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The Mountains of Illinois

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Look at the legend. Now back at the map.note 

"You guys, this is so not Illinois."

Movies and TV shows created in the U.S. and Canada, regardless of wherever they're supposed to be set, tend to be filmed in Southern California, British Columbia, or Atlanta. This leads to a common error where geographic features such as mountains show up in the background of settings that lack them in Real Life.

The trope was named for the US state of Illinois, which, if you haven't already realized it, is almost as flat as this joke. For instance, there are two buildings in Chicagonote  that are taller than the state's highest natural pointnote , and as many as 40 buildings in the city that top out at a higher total altitude, since Chi-Town already sits at about 600 feet above sea level. For those reading from Europe, Denmark is a suitable substitute.note  British readers: think East Anglia. note 

This becomes Artistic License – Geography. Say a writer from California wants to base a story in Flyover Country. Even if they themselves visited Illinois and know what it looks like (and this is hardly guaranteed), they might still hope the viewers won't know the difference. Obviously, it can be a sore point for people who actually live there.

A subtrope of Television Geography. See also Misplaced Vegetation. While examples of this trope need not actually take place in Illinois or the Midwestern United States, they must indeed involve mountains or hills appearing where they should not be. Inversions — when mountains don't appear where they should — are okay, but all non-mountain-related tropes belong on Television Geography.

Often a result of California Doubling.

After your tour of our beautiful non-existent mountains, why not take in the fiery splendor of The Lava Caves of New York?


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Promotional material for Rascal the Raccoon often featured mountains in the background. Wisconsin isn't as flat as Illinois, but it does not have that kind of mountains.
  • Miami Guns parodies Japanese cop show cliches, and is set in ostensibly-Miami. Various episodes have villains illegally drift racing through the mountains of Florida (max. elevation 346 feet).
  • Volume 1 of Vinland Saga shows us the majestic mountains on the coast of the Jutland Peninsula. In reality, there are no mountains anywhere in Denmark.
  • The Fanatic's Guide to Digimon: The Movie has this tidbit:
    The Japanese DigiDestined accompany Willis back to Manhattan. He is then seen phoning his mother, and informs her that he's "back on the island." And yet, in the background, are... mountains (see screenshot [on the linked page]). Yep, good ol' mountainous Manhattan.
  • The opening chapter of Gun Blaze West features river canyons and a butte — in Illinois.
  • The final scenes of both the anime and manga versions of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean show prominent hills around Port St. Lucie, Florida. Oddly enough, most of the previous landscape shots in Stone Ocean have been relatively accurate to Florida's actual topography, raising the question of why they chose to go with this inaccuracy for the final scene.

  • Many, many painters, including "Old Masters", have included mountains in paintings whose subjects were actually located in flat regions, simply to make the background more appealing than an empty horizon.

  • One of Billy Connolly's stand-up routines in the 1980s was about folk songs that made no sense when analysed or were factually inaccurate, including one called "The Misty Blue Hills of Tiree" - "But if you have ever been in Tiree, it's like a bloody billiard table!"

    Comic Books 
  • An early issue of Alpha Flight showed mountains in the distance in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is located in the Red River Valley, one of the flattest areas on Earth. The nearest mountains are nearly 1400 km west, in Alberta.note 
  • Geography is a tricky subject at best in The DCU, but various depictions of Central City and Smallville in particular include nearby mountains which would be at odds with the presumptively Midwestern locations of those cities.
  • The Disney Kingdoms series Figment 2 shows mountains in Florida when the highest point in that particular U.S. state is Britton Hill at only 345 ft above sea level.
  • The original headquarters of the Justice League of America, the "Secret Sanctuary", is inside a mountain near Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. In Real Life, the highest point in Rhode Island is a mere 812 feet above sea level.
  • Marvel's The Transformers comics had the Autobot base theoretically located in Oregon but featured dry, rocky terrain that resembled that of New Mexico or southern Utah. While eastern Oregon is dry and rocky, it still has plenty of trees and shrubs and doesn't feature the weird rock formations that the comic typically had.
  • X-Men:
    • During the Magneto War crossover, Magneto met up with the Acolytes in an alpine-looking location, which the caption box says is "the Netherlands". Given that the word "Netherlands" means "lowlands", this is a particularly egregious example.
    • X-Men Unlimited #4 has the characters going over an Inevitable Waterfall... on the lower Mississippi! One would think that would have put a serious crimp on the mighty riverboats that used to ply the river (and the cargo barges that still do).

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Frazz comic, an elementary schooler talks about all the places they'd love to go someday: the Amazon Ocean, the Australian Alps, and anywhere but that afternoon's geography test.note 

    Film — Animation 
  • While it doesn't appear in the actual movie itself, the poster for the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven features the main characters in front of a backdrop of what appears to be New Orleans, with mountains behind it.
  • Beowulf opens with a wide shot of the majestic mountains of Denmark — a country so flat its highest point is a TV tower that is twice as tall as the highest natural point. Being an animated film taking place in a fantasy setting, this is clearly a case of Rule of Cool rather than California Doubling.
  • Dumbo takes place in Florida, yet the Casey Junior train sure has to travel up, down, and around a lot of mountains...
  • Since the Hans Christian Andersen version takes place in Denmark, The Little Mermaid is often speculated to take place on the same coast. Except when you see the surface there are sea cliffs, mountains, palm trees, and other features found on the more southern coast of Europe. Alternatively, the location is an Adaptation Deviation. Given that the architecture is more South European inspired, it is not unlikely that the film takes place in South Europe.
  • Disney's Pocahontas has the flat area around Jamestown, Virginia filled with mountains and cliffs. While there are some tall mountains in Virginia, they're on the other side of the state.

