Eiffel Tower Effect

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
No, really. You can't miss it.

"The gay cafés,
The Eiffel Tower,
The mayonnaise,
The Eiffel Tower,
La Marseillaise,
The Eiffel Tower,
The awe inspiring but so tiring Eiffel Tower!"

—"That's What Makes Paris, Paree" from April in Paris

Some cities are renowned for their industries. Hollywood makes movies, Detroit makes... made cars. Others are known as hotspots for the scientific community, like Geneva. Or for the political community, like... Geneva. And in some places, there is a landmark. Such as Geneva.

A few of these landmarks, in various locations around the globe, are so well-known by so many people that they've come to function as a sort of visual shorthand for the city, sometimes the country, in which they're located to the point where some footage of the landmark in question must be portrayed on the screen, even when that landmark is largely (or sometimes totally) irrelevant to the plot. The National Mall in Washington DC, Westminster Palace (specifically, the Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben) in London Town, the Taj Mahal in India, the Sydney Opera House in Sydney... When these locations are portrayed in a film or TV show, expect numerous, panoramic Establishing Shots of the landmark in question. Occasionally, these landmarks will be visible out of windows or from rooftops where viewing them in real life would be geographically impossible.

Iconic structures such as these can also function as Red Shirts. If they are ever destroyed, then circumstances have become dire indeed. Which naturally means that in a disaster movie, the landmark in question will probably be doomed to certain destruction. The remainder of the Hollywoodland sign in California and the Statue of Liberty are popular targets for CGI catastrophes. Alternatively, the structure will be one of the few things left intact After the End, either mostly undamaged, to give the characters some kind of hope for the future, or nearly collapsed, as a testament to how much has been lost.

This trope is not simply here to list various landmarks around the world, but rather instances of landmarks in fiction used as a shortcut to showing either where the action occurs or how bad things have gotten.

Can overlap with both Scenery Gorn and Scenery Porn, depending on how lovingly and lavishly the landmark in question is filmed. For instances where entire countries, or more, are represented by the landmarks of only one city, see Britain Is Only London. Compare Landmarking the Hidden Base, where a major HQ is situated inside or underneath one of these monuments; Rushmore Refacement, where they are deliberately altered; Weaponized Landmark, where they're turned into Weapons Of Mass Destruction; and Monumental Damage, where they are damaged or destroyed, possibly as a result of a Monumental Battle.

The trope namer is on the Champ de Mars in Paris and was completed in 1889. The Other Wiki calls the Eiffel Tower "one of the most recognizable structures in the world."

Examples of Eiffel Tower Effect include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tokyo Tower functions this way in many anime; one of the most famous is in the X 1999 manga, TV series and movie.
  • Death Note uses both the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye for Paris and London at one point.
  • In one episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Section 9 assists German military counterintelligence in capturing an international terrorist in Berlin. During his stakeouts, Batou makes one of his hiding spots on top of the Siegessäule. While at 67 meters height, it offers quite a view, it's right in the centre of Berlin's largest park and about 500 meters from the nearest buildings, making it completely useless for that task.
  • During the Doma Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh, when the Orichalcos Soldiers were attacking everywhere on Earth, the cities they were attacking were identified with a single famous landmark (e.g. the Palace of Westminster, the Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House, Tokyo Tower, l'Arc de Triomphe, etc., etc.)


  • In the Bollywood film Don: The Chase Begins Again, most of the action occurs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Every five minutes or so there is an establishing shot of the Petronas Towers so that we don't forget this, even when they come between scenes that occur miles away from the towers.
  • Both National Treasure films did this in every single scene set in a major city. The Lincoln Memorial is the backdrop for a very serious discussion between Ben and Riley early on in the first film, apparently just so that they could get it in there.
    • Fun fact: That scene was filmed on a day when the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was drained for maintenance. They digitally added the water back in, in post production.
  • In The Avengers 1998, the Big Ben was completely demolished by the film-makers to demonstrate that the bad guy was really, truly evil.
  • Cloverfield made a point of taking out the Statue of Liberty. Beheading her, even.
  • Largely averted in The Bourne Supremacy. You see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but in a ground view and in the distant background as the hero walked across a courtyard. That is the only shot of it.
  • On one of the theatrical posters for the 1956 Around the World in Eighty Days, the Westminster clock tower and the Eiffel Tower are used as shorthand for London and Paris, despite the fact that the movie takes place in 1872 and the Eiffel Tower hadn't been built yet.
  • The Day After Tomorrow, while it didn't destroy the Statue of Liberty, did make a point of freezing her solid, just so the audience could see how cold it was.
    • They did, however, take out the Hollywood sign with some tornadoes.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone used a brief shot of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the River Thames to establish London before we cut to Harry and Hagrid arriving at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince shows the Millennium Bridge being destroyed by Death Eaters.
  • Dhoom 2 wanted to be sure everyone knew the second half of the movie took place in Brazil, so they made a very big deal out of the Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. So much so that a scene in one of the songs took place there.
  • In Roland Emmerich's Two Thousand Twelve, it's the end of time! What happens at "the end of time"? Famous landmarks get destroyed! Time, meanwhile, apparently continues to flow.
  • In the original Planet of the Apes, the movie ends with Taylor finding a demolished Statue of Liberty "You animals! You finally gone and done it!"
  • Armageddon had the Eiffel Tower demolished.
  • The movie version of Being There takes place in and around Washington, D.C., but the setting is only gradually revealed to the audience because the film is confined to Chance's townhouse for its opening section. He's never been outside it, and it's in a poorer section of the city, so we don't start seeing landmarks like the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Capitol Building until he's wandered well away from it. Prior to this, the only hint that Chance lived in Washington was an ad for the Washington Post on a television.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra had the bad guys take out the Eiffel Tower specifically for shock value to demonstrate how evil they were.
  • The Mummy Returns established clearly that the opening scene was set in London, by showing the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge. All apparently next to each other.
    • Continuing from the first movie, where you can see the Pyramids from Thebes.
  • While the James Bond movies in general have used Big Ben Elizabeth Tower far more than necessary, a more Egregious example is in Goldfinger where Felix's office has a clear view of the White House, even though the CIA's headquarters are in the suburb of Langley, Virginia.
    • Since the last third of A View to a Kill takes place in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, it's perhaps inevitable that the film climaxes over the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • And earlier in that film, May Day leaps off the Eiffel Tower itself.
    • In Octopussy, there is a shot of Bond's helicopter flying in front of the Taj Mahal, although Agra is not on the way to his destination. The director felt that he needed to insert a shot of the Taj Mahal because it was so beautiful, and they were in India anyway.
    • The most Egregious example is definitely The Spy Who Loved Me in which the Egyptian base of operations for MI 6 is located just inside the main entrance to the Temple of Ramesses II.
  • All sorts of science fiction movies have destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge as an avatar for San Francisco. In reality, crossing the bridge north from the city doesn't really go anywhere other than some ritzy bedroom communities and the sticks further north. Destroying the Bay Bridge would really put a serious wound in the city's infrastructure and many people's commutes, but the Golden Gate is a much prettier and more instantly-recognizable bridge.
    • Averted as a very brief joke in Star Trek, where Spock shoots Nero's drill down when it's drilling into Earth, just above Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. The drill breaks up and part of it falls down...just to the right of the Golden Gate Bridge and into the water.
  • 28 Weeks Later concludes with a scene of the "infected" running rampant in Paris. One guess as to how we're shown that it's Paris.
  • In Casablanca, Rick's Paris flashback begins with a shot of...the Arc de Triomphe.
  • In Hudson Hawk, the title character wakes up after being knocked out to find himself in Rome. He knows this because his hotel window just happens to face the Colosseum.
