The Southwest’s red rock formations have played a starring role in countless Hollywood movies, while many hit TV series were made at Old Tucson Studios. From the wide spaces of New Mexico to the mystical landscapes of Utah’s national parks, the region continues to attract award-winning productions.
Spectacular canyons are a natural draw for filmmakers. The Space Between Us (2017) used the red rocks of Southern Utah to stand in for Mars. The Lone Ranger (2013) was largely filmed in Monument Valley.
Well aware of the power provided by the vast backdrops of the Southwest, the Coen Brothers shot their second film, Raising Arizona (1987), in lively Tempe. One of their biggest hits, No Country for Old Men (2007), was filmed in New Mexico around the small town of Las Vegas, where the sparse landscapes made a perfect setting for this atmospheric cowboy noir.
They may be synonymous with the Southwest, but Westerns aren’t the only genre filmed in New Mexico’s diverse landscapes. Over 240 films and TV series have been made here. A Movie Trails map from Santa Fe’s tourist office will help you track down locations.
Stagecoach (1939) director John Ford’s first movie in Monument Valley so enthralled audiences that it brought the Western back into vogue and made the young John Wayne a star. Ford brought the grandeur of the West to the big screen, and ignited a “studio stampede” of directors keen to utilize the beauty of the area.
The groundbreaking TV series Breaking Bad (2008–13) put Albuquerque and Northern New Mexico firmly on the movie map. Despite the controversial subject matter, the show, which some critics called the best TV series of all time, still draws visitors to see the city and the surrounding dramatic desert landscapes. You can even book tours with Breaking Bad RV Tours (www.breakingbadrvtours.com).
The glittering casinos and lavish resorts of Las Vegas and its arid surroundings have landed the city a starring role in many a Hollywood blockbuster. Jason Bourne (2016) had an exciting car chase right along The Strip, while sequences in Now You See Me (2013) were filmed at the MGM Grand. Morgan Freeman starred alongside Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, and Robert de Niro in Las Vegas (2013), which featured such locations as the Aria and Binion’s.