Virtual Movie Vacation: Miami!

Miami! Few cities have helped the cause for American crime films as much as this great city has. I went to school in Miami; my dad works there; I've had relatives that have lived there (I live about an hour plus north in Palm Beach County). The way I see it, if you have your own CSI show, you're pretty happening. The Miami Vice TV show was hugely influential to me as a kid. I wanted to be Sonny Crockett. I even wore a white suit with a pink shirt to my Communion. I think there's a whole generation of screwed-up adults who wanted to be Don Johnson when they were younger.

Miami has been at the center of many great films (Hyman Roth had a nice little abode in The Godfather: Part II) and many bad (Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, anyone?).

Here are some of the best movies to capture the city on the big screen:

Cocaine Cowboys

If you really want to get the best, most in-depth look at the city of Miami, look no further than this great 2006 documentary. The movie opens with the 1979 Dadeland Mall shootings and pretty much takes off from there. You don't just get the locales of Miami, you get the very fabric of the city: the airmen, the thugs, the nightclub owners, the Miami Dolphins, defense attorneys, and weatherman Al Sunshine.

Miami Vice

How's this for a big fat "Duh?" Much of this movie is actually shot outside of Miami including the Florida Keys and Sugar Loaf but it's one of the few Miami movies where the locations didn't really feel like locations. The shoot included scenes at Jackson Memorial Hospital where my dad works. He failed to score a speaking line though, and I will never let him live it down.

Bad Boys

This movie came out when I was in high school and I ended up attending the University of Miami after graduation. Whenever I would drive down to Coral Gables on I-95, I'd see the neon-colored lights on the rail tracks that run across the city (this skyline shot has become standard for any movie that takes place in Miami). And every time I could hear Will Smith's voice in my head: "That's how you drive! From now on, that's how you drive!" There are worse things, I guess.

Scarface

Most of this movie is actually not filmed in Miami, but many of the exteriors were. There's the Sun Ray Apartments chainsaw scene (which is now a Johnny Rocket's) on Ocean Drive. You also have the "In this country, first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman" scene at the Fountain Bleu Hotel. Sadly, the Scarface mansion isn't in Miami. It's in Montecito, California, which doubled for Star Island. Most of the dealers really ended up settling down in homes out in Weston, anyway.

There's Something About Mary

Now here's a film that really was shot around Miami. The scene where Matt Dillon meets up with Jeffrey Tambor was shot at the Big Pink Restaurant on Collins Ave. in South Beach. My favorite scene in the movie ("You must have studied under Kim Green!") takes place at the Miami-Dade Cultural Center for Fine Arts on W. Flagler. Another Ocean Drive locale is Ben Stiller's hotel, the Cardozo. Yes, I could drive by the Cardozo and remember Mary's hair gel was made in one of those rooms! Now there's something you won't hear advertised on a real city tour.

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Dre writes three times a week for Film.com. Email him!