The Utah Film Commission recently announced in a press release that they have awarded film incentives to six more productions to shoot in the state this summer. Leading that list is the new ABC television series Blood & Oil, the first network TV series to film in Utah since 2006. With an approved tax credit of over $8 million, Blood & Oil plans to hire approximately 3,000 local cast and crew and expects to bring in at least $33 million for Utah. The remaining productions to film in the state include two reality shows (Diesel Dave, Utah ProStart Teen Chef Masters) and three feature films (Mythica, Monolith, Stepsisters) adding another $3 million of in-state spending.
“We love filming in Utah,” said Jason Faller, one of the producers for Mythica. “The landscapes, production resources, professional crew and talent are certainly advantageous. We are constantly approached by out-of-state options, but the Utah film incentive keeps us working and shooting in the state.”
Having productions filming in Utah is a win-win situation. “Bringing a major network television series to Utah means more jobs for locals, a boost to the economy, and a lot of credibility to our state’s film industry,” said Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission. “ABC did look at other states in the west, but the combination of our incentive package, incredible locations and film resources confirmed that Utah was the best place for them.”
And speaking of "incredible locations" of Utah, here are our three favorite iconic landscapes in Utah made famous by the movies we love.
1. Monument Valley
One of the most dramatic Utah locations we've seen in the movies is Monument Valley. Part of the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley is well-known for its cluster of giant sandstone buttes located on the Arizona-Utah state line, near the Four Corners area. Since the dawn of films, Monument Valley has reigned as the most featured backdrops in Western movies than any other locations in the United States. The director responsible for putting Monument Valley on the map was the prolific John Ford. His movies (such as Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Searchers) magnificently showcase Monument Valley's iconic landscapes. Since then, many filmmakers have followed the Ford's trails and make their movies at this magnificent location. Have you seen Forrest Gump, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Once Upon a Time in the West? If not, it's time to add them to your Amazon Prime Video list.
To experience Monument Valley in person, visitors need to pay a modest access fee (totally worth it) before they can drive through the park on a 17-mile dirt road. The trip can take at least two to three hours if not more, especially if you'll be stopping often to take photos (something I wholeheartedly recommend). Parts of Monument Valley, such as Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa, are accessible only by guided tour.
2. Moab Area
Utah’s Moab area is another iconic landscape that often grace the big screens. The region is anchored around Moab, a city of approximately 5,000+, located in Grand County in eastern Utah. With easy access to Utah's stunning arches, strange rock formations, deep gorges, deserts, canyons, the Colorado River, and numerous scenic byways, it's no wonder Moab is a magnet for filmmakers.
One of the most famous movies to film in the Moab was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), shot on location at Moab’s spectacular Double Arch.
Another movie shot in the Moab was Thelma & Louise. One of the scenes from the movie was filmed near Courthouse Towers, a smooth, monolithic rock rising up from the Moab’s desert landscape.
The final scene of Ridley Scott’s strong female lead film was shot on Shafer Trail right below Dead Horse Point (one of the most photographed scenic landscapes in the world). Dead Horse Point overlook, towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, provides filmmakers (and visitors) a jaw-dropping panorama of Canyonlands' buttes and pinnacles.
It's a well-known legend that Dead Horse Point was once (at the beginning of the 20th century) a corral area for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. For some unknown reason, one time the horses were fenced in on the waterless point and all died of thirst as the Colorado River was flowing below.
If you're interested in visiting the Moab area, you can begin planning for your trip by ordering the free Moab Travel Guide. If it's a last minute trip and you don't have time to wait for snail mail, you can also download a PDF of the Guide.
3. Zion National Park
Another of Utah’s famous landscape often featured in the movies is Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park. Zion's giant rock domes, narrow canyons, endless plateaus and petrified sand dunes have mesmerized filmmakers throughout the years since the 1920s. The Deadwood Coach, The Big Trail and Buffalo Bill were all shot in Zion National Park, specifically in Kanab Canyon and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
One of the most famous movies featuring Zion National Park as its backdrop is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid shot in the pretty ghost town of Grafton, in the St. George and Virgin region, and in Las Animas River Gorge.
