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The Indiana Daily Student

campus student life

Hoosier Hollywood: Here’s when IU made it to screens


Although Bloomington is over 2,000 miles away from Hollywood, IU still makes appearances in pop culture. Here are six times the university showed up in film, TV or music. 

“Breaking Away” 

Perhaps the most prominent on-screen depiction of IU, “Breaking Away” is a 1979 coming-of-age film set and filmed in Bloomington. It follows four local teenagers participating in the Little 500 cycling race in the old Memorial Stadium.  

Many Bloomington and campus locations appear, such as Rooftop Quarry, the Monroe County Courthouse, the restaurant that is now Siam House, Dunn’s Woods, Rose Well House and the  Indiana Memorial Union. Then-IU President John W. Ryan also makes an appearance as himself. 

 “Breaking Away” received the 1979 Academy Award for best original screenplay. 

“Parks and Recreation” 

While IU doesn’t appear in “Parks and Recreation,” the 2009 NBC comedy, it is referenced throughout the series. 

In Season 1, Ron Swanson, the show’s curmudgeonly boss, has a portrait of former IU basketball coach Bob Knight in his office. Later, Swanson dresses like and emulates Knight while coaching a youth basketball team in the Season 3 premiere. 

In Season 6, Episode 3, parks department employee April Ludgate attends orientation for veterinary school at IU-Bloomington — a program that doesn’t exist. 

 In the series finale, protagonist Leslie Knope gives a commencement speech to IU graduates during a flash forward, and the university announces they are naming the library after her. The move would have likely proved controversial, as the library is currently named after the first IU Chancellor Herman B Wells.  

“Stranger Things” 

Like “Parks and Recreation,” “Stranger Things” is a show only set in Indiana — it is filmed mainly in Georgia, and the town of Hawkins doesn’t exist. However, a couple of Hoosier connections exist in the show’s second season. 

In Season 2, Episode 5, the super powered character Eleven travels to meet her birth mother, Terry Ives, and aunt at their home. In the tie-in novel, “Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds,” the location is revealed to be in Bloomington. Additionally, Ives attended IU and first got involved with “Project MKUltra” there, the program that gave Eleven her powers.  

Avicii’s “The Nights” music video 

The music video for Avicii’s hit “The Nights” was directed by and stars Rory Kramer, an Indiana native. Multiple locations around campus appear in the video, including during Kramer’s cliff jump at Rooftop Quarry and in a photo in front of Sample Gates. The video has over 900 million views on YouTube. 

“Firefly Lane” 

Despite being primarily set in Seattle, and filmed in Vancouver, Canada, the 2021 Netflix drama “Firefly Lane” features a seconds-long shot of Sample Gates in the snow in Season 2, Episode 9. 

John Mellencamp’s “A Ride Back Home” music video 

Hoosier and Bloomington resident John Mellencamp is spotted often around town, but his connection to IU was put to screen in his 2009 music video for “A Ride Back Home” featuring Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. It was shot in the Beck Chapel on campus and features shots inside and of the cemetery outside. 

This article is part of the Source Visitor’s Guide, an IDS special publication.

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