Have you ever watched a movie and thought the scenery was beautiful and wondered about the location? Chances are it was filmed in a national park.
In addition to all they give us in terms of outdoor recreation and environmental protection, the national parks also bring flair and realism to the movies. There is a long list of Hollywood stars who have acted on the nation’s outdoor stage. From far-away galaxies to jurassic jungles to the rustic Wild West, epic American landscapes have played most every imaginable role.
To honor that, Vogel Talks RV presents a list of five of the biggest parks cameos of modern film making. When planning your next road trip or summer vacation consider these iconic destinations.
National parks have served as backdrops for countless movies. Death Valley National Park played a role in Star Wars, Devil’s Tower National Monument, of course, was prominently featured in Close Encounters of a Third Kind, and Thelma & Louise drove through parts of Canyonlands National Park.
The list rolls on, not unlike credits at the end of a movie…
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Location: Death Valley National Park, California
One of the most successful movies of all time, Star Wars wouldn’t be complete without footage from Death Valley. George Lucas selected Death Valley as the location for numerous desert and dwelling scenes on Luke Skywalker’s dusty planet of Tatooine. Remember R2D2 and CP30’s spat after crashing on Tatooine? That scene is at Mesquite Flats. Other Death Valley scenes include R2D2 being kidnapped by Jawas, some of the Tusken Raider scenes and the Sand Scrawler scene.
When you do venture out to the desert, remember to bring plenty of extra water. And may the force be with you.
Other movies filmed at Death Valley include: Cattle Drive (1959), Homer and Eddie (1990), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Zabriskie Point (1970), Spartacus (1960), One-eyed Jacks (1961)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Location: Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
A single image is conjured when people think of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The bizarre rock formation on which the spaceship lands was not a special effect, unless one considers nature a special effects expert.
The Devil’s Tower is, in fact, a 1,267 foot igneous intrusion and the chosen landing site for the movie’s alien mothership. Visitors have described an elevated sense of well-being and serenity at this small park’s signature volcanic pillar, a sacred site to more than 20 Native American tribes and perhaps certain extraterrestrials.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Desert scenes for this road trip movie were filmed in and around Moab, Utah, including in Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Don’t be fooled by the final plunge-into-the-Grand-Canyon scene. That memorable scene of Thelma and Louise dropping into the canyon in their 1966 Ford Thunderbird was actually a plateau at Utah’s Deadhorse Point State Park.
Other movies filmed at Canyonlands include: The Lone Ranger (2013), 127 Hours (2010)
Other movies filmed at Arches include: Cheyenne Autumn (1963), City Slickers II (1993), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Josh and Sam (1992), Rio Conchos (1964), Sundown (1988), Wild Rovers (1966)
The Shining (1980)
Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
Opening scenes of this creepy Jack Nicolson movie show Jack Torrance driving up the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. Overhead shots were also filmed around Mary’s Lake and the Going to the Sun Highway.
Other movies filmed at Glacier include: Cattle Queen of Montana (1954), Continental Divide (1980), Dangerous Mission (1958), Forest Gump (1993), and Thelma & Louise (1991)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Location: Redwood National Park, California
Redwood National Park acted as the scene for most of the climax of Spielberg’s sweeping tearjerker. The towering forests were the perfect vehicle for a boy and his alien to lose themselves in.
Other movies filmed at Redwood include: Outbreak (1995), Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.