Reader Participation Day: Which Movie That Incorporates A National Park Setting Is Your Favorite?

National parks have served as backdrops for countless movies. Death Valley National Park played a role in Star Wars, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, of course, was prominently featured in North by Northwest, and Thelma & Louise drove through parts of Canyonlands National Park.

The list rolls on, not unlike credits at the end of a movie:

* Devils Tower was the focal point of Close Encounters of the Third Kind

* Arches National Park was glimpsed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

* Planet of the Apes landed at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

* Denali National Park and Preserve was a backdrop for Into the Wild

* Fans of Westerns know that Shane rode across the Grand Teton National Park landscape

* Dances With Wolves used Badlands National Park

There are more, but you get the idea. So, which movie with a national park backdrop is your favorite, and why?


I like a good many of the movies on the list, but i am not sure that the making of big budget movies should happen in national parks.

People are always surprised that film companies are not allowed in the Grand Canyon. It is judged to be too intrusive. As an example: when they filmed Thelma and Louise, the film makers bulldozed the desert to make it look more "deserty".

I did not, and never will, see the movie "Grand Canyon" which went straight to DVD. Apparently a couple can't get a permit to hike, so they hire a grizzled prospector with burros who abandons them to the local wolf pack. Filmed in Antelope Canyon. Have a big picture of wolves chasing people out the Bright Angel Trail.

One of my favorite movies is The Caine Mutiny from 1954 with Humphrey Bogart. It features Yosemite National Park and shows the old firefall from Glacier Point when at nightfall they would push burning embers over the edge.

Return of the Jedi also filmed in Redwood National Park

"North by Northwest" is just a great movie. For humor, I always enjoy "Vacation" when they briefly look at the Grand Canyon.

One of the most memorable scenes in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) was the speeder bike chase (at an apparent speed of more than 100 mph) through a forest of huge trees on "Eldor." Filmed at one frame per second, then projected at 24 frames per second, this sequence was shot amid the giant coastal redwoods of Redwood National and State Parks. BTW, the "road to Jabba's Palace" sequence in this same movie was filmed in Death Valley National Park.

One of my favorite movies is Glory, Just love the story of the 54th Massachusetts. Many of the Boston scenes were filmed in the Boston African American NHS, including the bronze memorial to the 54th that is featured in the movie that was carved by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Dances with Wolves does a good job of capturing the feel of the Badlands National Park and the plains around it, if we are talking backdrop I cant think of a movie that uses a park as a better backdrop. One of my favorites as well.

There was the 1991 movie Grand Canyon, which was a big budget movie directed by Lawrence Kasdan starring Steve Martin, Danny Glover, and Kevin Kline. They use the phrase "Grand Canyon" as somewhat of a metaphor for something bigger than mere human existence, and they conclude the film with a group trip to the South Rim.

Much of "Never Cry Wolf" was filmed in the vicinity of the Klondike Gold Rush NHP near Skagway, Alaska.

It's not a very good movie, but Dangerous Mission, set in Glacier National Park, has some great 3-D views of the Park. You also get to see quite a bit of the inside of the Lodge there.

It's got Piper Laurie, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. It pops up every now and then on Turner Classic Movies.

As far as I'm concerned, few movies can rival the scenery, plot, and acting in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969). Much of it was filmed in and near Zion National Park.

A few other movies come to mind:

Wind Across the Everglades

The Far Horizons, which includes views of the Grand Tetons

Yellowstone, which was a B-movie from 1936 and which can be seen at the Internet Archive

Getting back to the original question though, it's a toss up between North by Northwest and Close Encounters. But I also agree with Ranger Paul, and think a national park is no place to film a big budget movie. A few establishing shots with a small scale location crew maybe, as in North by Northwest, but not one that interferes with other visitors' enjoyment of the park.

127 Hours - James Franco plays a hiker who gets trapped in Canyonlands and has to cut off his arm to escape.

Although on the screen for a short time, the St Mary's entrance of Glacier Park is shown during Gump's running episode in the movie "Forest Gump".

Don't forget about The Shining.

How about "Jouney to the Center of the Earth" or "King Solomon's Mine, both of which were partially filmed at Carlsbad Caverns?

The Shining didn't really incorporate any NPS setting (or even claim to) and wasn't filmed on any NPS site. The interior shots were patterned after the Ahwahnee Hotel, but were on a soundstage. The exterior shots were from the Timberline Lodge, which is on Forest Service land (Mount Hood NF to be exact).

ISTR part of the Mel Gibson movie Maverick was filmed in Yosemite Valley.

But my favorites are Dances With Wolves and Close Encounters, in this category. I remember in particular being absolutely astonished at how beautiful DWW made South Dakota look, my memories at the time of South Dakota being of the drab landscape you see from I-90.