On Location: Films Shot in Colorful Colorado

February 11, 2014

Colorado has some amazing views—and we locals aren’t the only ones to notice.

Since the 1920s, a number of films (including some you may not have even thought of) have been made our fair state their home. For example, did you know that City Slickers was filmed in Durango? Or that The Searchers was filmed in Aspen and Gunnison?

Here are some standout films shot in Colorado whose breathtaking settings are definitely worth a visit to share in the cinematic joy.

Durango/Telluride

As anyone might guess, the southwestern part of Colorado is home to many films that are classified as westerns or period pieces. After all, what better place to tell a historical story than the majestic Rockies? Durango and Telluride in particular have been home to a number of popular movies, including Naked Spur, How the West Was Won, and The Prestige, to name a few. Durango also starred in one of the best westerns in film history: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The surrounding canyons and rivers provided many escape routes for our heroes, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad fell “victim” to their train robberies.

Estes Park

Everyone knows that the story of The Shining takes place in Colorado, but unfortunately, Kubrick's film adaptation was not shot here. Although The Stanley Hotel was used as inspiration for the Overlook Hotel, it wasn’t featured on screen until King revamped The Shining into a TV miniseries. King is historically not a fan Kubrick’s direction (and 30+ years later still complains about it), so when he had the opportunity to write the screenplay and exercise more artistic control of the final product), he took his shot. Though more true to the book, the series fell flat for a variety of reasons.

While the miniseries was also filmed in Denver and Aurora, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park finally got to take center stage. To this day, it's a common tourist attraction; people can stay in room 237, and the hotel plays the original film on loop on Channel 42 in all guest rooms. But don’t be scared...it’s just a story (right)?

Creede

Another town in the southwestern part of Colorado, this historic mining town played host to one of Hollywood's A-listers: Johnny Depp. Naturally, his visit to Colorado to play Tonto in The Lone Ranger did not go unnoticed by Colorado's residents and media. Complete with mines, a railroad, the Rio Grande, and Old West structures, Creede was the perfect setting for this Disney adaptation of the 1950s TV show.

Bedrock/Gateway

With its controversial story about two women on the run from their abusive lives at home, Thelma and Louise helped usher in a new era of  female roles in Hollywood. Many of the film's memorable chase sequences were shot in Gateway Canyon, and Bedrock’s claim to fame is the stop the women make in the Bedrock Store. The 130-year-old establishment has historically been a stop for anyone traveling west (especially those Vegas-bound), and has managed to keep its aesthetic true to form. Although it closed its doors in 2011, it’s definitely still a stop that should be made when in the area.

Breckenridge/Aspen/Frisco

Ski towns are used often in films, and Breckenridge and Aspen are pretty popular on the movie circuit. With both locations featuring quaint shopping areas and a plethora of amazing mountain views, they're perfect for any film featuring a vacation theme. Dumb and Dumber used both locations to represent Aspen, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation filmed all outdoor shots in Breckenridge, and also used a Walmart in Frisco.

Genesee

It's no wonder Woody Allen used the Sculptured House in Genesee in his 1973 sci-fi comedy, Sleeper. What could possibly be more futuristic by 70s standards? Nicknamed the “Sleeper House” after the film was released and built in 1963 by Charles Deaton, the house has a long history of being unfinished, vacant, and even foreclosed on. It was inspired by the idea that humans aren’t shaped like boxes, so why live in them? Although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it does make the drive on I-70 west of Denver a little more interesting.

Do you know of any other movies filmed in Colorado? Share them in the comments!