Where was The Island filmed?
Rhyolite, Nevada/Los Angeles, California/Detroit, Michigan
American, NatureScapes, Futuristic
Anywhere America, House
About The Island
In this 2005 Michael Bay movie, we follow the lives of Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan MacGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) as they begin to question their lives in a seemingly utopian existence.
Living under the assumption that the outside world isn’t sustainable for life, they spend their life in a compound where they live at optimal health until they’re selected by a lottery to move to The Island. The inhabitants think that The Island is the only remaining safe outdoor location in the world, and as such, only a certain amount of people can live there. It’s the dream of everyone in the compound to be chosen to go to The Island.
After Lincoln wanders to an off-limits part of the compound, he sees a moth in a vent, coming to the conclusion that life is sustainable outside of the compound. When he follows the moth, he then discovers the truth about the lottery. That the island is actually a front for organ harvesting and surrogate pregnancies.
The owner of the facility, Merrick (Sean Bean), discovers that Lincoln knows and he has to escape. He realizes that Jordan has been selected for the island and tells her the truth, convincing her to escape with him.
After fleeing the compound, the pair seek help from a compound technician, James “Mac” MacCord (Steve Buscemi) who explains that Lincoln and Jordan aren’t even humans, they’re clones of wealthy owners who use them for organ transplants or surrogacies. Knowing that Merrick is still after them, they head to Los Angeles to find Lincoln’s sponsor, Tom, for help.
A few car chases, fight scenes and trademark Michael Bay explosions later, Lincoln assumes Tom’s identity and he and Jordan return to the compound to take it down from the inside out, freeing the other clones before Merrick can kill them all.
The Island has all the flashy action scenes and one liners that we’ve come to expect from Michael Bay movies and features younger McGregor and Johansson trying to come to terms with their new reality, which includes - shock horror - a romantic element. With Sean Bean on form as a classic tech villain, it’s an easy way to pass a couple of hours without having to think too deeply.
The Island Locations
For this movie, The Island production team had a few locations in mind. Most of the action sequences are set in Los Angeles, but it’s pretty difficult to shut down whole areas of LA for days on end. That’s why Michael Bay opted to film a large portion of the action in Detroit, Michigan where it was easier to close down the area. It’s the same thing that happened with Eminem’s film, 8 Mile.
That being said, there are still a lot of scenes in The Island that are filmed in and around LA. Iconic locations like Union Station are used briefly as well as areas in Long Beach. For the compound itself, it was predominantly shot in the Downey Studios which are in LA, so it makes sense for as much to be filmed in one city as possible.
For the scenes directly outside the compound in the desert, The Island production team opted to film at Rhyolite in Nevada. This ghost town vibe was perfect for the super secret facility surroundings that the movie demanded and had a stark contrast to the clinical insides of the facility and the flashy skyscrapers of LA.
All in all, you’ll find pretty much every location style within this film, from deserts to operating theaters, to secluded apartments, to futuristic flying motorcycle chases. Yep, you read that right. Flying motorcycles. So, where specifically was The Island filmed and how can you visit these sights in real life? Let’s dive right in and find out!
Lincoln and Jordan crash into the tower scene in The Island
555 West 5th St., Los Angeles
After Tom betrays Lincoln and tries to hand him over to the mercenary Laurent (Djimon Hounsou), Lincoln and Jordan make a run for it. This is one of the film's best action sequences and features a huge, futuristic car chase.
Lincoln, unable to control a flying motorcycle, crashes it into the side of a giant skyscraper, leaving both him and Jordan dangling off a giant red ‘R’, hundreds of feet off the ground.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan shouts “Don’t drop me Lincoln!” as she struggles to hang on. Luckily, neither of them die here.
This skyscraper is actually located in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, at 555 West 5th St, just around the corner from the Los Angeles Central Library. The building itself is now home to the consultancy firm, Deloitte, so unless you have an interview, you can’t have a look around, but you can stand outside and see where the pair crashed the flying motorcycle.
This particular The Island filming location is just around the corner from Pershing Square metro station so it’s super easy to get to if you don’t have a car in LA.
The breakfast scene in The Island
When we have our first few glimpses into life in the compound, we see how the inhabitants are constantly monitored. When Lincoln goes for breakfast, his bracelet is scanned and he’s informed he’s on a diet watch by the server, so it’s just fruit and oatmeal available for him.
He’s shocked and says, “No bacon today?”. It’s an interesting conversation that highlights how much the clones are being kept at their physical peak just in case they’re needed for transplants or pregnancies.