    • Even better, when he then passes a door/window at a 90 degree angel with the first, he can still see the Colosseum.
  • At the end of 2010: The Year We Make Contact there's a montage showing the Lincoln Memorial, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge and the beach next to Heywood Floyd's house in Hawaii. In every shot, there are two suns in the sky.
  • Inception is a bit of a Shoot the Money film, so we have Scenery Porn (and Scenery Gorn) in the form of the streets of Paris exploding outwards in a beautiful manner, folding in on themselves like a taco and during the scene where Ariadne plays with the use of mirrors on the street, the Eiffel Tower is visible in the background.
  • In The Dark Knight Saga and before that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, the protagonist(s) leap off the Two-ifc in Hong Kong.
  • The Transformers movies are quite notorious for this by now. In the first film, we had the Hoover Dam, and Starscream partially destroyed one of its water towers. In the second, the Great Pyramids of Giza are directly across from the Rose Red City of Petra (what happened to Israel in-between?). Michael Bay was pretty happy about being allowed to film at both locations.
  • Spoofed in Despicable Me, where Gru is giving a speech to his minions in which he recalls some of their famous landmark-stealing capers, including the theft of the Statue of Liberty ("The small one, from Las Vegas"), and the Eiffel Tower ("Also from Vegas").
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has plenty of fun with this trope, showing a giant club sandwich being skewered on the Eiffel Tower, among other things.
    • Further fun is had when it is revealed that food is raining down on all major landmarks first before spreading to less interesting parts of the world.
  • The Sinking Of Japan, particularly the 2006 remake, does this quite a bit. Flying volcanic rocks smash into ancient Japanese temples and the Tokyo Tower succumbs to the waves.
  • The Sentinel is about a Secret Service agent accused of being a mole, and as such there are lots of establishing shots of the White House and other Washington DC landmarks.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade uses the Petra ruins in Jordan as the entrance to the temple at the end. However, there is nothing apart from solid rock behind the façade in Petra, and the context in which it appears in the film would imply that the actual ruins do not exist in the movie's reality.
  • Played for laughs in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. The Big Bad makes his threat video using a fake backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and playing French music in the background (he was on a train the whole time). When the government agents are coming up with ways to catch him, one feebly suggests searching Paris.
  • In the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, when Andy finally goes to Paris the Eiffel Tower is clearly visible out of the window in her suite.
  • In the 1960 film Austerlitz, the Palace of Westminster, including St Stephen's Tower, is visible out of Pitt's window. Unfortunately, it wasn't built until decades after the time the film is set.
  • Averted hard and to great effect in Jacques Tati's film Playtime. It's set in Paris, but the film is all about the alienation of the jet-set 1960s. The only times monuments like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are visible are when they're accidentally reflected in the glass doors of the hyper-modern, anonymous buildings the film's shot in.
    • In a background gag, a travel agency has posters of places like Rome, New York, and Cairo. All of the posters show the same hyper-modern anonymous building.
  • Various parts of Spice World have the group riding around on their tour bus around numerous landmarks in London, as The Nostalgia Chick obviously lampshades in her review of said movie, including a death-defying scene toward the end of the movie with Victoria Beckham trying to drive the bus over the London Bridge to allow a boat to pass through so they could make it to their performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • It's a little hard to make out since it's so far away, but in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the Hollywood Sign is visible from Eddie's office window.
  • Van Helsing begins with an opening shot of Paris. Interestingly, the movie is set in 1887, and the movie shows it as incomplete.
  • The City in Babe: Pig in the City is a massive parody of this. It contains every landmark mentioned on this page, all within view of the same window, and its streets are canals (as in Venice, Italy).
  • Zodiac uses a number of icons to show San Francisco, the Ferry Building, the Transamerica pyramid is shown frequently, though it's still under construction, Melvin Belli's St. Francis Wood mansion is shown to have a close view of Downtown San Francisco. In reality, the neighborhood is miles from Downtown and the view is obscured by hills.
  • The Trans America Pyramid appears in The Social Network which would almost be a Shout-Out to Fincher's Zodiac but Fincher says it was random stock footage they picked.
  • In Lost in Translation, there are multiple shots of the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building. The final sequence immediately preceding the credits also features the Tokyo Tower. Though also averted when Charlotte briefly goes to Kyoto late in the film; the sequence somehow goes by without a single shot of that city's iconic landmarks like Kinkaku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto Tower or the thousand torii of Fushimi Inari-taisha.


