On Location: Films Shot in Colorful Colorado

February 11, 2014

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

Since the 1920s, Colorado has been the home to many film locations, a lot you may not have even thought of. Did you know that City Slickers was filmed in Durango? Or that The Searchers was filmed in Aspen and Gunnison?

Here are some of the standout films shot in Colorado, and the towns/cities you can visit to share in the cinematic joy.


As anyone may guess, the southwestern part of our fair state is home to many films that are classified as westerns or period pieces. What better place to tell a historical story than the Rocky Mountains of Colorado? Probably the most common of the area, these two locales were home to quite a few popular movies such as the Naked Spur, How the West Was Won, and The Prestige, just to name a few. Durango was another star 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 robbery scenes.

Estes Park

Everyone knows that the story of The Shining takes place in Colorado but the original Kubrick version was not filmed here. Although the Stanley Hotel was used as inspiration for the haunted Overlook Hotel in the story, it wasn’t filmed here until King’s story was revamped into a TV miniseries. King historically didn’t like Kubrick’s direction of The Shining (and 30+ years later still complains about it), so when he had the opportunity to write the screenplay himself (and chave 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 in Estes Park was finally able to take center stage on screen for all to fear. To this day, it is still a common tourist attraction, where people can stay in room 237, and the hotel plays the original film on a loop on channel 42 in all guest rooms. Don’t be scared. It’s just a story.


Another town in the southwest part of Colorado, this historic mining town played host to the one of the most popular actors in Hollywood today, Johnny Depp. His visit to Colorado to play Tonto in the Lone Ranger did not go unnoticed to Colorado residence and media. When Johnny Depp is in Colorado, the state will know. Complete with mines, a railroad, the Rio Grande, and Old West structures, it was the perfect setting for this Disney adaptation of the 1950s TV show.


Thelma and Louise helped pave the way for many female roles in Hollywood with its controversial story about two women on the run from their abusive lives at home. Many of the memorable chase sequences were filmed in Gateway Canyon. Bedrock’s claim to fame is the stop that the women make in the Bedrock Store. The 130-year-old establishment has been a common stop for anyone travelling west, especially those who might be Vegas-bound, and it has managed to keep it’s esthetic true to form. Although it closed in 2011, it’s definitely still a stop that should be made when in the area.


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, it’s perfect for any film that would feature any sort of vacation theme. Dumb and Dumber used both locations to represent Aspen. Christmas Vacation filmed all of the outdoor shots in Breckenridge and shot at Walmart in Frisco.


It is no wonder that Woody Allen used the Sculptured House in Genesee in his 1973 sci-fi comedy, Sleeper. What could be more futuristic in the 70s without having to build it yourself? 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 being foreclosed on. It was inspired by the idea that humans aren’t shaped like boxes, so why live in them? Granted it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it does make the drive on I-70 west of Denver a little more interesting as it’s nested on the edge of the mountain.

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