With mountains of shiny visuals, heavy machinery, and the mystique of operations fenced off to trespassers, scrap yards have long appeared as places of intrigue in numerous movies over the years.
A search of movie data bases will reveal more than a hundred films which include scenes of or dialogue about scrap yards, as a component of pop culture. Predictably, many of these films use scrap yards as a backdrop for some sort of crime (think Pulp Fiction or Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery). If you dig a little deeper however, there are a number of other movies, old and new, that use scrap yards in the story line in other interesting ways.
Below are a few fun films that have scenes at scrap metal recycling facilities or involve the business of a scrap yard.
The main character in this 2008 Pixar animated film is a “Waste Allocation Load-Lifter-Earth Class,” better known as WALL-E (Ben Burt). He is a lonely robot left to clean up waste and crush scrap into cubes on a deserted planet Earth. WALL-E spends his days sorting through mounds of refuse, looking for interesting items, until he meets EVE (Elissa Knight), another robot who helps him restore life to Earth. This family-friendly movie takes on the theme of waste management in the future, encouraging recycling as a means to preserve natural resources and decrease landfilling.
A scrap yard provides a safe haven in Iron Giant, another animated science fiction film. Released in 1999, this movie follows Hogarth (Eli Marienthal), a 9-year-old boy who befriends a giant metallic robot who falls from space. The boy works to protect the robot from federal agents seeking to destroy him. Hogarth takes the robot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to a scrap yard where the owner agrees to hide and protect him. In the sanctuary of the scrap yard, the giant can eat scrap metal and self-repair. Although this movie did not perform well at the box office, it did receive good reviews for animation, story, and the voiced performances of Diesel, Harry Connick, Jr., who plays the scrap yard owner, Jennifer Aniston, the voice of Hogarth’s mother, and Cloris Leachman as Hogarth’s teacher.
One of the most iconic scrap yard scenes ever filmed is in the 1964 James Bond movie, Goldfinger. Goldfinger, the third installment in the series, follows Bond (Sean Connery) as he investigates a gold smuggling operation. His spying uncovers a plan to contaminate all the gold in the US Bullion Depository in Fort Knox. A car tailing scene ends at a scrap yard, where a 1963 navy blue Lincoln Continental is crushed in a filmed close-up. The entire scene—from the car being driven onto the lot, lifted by crane and the subsequent cube of metal dropped from a magnet—takes about two minutes. Audiences at the time were reportedly shocked to see a new luxury car crushed before their eyes. The filming took place at Atlantic Iron & Metal Co, in Miami, Florida.
High School Musical 3
The only film we know of in which a dance number takes place in a scrap yard is High School Musical 3. Lead character Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is searching for a car part in a scrap yard with his buddy Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu) when they break out in their signature song “The Boys are Back,” complete with back up dancers. The cast dances through the yard, performing on and around rusted automobiles and scrap metal in the 2008 production. If not interested in the entire movie, you can watch “The Boys are Back” dance scene on YouTube.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
What is a scrap yard like in a galaxy far, far away? That is where the boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) got his start—Watto’s Junkshop on the planet of Tatooine. At Watto’s, among other endeavors, the Jawas would show up to pick parts to refurbish vehicles. It is while working at Watto’s that Skywalker demonstrates his incredible aptitude for equipment repair, and the rest is history. Star Wars: Episode I —The Phantom Menace, was the first movie chronologically in the Star Wars series and was released in 1999. As a boy, Skywalker worked at Watto’s salvaging parts and rebuilding machines. His experience at Watto’s honed his skills, resourcefulness, persistence and resiliency.
Movies based off the Marvel comic book franchise (also known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU) often have characters and plots that involve scrap yards. The 2015 film Fantastic Four lays the groundwork for the superheroes. Main character Ben Grimm’s (Jamie Bell’s) family owns a scrap yard. He obtains electric supplies and other scrap parts to help his ridiculed friend Reed Richards (Miles Teller) build a teleporter to transport objects to new dimensions. When his machine, thanks to the scrap yard, transports a group of four teenagers to a new universe, they morph into the Fantastic Four superheroes.
The Marvel character Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in the 2016 movie Deadpool, has an epic scrap yard brawl. Filmed in Vancouver, the producers wanted a scrap yard for the battle. The crew transformed a yard for scrap aircraft and surplus military equipment into a military salvage yard. According to The Hollywood Reporter, producers brought in extra scrap material, many old containers, planes, parts of helicopters and chewed up trains to enhance the authentic scrap yard look.
Do you have a favorite scrap yard scene or reference from movies or tv shows that you would like to share? Please email us your favorites and we will compile your recommendations for a follow up list of scrap yards on film!