  • In the Cory Doctorow novel Little Brother, it is the Bay Bridge that gets blown up by terrorists, instead of the Golden Gate; the narrator lampshades this with the same comment made above in the film section; the Golden Gate is for tourists, people actually living in San Francisco use the Bay Bridge.

Live-Action TV

  • Highlander frequently featured numerous, plot-irrelevant establishing shots of the Eiffel Tower when the characters were hanging out in Paris.
  • One episode of Star Trek the Next Generation features a scene in Paris where the Eiffel Tower is visible in the background of nearly every shot, even if two shots are facing in opposite directions. It was a recreation of Picard's memories on the Holodeck, so maybe the computer was trying to be clear it was simulating France.
  • Averted in How I Met Your Mother: When Robin goes on a bender and Barney tries to dramatically show she'd ended up in Toronto by opening a window hoping to see a memorable Toronto monument except there isn't any, just the solid wall of another building about 10 feet away blocking the entire view.
  • One episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine had an odd subversion: the Golden Gate Bridge was destroyed, but off-camera, and we only got a brief view of its wreckage.
    • Maybe not so odd on a TV fx budget.
  • Whenever Gibbs in NCIS flashes back to his time in Paris with Sheppard, the Eiffel Tower is intercut about every other frame or so with stock footage of two people on a bed.
  • Parodied in Police Squad!. Frank Drebin goes to question the relative of a victim in Little Italy; as he drives there, Stock Footage of the Coliseum is rear projected behind him. When he arrives, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is visible from the apartment.
    • The view from the Police Squad office window changes from episode to episode. In one, the Eiffel Tower can be seen; in another, the US Capitol Building is clearly visible.
  • In the CSI: Miami episode "Rio", set in, Rio, the opening shot shows Caine getting down on one knee dramatically, and then pans up to reveal the Christ the Redeemer statue just before the YEEEEAAAAHHH. This statue is in virtually every shot of the episode. Caine even looks up at it (dramatically) after the episode's climactic knife fight.
  • Used all the time in Murder, She Wrote. If Jessica is in a city, expect an establishing shot of the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower, or Big Ben, or the Kremlin, or whatever.
  • Subverted in a spy movie sketch on The Benny Hill Show . An establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower is shown, and after a second, the caption "Istanbul" appears on the screen.
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy often had stock footage of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and other San Francisco landmarks. There was also a scene in a bar in the Tenderloin (a famous San Francisco slum), with a crude mural of the Golden Gate, the Trans-America Pyramid, Coit Tower and a cable car.
  • Virtually every episode of Charmed featured a montage of San Francisco aerial footage beneath the first-act credits, much like the CSI example below but even more extended. In later seasons, some of the main characters (with the ability to teleport at will) took to using the top of one of the Golden Gate Bridge's towers (or an approximation thereof on a Los Angeles soundstage) as a regular meeting place.
  • CSI loves this. Vegas is shown in loving detail in nearly every episode. Expect to see tons of aerial shots of the Vegas strip at night. Especially of The Stratosphere.
  • Spoofed on Joey: Gina's appartment has a view of the Hollywood sign - if you lean back on the balcony. And then you only see the middle of it, so technically, it's a view of the OLLYWOO sign.
  • Degrassi's rotation of Establishing Shots include the CN Tower as well as several views of Toronto streetcars, a "De Grassi Street" sign and the exterior of the school itself.
    • In Snake and Spike's wedding episode the DP tried valiantly to get them (on a lakeside boardwalk) and the tower's observation pod in the shot at the same time. And couldn't.
  • In Smallville, when Lana Lang visits Paris, the Notre Dame cathedral is always shown whenever the episode shifts to her story.
  • Greys Anatomy is set in Seattle. The space needle is prominently displayed.
  • The studio of the London-based breakfast news programme Daybreak has a window wall with a view of the London skyline, centred on the dome of St Paul's Cathedral. So far, so Justified Trope, but where the trope really comes into play is that, with the show being on at 6am, in the winter it's still dark outside. So the production company pay to have the cathedral lit up specially.
  • On Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood, Cardiff is always represented by the Roald Dahl Plass, with its recognizable Millenium Centre and Water Tower. On Torchwood a sweeping aerial shot of the Plass is frequently used to indicate the action is moving to the Torchwood Hub, which is directly beneath the Water Tower.
  • Namsam Tower in Seoul features prominently in many Korean dramas:
    • Best Love: In the background when Dokko Jin explains the folk tale "Camellias" to Ae Jung.
    • Boys Before Flowers: Jan Di and Jun Pyo have their first date (and later, their most significant date) at the base of the Tower.
    • Can You Hear My Heart: Joon Ha frequently mentions wanting to ride the cable car to the Tower; eventually he does.
    • The City Hunter: The Tower can be seen from Na Na's rooftop.
    • The First Shop of Coffee Prince: One of the places Eun Jo wants to go for a date, even though it is clearly visible from his rooftop apartment.
    • Protect the Boss: The tower shows up in the very first episode. It also shows up in Ji Heon's video taken by the Han River.
    • Rooftop Prince: The scheming Se Na took Crown Prince Yi Gak to the Tower to get him away from Park Ha.
    • Scent of a Woman SK: There it is, episode 14.
  • In Taipei, Taiwan, the most prominent building is known as Taipei 101. It shows up in the background of the following Taiwanese Series:
    • Devil Beside You: When the kids are running around the Warner Village Mall, they seem to pass by the skyscraper several times.
    • Drunken to Love You, especially during night scenes.
    • It also shows up in in the first installment of the trilogy, Fated to Love You.
    • It's actually shown and identified by caption in the first episode of Love Keeps Going.
  • It wasn't until the third season that iCarly added an establishing shot of the Seattle skyline with the Space Needle prominent.

