Hotels have been used as backdrops for movies and television series for many years. If you’re in the business, watching one of these films is a great way to kick back and spend a few minutes seeing someone else take the heat. Who knows, you might learn a thing or two. Without giving any of these movies my own individual rating, here are 10 (out of perhaps hundreds) in chronological order. Most of these are available on DVD, and once in a while are available on Netflix or cable.
Grand Hotel (1932): Best picture Oscar winner that year, this classic stars Greta Garbo, Lionel Barrymore and Joan Crawford. The opulent hotel is a backdrop for a theft that turns into a love affair. Brilliant and timeless.
Hotel (1967): The setting is the fictional St. Gregory in New Orleans. Peter McDermott, played by Rod Taylor, is a young general manager trying desperately to keep the hotel from falling flat on its face! Dated, but the plot scenarios are plausible.
Fawlty Towers (1975-79): Okay, I’m a John Cleese fan. This 12-episode series never stops providing a good collection of laughs. No one has ever demonstrated the same degree of incompetence as owner Basil Fawlty in this British comedy. B&W, of course, but color would not have added anything.
The Shining (1980): Okay, a scary one. Jack Nicholson stars in this Stanley Kubrick-directed Stephen King horror film. Brilliant, although not what I would call a date night flick.
Hotel, the TV series (1983-88): Remember James Brolin? Well, he replaces Rod Taylor as Peter McDermott as GM at the St. Gregory Hotel that has somehow relocated to San Francisco. The plot lines are typically romantic. Incredible that this series lasted 114 episodes, most of which are quite melodramatic. Interestingly, some hotels still look like this!
The Hotel New Hampshire (1984): Ever try and run a hotel as a profession of last resort? Watch the Berry family (Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster and Beau Bridges) give it a go. One of the earlier roles for Nastassja Kinski as Susie the Bear. Funny.
Best of Show (2000): While not exactly a hotel movie, the film centers around the Westminster Dog Show (equivalent) and the large hotel that hosts the dogs for the show (a.k.a., Hotel Pennsylvania). The hotel management is flawless, but the quirky dog owners make this movie worth watching. Great housekeeping cupboard scene. Makes you wonder about being pet friendly!
Hotel Rwanda (2004): The memory of this African tribal war between the Huti and Tutsi tribes where hundreds of thousands were killed is forged through the eyes of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagia, played by Don Cheadle. Interesting rapport with hotel owners comfortably ensconced at head office. Meanwhile, quite literally, all hell is breaking loose at the property level.
Hotel Babylon (2006-2009): This well-produced BBC TV series demonstrates that hotels can serve as a backdrop for corruption, adultery, crime, arrogance and more. Each episode has a moral message. Witty and fun to watch. May be hard to find, though. 32 episodes.
Hotel for Dogs (2009): The dogs are the show, and the hotel serves as a fitting backdrop, as two youngsters take over this (somehow) vacant property. A movie for the kids, but interesting to see their ingenuity in making the property superbly pet-friendly.