    Film — Live-Action 

In General:

  • Inverted in most outlets with the depiction of Colombian cities. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Colombiana, and a bunch of other movies depict Bogotá as an arid or tropical, generally hot place. In reality, while Bogotá is less than 5 degrees of latitude north of the equator, it's shoehorned into a valley in the middle of the Andes (8000+ feet above sea level) and it's a rather cold city.note  Other cities in Andean countries like Santiagonote  and Limanote  tend to have the same problem if depicted.
  • Washington, D.C. has several odd features that make screwing it up a popular subtrope of this. From Die Hard 2 revolving around planes desperately needing to land at Dulles International as if the DC area alone didn't have two other commercial airports (and it's part of the Eastern Seaboard), to too many chase scenes to count across the rooftops of the skyscrapers it doesn't have, to the fact that characters never seem to need to cross bridges to get between downtown DC and the Pentagon... It's understandable that most productions don't want to film there, considering that another one of its most noticeable features in real life is how badly thought out the grid is, but pop culture tends to be so unrealistic that Captain America: The Winter Soldier made instant waves in the city just by featuring somewhat plausible local geography. See the TV folder for more.


  • The 1941 film serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel was filmed in the deserts of Southern California, despite the fact that the first episode supposedly takes place in the jungles of Siam. In fact, there seems to be some confusion between Thailand and the Middle East.
  • Parodied in a deleted scene from Airplane!:
    Elaine: Ted, the altitude! We're falling, Ted! We're falling! The mountains, Ted! The mountains!
    Ted: What mountains? We're over IOWA!
  • Inverted by Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which lacks the mountains one would find in Gunnison, Colorado, which in real life is up on the Rockies. Along with smaller hills, the town itself is much larger (Gunnison's population doesn't even reach 6,000; along with the area and buildings, the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer is illogical given such excavation is never done in mountainous, unstable terrain).
  • Atlas Shrugged, Part II, shows a distinct lack of mountains around Pittsburgh Municipal Airport; the city is located in the foothills of the Appalachians.
  • Invoked case: In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the Hollywood hills are clearly visible in the background to the "London" scenes. According to the commentary, the hills can't be seen from the set but were deliberately added in during post-production to make the scene look even more fake. Austin lampshades it by saying, "You know what's remarkable? Is how much England looks in no way like Southern California."
  • The Babysitter: Killer Queen, like its predecessor, is set in Illinois. Unlike its predecessor, which took place in suburbia that easily passed for Midwestern, this film makes no effort to hide the fact that it was shot in California, with much of the film taking place on and around a lake in the desert (the real-life Lake Piru near Santa Clarita, with some establishing shots filmed at Lake Powell in Utah) that's just a short drive away from Cole's house.
  • Named for the opening scene of Beginning of the End, as lampshaded in Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • In The Birdcage, mountains are visible outside Katherine's office window. Her office is in Florida.
  • Braveheart:
    • The film opens with a sweeping vista of crags and mountains. William Wallace was born near the Ayrshire/Renfrewshire border, a region more noted for its lush fields and coastal plains than craggy mountains. Ironically, the movie was shot in Ireland, which doesn't exactly lack green fields and coastline.
    • Gibson decided not to film on the site of the actual Battle of the Stirling Bridge because the ground wasn't good for heavy equipment. A local told him that the English had the same problem.
  • The first part of The Buddy Holly Story is set in Holly's hometown, Lubbock, Texas, in the middle of the Great Plains, yet there are mountains in many exterior scenes.
  • Some of the early scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind depict what seem to be mountains and cliffs in what is supposed to be Muncie, Indiana.
  • In Cold Mountain (set in the Appalachian Mountains region of North Carolina), the Romanian location is mostly accurate... until giant craggy peaks appear towards the end.
  • Deep Impact shows a packed highway fleeing Virginia Beach from the impending titular impact. While the movie did film that scene in Virginia, they did so several hours northwest note , and thus, has mountains visible that should be well over the horizon. Earlier in the movie, Leo finds Sarah on a tall hill outside of the town which is presumably near the coast.
  • Early on, The Deer Hunter has scenes set on a hunting trip in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania—mountains that are clearly shown as having rocky, snowcapped peaks. In reality, Pennsylvania's highest mountain is around 3,200 feet high, covered in woods, and you can quite easily drive to the summit.
  • Dhoom 3, set mostly in Chicago, has an actual example at the end involving a dam in a deep river gorge among tall mountains... in southern Illinois, in a clear case of Bollywood Geography. (The scenes in question were filmed in India, and the film was made for an Indian audience not expected to be familiar with the American Midwest.)
  • In the film Due Date, the main characters are driving west across the country. A shot shows the car passing a sign that says "Dallas - 36 miles". Cut to Peter and Ethan talking in the car with mountains passing in the background. For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area: there aren't any mountains for hundreds of miles around.
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Fotheringay Castle, in which Mary, Queen of Scots is confined prior to her execution, is played by Eilean Donan castle in Scotland, complete with romantic mountains and loch. The real Fotheringay Castle isnote  in Northamptonshire, which has a distinct dearth of either.
  • Fail Safe. In this film, characters visit the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha is shown to be completely flat, which is completely wrong. Although the state of Nebraska is mostly flat, Omaha sits on the bluffs of the Missouri River, which makes it a hilly city.
  • A particularly grievous example is shown in the alleged documentary The Fourth Kind, which supposedly takes place in a version of Nome, Alaska that's somehow nestled between towering mountains and lush evergreen forests. Anyone who has been within several hundred miles of Nome—or any fan of Bering Sea Gold, set in the Nome area—can tell you there are no mountains or forests anywhere near the city and that it's actually surrounded on all sides by tundra and the ocean.
    • This example also ends up being extra egregious when one considers how much the movie and its advertising tried to sell itself as a docudrama that incorporated "real footage" alongside the filmed dramatization. If the filmmakers were so dedicated to making the movie's story as convincing as possible, it begs the question of why they didn't even attempt to match the geography of the town it was set in.
  • The movie version of The Fugitive has plenty of this when Kimble steals the ambulance and gets chased to the dam. Most of the film's location shooting that was outside Chicago was done in the Great Smoky Mountains, although the action is nominally confined to Illinois...which is ironic, seeing as how the original show sent Kimble running all over America! Some of the real-life filming locations are even referred to by those names. On the other hand, all of the scenes in the Chicago portions of the movie were shot on-location and accurate.
