5 Movies Filmed in Wyoming
Last week, Hollywood’s brightest stars convened to hand each other awards. But if you missed this year’s Oscar ceremony, that’s okay! There’s one award they consistently forget to give out, for some reason: Best Picture Taking Place or Filmed Near the Tetons. And there have been quite a few over the years, as filmmakers have flocked the Jackson for their camera-ready, rugged beauty, so today we’ll talk about 5 movies filmed in Wyoming—including a few right here in Jackson Hole.
When Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) flies out to the Soviet Union to fight his nemesis Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the frozen wastes of Russia look suspiciously like the Tetons. While the ‘roided-out Drago trains in state-of-the-art Russian facilities, Rocky opts for a training montage that’s basically just really strenuous farmwork, proving that hard work is better than drugs and America is better than the USSR. Basically, there’s nothing more ‘80s than this movie.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Minerva Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park doubled as the planet Vulcan, proving that not only can Wyoming look like another country, it can also pass for a strange planet full of aliens if necessary. (And that’s even without even getting to the Wal-Mart in Evanston.) I’m more of a Star Wars guy, but my takeaway was that the part filmed in Wyoming is when Spock (Leonard Nimoy) does that ritual thingy where he senses that one of Earth’s early space probes has gained sentience and is now an evil god or something. (Really.)
Dances with Wolves
John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is a Union soldier who gets to know the local Sioux tribe and comes to appreciate their way of life. I watched this in the back seat of a van on the way to my high school newspaper competition, and it was really long and slow. I think I ended up listening to Fall Out Boy on my Walkman CD player instead. But on the plus side, it has a great soundtrack (sans Fall Out Boy, unfortunately), and its whole “white colonizer endears himself to a hostile indigenous people and learns to respect their way of life” narrative provided a well-worn template in the years to follow, from Pocahontas to The Last Samurai and even Avatar. That’s right, without those buffalo hunt scenes, we might have never gotten to see Pandora in 3D, so that’s a good reason for Dances with Wolves to exist right there.
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen this movie. It’s a revisionist Western about a former slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to take down an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). I’m generally not a huge fan of director Quentin Tarantino, finding him a bit violent for my tastes. But this movie is listed every time someone wants to name notable movies filmed in Jackson, so it seems like a glaring omission if I don’t include it.
Filmed in Jackson Hole, Shane features a mysterious gunslinger (Alan Ladd), who wanders into town and helps defeat a ruthless cattle baron. His task complete, he rides off into the sunset. Fun fact: the movie had a huge impact on later works, including 2017’s superhero epic Logan, which draws so much from Shane’s themes that one character even recites Shane’s final words over the grave of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). (Dang, I want to watch that movie again. Also, sorry—spoiler alert.)
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Ryan Kunz is a copywriter and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including media, the outdoors, and whatever else strikes his fancy. He could talk about movies for hours. Ask him about The Last Jedi sometime.
Cabrera, L. (2014). Mammoth Hot Springs – Minerva Terrace [Photograph]. https://www.flickr.com/photos/limarie/14837344910
David Broad, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons