For all the mentions of Harvard in movies, few film crews actually get permission to shoot in Harvard Yard.
As a 1999 story in the Harvard Crimson explains, the 1969 filming of “Love Story” created such a mess—damaging and killing trees with fake snow—that Harvard decided to adopt a stricter policy when allowing commercial film crews on campus. The story quotes the provost’s office as saying, “Harvard is willing to consider claims that the use of a Harvard setting is artistically critical to a project.”
Allegra Tepper of USA TODAY College has a list of the movies set in Harvard that were filmed at other schools:
The Social Network (2010)
Jesse Eisenberg, playing Harvard dropout and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, did his blogging, programming and partying at the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins, and Wheelock College, and at boarding schools, such as Phillips Academy and Milton Academy.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
In the movie that launched Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s careers, Damon plays Will Hunting, a math genius working as a janitor at MIT who falls in love with a Harvard student. Hunting visits her at school—seemingly at Harvard, actually at the University of Toronto.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), not your typical Harvard student, manages to get into Harvard Law School. Most scenes were filmed at the University of Southern California (below). Some filming took place at Dulwich, a boys school in London.
How High (2001)
Two brothers, with the help of the ghost of their best friend, ace their college entrance exams (they’re not called the SATs in the film) and get accepted to Harvard. University of California, Los Angeles served as the Harvard stand-in.
With Honors (1994)
Filming for this story about a Harvard student’s friendship with a homeless man took place at various schools: the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Chicago (below), and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
Soul Man (1986)
A white student about to enter Harvard Law School takes pills to darken his skin in order to qualify for a scholarship for black students. The film was shot an hour drive away from Harvard, at Wheaton College.