  • The docu-drama Gacy, about real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy, is set in Illinois — indeed, in the city of Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago. The movie clearly shows mountains and wild palm trees, none of which exist in Illinois. On the DVD commentary, the producer and director actually counts them.
  • GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra has mountains on the Arctic ice cap... which is in the middle of the frozen ocean, with no land in sight for miles.
  • Good Boys is set in Illinois, making the British Columbia mountains visible behind The Mall look fairly incongruous.
  • In John Carpenter's Halloween:
    • The town of Haddonfield is supposed to be in Illinois, but a sharp-eyed viewer can not only see mountains in the background of some scenes but palm trees as well. A sharp-eyed viewer probably already had their suspension of disbelief broken by the weather in the film, which, in the Midwest, is considerably less green and summery by that point in the year. It doesn't help that all the cars have California plates, or that schools are built with classrooms opening directly into the courtyard, something that's rare in the Midwest.
    • A literal example of the trope name happens in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which was filmed in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Rocky Mountains can be seen in the opening.
  • In Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet, the eponymous protagonist delivers his famous "my thoughts be bloody, or nothing worth" speech on top of the great, non-existent snowy peaks of Denmark. Given that the fashion and color palette are more akin to Tsarist Russia than Denmark, this might have been a conscious choice. Still, as with many adaptations of Shakespeare, the text remains the same...
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: In the climactic scene, the heroes hang glide off a massive cliff to reach the White Castle in Cherry Hill, NJ. While New Jersey does have scenic cliffs, they're nowhere near Cherry Hill. The cliffs are the Hudson River Palisades near New York City; Cherry Hill is a suburb of Philly.
  • At the beginning of the 1969 film adaptation of Hello, Dolly!, set in 1890, a steam train takes the title character up the Hudson River from New York to Yonkers, where most of the film is set. It's shown going through tunnels under mountains that tower over both sides of the river. These are indeed in New York, the Hudson Highlands—but they're located around Garrison, which was used for the Yonkers scenes. Garrison and the Highlands are 40 miles upriver from Yonkers, which has a nice view of the Palisades across the river, and gently rising terrain, but no mountains.
  • Deliberately played for laughs in Hot Shots! Part Deux, with the American strike team infiltrating a prison compound found in the Iraqi jungles.
  • In Independence Day, the first sighting of the alien ship takes place in Novosibirsk, Russia. A news reporter says the ship is "clearing the mountains." There are no mountains in Novosibirsk — it is located on the West Siberian Plain, surrounded by swamps and pine forests in all directions. Later, the landscape supposedly surrounding El Toro shows a desert. El Toro Marine Base is located in a hilly section of Orange County.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starts in the Peruvian Amazon jungle and eventually reaches Brazil, with cliffs and mountains that have no reason AT ALL to be there.
  • I Still Know What You Did Last Summer takes place in the Caribbean, but obviously was not filmed there, due to the presence of mountainscapes.note 
  • Kingdom of Heaven fell into the same trap as many depictions of biblical tales and of the crusades. Jerusalem and Bethlehem are usually shown as being in the middle of a flat desert with rolling dunes for miles all around. This is what the region actually looks like.note 
  • The Living Daylights has a big chase scene in which Bond tries to escape from Bratislava in Slovakia to Vienna in Austria by going over snow-covered mountains. The scene was filmed in the Austrian Alps, some 400 kilometers west-southwest of Vienna. Bratislava is actually about 60 km east of Vienna in the same Danube plain, and the surrounding regions in Slovakia and Czech Moravia are mostly rolling hills, not snowbound Alpine mountains. And to make matters worse, Bond supposedly uses the Trans-Siberian Pipeline as part of his escape; said pipeline's westernmost end is inside the westernmost border of Ukraine, some 500km in the wrong direction. Even if he made that circuitous of a route, the Carpathian mountains in that area are volcanic, and nothing like the Alps.
    • Bratislava and the surrounding area are actually the Illinois of Slovakia when it comes to elevation. And it's certainly possible he ran into alpine peaks on his way... If he turned much further north than necessary. Northern Slovakia (slightly to the east) is the most mountainous region in Slovakia, with Tatras, a southwestern corner of the Carpathian mountains, being a typical natural landmark of the country.
  • It even can apply to fantasy worlds. Since The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, there are mountains in most of the scenes. Which is fine, when they are traveling through the Middle-Earth countries that are supposed to be mountainous. Except Rohan is supposed to be a huge grassland for as long as the eye can see. In the DVD Commentary, director Peter Jackson admits that New Zealand simply didn't have any suitable location for that description, so instead they went to show off the most interesting rock formations they could find to produce a cool look, if not a very faithful one.
  • The Sci Fi Channel original movie Mega Piranha's climax occurs off the coast of beautiful South Florida. With mountains in the background.
  • National Lampoon's Vacation shows mountains visible from Cousin Eddie's farm outside Coolidge, Kansas. Coolidge is a real place and it's just six miles east of the Colorado state line. But even once you drive into Colorado, you'll still have to drive a few hours before you begin to see the Rocky Mountains. The terrain of eastern Colorado makes Kansas look mountainous in comparison.
    • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation opens with the Griswolds driving into the country from their suburban Chicago home to visit a Christmas tree farm. These scenes were shot in Breckenridge, Colorado, a ski resort town in the heart of the Rockies whose terrain in no way resembles anything within hundreds of miles of the Windy City.
  • The film Nightwatching has numerous shots of hills. It's set in Holland. Holland, for those who don't know, makes Illinois look like the Rockies.
  • North By Northwest features a treacherous drunken car chase along the Cliffs of Glen Cove, played in this picture by the cliffs of the California coastline. The north shore of Long Island is rocky, but not THAT rocky. Also, the cropduster attack scene was filmed near Bakersfield, California, not in the middle of an Indiana cornfield, although the appropriate highway signs were transplanted. Indiana doesn't look as dry as it does in the movie, even during droughts.
  • Pathfinder (2007) has Native Americans fighting Viking warriors in a version of New England that closely resembles a mashup of Switzerland's Alps and the Olympic Peninsula's temperate rain forest.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • The films are particularly bad offenders. While some of the islands of the Caribbean do share traits with Hawaiʻi, there is no excuse for portraying South Florida and the Everglades as a mountainous region with waterfalls and cenotes among a lush tropical jungle. The Everglades is an open grass swamp with occasional hammocks (islands) of palm, cypress, and live oak. You can see for miles in the open areas and there is not even a hill in sight. A hammock of 2-5 feet above the water level is considered a significant rise.