Video Games

  • In Keen II: The Earth Explodes, eight different major landmarks around the world were used to represent the cities in which they were located (and the threat of that city's impending doom):
    • Big Ben - London
    • Sphinx - Cairo
    • Sydney Opera House - Sydney
    • Statue of Liberty - New York
    • Eiffel Tower - Paris
    • Colosseum - Rome
    • St. Basil's Cathedral - Moscow
    • White House - Washington
  • Fallout 3 made sure to beat up on the Washington Monument, so that players would know they were in a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC. It's in remarkably good shape for a stone structure after a nuclear war and 300 years of chaotic anarchy (but unlike its real-life counterpart, it's reinforced by a metal skeleton). It's one of the first things you can see once you exit the Vault, although it's actually pretty far away.
    • There's also the scarred remains of the Capitol building (which you can freely explore), along with several national museums (these are within walking distance in real life, too, though all that walking to be done on the Mall is conveniently abridged). Oh, and if you're feeling patriotic, you can always go visit the White House, or rather the smoldering radioactive hole where it used to be.
  • The first level of Jungle Strike is set in Washington DC (the jungle comes later), so the bad guys' first targets are the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, and the Library of Congress, with your base at the White House.
  • In every version of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, going to almost any country will immediately take you to its most famous landmark, which just happens to be where the crook last was. Slightly subverted in the third version in which the Golden Gate Bridge, of all places, is the U.S. locale, presumably because the heroes' headquarters is supposed to be in San Francisco.
  • Act 3 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots takes place in an unnamed city somewhere in "Eastern Europe". However, the Charles Bridge makes it very obvious that it's Prague.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine had, in its intro, as one of the last surviving elements of Tokyo, the Tokyo Tower. Somewhat ironic given that game's portrayed genre, that tower's survival ratio is extremely low indeed.
  • In Dangeresque 3, all of the exotic cities are filmed in the same location with a really crappy cardboard cutout of a landmark or other relevant object sitting nearby. Paris gets the Eiffel Tower, naturally.
  • The bigger levels in the Katamari Damacy games have countries that consist of a landmark and a few stereotypical homes. Or sometimes several iconic landmarks right next to one another. Apparently, the Roman Colosseum is on a large plateau above downtown Paris, and New York is within driving distance of Easter Island. Who knew?
  • Earth Eternal has a few landmarks left over from the human age, notably the Chunnel and the Eiffel Tower.
  • In Agent USA most cities have a generic "city" look to the skyline, sometimes with water for coastal cities or mountains for cities in the mountains, like Denver. However, the skyline in New York City clearly shows the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building and, in fact, is a pretty good representation of the famous Manhattan skyline.
  • In Resistance 3 part of the game takes place in St. Louis, and the Gateway Arch is prominently depicted though the game is supposedly set well before it was built.
  • In Modern Warfare 3, the Eiffel Tower is prominently featured (and destroyed) in the appropriately-named mission "Iron Lady" (that being one of its many nicknames), while the Statue of Liberty and the not-yet-complete One World Trade Centre can be spotted around New York City in "Hunter-Killer".
