Western movies have surged in popularity over the past century, but they really never go out of style. Whether it's a classic old western about gunslinging cowboys or a modern story about folks living on a Montana ranch, there's just something about that walk of life that will always be fascinating to fans. If you love western movies, have you considered visiting some of the places they were actually filmed? Many notable westerns are filmed up in Canada, but there are a ton of quality classics shot right here in the United States. Consider visiting some of the spots included on this epic road trip around the country to revisit some of the most notable filming locations from old and new western classics.
Pierre/Rapid City, South Dakota (Dances With Wolves)
You can't really mention a list of western movie locations without including Dances With Wolves. It's always on the list of best western movies, but for good reason. Kevin Costner still maintains the most Oscar nominations in history for a western film from his directorial debut back in 1990. The majority of this epic film was shot on private ranches in Pierre and Rapid City, including all of the memorable buffalo hunting scenes. Just driving around the area will make you instantly feel like you're standing right where Lt. Dunbar did when he befriended the local Lakota tribe.
Kootenai Falls, Montana (The Revenant)
Livingston, Montana (The Horse Whisperer)
Lone Pine (Alabama Hills), California (How the West Was Won)
If you've seen the western classic How the West Was Won you've seen California's beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. Henry Fonda stars in this epic that is widely believed to be one of the best westerns ever made. Three different directors, including John Ford, directed the five chapters of this impressive story that took advantage of the Alabama Hills to bring to life the vast forests explored in the 1963 film.
Tucson, Arizona (Tombstone)
There's a reason Tombstone is still popular today. Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton and Val Kilmer made this easily one of the best westerns of the '90s. The cast masterfully brought to life the historic shootout at the O.K. Corral, with legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday bringing justice to the town of Tombstone. Though you technically can film things in the real Tombstone, which is now a western tourist attraction, this film was mostly all filmed in Tucson at the Old Tucson Studios, another Old West set turned tourist attraction you can visit.
Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah (The Searchers)
John Wayne and director John Ford were the ultimate western movie duo back in the day, filming nine westerns together that still stand the test of time as some of the greatest ever made. One of their most notable achievements though was The Searchers. Wayne stars as a Civil War veteran who returns home to Texas to discover that his family has been attacked by Commanches. He sets out on a perilous journey to save his niece Debbie, who is still alive and living with the Commanches. It's an absolute classic, but it wasn't actually filmed where it takes place. The vast landscapes of Monument Valley, which straddles the state line of Arizona and Utah, served as the backdrop for Wayne's journey in this memorable film.
Zion National Park, Utah (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
There probably will never be a better duo to play Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid than Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The two beloved actors were the ideal choice to bring to life two of the most infamous criminals of the Wild West. If you love the film, the stunning red cliffs and vast landscapes of Utah's Zion National Park will undoubtedly look familiar. You can spend days out there camping and exploring and taking in all of the views. Make sure to also check out the nearby Grafton ghost town which was also used for filming.
Kanab, Utah (The Outlaw Josey Wales)
Ouray County, Colorado (True Grit)
While the entire cast makes the 2010 remake outstanding, John Wayne landed his only Oscar in 1969 for playing Rooster Cogburn, a gruff U.S. Marshal helping a young girl hunt down her father's killer. It remains one of the most memorable western films ever made thanks to Wayne, one of the most iconic western stars of all time. Ouray County served as the primary filming location for the movie with multiple sets built up throughout the area. You can actually take a True Grit Walking Tour to see some of the most memorable filming locations around town and there's even a local True Grit Cafe.
Telluride, Colorado (The Hateful Eight)
Clovis, New Mexico (Hell Or High Water)
Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan earned an Oscar nomination for his Hell or High Water screenplay. Starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges, the story follows two brothers robbing banks to save their families with a pair of Texas Rangers on their trail. It's a really strong modern western that will have you laughing, crying and constantly on the edge of your seat. Despite taking place in the Lone Star State, the majority of this film was captured in New Mexico. Clovis was where the majority of filming took place, transformed to look like a desolate West Texas town. A couple of the main buildings in town ended up being banks that the brothers rob in the film.
Santa Fe, New Mexico (True Grit, 2010)
It makes sense that New Mexico is a hot spot for westerns. The combination of sweeping plains and mountains on the horizon is perfect to bring the Wild West to life. One of the many films to take advantage of the stunning Santa Fe landscape is the Coen Brothers' 2010 film True Grit. Starring Jeff Bridges in the role of Rooster Cogburn, it might just go down in history as one of the best remakes of all time. Though filming took place in New Mexico as well as Texas, the majority of the outdoor scenes were all captured in Santa Fe. The Buena Vista Ranch northeast of Santa Fe was one of the main filming locations.
Marfa, Texas (No Country For Old Men)
The tiny and quiet town of Marfa really is an ideal place to shoot a movie. Far out in West Texas, the entire town is just a few blocks, with a population under 2,000. Similar to New Mexico, it is a high desert landscape with surrounding mountains out in Big Bend National Park. So it was an ideal spot to shoot the modern western, No Country for Old Men. Another strong western from the Coen Brothers, this thriller starred Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Barden, in an exciting tale of a hunter stumbling upon millions in drug money, a ruthless killer who's on his tail, and the local sheriff trying to save the day. The majority of the movie was filmed in Marfa as well as some of the small surrounding towns like Valentine.
Marfa was also where one of the most memorable Texas films of all time was captured — Giant. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, the emotional film follows a ranching family and their dramatic family dynamics.
Austin, Texas (The Alamo)
Potentially one of the most pivotal moments in Texas state history is the story of The Alamo down in San Antonio. Gen. Sam Houston famously fought for Texas' freedom from ruthless Mexican dictator General Santa Anna in what is now a legendary standoff at the old mission, The Alamo. The film brought to life this historic event with Dennis Quaid starring as Houston, Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett and Jason Patric as Jim Bowie. Despite taking place in San Antonio, the movie wasn't actually filmed at the real Alamo. Instead, it was shot just up the road outside of Austin. The 2004 film was primarily captured on Reimer's Ranch in Dripping Springs on a 50-acre movie set. Though it was abandoned after filming, soon after becoming a tourist destination, a fire destroyed it back in 2011. You can still drive around the area in the Texas Hill Country, just 30 min outside of Austin, to see the beautiful landscapes used to bring 1836 Texas to life.
Houston, Texas (Urban Cowboy)
Not all westerns are riding horses on the range and slinging guns. Sometimes, there's a mechanical bull. John Travolta's Urban Cowboy was responsible for reinvigorating a love of western line dancing and the honky tonk back in 1980 and is still beloved as one of his most iconic roles. He starred as Bud, a country boy who falls for a cowgirl he meets at the honky tonk Gilley's and his experience competing in a mechanical bull contest. Lots of memorable dancing scenes are involved — would you expect anything less from Travolta? Though Houston is the big city, you'll almost forget where you are when you visit Gilley's store in the suburb of Pasadena. The original bar that inspired the film is no longer in operation but you can visit the Dallas location just a few hours away if you're looking for the full experience.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (The Magnificent Seven)
Louisiana has become another hot spot for Hollywood and was notably used as the backdrop for the remake of The Magnificent Seven starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. The original was filmed in Mexico back in 1960, but the remake from 2016 tells a similar story of a group of men coming together to protect a town overun by outlaws. A massive set was built to bring the onscreen town of Rose Creek to life outside of Baton Rouge.
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