Driving through the scenic landscapes of America’s Canyonlands, it’s easy to feel awe and wonder … And sometimes, maybe even a sense of déjà vu.
The latter is most certainly a movie-memory, recognizing epic scenery from films, old and new. That’s because the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon, the monumental glory of Monument Valley and the seductive scenery of Sedona have drawn the eye of directors – and audiences – for more than 100 years. Here’s a look back …
Thanks to a small trading post owner named Harry Goulding, Hollywood film director John Ford and groups of Navajos acting as extras and crew support, Monument Valley is one of the most familiar “western” movie landscapes in the United States.
One of six Navajo-owned tribal parks, Monument Valley has a long Navajo history and a mid-century Hollywood past. It served as backdrop and the “home” of such westerns as “My Darling Clementine” (1946), “Fort Apache” (1948), “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949), and “Cheyenne Autumn” (1964).
Another hotbed for Hollywood’s western movie-making past is Sedona. In fact, more than 100 films have been made in and around Sedona starring Hollywood hotshots like John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Henry Fonda and Humphrey Bogart. Sedona’s first starring role came in 1918 in a silent film based on author Zane Grey’s book, “Call of the Canyon.”
Other movies filmed in the area – imitating such backdrops as Oregon, Missouri, Utah and even the Canadian Rockies – include “Broken Arrow” (1949), “The Rounders” (1965) and “Stay Away Jack” (1968).
More Big Screen scenery can be found in Moab – a place renowned for its other-worldly landscapes. Some “favorite” features filmed here include more recent movies like:
- “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade” (1989): Young “Indiana” (played by River Phoenix) runs out of a cove near Double Arch (visible in the background).
- “Thelma & Louise” (1990): The movie’s most famous scene – the epic plunge – takes place at Fossil Point, near Dead Horse Point (in the movie, viewers are led to believe it’s the Grand Canyon).
- “Mission Impossible II” (1999) – Tom Cruise’s rock-climbing scene was filmed at Dead Horse Point.
- “Star Trek” (2009) – Director J.J. Abrams chose San Rafael Swell as the barren backdrop of planet Vulcan.
To witness off-the-beaten-path wonder and breathe-in the beauty that’s inspired Hollywood storytelling for more than a century, check out these tours that take you there:
- Globus America’s Canyonlands Escape (7 days, Las Vegas to Las Vegas)
- Globus Canyon Country Adventure (8 days, Scottsdale to Las Vegas)
- Globus Lost Canyons of the Southwest (9 days, Phoenix to Las Vegas)
- Cosmos Highlights of the Canyonlands (7 days, Las Vegas to Las Vegas)