    • Christ the Redeemer is fairly visible in the Brazil levels of Modern Warfare 2.
  • Battlefield 3 actually manages to avoid showing the Eiffel Tower in the Paris-based mission "Comrades", but the multiplayer maps based on it have the Tower visible in the background. Meanwhile, every mission in Tehran has Milad Tower prominently visible on the skyline.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • The College Humor short Google Street View Guys, which involves a couple of marshmallow-like caricatures driving around in a vehicle with a camera mounted on top to make shots for Google's Street View feature has a moment when they pass through St. Louis and one of the caricatures refers to the Gateway Arch as the "Golden Arch" and the "Archway to Heaven."
  • Most of the seasonal animations viewable at www.noradsanta.org display Santa's sleigh passing over or circling a monument of this type.

Western Animation

  • Gargoyles had shots of both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe when the characters went to Paris. I'm pretty sure there was a shot of Big Ben in the London episode.
    • This trope can also be done with wildlife if an animal is particularly tied to the area. When the group is sent to Australia during the World Tour season, a kangaroo is passing by just as they show up, instantly cluing them in on where they are.
  • In Monsters, Inc., when Mike and Sully go through the Portal Network of closet doors to escape Randall, guess what Parisian landmark is visible outside one of the bedrooms?
    • It's also the first landmark Remy sees when he emerges from the sewers in Ratatouille.
    • Also in Monsters, Inc. You can see Mt. Fuji in the room with the sliding door.
    • The Himalayas are also mentioned earlier in the movie.
  • Parodied by an episode of Futurama. when the gang goes to the beach just in time for the beach to be overrun by Omicronians, with Fry walking onto the beach, and saying, "Hey, the Statue of liberty!" and then Leela shows off a series of others, and Bender comments about a particular evil scientist who moved them all to that particular beach after becoming ruler of the planet, and superimposing his face over one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.
  • In The Simpsons the CN Tower features prominently in the episode where they go to Toronto. The Eiffel Tower Effect is quite justified, actually. It's so tall you really can see it from damn near anywhere within city limits. If anything they don't show it enough.
  • When the Rugrats went to Paris, the filmmakers included a couple obligatory shots of the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and the Notre Dame, and a Monumental Battle.
  • In the opening credits of Jackie Chan Adventures the Golden Gate Bridge is a regular feature, and in the Grand Finale it is damaged along with half the city. However, once the Big Bad is defeated the city magically is repaired, saving the bridge presumeably. Also, the Bay Bridge, Transamerica Pyramid, and Coit Tower make apperances throughout the show.
  • In An American Tail, the Statue of Liberty is seen under construction, thus using this trope to establish that the characters have arrived in New York of the past.
  • Played for Laughs in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Road Rash." When Heffer tells Rocko to take a shortcut on their motorcycle trip, they end up passing random world landmarks that are Egyptian Pyramids, Stonehenge (Heffer even tells Rocko to "turn right at Stonehenge,") a Venetian canal, Moai Statues on Easter Island, the Eiffel Tower (obviously), and the Taj Mahal in India. Even some Regional Riffs for those areas are being played!

