The spectacular wilderness and small towns of Wyoming are idyllic settings for storytelling, whether it’s of the fact or fiction variety. That’s why, for over a century, many movies have been filmed in the Cowboy State. It’s always nice to get the nod from Hollywood that our state is breathtakingly beautiful and photogenic, but it’s even better when the story is
about Wyoming. Starting in 1914, over 50 movies have been made with Wyoming as the setting. Here, we’ve picked a dozen of the best that need to go on your must-see list.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977
Possibly the single movie most closely associated with Wyoming, Close Encounters
had to be included on the list. The Devil's Tower in the northeastern corner of the state plays a key role in the storyline when it becomes fixed in the minds of several people who experience the same UFO encounter. Everyone heads for Wyoming which ends up being the setting for a meet and greet between extraterrestrials and humans.
2. Shane, 1953
VIDEOA classic western movie if there ever was one, Shane tells the story of a gunfighter who, weary of his violent lifestyle, tries to settle down on a Wyoming homestead. Unfortunately, a conflict between local ranchers and settlers forces him out of retirement.
3. Unforgiven, 1992
Few actors these days can play a gunslinger like Clint Eastwood, and Unforgiven proves that he is still King Cowboy, as well as a talented director. In the movie, Eastwood's character, William Munny, is another retired gunfighter trying to live a quiet life. When a young man looking to make a name for himself and claim a bounty asks for his help and offers him a cut of the reward, Munny reluctantly agrees to help on the condition that his partner - played by Morgan Freeman - be included.
4. Druid Peak, 2014
VIDEOA teen headed down the wrong road is sent to live with his estranged father, who happens to be a park ranger in Wyoming. Searching for his place in the world, he finds it when he develops a kinship with a pack of wolves living in the park.
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
Said to be based "loosely" on fact, this classic starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford follows the exploits of the legendary outlaws as they pull off train robberies in Wyoming before heading to South America when the law starts closing in.
6. Flicka, 2006
VIDEOThe original movie, based on the novel by Mary O'Hara, was released in 1943, but the most recent adaptation was done in 2006. The novel and first film told the story of a Wyoming boy who tries to prove himself to his rancher father by taking on a wild mustang. Though the 2006 movie differs slightly by making the lead role female, the story still endures.
7. Spencer's Mountain, 1963
Henry Fonda in the starring role alone makes this movie set in Wyoming a classic that should be in everyone's library. It tells the story of the large Spencer family, headed up by hard-working patriarch Clay Spencer. His most heartfelt wish is to build a house for his wife and their large brood on a piece of land in the Snake River Valley, but seeing the dream come true could mean depriving his oldest son of a future. If you grew up watching the Waltons, you will notice more than a passing similarity between this movie and the show, and you should - the Waltons television show was based on the movie Spencer's Mountain.
8. Red Rock West, 1993
VIDEONicolas Cage plays a drifter who is mistaken for a hitman after arriving in a small Wyoming town. He's tempted to take the money meant to pay the killer - until the real hitman appears on the scene.
9. Monte Walsh, 2003
VIDEOThis made-for-TV movie earns its place among the motion pictures on the list not only because the story takes place in Wyoming but also because Tom Selleck is one of the rare actors who has the chops to be in the cowboy fraternity with the likes of Eastwood and Elliot. Selleck plays the title role, a cowhand who enjoys a predictable existence working the range and visiting town occasionally - until his life is derailed by a friend's plans to rustle cattle.
10. The Hateful Eight, 2015
Leave it to the king of genre filmmaking to put out one of the best westerns of the century. The Hateful Eight consist of a bounty hunter, a hangman, a prisoner, a sheriff, a cowboy, a Confederate general, and two other nefarious characters who take shelter from a treacherous Wyoming winter storm at a stage stop in the middle of nowhere. In addition to being a terrific western movie with an all-star cast, it's a fascinating mystery that will have you guessing until the end. It's a Tarantino film, so be prepared for plenty of blood.
11. Taking Chance, 2009
After Private First Class Chance Phelps is killed in Iraq, Marine Colonel Michael Strobl - played by Kevin Bacon - escorts his body back to Phelps's hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. The movie takes viewers along on the journey, and was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009.
12. Wind River, 2017
Jeremy Renner takes a break from the Avengers to play a Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Service tracker. When he discovers the body of a murdered Wind River Indian woman, he sees it as an opportunity to right a wrong from his own past if he can solve the crime.