While standing with Blanc, Ransom and the other police officers, Marta takes a call and subsequently reveals that Fran is alive and expected to recover.
It’s up to the audience to wonder whether Marta really received a call from someone posing as a doctor and is convinced that Fran will be fine, or if she’s finally wrestled control of her ability to lie from her stomach.
Either way, upon hearing that Fran will be okay and is willing to give a statement to police, Ransom comes clean and admits that he tried to kill Fran. The scene features on of the most amusing lines in the entire film, when Ransom yells at Blanc, “Shut up with your Kentucky-fried, Foghorn Leghorn-drawl!”
After confessing to arson and attempted murder, the gig is up when Marta vomits right into Ransom’s face.
Realizing he’s just been recorded confessing to murder, Ransom decided to take matters into his own hands one last time, grabbing a knife from Harlan’s ostentatious Iron Throne-esque display and lunging at Marta. The knife isn’t real, however – it turns out to be a retractable prop knife, and Ransom is hauled off by police for arson, Fran’s murder and the attempted murder of Marta.
This scene takes place n Harlan’s office, which was custom-built on a sound stage to create just the right atmosphere.
Who killed Harlan Thrombey? You’ll just have to watch Detective Blanc’s Kentucky-fried deductions, because the only thing viewers know is who did not kill him. The film is full of rich characters and sets, offering a cheeky commentary on the lavish lifestyles and bratty behavior – along with downright criminal activity – of the rich and famous by association.
It’s an instant classic for lovers of murder mysteries and the superb storytelling of authors like Agatha Christie and Truman Capote. If Harlan Thrombey was on the level of these authors – which the film suggests via him being extremely wealthy with his own publishing company – no doubt he would be proud of the twisty ride Johnson takes viewers on throughout Knives Out.