Think of the main character in your favourite movie. Is it a superhero? A detective? A misunderstood brooding action badboy? We’re willing to bet not many, if any, of you picked a house—not that this is unusual. We typically think of houses in movies strictly as locations. They’re where the story takes place, not necessarily part of the story itself. 

But every so often a movie comes along where the house steals the show. Whether it’s central to the plot or just downright enviable, these movies wouldn’t be the same without their iconic abodes. Take a look at this list of our favourite movie houses that were central to the plot, and see if you can think of any others! 

1. Encanto

Encanto is about a family who all have magical gifts—except for Mirabel—bestowed on them by a miracle, so it only makes sense the house would, too. Casa Madrigal, also referred to as Casita, is the magical dwelling we all probably wish we had. Whether Casita is rearranging itself to best suit the family, or using its magic to protect the family from harm, the Madrigal family home is certainly a main character in Encanto.

Casita features three storeys surrounding a courtyard, with balconies and a Spanish tile roof. Though rooms appear small on the outside, inside they’re larger than life. Think of it a bit like Mary Poppins’ bag, only a house. Not only does Casita bring the family physically together, it also joins them emotionally. If one family member is disconnected from the family, they don’t have access to the Casita’s magical powers. 

2. Knives Out

OK, so the main character of Knives Out was Chris Evans’ cable-knit sweater, but not far behind was the stunning mansion of Harlan Thrombey. From a visual standpoint, the house—built in 1890—already draws attention. The gothic revival architecture feels ominous with its peaks and archwork, but it’s what’s inside that really plays a major role. 

The movie is essentially a modern-day Agatha Christie mystery, and the quirks of the old home end up leading to the case being solved. Creaks in the staircase, sound carrying through the study, and a thud from the recently deceased patriarch’s upstairs game room all help find Thrombey’s murderer—or was he murdered at all? Aside from the physical aspects of the home, the emotional ties and fights over who will inherit the mansion ramp up the tension among family members. You’ll have to watch this movie at least three times—once for the plot, once to drink in the incredible architecture, and once to finally catch onto Daniel Craig’s “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl,” as Chris Evans’ character so delicately puts it. 

3. Under the Tuscan Sun

How can a 20-room Italian villa not be a main character? The 2003 romance movie features a 17th century estate on the countryside near Cortona, Italy, which Diane Lane’s character buys on a whim after a recent divorce. Based on a true story, though this is not the real villa purchased by Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun follows Lane’s character as she not only renovates her new investment, but her life as well. 

If you’re itching to take an Italian escape of your own, you can actually rent the villa used in the movie, called Diane Lane. Stay for 10 nights and you’ll be able to sleep in each bedroom once, splitting your time between the conservatory, farmhouse, and main house. Or, invite 10 of your closest friends—don’t worry, you won’t need to share a bathroom with anyone, seeing as there are 10.5! 

Though the interior has been recently renovated and modernized, the centuries-old stone exterior walls will take your breath away. 

4. Cheaper by the Dozen

Steve Martin’s Tom Baker was only doing what he thought was best when he moved his wife and 12 kids from Midland to Evanston, Illinois. Unfortunately for him, the family didn’t agree with his decision. The crew of 14 (15 if you count the dog, 16 if you count the frog), left their too-small, but well-loved home to a bigger, better home. Well, to some. What Martin’s character  failed to account for is the family memories tied to the quaint Midland abode. 

The Baker family’s new Evanston home is three storeys with 12,500 square feet for everyone to spread out. With Victorian architecture and a chandelier that does NOT want to stay up, the home becomes the centrepiece for way more shenanigans than Baker anticipated. From a laundry chute that enables an underwear meat-soaking, to a hidden slide that helps the most misunderstood Baker run away, the Evanston house had plenty of screen time.  

Throughout the movie, the family yearns for their old home, recalling how it was the foundation for so many pivotal moments. It really drove home that a house isn’t automatically a home, and that bigger isn’t always better. Ultimately, the family moves back to Midland and finds a place they love. We’d say spoiler alert, but the movie came out in 2003. 

5. Beetlejuice

Let’s start off with a fun fact, shall we? Did you know the iconic Beetlejuice home’s interior was designed by Catherine O’Hara’s husband, Bo Welch? They weren’t dating at the time, but maybe the famous Canadian actor saw the avant-garde design choices and knew he was the one for her. 

Delia Deetz, played by O’Hara, certainly has an eccentric style which is showcased throughout the entire film. Most of her choices were inspired by postmodern influences, but the cobalt-blue kitchen with a giant glass refrigerator door was utilitarian in style. While the glass bricks may seem dated now, they were a mainstay in the 1980s and 1990s. The redecorating certainly causes some issues for the former, now-deceased homeowners, who aren’t exactly thrilled about how their home is being remodelled. 

On the outside, the Maitland home has enviable floating porches—though they’re not exactly safe without any railings—but if you were thinking about visiting you’re out of luck. The eerie home on Beetlejuice Hill doesn’t exist! The exterior was a facade (with a canvas roof, no less) and the interiors were all shot on sound stages in California. 

6. Harry Potter

“Wake up, cousin! We’re going to the zoo!” 

Anyone who was enthralled in the phenomenon that was Harry Potter can practically feel the walls rattling and the dust tumbling as Dudley Dursley stomps on the stairs announcing his birthday plans. 

Admittedly, this is less a famous home and more a famous cupboard under the stairs, but you can’t talk about famous movie dwellings without bringing up Harry Potter. 4 Privet Drive was supposedly modelled after author J.K. Rowling’s own childhood home, described as “big and square and smugly upper-middle class.” Though there was plenty of space for Harry to stay in the four-bedroom home, his aunt and uncle were particularly cruel in forcing him to stay in the cupboard under the stairs. The space was dimly lit, cramped, and better served as extra storage rather than a room for an 11-year-old boy. 

But, in the magical world, things have a way of working out. When his Hogwarts letter arrives, aptly addressed to “Harry Potter – The Cupboard Under the Stairs,” his entire life changes—including his living quarters. When he wasn’t staying at Hogwarts Castle, Harry was finally granted one of the Dursleys’ spare rooms. A small, long overdue act of kindness. 

Realistically, every home in the Harry Potter universe is special. From the living quarters at Hogwarts to the quaint abode of the Weasley family, each one had its own unique flair that isn’t soon forgotten.

When asked about the hardest Encanto character to design, writer and director Jared Bush said it was a tie between Casita and Dolores, another character in the film. It’s not hard to see why this would be the case. Casita represents so much more than just a building. It’s a connection between family members, a sense of security for everyone, and a place for everyone to call home. Creating such a powerful, impactful character surely required some intense TLC.

Though houses may not be why you watch a movie, they can often be what makes the experience memorable. From outlandish décor to family drama, movie houses offer an abundance of character to already established casts. 


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