Starting next month, the entrance fee for Zion National Park will increase to $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per bicycle and pedestrian. The fees are a small price to pay considering what visitors will get in return. Zion's massive sandstone cliffs in gorgeous hues of cream, pink and red soaring up into the deep blue sky, narrow canyons and cool water streams are among the gorgeous vistas awaiting them.
It's easy to plan your visit to Zion National Park. And don't forget to get the maps and guides before the trip. Most importantly, watch a few of these movies shot on location in the park for a good dose of inspiration.
Other Movies Filmed in Utah
Hollywood's love affair with Utah has been ongoing for decades. Here's a list of some of the movies filmed in the state over the years (there are more):
- Bill The Kid (1941) - Kanab Movie Ranch, Paria Canyon, Monument Valley
- Fort Apache (1948) - Goulding's Lodge and Trading Post in Monument Valley, Monument Valley, Kanab, Moab, Arches National Park
- Rio Grande (1950) - Colorado River, Ida Gulch, Professor Valley, Onion Creek Narrows and White's Ranch in Moab; Monument Valley
- The Searchers (1956) - Monument Valley
- How The West Was Won (1962) - Cedar Mountain, Duck Creek Village, Monument Valley
- Planet of the Apes (1968) - Glen Canyon, Lake Powell
- Jeremiah Johnson (1972) - Alpine Loop and Mt. Timpanogos, Ashley National Forest, Leeds, Snow Canyon, St. George, Sundance, Uinta National Forest, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Zion National Park
- The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - Glen Canyon
- The Electric Horseman (1979) - Grafton, St. George, Zion National Park
- The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) - Moab, Monument Valley
- Footloose (1984) - American Fork, Lehi, Orem, Provo, Payson
- Back To The Future III (1990) - Monument Valley
- Maverick (1994) - Glen Canyon, Lake Powell
- Independence Day (1996) - Bonneville Salt Flats, Lakepoint, Skull Valley, Tooele, Wendover
- Con Air (1997) - Bonneville Salt Flats, Moab, Mill Canyon, Ogden Airport, Salt Lake City, Wendover
- Mission Impossible II (2000) - Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, Monument Valley
- Legally Blonde II (2003) - Salt Lake City
- National Treasure (2004) - Strawberry Reservoir
- High School Musical (2006) - East High School in Salt Lake City, Murray High School, Jon M. Huntsman Center at the University of Utah, Snow Canyon Country Club, Murray, St. George, Midvale
- Big Love (2006-2011) - Salt Lake City, Sandy
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) - Bonneville Salt Flats, Wendover
- Star Trek (2009) - San Rafael Swell
- 127 Hours (2010) - Moab, Salt Lake City. (We blogged about it here.)
- The Tree of Life (2011) - Bonneville Salt Flats, Goblin Valley State Park
- The Lone Ranger (2013) - Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, Monument Valley. (We blogged about it here.)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) - Moab, Monument Valley
Filming in Utah
With six productions slated to film in Utah this summer, the state continues to be a magnet for filmmakers. “To have such a variety of studio, independent, local and out-of-state productions coming to Utah shows that we are growing and truly maintaining our reputation as a filmmaking destination,” said Pearce.
“Governor Herbert and our legislative leaders have recognized the economic impact commercial film and television have on the state,” said Jeff T. Miller, president of the Motion Picture Association of Utah. “With their support the industry continues to grow. Utah has the very best of what film productions are looking for, but much work lies ahead for us to remain competitive in a global market.”
For more information on filming in Utah, visit the Utah Film Commission, a LocationsHub and Reel-Scout client.
PHOTO CREDIT: Banner image of Zion National Park via Google.