    • Singapore is depicted as a port town surrounded by hills and a handful of mountain peaks. Singapore has NO MOUNTAINS. The highest point is a hill that's barely 165 m (538 feet). Also, at the time the film takes place, it was a small fishing village, not the bustling town we see in the movie. The Singapore scenes were shot at a studio lot and modeled after multiple unrelated contemporary Chinese cities of the era.
  • The Asylum film Aztec Rex is supposed to take place in southern Mexico, but was filmed at Kualoa Ranch. IN HAWAII. (Same location for the "Florida" in Pirates of the Caribbean...)
  • The famous ending of Planet of the Apes (1968) reveals that despite the distinctive West Coast desert locations (filmed in Utah, Arizona and California), this was actually New York/Jersey.
  • The Disney Channel Original Movie Princess Protection Program takes place on the Louisiana bayou. Since the movie was filmed in Puerto Rico, it's a good deal more mountainous than Louisiana, where any hills in proximity to a bayou typically rise no higher than about 10 feet (3 meters). A few salt domes in the bayou zone are a bit higher in elevation, but the highest of these, Avery Island (the source of Tabasco sauce), still tops out at only 163 feet (50 m).
  • A more noticeable example is the 2006 American remake of the Japanese horror film Pulse, which takes place in the US despite very clearly being shot in Bulgaria.
  • The Rebel Set, another Mystery Science Theater 3000 film, features a car chase through the mountains we all know are not right outside of Chicago.
  • Return to Oz has mountains appearing in the background of several scenes based in Kansas, which is a prairie state.
  • Though set in Detroit, the climactic fight in the first RoboCop (1987) film takes place at an abandoned industrial complex that's sufficiently generic to be believable, until a rather obvious tree-covered Appalachian foothill sneaks into the background of one shot (that part was shot in Pittsburgh).
    • The first chase scene of the movie is clearly filmed along Industrial Boulevard in Dallas, Texas - multiple buildings unique to the Dallas skyline - most notably and frequently, Reunion Tower - are clearly visible in the background. (And for some reason, the shots alternate between driving away from Reunion and then towards it.) The final climactic scene at OCP headquarters is also filmed in Dallas, with the outside of the building actually being Dallas City Hall and the Fountain Place Tower being seen from outside the company board room.
  • The Jackie Chan film Rumble in the Bronx is supposed to take place in the Bronx, New York City, but the Coast Mountains of Vancouver, British Columbia are clearly visible in many shots. There are no such mountains anywhere near New York City.
  • The Rundown has some hills in The Amazon Rainforest... considering the highest places in the forest are nowhere near the Amazon river...
  • The Silence of the Lambs has a scene where the police raid a house in Calumet City, Illinois that serial killer Buffalo Bill is thought to be hiding in. Although the real Calumet City is in flat-as-a-pancake Cook County, the movie scene (which was shot near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) shows large hills in the background.
  • The 1950s Hollywood Mountie movie Saskatchewan had the Mounties riding through the majestic snowcapped mountains of said province. A province which, in reality, is so stereotypically flat that Canadians make jokes about roof repair guys being treated in Saskatchewan like astronauts. (The pre-1905 District of Saskatchewan had considerably different boundariesnote , but encompassed no mountain ranges.)
  • Spring Break Shark Attack is supposedly set in Florida, but it was filmed in South Africa...with lots of nice shots of the mountains near Miami Beach.
  • Starman begins with the eponymous character crashing to earth in Wisconsin... with mountains clearly visible in the background. While the country is certainly hilly, there are no mountains in Wisconsin.
  • In one of the early scenes of Star Trek (2009), young James Kirk flees with his stepfather's stolen car from a generally authentic-looking Iowa environment to a high cliffside overlooking southwestern, desert-ish, and decidedly non-Iowan terrain in the space of a few minutes.
  • In Stick It, neither Plano nor Houston has elevation changes large enough to help your bike downhill, much less to perform stunts. The film was so obviously made in Arizona and California that it isn't funny.
  • In the movie Swordfish, the main character is shown at one point to be practicing his golf swing off the top of a trailer house in Odessa, Texas with mountains picturesquely in the background sunset. Anyone who has been to Odessa falls over laughing at this.
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940) depicts the city of Baghdad as surrounded by craggy peaks. The real city stands in a perfectly flat plain.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Ebbing is set in some majestic mountains unlike anything that is found in Missouri. The film was shot in North Carolina and makes no attempt to hide it.
  • Inverted in-universe in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. When the drag queens' car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Noxeema assumes they're in West Virginia, even though the flat landscape looks nothing like a state that's within the Appalachian Mountains (or at least the Appalachian Plateau). We never find out the location of Snydersville, but Oklahoma or the Texas Panhandle is most likely.
  • One of the most pervasive examples is the 1969 Oscar-winning version of True Grit. The production was clearly filmed in Colorado and California with numerous shots featuring snow-capped mountains in the distance. But these peaks are intended as stand-ins for the Ouachita, Boston, and Arbuckle Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma, which are highly weathered mountains and more usually large hills that rarely exceed 2000 feet above sea level, seldom project more than 500 feet above the surrounding terrain, and look nothing like the Rockies or the High Sierras - much to the amusement of anyone familiar with the actual geography so prominently a part of the Portis novel and surprisingly the adapted movie script. The 2010 remake, though shot in New Mexico and Texas, more accurately represents the real terrain of the stated setting, although still was not shot on location.
  • The Lifetime TV movie William & Kate tells the story of well, the romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The film features a painfully Americanized view of their romance, including a karaoke serenade, and tops it off with mountains in London just like the Austin Powers example stated above. It was filmed in Southern California.
  • The Wrecking Crew may have been the direct inspiration for the Austin Powers gag that leads off this section. The movie takes place in Denmark. Some portions of the film, though perhaps only second-unit stuff, appear to have been shot in Denmark. The finale, however, with its exciting car chase along twisty mountain roads that ends with a confrontation on a cable car connecting two of the Danish Alps... wasn't. In reality, the highest point in Denmark, Møllehøj, is 170.86m high. The caption for Wikipedia's picture of Møllehøj notes that the actual high point is "obscured by the farm buildings" in the picture's foreground. California locations doubled for the "Danish Alps".
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future shows mountains on the horizon behind the skyline of Dallas, TX. Dallas has low hills inside the city but no mountains anywhere near it.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Erik seeks the guy who killed his mom at the concentration camp in Argentina. The name given is Villa Gessell, but while the movie shows a breathtaking mountain landscape, Gesell is actually a beach.

