Top 10 Films Set in a Mall

Top 10 Films has looked at the best malls in the movies, now we look at the films. Sometimes the mall plays an important role so here’s ten of the best.

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The mall has frequently played a part in a number of films over the years. This shopping Mecca where everything a consumer’s heart desires is located under one roof has been the setting for everything from character-centred comedy-drama to lavish action set-pieces to weird science-fiction horror. It has been both a place for adventure (Terminator 2, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), ridicule (Dawn of the Dead), and coming-of-age (Fast Times at Ridgemont High). It has also been a sanctuary (Night of the Comet, Dawn of the Dead), a second home (Mallrats), and a place to make money not spend it (Bad Santa).

Top 10 Films set in a Mall is ordered to highlight the role played by the mall in the story from small references and the odd scene to the entire story being played out inside the shopping centre.

The story begins with…

10. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, USA, 1982)

This coming-of-age drama from the 1980s saw director Amy Heckerling join forces with writer (and eventually director) Cameron Crowe. The kids frequent the local mall where the production crew used the old Sherman Oaks Galleria (also seen in Chopping Mall and Commando) to shoot the scenes.

Real life mall: Sherman Oaks Galleria, Ventura Boulevard, Los Angeles

9. Terminator 2 (James Cameron, USA, 1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day might be the most frequented film on top 10 film lists across the internet but that’s unsurprising. For Top 10 Films set in a Mall there’s another chance for James Cameron’s classic sequel to flex its cinematic muscles. One of the most iconic mall-based scenes sees Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator rampaging through shops trying to save the life of John Connor who is being hunted by the more advanced T-1000 robot.

Real life mall: Santa Monica Place Mall, Broadway, Los Angeles (Interior) / scenes shot at Sherman Oaks Galleria, Ventura Boulevard, Los Angeles (Exterior)

8. Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt, USA, 1984)

This crazy sci-fi-horror-comedy-romance-zombie-apocalypse film sees a comet turn people to dust and others to zombies. Having survived the initial destruction and the odd zombie attack, a couple of sisters, despite the apocalypse, head for the mall for a little cashless shopping.

Real life mall: Sherman Oaks Galleria, Ventura Boulevard, Los Angeles

7. Police Story (Jackie Chan, Hong Kong, 1985)

If Terminator 2 had a great mall-based action sequence then Jackie Chan beats it in this terrific action film from the Hong Kong legend. The shopping complex is a perfect stage for Chan’s real-time stunts.

Real life mall: Wing On Plaza, Tsim Sha Tsui east, Hong Kong

6. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, USA, 1989)

The time-travelling teenagers bring the world’s greatest and most influential historical figures to present day and let them experience the mall. Beethoven has fun in a musical instrument shop while Billy the Kid and Socrates get up to mischief.

Real life mall: Phoenix Metrocenter, Phoenix

5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Steve Carr, USA, 2009)

Kevin James is the star of the show in this comedy about a mild-mannered but overly serious security guard at the local mall. If the Farrelly’s directed Die Hard you might get something like this.

Real life mall: Northshore Mall, Peabody, Massachusetts

4. Chopping Mall (Jim Wynorski, USA, 1986)

There aren’t many top film lists where Chopping Mall would merit an appearance. Thankfully Top 10 Films set in a Mall is definitely the top 10 list for this movie. In typical 1980s “slasher” styling, a group of teenagers on the prowl for the next hedonistic fix decide to have a party at a local mall. They pick the worst possible night as the shopping complex is overrun by killer robots.

Real life mall: Santa Monica Place Mall, Broadway, Los Angeles

3. Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, USA, 2003)

Billy Bob Thornton is brilliantly acerbic and bad-tempered in this comical film about an alcoholic Santa impersonator who uses his act to rob the mall’s he works for.

Real life mall: Del Amo Fashion Center, Torrance, California

2. Mallrats (Smith, USA, 1995)

Kevin Smith’s follow-up to indie hit Clerks moves the twenty-something angst from the local convenience store to the wider expanse of the local mall. Jason Lee and Jeremy London lead a cast that also features the director in his reoccurring role as Silent Bob.

Real life mall: Eden Prairie Center, Minnesota

1. Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, Italy/USA, 1979)

George A. Romero again uses the zombie genre to comment on the state of society, this time setting the film in a sparkling new shopping mall. Only the mall is empty aside from the roaming zombies that inhabit its hallways. Does the monotonous repetition of their movement, the vacuous gaze on their face, the lack of direction yet unending journey to find a fix that may not be there, remind you of anything (or anyone)?

Real life mall: Monroeville Mall, Pittsburgh

See also: Top 10 Malls in Film

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Chris Reply

    Great idea for a post! (I’m presuming the Spielberg question at the end is a typo)

    I think The Safety of Objects (2001) would make my top ‘Mall movies list’. Jackie Brown (1997) is not my favorite by Tarantino, but it includes quite a few well-crafted scenes in a mall.

    Dawn of the Dead has been hanging around on my watch-list for ages, got to change that ( :

  2. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Wow, Mallrats in at #2? Brave choice – I’d have had it on top, but it’s hard to argue with Dawn of The Dead up there.

    Obscure list, Dan, but a great one!

  3. Avatar
    Scott Lawlor Reply

    Great List Dan!!

    Nice to see Bad Santa featuring so heavily!

  4. Avatar
    Sam Fragoso Reply

    No surprise Mallrats is so high — one of the few films almost entirely set in a mall.

    Fun list Dan!

  5. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    I really should watch Mallrats one of these days. I go to that Eden Prairie mall every once in a while, it’s not too far from my house 🙂 I should rewatch ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ it’s been ages and I remember liking it.

    I wonder when they’ll make a movie set inside Mall of America, ahah.

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Ruth: …I’m jealous…wish I could go to a mall featured prominently in the movies for my monthly guilty pleasures! 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    Yep, Eden Prairie mall for the win! (I live in Eden Prairie, MN :)) That was just before the mall got a major overhaul so you wouldn’t know it was shot there from the movie.

  8. Avatar
    Raghav Reply

    Can we add Frank Darabont’s The Mist which takes place in a supermarket in the list please? I think it is such a brilliant film and an ending that even Stephen King didn’t see coming. Mallrats has to be on any Mall related list for sure. Not seen majority of the films you mention, but shall check them out. As for Jackie Chan and police Story, well I grew up on that film so it’s always special.

  9. Avatar
    Louise Reply

    Yay for Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I thought I was the only person in the world who liked it. It’s crap and stupid and brainless, but quite fun too.

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