Certain film locations are iconic before camera crews roll in to shoot a movie. But sometimes a movie scene is powerful enough to catapult an otherwise unremarkable site into fame overnight.
The most recent example comes thanks to “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. In one of its highlight moments, Phoenix dances down a stretch of steps like a twitchy Radio City Rockettes reject. The stairs are a functional part of New York City’s Bronx borough, but thanks to the movie, they’ve grown into a tourist phenomenon.
The “Joker” stairs aren’t the first everyday set of stairs to become a travel destination. And they won’t be the last. Here are the most iconic stair, stoop and step scenes, ranked from worst to best, according to whatever is the opposite of rigorous science.
Of all the movie-famous stairs, the “Joker” set, off Shakespeare Avenue, rank the lowest on our list for a number of reasons. For starters, they’re too new to be truly iconic. Secondly, the steps’ newfound popularity is a bad match for what visitors are trying to achieve. Fans flock there to get that same razzle-dazzle of Phoenix’s lone dance, captured in a photo. But the stairs run steep, and there are a lot of people around, ruining the lone-wolf vibe.
The Exelon Plaza in Chicago is being docked points because, unlike some of the other iconic steps in this list, you can’t re-create the same feeling conveyed in the movie that made them famous. How could you? These steps, immortalized by the monumental parade scene of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” spend most of their time parade-less.
Theoretically, you could stage a flash mob there if you gathered enough volunteers with adequate dance abilities, but who’s got the time? Spend your day off somewhere else.
Replicate the magic of Audrey Hepburn meeting Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday” by throwing on a cool outfit, grabbing a gelato, and absolutely not sitting down like the many people featured in the scene.
Today, the 135 steps are so overrun by tourists during the high season that local police will hand out fines for those who sit on the 18th-century UNESCO-protected marble. These steps would rank a lot higher on the list if it weren’t for the fact that they’re plagued by overtourism.
The stairs featured in the 1973 thriller “The Exorcist” have become a landmark destination in the nation’s capital. Nearly 50 years since the film’s release, the stairs, in the Georgetown neighborhood, are now ranked No. 91 of 462 things to do in Washington, according to TripAdvisor.
On that guide site, they earned such reviews as “Creepy Steps” and “Worth the Stop.” Take a peek and a picture and get back to exploring the rest of the District of Columbia’s old-timey — and sometimes eerie — charm.
Even if you’ve never seen the heartwarming 1965 musical “The Sound of Music,” you’ve probably heard its feature songs. One of those is “Do-Re-Me.” Julie Andrew is shown singing the menacingly catchy number in multiple locations, but it’s during her belting of the tune in Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria, that we’re referencing. Because, stairs.
Today, tourists visit the steps for a photo op, arms spread wide open a la Andrews, likely with that song stuck in their heads. Due to the fact that the Mirabell Gardens are so beautiful and majestic they’re worth a visit on their own, we highly recommend a stop here.
For those who missed the early aughts, “Sex and the City” is a blockbuster rom-com series (which also spawned a set of movies) about sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker). Carrie’s brownstone, filmed at 64 Perry St., in Greenwich Village, is now a mecca for any fan making a pilgrimage to Manhattan.
Worship at the base of the stoop, because this is a private residence and not a “Sex and the City” museum. Pay homage to Carrie by waxing poetic about your failed relationships via internal monologue, then go get a cocktail at one of the many great bars nearby.
Sure, “Game of Thrones” is not a movie. But the HBO series cost more to make than most movies, and was viewed more than most movies, so it makes the cut for this list. The series turned many places into tourist destinations, but the so-called Jesuit Staircase in Dubrovnik stands out as a highlight.
Spoiler alert! Maybe. In the Season Five finale, Cersei Lannister makes a harrowing “walk of penance” down the steps, which, in real life, are a lot easier to appreciate than in that painful-to-watch scene. Take the walk of penance yourself with other GOT fans; you’ll enjoy the tour through this medieval city more than Cersei did.
There are a ton of memorable moments from Sylvester Stallone’s massively successful 1976 film “Rocky,” but the one that became a tourist destination comes from the movie’s hyper-macho, incredibly epic training montage. To the tune of the now-immortal song “Gonna Fly Now,” we watch Sly bound through Philadelphia, ending with his ascent of the 72 steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s not just the best stair scene in cinema — it’s one of the best scenes in cinema.
The steps from “Rocky” are our No. 1 pick because not only do visitors have the chance to pose with a bronze Rocky statue that’s at the bottom, but there’s also an art museum right there for you to peruse once you’re done taking fist-pumping photos.