  • The novella Argo has a scene in which the protagonist's car is forced off the road and falls down a cliff, which works because it's not specified where the story is set. The remake and expansion of the story in Ani-Droids establishes the setting as Illinois. The same scene plays out - but when the protagonist recovers from the wreck, she admits it's not really a cliff or even a high hill, since she's in Illinois, but it's still a long rocky slope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • The fourth season had terrorists hiding a nuclear missile in the mountains of Iowa, a state that, like Illinois, has no point higher than 1700 feet. While Iowa does have some impressively steep bluffs and valleys, they're all along the Mississippi River waterway, and they aren't so much higher than the surrounding land as they are beside an area that's substantially lower. Maybe the writers got Iowa and Idaho confused.
    • While parts of the seventh season were filmed on-location in Washington DC, California Doubling was used in a large portion of the episode. Thus, you get palm trees and brown hills... in DC.
  • There's at least one shot from Bewitched showing mountains in the background. While the show took place in suburban New York (for the most part), it was mostly shot in southern California.
  • Averted in Carnivàle through the magic of CGI, as it was supposed to be taking place in the dustbowls of Depression USA, hence no mountains at all.
  • The Commish was supposedly set on Long Island, but one Chase Scene showed the Rocky Mountains prominently in the background.
  • Averted and lampshaded in Corner Gas, filmed on location in Saskatchewan. When a traveler comments about the flatness, Deadpan Snarker Brent points out the lack of mountains in the distance, not blocking your scenic view.
    Brent: There's lots to see. Nothin' to block your view. Like the mountains back there. They're uh... Well, what the hell? I could've sworn there was a big mountain range back there. Juttin' up into the sky all purple and majestic. I must be thinkin' of a postcard I saw or somethin'. Hey, it is kinda flat, thanks for pointin' that out.
  • The setting of the Season 6 Criminal Minds episode "Out of the Light" is Nash County, North Carolina, and there are plenty of mountains around (and a woman dies by falling off a cliff not far from the town). However, Nash County is barely in the North Carolina Piedmont and on the eastern side of Raleigh, and thus a sizable distance from any sort of mountains like the nearby Appalachians. There are small hills at the most.
  • While Dexter generally does a good job depicting South Florida, some mountains do creep into the backgrounds, particularly in scenes aboard Dex's boat.
  • The illegal road race in Drive (2007) begins in Key West and runs through South/Central Florida for several episodes, featuring the mountains of the Florida Keys and Everglades in many of the highway scenes.
  • Fargo: Season 2 is set in Luverne, which is in southwest Minnesota. In Real Life, it's a prairie town. The show, however, regularly portrays Luverne with lots of pine forests — a feature of the northeastern part of the state.
  • Frontier Circus: "Journey From Hannibal" is set partially in Hannibal, Missouri. When Casey steps off the train, mountains are visible in the background. And the Mississippi River is curiously absent.
  • Gunsmoke is set in Dodge City, Kansas. There sure are a lot of mountains.
  • In Heroes, Claire goes to an oil rig in her hometown of Odessa, Texas several times, and the background is quite mountainous. On the commentary for the episode "Godsend", Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder) said, "I'm from San Antonio, and I've been to Odessa, and there are no mountains in Odessa."
  • I Dream of Jeannie, being set in Florida, has hills and mountains in many exterior shots of Tony Nelson's home and other places.
  • Jericho (2006): While the pilot was filmed in the Canadian prairie and thus looks flat and treeless enough to be Kansas, much of the show was filmed in southern California, and thus has mountains.
    • Played hilariously straight with the depiction of Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the show, Cheyenne is surrounded by green rolling hills, verdant forests, and is at the base of a snow-covered peak. None of this is true. While there are nice areas of the state, including Yellowstone, Wyoming itself is a mostly arid wasteland. To get a mental picture of what it looks like, consider Starship Troopers. The scenes on "Planet Klandathu" are all shot in Casper, about 80 miles north. That's right, the second-largest city in Wyoming is the bug planet. Also, the show lists Cheyenne's population as soaring as high as one million residents. Currently, the population of Cheyenne is about 67,000 residents, and the entire state has fewer than 600,000. How on earth could that current infrastructure support an additional 933,000 people?!? The show certainly did not depict this as a gigantic tent city, which would be the only way this could happen.
  • In the third episode of The Last of Us, a scene set near a creek in a mountainous pine forest in the Alberta Rockies is introduced as "10 miles outside of Boston."
  • Appears repeatedly in the first two seasons of The Last Ship, with mountains from around San Diego visible in an establishing shot of Norfolk, Virginia (the nearest mountains are several hundred miles west) and the Coast Range being visible behind an oil platform supposedly off of Louisiana (which has the third-lowest high point of any US state).
  • The Minnesota farmland in Little House on the Prairie was peppered with suspiciously Californian mountains and hills. (It rarely ever snowed there, except during Christmas episodes.) Though the state of Minnesota does have both prairies and mountains (not particularly tall ones, though), they are nowhere near each other. Some episodes even featured mountains as a plot point. At least one of these recycled its premise from an episode of Bonanza, which at least takes place in the much more mountainous Nevada.
  • Married... with Children has one episode where Al and his NO MA'AM crew seek advice from a legendary badass who has become a hermit living on top of "the tallest mountain in Illinois."
  • In The Mentalist, Citrus Heights, California was shown as a rural mountain town. Citrus Heights is a flat, overdeveloped suburb in the middle of the Sacramento Valley.
  • Mission: Impossible: In "Lover's Knot", the Big Bad lives outside London. Fair enough, except that there are mountains in the background - so either he lives way outside London (like Wales or Yorkshire outside) or...
  • Parodied, by name even, in Parks and Recreation. "He said he was going mountain climbing in Illinois. So... I don't know where he is."
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the portion of New Jersey where the main trio encounters Medusa is a pine forest unlike any found in that climate, although possibly justified as it's mentioned to be part of a magical satyr path. Lampshaded by Percy:
    Percy: "I didn't even know they had forests in New Jersey, but we found one."
  • Point Pleasant, which was set on the Jersey Shore, featured establishing shots of Plymouth, New Hampshire, a town hundreds of miles to the northeast in the mountains that looks nothing like anywhere in New Jersey.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, the Florida Everglades has mountains. As does the rest of the world, thanks to filming in New Zealand.
    • Power Rangers RPM is set in the desert valleys of... what used to be the greater Boston metropolitan area. The reason? There was a war.
  • Inverted in the US version of Queer as Folk. It takes place in Pittsburgh, which is located within the Appalachian Mountains. As a result, the city has a distinctive, hilly terrain. note  You wouldn't know this from watching the show, however, since it was filmed in the much flatter Toronto (where any marble would roll down the nearest ravine into a creek).
  • The syndicated cop show Silk Stalkings was filmed in San Diego, but supposedly took place in Palm Beach, Florida. Mount Soledad, the Laguna Mountains, and many lesser hills were prominent in the backgrounds of many exterior shots. Several Floridian fans of the show joked that it was obviously Mount Dora we were seeing in the background. note  While not famous for hills the way, say, San Francisco is, San Diego does have a few streets that climb 144 feet over a few blocks. The highest point in all of Palm Beach County (which is twice the size of Rhode Island) is a 20-foot high ridge east of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
  • One episode of Sister, Sister had the twins trapped in a mountain cabin by an avalanche while on a skiing trip to Mt. Brighton, Michigan. While Mt. Brighton certainly does exist, and it is a ski resort, it is merely a prominent hill with one side altered for skiing. There are no cabins, no avalanches, no forest rangers (also seen in the episode), and absolutely no way to get lost while on Mt. Brighton- you can see the whole thing from the parking lot. The only mountains in Michigan are in the Upper Peninsula, hundreds of miles away.
  • Smallville:
    • A third-season episode features a scene on the shores of one of Kansas' picturesque mountain lakes. For those of you in other countries, the terrain of Kansas is just like a billiards table, except for just enough ripples to mess up your shot. (According to research published in the Annals of Improbable Research, the state is flatter than a pancake, relatively speaking.) To add insult to injury, Kansas has no natural lakes. That being said, the lake part can be excused, since that particular lake—Crater Lake—was created by the meteor shower that rained down on Smallville in the pilot episode, making it an acceptable break from reality.
    • It goes much further than an isolated incident. This site has an entertaining list of many unlikely elements of the show, but scroll down to about 2/3rds of the way down for a list of appearances of "Mountains in Kansas".
  • The miniseries of The Stand (1994) had a case of The Mountains of Indiana, during the scene where Trash Can Man blows up the refinery that's supposedly in north central Indiana, yet there are tall mountains clearly visible in the background.
    • Also has a Mountains of East Texas moment, when Stu Redman and the rest of Arnette are being quarantined. Both the "Indiana" scene above and this one were actually filmed in Utah.
  • Inverted in Stargate SG-1. Though the show had several reusable shots of Cheyenne Mountain, every time an episode took place in the city of Colorado Springs it always look oddly flat. In real life, Colorado Springs has lots of hills and is known for its vista of the Rocky Mountains just west of town.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • The first episode has a Klingon ship crash-land in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Since Oklahoma is right in the middle of Flyover Country, the writers apparently assumed that it was nothing but a big, flat, cornfield. Except that Broken Bow is actually in a fairly mountainous and forested part of the state.
    • Captain Archer and T'pol are sent to Detroit to foil a Xindi plot. For some reason, there are mountains.
  • Downplayed Trope in Stranger Things, which takes place in rural Indiana but was shot in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Whether this trope is in effect depends on where in the state the fictional town of Hawkins is supposed to be. Southern Indiana can be VERY hilly and has landscapes much like what we see in the show, whereas the state's reputational flatness is more true in the central and northern parts of the state.
  • Supernatural is guilty of this all the time. A scene set outside Lincoln, Nebraska had pine-covered mountains in the distance, for example.
  • Texas Rising used Mexico to represent all of Texas, leading to glaring errors that would make any Texan roll their eyes. The worst offenders included the Cliffs of San Antonio (the city is rolling hills), the caves of San Jacinto (Houston is built on swampland), and the deserts of Victoria (which has a subtropical climate and is quite humid and green).
  • United States of Tara is set in famously flat Kansas, but filming took place in the L.A. area and in a few shots there are conspicuous hills in the background.
  • One of the episodes of the first season of Wonder Woman (during WWII) shows a plane carrying Diana Prince and Steve Trevor landing at an airport surrounded by mountains, supposedly Ezeiza, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires Province is mainly flat, with two low mountain ranges, Sierra de la Ventana (near Bahía Blanca) and Sierra de Tandil (Tandil); none is even close to Ezeiza.
  • An episode of The X-Files featured the SAME fjord surrounded by mountains and pine trees that played a lake in Kansas in the Smallville example above as a lake in Iowa. They even spelled Okoboji wrong.
    • The X-Files ran into this a few times. The first five seasons were shot in Vancouver, which helped mask some of the variances between places. However, it was noticeable a few times.
    • The season 2 episode "Die Hand Die Verletzt" was set in the New Hampshire forest, though the woods of Vancouver and the woods of New Hampshire contain noticeably different vegetation.
    • For a straighter version of this trope, the season 6 episode "The Rain King" (filmed in California) featured the agents flying into a particularly mountainous region of Kansas farmland...
    • Inverted in "Nisei", in which scenes allegedly from Allentown, Pennsylvania show a completely vacant skyline in multiple directions. Either downtown buildings or mountains should've been in view somewhere.
  • Yellowjackets: In "Old Wounds", when Taissa meets the trucker, one can see the majestic Rocky Mountains in the background. In New Jersey.
  • The title sequence of Young Sheldon depicts the titular protagonist (and from season three onward, his family as well) on shrubby and mountainous terrain, which is prominent in West Texas, but not East Texas, where the show actually occurs.

  • Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the "Illinois" Album. His press releases for the album joked about the Prairie State's lack of real avalanches, and said that the name was meant to suggest "musical debris". The title track from the album is apparently about a Chevy Avalanche.
  • Inverted when Eddie Rabbitt had a 1970s hit with "Rocky Mountain Music". He probably should have consulted with John Denver before writing those lyrics, as he himself later admitted he knew nothing about the Rockies.note  "Back upon an old dirt road/Next to a swamp full of toads..." A swamp? In the mountains?
  • "Coast to coast/LA to Chicago..."
  • The Dutch band Nits made a song named "In the Dutch Mountains". Now, the Netherlands is a country that's about as flat as they come. Large parts lie below sea level. If anything, there are foothills. The preferred personal vehicle is the bicycle. However, being Dutch, the band was fully aware of all this when they made the song, and the title is just as absurd as the rest of the song.

  • In the opera Manon Lescaut, the tragic finale occurs when our hero's love interest is shipped to the American colonies after being found guilty of prostitution. The pair arrive at the settlement of New Orleans, whereupon they die of thirst in the vast, barren desert.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of Whistle Down the Wind moves the setting to Louisiana, but includes a scene set in a train tunnel, not a common feature of the state.

    Video Games 
  • RUSE features a single-player map that's a homage to the Netherlands in WW2. There are many little villages carrying the names of famous Dutch cities that are dozens (or even hundreds) of kilometres apart, located between large tulip fields and occasional hill and mountain ranges.
  • Call of Duty:
    • In the first game there's a mission where you have to blow up the Eder Dam. The background is hilarious to any German; the Alpine peaks definitely don't look much like Hesse.
    • In the expansion United Offensive, a mission takes place "somewhere in Holland" (presumably near Rotterdam, since that was what the plane you were in was bombing before it was shot down), yet features hills and some rocky cliffs (there are no cliffs in the Netherlands, and the only hills are in the southeast, about 150 kilometers from Rotterdam).
    • Modern Warfare 2 begins at Firebase Phoenix, a (former) US Army outpost in Afghanistan. While it was a real firebase, it is inaccurately portrayed as a dusty desert, when it was really in the lush-green Korengal Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province.
  • Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath has the Rivers of Johannesburg, which are an obstacle during the first half of the mission there; during the second half, there are cliffs in your way. Johannesburg is the largest city in the world to have no significant surface water. Also, there aren't any cliffs.
  • In Burnout Paradise, the core area of Paradise City is in a tropical area reminiscent of Florida, but it is bordered by Hollywood Hills-style mountains and temperate forests.
  • In Daytona USA, there are mountains in the background in Daytona. There are no mountains anywhere in Florida. In fact, most of Daytona has water surrounding it on 3 sides thanks to an inlet.
    • This was solved in 2017 in Daytona Championship USA, which does feature a completely flat land around a realistic and accurate Daytona International Speedway; the original easy stage became instead a fictional track called Triple Seven Speedway.
  • Need for Speed Unbound takes place in fictional "Lakeshore City," a very obvious Expy of Chicago, which also happens reside by mountainous and hillside roads instead of suburbs.
  • Watch_Dogs takes place in a fictional version of Chicago surrounded by mountains and forests, rather than the miles and miles of flat suburbia that surround the city.
  • Age of Empires III in the earlier versions would show the Dutch capital with a background containing hills. This was later fixed because Holland is flat and below sea level.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves's Kinderdijk level has a conspicuous amount of Ghibli Hills in the background of a country that generally looks more like a Mode 7 plane.
  • Raccoon City in the Resident Evil games is described as being located in the Midwest... right next to Arklay Mountain. This trope is the reason why fanon generally places the city in either Pennsylvania (where S. D. Perry's novelizations put it, even though very few people consider it Midwestern) or Missouri (which has the Ozarks and is considered to be on the border between the Midwest and the South).
  • Death Stranding has mountains, cliffs, and uneven rocky landscapes... all set in what is ostensibly the US Midwest, which is notorious in real life for being hundreds of miles of flat farmland. Some of this is explained by voidout craters dotting the landscape, and some is handwaved as being the effects of many years of time-fall storms massively accelerating erosion, but that doesn't explain where the mountains came from.

