It's always interesting to see places I've been in a big time movie. Often, it takes me a second to recognize it because the context is so different. Other times, I know immediately where the camera operator was standing when he was filming. Last week as I was driving back from the Cascades in Washington, I was close enough to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming that I decided to stop and see it. Devils Tower featured heavily in a movie that was a blockbuster when I was growing up, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". That got me thinking about what other movie locations I've been to and photographed. I don't believe this covers all of them, but below is a selection of several spots that I've photographed that also made it to the big screen.
Photographing Movie Locations
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
As I mentioned, Devils Tower featured prominently in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If you're unfamiliar with this particular Steven Spielberg vehicle, it stars Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, and Melinda Dillon in a film about aliens making contact with humans. Devils Tower is communicated as the landing location for the aliens on a specific date. Now, I was 5 years old when the movie came out, so the idea of aliens landing there always kind of freaked me out a bit. As a result, the place has always held a bit of mystery and intrigue for me. As I began photographing more landscapes, Devils Tower always stood out to me as a place I'd want to photograph someday.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
With a name like Badlands, you know this national park was featured in a western or two. And it did, with Oscar winner Dances With Wolves being the most well known. The Kevin Costner epic was filmed in many locations in South Dakota, mostly on private land, but there were several scenes filmed in Badlands National Park that are instantly recognizable.
Badlands also featured in a well-known sci-fi blockbuster, Armageddon, starring Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. In the case of Armageddon, Badlands played its part as the surface of the asteroid that's coming to destroy the earth. Yeah, I can see that. And in Starship Troopers, another sci-fi film, Badlands features as an alien planet. Guess I'm not the only one who thinks Badlands is otherworldly.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Every time someone sees one of my photos of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, if they grew up in the 80's, they immediately recognize it as a location from the movie The Goonies. I'll admit I've never seen the Goonies. I think when it came out in 1985 I was just a touch older than the target demographic for it. But it remains popular with anyone who was the right age, as they recall Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, and Josh Brolin hunting for a pirate's lost treasure.
Death Valley National Park, California
What is it with deserts filling in for alien planets? Death Valley National Park was used in two Star Wars Movies: A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Both of these figured prominently in my youth as I played with toy X-wing fighters and tie-fighters, and watched the original trilogy endlessly on VHS tapes. Death Valley sat in for certain locations on Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine.
Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine
Marshall Point Lighthouse is immediately recognizable to anyone who's seen Forrest Gump. The lighthouse comes into play when Tom Hanks, as Forrest, goes on his run. Forrest says "I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going." The place he turns around is Marshall Point Lighthouse. It's only in the movie for maybe 30 seconds or less, but it's an iconic scene and stands out.
Portland Head Lighthouse
Portland Head Lighthouse appears in several movies and TV shows, usually briefly as an establishing shot to show location. In 1999, the lighthouse was used in the movie Snow Falling on Cedars, which takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The filmmakers needed a stormy look and they got what they wanted, as the great ice storm of 1998 hit as they were filming. It turns out, several other films were shot in the area as well.
Jenne Farm, Reading, Vermont
Jenne Farm has long been used in TV commercials (like this 1986 Budweiser Christmas ad). But this farm, possibly one of the most photographed in the world, has also appeared in movies such as Forrest Gump and Chevy Chase's Funny Farm. It's a bucolic, serene location. The Jenne family has for years been very welcoming of photographers and filmmakers. I'm grateful for their understanding, and try to pick up some of their fresh maple syrup whenever I'm in the area.
Otter Cliff, Acadia National Park
While the Martin Scorcese movie Shutter Island takes place on an island near Boston, some of the exterior locations that stood in for the island were filmed at Otter Cliff in Acadia National Park. The island was supposed to have a rocky, forbidding coastline, and Acadia certainly can provide that under the right conditions!
Arches National Park
Ok, so not all desert locations are used as alien planets in sci-fi movies. Arches National Park has served as a filming location for many movies, and I don't see any science fiction on the list! Some of the more famous films include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (a favorite of mine) with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, as well as Thelma & Louise with Susan Sarandon and Gina Davis.
There are several others, including many westerns, but another that stands out to me is City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold starring Billy Crystal.I don't recall seeing this one, but I saw the first movie and remember it being a good watch.
Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Oregon
The original Point Break, starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, is one of those movies I'm always up for watching. If I come across it while flipping channels I'll stop and pick it up at whatever point it's at. Most of the movie takes place around Los Angeles and Southern California, but the climactic battle between Bodhi (Swayze) and Special Agent Johnny Utah (Reeves) takes place on Indian Beach, standing in for Bells Beach, Australia. Parts of The aforementioned Goonies was also filmed here.
I always find it fun to photograph locations that have appeared in movies and TV shows that I come across. While this list isn't exhaustive by any stretch, these are some of the more well known movie locations I've managed to photograph. What's your favorite movie?