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Not many People Know These 10 Hollywood Blockbusters were Filmed Right Here in Arizona



In the vast tapestry of Hollywood’s cinematic history, certain landscapes have played a starring role in bringing stories to life, and Arizona, with its breathtaking scenery, has been a coveted backdrop for numerous blockbuster films. From gripping Westerns to iconic comedies, the Grand Canyon State has lent its diverse landscapes to a plethora of Hollywood productions. Join us on a celluloid journey as we explore ten unforgettable movies that chose Arizona’s red deserts, majestic canyons, and vibrant cities as their cinematic canvas. Each film not only showcases the versatility of Arizona’s terrain but also offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the magic that happens when Hollywood meets the captivating landscapes of the American Southwest.

Raising Arizona (1987)

The quirky Coen Brothers comedy, stands as a testament to the captivating allure of Arizona’s landscapes on the silver screen. This madcap tale of an ex-convict, H.I. McDunnough (played by Nicolas Cage), and his wife, Ed (Holly Hunter), unfolds against the stunning backdrop of the Grand Canyon State. The Coen Brothers skillfully turned the Arizona landscape into a character of its own, showcasing the arid beauty and vast expanses. Filmed in and around Phoenix, the movie captures the essence of the state’s red deserts, offering audiences a visually striking and distinctly Arizona experience. The unique blend of humor and picturesque scenery in “Raising Arizona” cements its place as a cult classic, where the cactus-studded landscapes play a supporting role in the hilarity that ensues. In the end, Arizona becomes more than just a location; it’s an integral part of the film’s charm.

Tombstone (1993)

The Western classic directed by George P. Cosmatos, brought the legendary tales of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral to life against the authentic backdrop of Arizona’s rugged terrain. Starring Kurt Russell as Earp and Val Kilmer as the iconic Doc Holliday, the film was shot in various locations throughout Arizona, including the historic town of Tombstone itself and the Mescal Movie Set. The sun-soaked landscapes and dusty streets of the Grand Canyon State provided the perfect canvas for the film’s recreation of the Old West. As the camera rolled, the spirit of the untamed Arizona frontier permeated every scene, from the Earp brothers walking the boardwalks of Tombstone to the intense showdowns in the vast desert. “Tombstone” not only became a cinematic tribute to the Wild West but also immortalized Arizona’s timeless landscapes in the annals of Hollywood history.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

“3:10 to Yuma”, directed by James Mangold, is a modern Western masterpiece that skillfully utilized Arizona’s captivating landscapes to weave a gripping tale of morality, redemption, and the relentless pursuit of justice. The film, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, unfolds against the arid beauty of Arizona, with scenes shot in the historic town of Bisbee and the picturesque landscapes near Yuma. The raw and unforgiving desert becomes a character in itself, mirroring the harsh choices faced by the characters. From the sun-drenched expanses to the rugged canyons, Arizona’s terrain serves as both a stunning backdrop and a metaphor for the challenges that the protagonists face on their journey. “3:10 to Yuma” not only delivers a riveting story but also captures the essence of the Old West against the timeless beauty of Arizona’s southwestern landscapes.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

“Little Miss Sunshine”, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, takes a departure from the classic Arizona desert aesthetic and instead immerses itself in the sun-dappled charm of the state. While the majority of the film unfolds in California, Arizona plays a notable supporting role, providing the backdrop for one of the film’s most memorable scenes at the iconic Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam’s imposing structure serves as a metaphorical bridge, linking the quirky characters of the Hoover family on their uproarious road trip. As the yellow VW Microbus winds its way through the Southwestern landscapes, Arizona’s vistas provide a brief but pivotal interlude in this heartwarming comedy-drama. In “Little Miss Sunshine,” the state’s allure lies not in its deserts but in the unexpected moments of connection and self-discovery that blossom under the Arizona sun.