  • Parodied with America's debut in Scandinavia and the World: he had come to Denmark expecting to be able to ski, not knowing Denmark has no mountains at all.
    America: Where the hell are all the mountains!?!!?

    Web Original 
  • According to Mountain "Illinois features many high mountain peaks and summits, topped by the highpoints of Charles Mound, Benton Mound, and Mound Sumner." The entry for every state begins with "(State) features many high mountain peaks and summits..."
  • A Cracked article (can't remember which) once made a throwaway joke about Cleveland, Ohio, but the writer included a picture of the welcome sign for Cleveland... Georgia. Since neither city's welcome sign mentions the state they're in, the writer could have been forgiven if the sign's slogan wasn't "Gateway to the Mountains". The closest mountains to Cleveland, Ohio are two hours away in western Pennsylvania.
  • There's a Twitter account called Illinois Views that embodies this trope. It posts nothing but beautiful images of tropical beaches, snow-capped mountains, castles, and other landscapes that are not at all present in Illinois, while attributing them to specific towns.

    Western Animation 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog is set on the Bagge couple's farm in "Nowhere, Kansas", portrayed as a barren desert. While the High Plains of western Kansas are semi-arid, the state is overwhelmingly fertile with farmland.
    • It is speculated that it was intentionally given the Dust Bowl treatment to invoke the Depression era feel.
  • Several episodes of Family Guy (set in Rhode Island but written in L.A.) feature a rugged, mountainous landscape forested with pine trees. Rhode Island does have some hills, but not very large or jagged ones. Its highest point is 812 feet. Also, New England has many pine trees, but the native tree, the Eastern White Pine, looks rather distinct from the bushier Ponderosa of the West.
  • This can often pop up as a result of a Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change. For example, in the Dutch dubs of Rugrats and All Grown Up!, both series are suddenly supposed to be set in The Netherlands rather than the US, despite landscapes like mountains and deserts being present in them.
  • In the Inspector Gadget episode "The Curse of the Pharaoh", Gadget drives off a sheer cliff in a sandy Egyptian desert. He lampshades this with "There are no cliffs in the desert, it's just a mirage!"
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies episode "The Weird Winds of Winona" is set in Winona, Montgomery County, Mississippi, but that part is not mountainous in any way; the closest mountain in Mississippi is in the northeast of the state.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" had the family visiting Homer's long-lost brother in Detroit. They're driving through mountains as they leave the state. They would have to drive north from Detroit, through the Lower Peninsula, across the Mackinac Bridge, through most of the Upper Peninsula, and cross the Wisconsin border at Iron Mountain to even come close to what's shown on the screen. That's around an 8-hour drive, although they're implied to be much closer to Detroit. But then, The Simpsons named a trope with how inconsistent it is...
    • In "The Bart Wants What It Wants", Toronto is shown as mountainous and countryside can be seen right outside the CN Tower, whereas in real life, the CN Tower is located in the heart of the central business district and is surrounded by skyline. Although Toronto does have an extensive ravine system (a relic of the last glacial period) and there are some hills, true mountains are nowhere to be seen.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan does this trope name for name. Lots of the fights in forests (outside the downtown area) are shown to be surrounded by mountains. The show is set in Sherman, which is a real town although not modeled after it (some of the city resembles Chicago at times).
  • In the Transformers: Generation 1 episode 'Make Tracks', part of the action takes place in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which are depicted in the episode as very mountainous pine forests. The highest point in the Pine Barrens is Apple Pie Hill, which is 209 ft. above sea level.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Uh Oh Canada," Boomhauer travels to Guelph, Ontario, and is at one point shown kayaking with his French-speaking newfound girlfriend, with mountains in the background. Anyone who has been to Ontario in real life will tell you that there are no mountains to be found in the province (although some tall hills are called mountains by the locals), and that meeting a French speaker in that part of Ontario is unlikely (Ontario does have a large French-speaking population, but mostly in the East and North - Southwestern Ontario, where Guelph is, probably has more German-speakers than French).
  • Brickleberry National Park is in Illinois and features several mountains. In particular is Mount Brickleberry, which is said to be the highest point on Earth.
  • Nature Cat takes place in the Chicago metro area (as it's produced by a local PBS station), and mountains have appeared in a few episodes.
  • Garfield and Friends: In one episode, Garfield tells the viewers the story of how a cat named McKinley helped the Wright Brothers make the first controlled flight (by a cat). Like the actual historical event, it's set in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which is depicted in the episode as a hill-covered farming village with mountains in the distance. The actual Kitty Hawk (and Kill Devil Hills, which the area where the Wright's flight took place is now known as) is an Atlantic Ocean beach town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, about as far away from any mountains as you can get.

  • Crossing over with The Artifact, the unit insignia for the US Air Force 22d Civil Engineer Squadron includes mountains overlooking a body of water. The 22d CES is based in Kansas, being geographically known for its flat terrain, but used to be based in Southern California, many years ago.
  • The "Driftless Area" of Southwestern Wisconsin, Southeastern Minnesota, Northeastern Iowa, and the extreme Northwest of Illinois. While most of these states are relatively flat, the Driftless is very hilly (though not truly mountainous), because it never got covered by ice during the last Ice Age (and therefore doesn't have drift, or glacial deposits).

Alternative Title(s): Mountains Of Illinois