M. Night Shyamalan has become one of the most successful directors in Hollywood during the 21st century. However, people from Philadelphia actually know him best for his roots in the area and his insistence on filming his movies locally.

Renowned Director M. Night Shyamalan

Shyamalan emigrated to the United States from India at a young age, and he grew up in the Lower Merion area of the Main Line. He attended Waldron Mercy in Merion Station in grade school and Episcopal Academy in high school.

His background in the Philadelphia area has shaped his career in the movie industry in a unique way.

Hit movies like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable helped him hit the scene. Their easily recognizable locations in Philadelphia endeared him locally as a national celebrity who leans into connections in his de facto hometown.

Chances are you’ve met at least one or two people with stories about how you can see their friends as a background extra in an M. Night Shyamalan film. You might’ve seen him at the Wells Fargo Center for a 76ers game. Shyamalan also hosts Shyamaween every October in Fishtown to raise money for his charity foundation.

The M. Night Shyamalan Twist 

Some of the most ironic and creatively original plot twists you’ll ever see take place in M. Night Shyamalan movies.

The stunning ending of The Sixth Sense established the twist as his personal calling card.

Another memorable and clever twist in The Village used the idea of the stream of consciousness to brilliantly trick the viewer into a specific perception.

The unique style has translated especially well in Shyamalan’s horror movies, and the Philadelphia area has flawlessly provided the right locations for the eerie settings that add to the suspense.

  • The Sixth Sense (1999)



    The characters played by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment meet each other for the first time in St. Augustine’s Catholic Church on 4th Street in Old City Philadelphia.

    Most people from the area know the church as a prominent historical location because of its central place in the history of Catholic Philadelphia. The Sixth Sense also included scenes in Center City, Society Hill, and other urban neighborhoods.

  • Unbreakable (2000)

    Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan

    Bruce Willis’ character works for the University of Penn in Unbreakable. The most recognizable scenes take place at Franklin Field in University City on Penn’s campus. Other locations include Manayunk, Germantown, North Philly, and Old City.

  • Signs (2002)

    Joaquin Phoenix, M. Night Shyamalan, Mel Gibson

    Mel Gibson starred as a farmer in living in Bucks County in Signs. He finds mysteriously-shaped crop circles on his farm that suggest danger from aliens. Signs includes scenes in Bucks County towns Newtown, Morrisville, and Bensalem. The most recognizable filming location was Delaware Valley University in Doylestown.

  • The Village (2004)


    Shyamalan filmed key scenes for The Village in Chadds Ford, PA and Wilmington, DE. The eerie setting of the woods set the mood for the entire movie.

    The Village included possibly his best twist, when the stream of consciousness incorrectly led viewers to believe the movie was set during the colonial period.

  • Lady in the Water (2006)


    Paul Giammatti and Bryce Dallas Howard star in Lady in the Water. The apartment complex, the movie’s most important setting, is located in Levittown, PA just outside of Northeast Philadelphia.

  • The Happening (2008)

    The Happening- Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, M. Night Shyamalan

    Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel starred in The Happening. It includes many scenes from Chester County, including the G-Lodge Diner and other recognizable locations in Phoenixville. Shyamalan also placed scenes in Kennett Square.

  • The Visit (2015)


    Shyamalan drew up one of the most terrifying plots of his career in The Visit. In the movie, two children visit their grandparents when their mother leaves town.

    The house they visit is located in Chester Springs, PA, and one scene takes place at 30th Street Station. The twist wasn’t as stunning as some of his others, but it created the same mood of terrifying suspense.

  • Split (2016)

    M. Night Shyamalan, Anya Taylor-Joy, James McAvoy

    James McAvoy plays the villain in Split. The movie centers around his plot to kidnap three teenage girls as part of the insanity of his 23 split personalities. It includes scenes at 30th Street Station, the Philadelphia Zoo, and Fisherman Restaurant.

  • Glass (2019)


    Glass is a sequel to Unbreakable. Raven Hill Memorial is the name of a research hospital in the movie, but the actual filming location was Allentown State Hospital. It also includes scenes filmed at Fairmount Park, comic book stores in Port Richmond and Old City, and Parc restaurant in Rittenhouse Square.

  • Knock at the Cabin (2023)

    M. Night Shyamalan

    Shyamalan certainly knows the legends of the New Jersey Devil from growing up in the Philadelphia area. He chose to film Knock at the Cabin in the Pine Barrens in South Jersey. The cabin from the movie was located in Tabernacle, NJ.

  • Wide Awake (1998)


    Wide Awake was one of the first movies that helped Shyamalan make a name for himself, even though it deals with an intense spiritual journey of a child instead of one of the complex horror plots that made him famous.

    The most memorable scenes took place at two local schools. The main character attends Waldron Mercy in Merion, while Rosie O’Donnell plays a nun who works at the school. Some scenes from the movie were also shot at Bryn Mawr College.

  • The Last Airbender (2010)


    The Last Airbender was a fantasy film made in 2010 based on the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. It includes scenes shot in Reading, PA and the Poconos.

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