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Picture Perfect

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The Southwest has attracted filmmakers for decades. These six movies, including Tarantino’s latest, are our favorites filmed in the Four Corners

By Kate Siber

The location list for these classic films reads like a greatest hits album of Southwest haunts. Illustration by Sean McCabe.
The location list for these classic films reads like a greatest hits album of Southwest haunts. Illustration by Sean McCabe.
Stagecoach (1939)

The legendary director John Ford fell in love with the titanic monoliths of Monument Valley, Utah, while filming Stagecoach, the black-and-white blockbuster starring a youthful John Wayne and Claire Trevor. The Western, complete with shootouts and scenes with Apaches (played by Navajos), helped burn these unique buttes into popular memory.

True Grit (1969)

The biggest film of the 20th century to be shot in the rangeland around Ridgway, Ouray and Montrose, Colorado, True Grit is the story of a drunk, grumpy U.S. marshal and a Texas ranger who help a teenage girl track down her father’s murderer. John Wayne is at his rugged, charismatic best as Rooster Cogburn, a performance that earned him an Oscar. Today, find John Wayne and film memorabilia at Ridgway’s True Grit Cafe.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

“I can’t swim!” says Robert Redford before he leaps off a bridge into Colorado’s Animas River in a famous scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. “Are you crazy? The fall will prob’ly kill ya,” quips Paul Newman, who plays Butch. This classic Western’s location list is like a greatest hits album of Southwest haunts, including Zion National Park, Taos, Silverton and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Thelma and Louise (1991)

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon play a Midwestern housewife and waitress in this film about a girls’ weekend in the mountains with Louise’s Thunderbird. But when Louise shoots Thelma’s would-be rapist outside a bar, they opt for a different getaway and head for the Mexican border. Louise, though, is charmed by Brad Pitt, who derails their plans. Eventually (spoiler alert!) they drive straight off the spectacular cliff at Shafer Overlook near Moab, Utah.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem star in this Coen brothers film about a man who discovers the scene of a drug deal gone wrong — and takes $2 million in cash and runs, setting off a chain of violence in a dusty Texas town. This movie, based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, was filmed in some of New Mexico’s most memorable landscapes, from Santa Fe to Arroyo Hondo.

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Set in Wyoming after the Civil War, this spaghetti Western, to be released on Christmas, follows eight unsavory frontier characters as they take shelter from a blizzard in a remote haberdashery. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, the all-star cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum, but perhaps even more stunning is the backdrop. Much of the production was filmed outside of Telluride at the 1882 Schmid Family Ranch.

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