Part IV: Miami Goes ‘Hollywood’

Real Estate Agent with Josh Stein Realtor SFL#3057661


Mainstream America’s fixation with Miami is expressed in numerous Miami based TV series, movies, and reality shows. Here are a few of my favorites.


The cocaine trade in Miami became synonymous with the city through pop culture. In 1983, the mega movie Scarface immortalized the glamour and danger of the criminal business through Al Pacino’s character Tony Montana, whose violent takeover of a Miami cartel turned him into a cult hero.

While the film is about Miami only 20 percent of the film was made in Miami. The politics surrounding the filming were even more extreme than Scarface’s violence. The Cuban exile community were not at all pleased with the story of Scarface, “The basic message of the movie seems to be drugs, killing, and criminal activities. That does not represent the majority of hard-working and law-abiding Cubans,” said Eduardo Padron, then head of the Spanish-American League Against Discrimination. Then-Miami city Commissioner Demetrio Perez Jr. threatened to deny film permits unless Montana was recast as a Communist agent who infiltrated the United States at Castro’s behest. Out of frustration, Scarface producer Martin Bregman later he declared the movie would be shot elsewhere. 

Take a stroll down South Beach today and you will still find Scarface posters and memorabilia in specialty shops, tourists still associate Miami Beach with Scarface. Check out this clip – tourists snap pictures of the Tony Montana chainsaw scene location in Miami Beach.


Miami Vice, which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989, made a hero of a white sport-coated Don Johnson as he battled drug criminals funded by the big-money cartels. The series starred Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as two Metro-Dade Police Department detectives working undercover in Miami.

Today, South Beach is known for trendy restaurants and nightclubs, brightly painted hotels packed with tourists, upscale fashion and expensive restaurants. The airing of Miami Vice coincided with the early days of the rebirth of Miami Beach’s southern end, helping to create a new image for South Beach and Miami. The show was filmed on location throughout the beach, drawing tourists eager to see Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas playing Crockett and Tubbs in their signature Ray-Bans.

When the TV show Miami Vice began filming, set designers turned empty storefronts into makeshift businesses and painted older hotels in pastel colors to give them a clean look….reality quickly followed.

By 1989, South Beach’s rebirth was in full swing. Celebrities in town for movie shoots — like Madonna and Sylvester Stallone — took a liking to the area. Millionaires began buying homes and luxury condos


The 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys became a runaway hit as it rehashed the coke scene’s over-the-top glamour and violence. Cocaine Cowboys is the true story of how Miami became the drug, murder and cash capital of the United States, told by the people who made it all happen. The films producers interviewed law enforcement, journalists, lawyers, former drug smugglers and gang members to provide a first hand perspective of the Miami drug war.

The film shows that much of the economic growth which took place in Miami during this time period was a benefit of the drug trade. Drug dealers spent heavily and money flowed in large amounts into legitimate businesses. Drug money indirectly financed the construction of many of the modern luxury high-rise buildings in Miami Beach.


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Miami Luxury Real Estate Agent
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