The movie, Good Will Hunting, (1997) is a cult classic that spawned a fascination with a specific type of Boston narrative focussing on the grittier underside of living in Boston. For example, the highly rated television series Cheers (1982-1993) focussed on the good natured banter of a Boston bar and the classic film, Love Story (1970) highlighted a tragic romance at Harvard. After Good Will Hunting’s success, Hollywood became interested in exploring Boston, the largest city in New England, as a a multi-faceted city. Many of the Good Will Hunting filming locations in Boston have changed, but the bar in Good Will Hunting, the L Street Tavern, remains largely unchanged. The L Street Tavern Boston is totally worth a pilgrimage trip!
Good Will Hunting – Boston
This movie, irrespective of actual Good Will Hunting filming locations, is all about Boston. In Good Will Hunting, Boston shapes the narrative of the working class kid who is a math genius but working as a janitor at MIT. He didn’t grow up spending summer in Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket or with a family that met up regularly at a resort in Cape Cod.
We all know that New York and Boston have a great rivalry. Yet, Boston had never reached the filming status in Hollywood that New York has always enjoyed. After Good Will Hunting, people began to see Boston as an interesting city where complicated contemporary stories could be set.
Several great movies focussing on the Irish working class heritage of Boston came out after Good Will Hunting, among them Mystic River (2003), The Departed (2006), The Town (2010), Black Mass (2015) and Spotlight (2015). Television also spawned the excellent City on The Hill (2019) looking at the rougher edge of Boston.
Good Will Hunting Filming Locations
To be fair, lots of movie makers before Good Will Hunting hadn’t considered Boston as a filming location because the financial incentives weren’t there yet.
Good Hunting film locations abound in Toronto because it was cheaper to do so. Yet, when Gus Van Sant, the director for Good Will Hunting, saw some locations in Boston, he knew he couldn’t recreate it in Toronto.
Where are the Good Will Hunting filming locations in Cambridge?
The outside of MIT’s McLaurin building where Will works as a janitor
- Aerial shots of the MIT campus setting the scene as Cambridge
- Lots of Harvard Square but it’s changed a lot since Good Will Hunting Boston days. For example, the Dunkin Donuts branch ( a brand widely recognised as a Boston icon) is now the Grafton Street Pub.
Where are the Good Will Hunting film locations in Boston?
- Municipal Court South Boston District where Will Hunting goes when he is charged with assaulting a police officer
Aerial shots of Fenway Park which sets the scene as Boston definitively
The L Street Tavern where Will and his friends drink
The Boston Public Garden Bench where Will and Sean his therapist have a good talk
- Bunker Hill Community College where Sean, his therapist, teaches as a psychology professor
- Sean and Will’s homes in South Boston (190 W. 6th Street and 265 E Street, respectively)
The Good Will Hunting bench scene is probably the prettiest to visit. Out of all of these Good Will Hunting Boston locations, however, we would say the the L Street Tavern is the most fun!
L Street Tavern Boston
The lucky owners of the L Street Tavern had just bought the bar a few days earlier in March 1997 when they were approached to use the bar as a movie set.
Good Will Hunting went on to become an Oscar-winning movie which launched the careers of its screenwriters/actors, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, into the stratosphere. Ben Affleck’s younger brother, Casey Affleck, had a small role and is now an Oscar winner too (for Manchester By The Sea (2018), another great movie set in Massachusetts).
The L Street Tavern has reached the giddy heights of fame, too, becoming known as the bar in Good Will Hunting.
The Bar in Good Will Hunting
Although tourists now visit the bar, The L Street Tavern is definitely a local hangout. The L Street Tavern Good Will Hunting fame hasn’t gone to its head. When I visited, I saw a handful of locals who looked like they propped up the bar on a regular basis (and had done so for quite some time).
The L Street Tavern is proud of its Irish neighbourhood roots. It is hard to tell if the Irish paraphernalia was still up from St. Patrick’s Day. Then I saw the countdown to the next St. Patrick’s Day and decided that it was probably St. Patrick’s Day here every day.
Although the L Street Tavern has had a revamp in 2001, it’s still small and dark with a real neighbourhood feel that you find in Irish bars in Ireland and around the world. You won’t have a problem telling which booth was used for the filming of Good Will Hunting as it’s so clearly marked!.
The classic scene from Good Will Hunting filmed at the L Street Tavern was when title character, Will hunting character shows up a smug Harvard guy.
L Street Tavern Details
Open daily from noon, the L Street Tavern South Boston is located at 685 East 8th Street. Parking is limited because it is restricted to local residents.
I went with On Location Tours who run regular Boston movie tours. These tours regularly drop by the L Street Tavern bringing customers and fanning the flames of its fame.
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