Real Life


  • South African TV news, when broadcasting from Johannesburg, includes an opening shot of the Hillbrow Tower, even though it's just a radio antenna and the newsroom isn't in there, to establish the location (justified in that it's the tallest building in Africa). Foreign news stories tend to include shots of Table Mountain if an event happened anywhere in South Africa generally. This is sometimes quite funny, as if you were reporting on an event happening in Maine while showing a picture of the Statue of Liberty. Close, but no cigar.
  • As mentioned before, the Great Pyramid of Giza and/or the Sphinx is generally the establishing shot for Cairo, or anywhere else in Egypt for that matter. Egyptian and other Middle Eastern productions tend to use the Cairo Tower or Tahrir Square for Cairo.

The Americas


  • Apparently, there's only one statue in the entire country: the Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.


  • The aforementioned CN Tower is similar to the Washington Monument, but for different reasons. It's not that the buildings in Toronto are especially small, it's just the CN Tower really is that tall.
    • It can even been seen from some points north of the city.
      • It can be seen (on a very clear day) in Rochester, New York, which is on the other side of a Great freakin' Lake and in another country.
  • When you see Parliament Hill on a TV show, you know (a) the episode is set in Ottawa, and (b) the show was made by the CBC.


  • Mexico's main cities are not exempt from this. Mexico City has this with the Zócalo, a huge slab of concrete bearing a huge monumental flag, as well as with the Angel of Independence and the Reform Avenue, whereas Guadalajara has this with the cathedral, the Minerva Roundabout, and more recently, the small patch of skyscrapers near Puerta de Hierro in the northwest. Monterrey, however, is best represented by the prominent Saddle Hill (Cerro de la Silla).


  • Washington DC has a thirteen-story height cap on buildings within its city limits, so the Washington Monument is at least partly visible throughout a large portion of that city.
    • Supposedly some building codes in the area were made for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.
  • New York City used to be instantly recognizable by the Twin Towers. Since 9/11, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, The Statue of Liberty or the UN headquarters building are forced to stand in instead.
    • The Statue of Liberty has been used to establish a New York setting since the very beginning of film.
    • There's a reason why King Kong climbed the Empire State Building.
  • While Chicago's tallest building is the Willis Tower, it's the John Hancock Center that's the city's true "signature" structure.
    • But the Board Of Trade is the coolest Chicago building...
    • Marina City gets used a lot, too. It's sometimes called "Wilco Towers" since its appearance on the cover of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
  • The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. For Missouri in general. That's what ended up on the back of the Missouri quarter.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (prevalent in the title credits in Full House, for one). You can substitute trolley cars for similar effect.
  • The Space Needle's entire reason for existence seems to be as a means to set up establishing shots of Seattle. Never mind that the Needle itself is dwarfed by surrounding buildings to such a degree that it ends up looking comically small if not framed well.
    • It also stands somewhat apart from the rest of the skyline, another reason for exact framing. As a result, every photo of the Seattle skyline is shot from the same angle. This often results in the Needle looking much taller on film than it is in real life.
    • One of the Seattle area's other iconic landmarks, Mount Rainier, is easily visible from a large portion of Washington State on a clear day.
  • For Rochester, Minnesota, the most obvious landmark is the Mayo Clinic, specifically Saint Mary's Hospital (though the Clinic's in-town buildings as a whole take up approximately three-quarters of the downtown area of the city and growing, with a pedestrian subway interconnecting most if not all of them underground; Saint Mary's is probably the most readily recognizable amongst the Clinic's buildings, even among longtime citizens of Rochester). The place is extremely famous as one of the greatest medical facilities known to man, treating a wide gamut of people from average Joes who travel from all over the nation to receive better care than is available to them in their respective hometowns to celebrities, heads of state (former and current from all over the globe), even the Dalai Lama and at least one Pope.
  • Atlanta, Georgia has the Georgia Dome, but usually the rest of the skyline is shown as well. Also, expect to see at least one person owning a plantation-style home.
  • Los Angeles has the US Bank Tower, which is the tallest and usually the most recognizable skyscraper in the city. It's usually shown in establishing shots when the story takes place in Los Angeles, or they'll show the whole skyline if the shot is being taken from one of the many hills. Sometimes a shot of the Hollywood sign is used as well/instead (however the Hollywood sign can only be seen in Hollywood, and not throughout LA, unlike the Bank Tower.)
  • In the ultra-rare instances where you're filming in Salt Lake City (And want the audience to know you're filming in Salt Lake City), the Salt Lake Mormon Temple will be briefly shown.
  • A supposedly rare example for lesser known state capitals would be Albany's Empire State Plaza, which typically consists of a unique flying saucer-shaped venue called The Egg, and the Erastus Corning Tower, which is quite justified, considering that it happens to be the tallest building in Upstate New York.