Psycho (1960)

The legendary thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, might not be the first film that comes to mind when thinking about Arizona, but the state plays a crucial role in creating the eerie atmosphere of the Bates Motel. While the majority of the film was shot on sets at Universal Studios, the exterior shots of the infamous Bates Motel were filmed at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. The juxtaposition of the lush, manicured surroundings of the Biltmore against the sinister events unfolding within the film adds an extra layer of suspense. Arizona’s unexpected cameo in “Psycho” showcases the versatility of the state’s landscapes, demonstrating that even luxury resorts can become unwitting players in the world of Hitchcockian suspense. The Grand Canyon State, in this case, lends an air of unsettling beauty to an already iconic cinematic masterpiece.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

“Planet of the Apes”, directed by Tim Burton, takes audiences on a sci-fi adventure that transcends worlds, and a portion of this intergalactic escapade unfolds against the stunning landscapes of Lake Powell, Arizona. While the majority of the film explores an otherworldly realm, the scenes set on the desolate desert planet of Ashlar were actually shot amid the real-world beauty of Lake Powell. The juxtaposition of the futuristic ape society against the red rock formations and shimmering waters of Arizona’s second-largest reservoir adds a surreal quality to the film. In “Planet of the Apes,” Arizona’s natural grandeur becomes the backdrop for a dystopian future, proving once again that the state’s diverse landscapes can seamlessly transform into any cinematic universe, whether it’s on Earth or in a galaxy far, far away.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

“Jerry Maguire”, directed by Cameron Crowe, isn’t your typical Arizona film, but the state plays a notable supporting role in the backdrop of this sports drama. While the narrative takes us across various locations, some pivotal scenes were filmed in and around Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Against the vibrant Arizona sky, the stadium becomes a symbol of the larger-than-life ambitions and high-stakes drama that unfold in the world of sports representation. Arizona’s dynamic urban landscape, with its modern architecture and clear skies, provides a unique setting for the film’s blend of romance, comedy, and the pursuit of personal and professional integrity. In “Jerry Maguire,” the Grand Canyon State steps onto the field, proving that even in the realm of sports and love, Arizona can deliver a winning performance.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

“Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”, directed by George Lucas, catapults audiences into the far reaches of the galaxy, but surprisingly, some of the mesmerizing desert scenes set on the iconic planet Tatooine were filmed in the dunes of Yuma, Arizona. The vast and otherworldly landscapes of Yuma seamlessly transform into the arid and captivating environment of Tatooine, where the destinies of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala unfold. Arizona’s sand dunes and unique terrain provide a fitting backdrop for the epic tale of love, politics, and the impending rise of the Galactic Empire. In this cosmic collision of science fiction and southwestern scenery, Arizona leaves an indelible mark on the Star Wars universe, proving that even in a galaxy far, far away, the Grand Canyon State can be a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

A Star is Born (1937)

“A Star is Born”, directed by William A. Wellman, is a classic Hollywood tale of love and stardom that, in its original iteration, chose the luxurious Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix as one of its filming locations. Amidst the opulent surroundings of the Biltmore, Janet Gaynor and Fredric March brought to life the story of a rising starlet and a fading leading man. The elegance of the Biltmore becomes a fitting backdrop for the film’s exploration of the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry. Arizona, typically known for its natural beauty, takes on a different hue in “A Star is Born,” providing a touch of old Hollywood allure to the state’s diverse cinematic portfolio. In this timeless love story, the Grand Canyon State steps into the spotlight, proving that even in the golden age of Hollywood, Arizona could set the stage for romance and drama.

The Gauntlet (1977)

“The Gauntlet”, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, is a gritty action thriller that unfolds against the urban and desert landscapes of Arizona. As the film’s protagonist, Eastwood’s character faces an uphill battle, transporting a witness from Las Vegas to Phoenix while encountering a barrage of adversaries along the way. The movie was extensively filmed in and around Phoenix, Arizona, showcasing the city’s streets, landmarks, and the rugged desert terrain. As Eastwood’s character barrels through the challenges thrown at him, the sun-soaked landscapes and gritty urban backdrops of Arizona become integral to the high-stakes drama. In “The Gauntlet,” Arizona becomes a character in itself, contributing to the film’s relentless pace and adding a layer of authenticity to the action-packed narrative. The Grand Canyon State proves to be a formidable co-star in this adrenaline-fueled journey through the American Southwest.

Brian Foster is a native to San Diego and Phoenix areas. He enjoys great food, music, and traveling. He specializes and stays up to date on the latest technology trends.