Pretty much all of the scenes that take place in the compound were shot in Downey Studios in Downey. Sadly, the studios have now been permanently closed down, but the site does still exist if you want to visit. There’s also a huge mall and cinema complex next door if you want to swing by on the way.
You’re going to have to drive to reach this The Island filming location, but there is plenty of parking at the mall and the movie theater next door.
Merrick’s men kill Mac scene in The Island
Union Station, Los Angeles
Once Lincoln and Jordan escape, they seek help from the compound technician, Mac, who tells them the truth about them being cloned. He even tells Lincoln who his sponsor is, an automobile designer called Tom Lincoln who lives in LA.
The pair decide to head to LA and Mac decides to help them evade Merrick’s men. They get as far as the train station heading to LA before they’re found. Merrick’s men spot Mac first, who shouts “Run!”.
Seconds later, Merrick’s men shoot Mac and the station is plunged into chaos, as Lincoln and Jordan make a break for it.
Ironically, everyone in this scene is already in Los Angeles, as it was filmed inside Union Station. As the main train station in LA, it’s a pretty busy site, and if you’re coming into the city from afar and don’t want to drive, this is likely to be your destination.
You can of course travel by train to this filming location, or get one of the many buses that drop off outside the station. There is also a nearby parking lot, although it’s pretty expensive.
Tom ambushes Lincoln scene in The Island
30 Clifford St, Detroit
After seeking out Tom’s help, Lincoln thinks that his sponsor is going to help him expose Merrick and bring down the facility. However, Tom has a liver problem that he needs Lincoln’s cloned body for so he sets him up.
Tom: “I’m not ready to die yet.”
Lincoln: “Me neither”
This ambush happens just before the climactic car chase through the streets of Los Angeles. It’s at this point the filming switches between Los Angeles and Detroit. As they’re driving down the street with Tom holding a gun to Lincoln's head, the exterior shots are around 30 Clifford St, Detroit. It’s also where a lot of the subsequent car chase happens too.
If you want to have a wander around this particular Island filming location, you can get off the Detroit light rail network at either Broadway or Grand Circus and it’s just a short walk to Clifford Street.
Car chase scene in The Island
Port of Long Beach
So, the big car chase scene. Everything comes to a head in this scene. There has been betrayal, Merrick’s men are closing in and it looks like Lincoln and Jordan are out of allies. As they try to escape the ambush, they hide under a train car that’s being transported.
Lincoln pokes his head out to see where the mercenaries are and gets spotted, prompting him to try and get him and Jordan out from under the lorry.
Jordan: “I can’t fit!”
She tries to wiggle under huge pieces of machinery but the hole is too small until Lincoln releases the machine part, watching it roll off the lorry and almost hit the mercenary’s car behind them.
This bridge scene was filmed along the Port of Long Beach. To get to the port, you’re going to have to drive or access it via boat with the obvious permissions. If you’re looking to visit, you might want to check out the Long Beach waterfront and harbor at the same time, home of the Queen Mary ship and countless other attractions.
Escaping the compound scene in The Island
Cook Bank Building
Once Lincoln learns the truth about the compound and Merrick realizes that he knows, Lincoln is on a ticking clock to get out of there. Freeing Jordan at the same time to save her from the lottery, they escape the compound and find themselves in the middle of the desert.
Despite the oppressive heat, the pair of them keep running, knowing that they’ll be chased down and killed if they’re caught. After some time, Jordan stops to rest.
Lincoln: “We’ve got to keep going”
Jordan: “No I’ve got to stop I can’t keep running”
We feel you Jordan, hot cardio is the worst.
All the desert scenes were filmed in Rhyolite, Nevada. This particular shot was filmed in front of the old Cook Bank Building. The ghost town vibe of Rhyolite was perfect for giving an abandoned, government facility feel. Noo one is stumbling upon the compound by accident!
Rhyolite is just over the Nevada border, on the edge of Death Valley National Park, so you definitely need to drive there. The whole town is full of historic desert ruins to learn about and explore, so it’s well worth a visit to this Island filming location.
So, all in all, The Island is an entertaining action movie with a strong moral heart - something that’s unusual for a film with quite so many car chases. It fits nicely into a tradition of dystopian action films that includes movies like Logan’s Run, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (curiously also about organ transplants), and Fahrenheit 451 (based on the Ray Bradbury novel).
If you’re looking for a couple of hours of escapism filled with one-liners from Ewan MacGregor, a gun-wielding Scarlett Johansson, and a seriously fed up but well-intentioned Steve Buscemi, then you’re going to love The Island. You’ll never think about organ transplants quite the same ever again.