  • The Oriental Pearl shows up in nearly every establishing shot of Shanghai.
  • Tian'anmen gate is often used as a establishing shot for Beijing, but as a bit of a subversion, the structure is only visible if you stand next to it. Classical Chinese architecture is rather disdainful of the vertical dimension. Chinese television and movies tend to use the CCTV tower instead.
  • In Seoul, South Korea, Namsam Tower (or N Seoul Tower), is 777 feet tall on top of Namsam Mountain. From the restaurant on the 4th Observation Deck, you can see the entire city. Oh, and the main access is by cable car with a 13-degree gradient.
  • In Taiwanese Series, the Taipei 101 building in the country's capitol, is the tallest building on the island and tends to show up in the background of at least one episode.
  • Thousands of Armenian paintings and photographs would suggest that Mt. Ararat is visible all over the country, when in fact it has to be a really clear day to be able to see it from its capital, Yerevan. And partly due to a long, sad history of horrible luck, Armenia's most iconic landmark isn't even in Armenia anymore but in Turkey.
  • Tokyo is large enough that each ward has its own iconic landmarks. These include Shibuya's scramble crossing and 109 department store (both of which can be fit in the same shot) or NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building, the Akihabara strip, the gates to the Senso temple in Asakusa, the row of natural gas tanks in Nerima, the Kabukicho arch and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, Sumida's Skytree, and of course Minato's Eiffel-lookalike Tokyo Tower.


  • In Paris itself this does happens to some degree with the Eiffel Tower, visible from the entire Western half of the city, and to the dismay of many Parisians, it also happens with the Montparnasse tower and the Southern half.
    • Some go out of their way to avoid this effect: Novelist Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that, as no big fan of the Tower, it was the one place in Paris where he knew he wouldn't see it.
  • Probably even more visible (though far less spectacular) than the tower in Paris is the Petřínská rozhledna on a hilltop in Prague, a city with few skyscrapers. Unfortunately, despite being higher up than the real Eiffel Tower, it's still not as conspicuous in the skyline as the world's second ugliest building.
  • Many recent[when?] British productions have used the Gherkin in establishing montages because of its distinctive architecture. London's tallest tower the Shard may be joining it once it's finished in 2012.[please verify]


  • Any time Auckland, New Zealand appears, the Sky Tower is guaranteed to be shown. Justified, since it is a 328 m (1076 ft) structure in a city where there are hardly any 100m+ buildings. Locals sometimes use the tower as a compass, since it can been seen from far and is to the north from most of the city.