Best movies filmed in Colorado

True Grit movie poster from 1969 featuring John Wayne and Kim Darby
The 1969 movie “True Grit” won a long-overdue Oscar for John Wayne as Best Actor and was mostly filmed in the Ouray and Ridgeway areas. The film also featured Kim Darby and Glen Campbell.

By Sue Deans

Here are our picks for the Best Movies Filmed in Colorado. By that, we mean the 20 highest-rated movies that were filmed at least partly in the state, though perhaps as little as a few scenes.

1939: “Stagecoach”
Director: John Ford.
Locations include: Cañon City.
Rating: 4 stars.
Cast: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Andy Devine, John Carradine.
Summary: An ensemble of characters meet as they travel in a stagecoach, with danger posed by the fact that Geronimo is on the warpath in the area. Passengers include an alcoholic doctor, a pregnant woman, a bank manager stealing his client’s money, and a gunslinger, the Ringo Kid. They find they need to work together to save themselves. The film made John Wayne a star. Filming also took place in Monument Valley, Utah, a favorite spot of director Ford’s.

1943: “Lassie Come Home”
Director: Fred M. Wilcox.
Locations include: Denver.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty, Edmund Gwenn, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester,
Elizabeth Taylor.
Summary: Hard times on the farm come to the Carraclough family and they must sell their dog, Lassie, to a wealthy duke. The dog is not willing to leave her boy, however, and sets out on a long journey in order to rejoin him. Lassie is played by Pal, a male collie.

1946: “The Razor’s Edge”
Director: Edmund Goulding.
Locations include: Colorado mountains.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Elsa Lanchester.
Summary: A complicated potboiler in which Larry, a wealthy Chicago man, breaks his engagement, wanders the world and finds a guru in India. His fiancée marries someone else, then goes to live in
Paris after the 1929 financial crash. She reencounters Larry there, and they find a friend from Chicago, a woman who has lost her husband and child in an accident and turned to drugs. Larry tries to rehabilitate her, but is thwarted by his ex-fiancée, who is still in love with him. The Colorado mountains portray the Himalayas in the film.

1952: “Pat and Mike”
Director: George Cukor.
Locations include: Denver.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Aldo Ray, Gussie Moran, Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Summary: Katharine Hepburn is Pat, a champion golfer. She can’t play well when her fiancé is around and she loses a championship when he distracts her. Tracy, her somewhat sleazy manager, helps her get back on her game, despite gangsters and other obstacles, among them their growing attraction for one another. The screenplay was written by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.

1954: “The Glenn Miller Story”
Director: Anthony Mann.
Locations include: Boulder, Lowry Air Force Base, Denver.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: James Stewart, June Allyson, Henry Morgan, Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa.
Summary: The film portrays the life of bandleader Glenn Miller, who got his start as a student in Colorado. He was born in Iowa and moved as a teenager to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he went to high school. As a senior, Miller discovered “dance band music” and formed his own band with some classmates. In 1923, he entered the University of Colorado in Boulder, but he spent most of his time in auditions and playing any gigs he could get. He dropped out of CU after failing three out of five classes one semester, committing to become a professional musician. His wife, Helen Berger, was from Boulder. Lots of his music is featured in the film, performed in part by musicians who actually played with him. In World War II, Miller joined the Army, volunteering to take charge of bands and military music. Later he transferred to the Army Air Force. Miller died in December 1944 en route from England to Paris, when his plane went down over the English Channel. He is listed as missing in action.

1956: “Around the World in Eighty Days”
Director: Michael Anderson.
Locations include: Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Silverton, Durango, San Juan Mountains.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: David Niven, Cantinflas, Finlay Currie, Robert Morley, Ronald Squire, Basil Sydney, Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Harcourt Williams, Martine Carol, Fernandel, Charles Boyer, Evelyn Keyes, Jose Greco, Luis Dominguin, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero.
Summary: Mike Todd’s epic, based on the Jules Verne story, begins with Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg, challenged to prove his boast that he can get around the world in 80 days. He bets his fortune on it and embarks on a tour with his new butler. Did he rob the Bank of England before departing? And is this his way of escaping? A detective thinks so, and follows along.

1962: “How the West Was Won”
Director: John Ford.
Locations include: Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, La Junta, Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, Durango, Uncompahgre National Forest.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George
Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Richard Widmark,
Walter Brennan, Andy Devine
Summary: An epic tale follows four generations of Prescotts, from the Erie Canal in the 1830s to their Western home 50 years later.

1964: “Cheyenne Autumn”
Director: John Ford.
Locations include: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Dolores del Rio, Ricardo Montalban,
Gilbert Roland, Arthur Kennedy, John Carradine, Victor Jory.
Summary: Starving Cheyenne Indians, left without the supplies they are entitled to by the government, begin a journey of 1,500 miles back to their hunting grounds. A U.S. Cavalry captain, sent to get them back on their barren reservation, grows to respect them and decides to help them.

1964: “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”
Director: Charles Walters.
Locations include: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, Ed Begley,
Summary: Molly Brown survives a flood as a baby in a cradle, a precursor of her future. At 16, she goes off to Leadville and tells a saloon proprietor that she can sing and play the piano. She picks it up quickly. She marries miner Johnny Brown who, after striking it rich, gives her a jeweled replica to replace her cigar-wrapper wedding ring. But it takes more than a few million dollars to be accepted by Denver society. Later she goes to Europe and, in a hurry to return home, books a suite on the Titanic. It wouldn’t be a very good story if she hadn’t survived the ship’s crash into an iceberg and subsequent sinking. She helped save numerous others as well. Based on a Broadway play, the film’s soundtrack is by Meredith Wilson.

1965: “Cat Ballou”
Director: Elliot Silverstein.
Locations include: Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway, Cañon City.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, Nat King Cole, Stubby Kaye.
Summary: Schoolmarm Cat Ballou finds her family’s farm is coveted by the railroad. In order to save it, she sends off for a mail-order gunfighter, Kid Shelleen, who on his arrival turns out to be roaringly drunk. Her father’s shooting by a railroad gunman turns her into an outlaw, too. A group of minstrels keep things lively by singing “The Ballad of Cat Ballou,” between scenes.

1965: “The Sons of Katie Elder”
Director: Henry Hathaway.
Locations include: Casa Blanca, Chupaderos, Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, Durango.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Martha Hyer, George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper.
Summary: The mother of the Elder boys is dead and they return to Texas for her funeral. The eldest, a gunfighter, is in constant trouble, and that doesn’t stop as the brothers try to get their ranch back from the man who won it from their father in a card game. They suspect he might have murdered their father to claim the ranch. As it turns out, they are right, and several of them get into a gunfight over his death.

1969: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
Director: George Roy Hill.
Locations include: Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Las Animas River Gorge, San Juan National Forest, Durango, New Sheridan Bar, Telluride, Silverton.
Rating: 4 stars.
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross.
Summary: Butch and Sundance lead the outlaw Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. They face a state-of-the-art modern posse after robbing a train once too often, and wherever they go, the posse is just behind them. A narrow and lucky escape leads Butch to suggest a trip to Bolivia, where things might still be wild enough to suit them.

1969: “Downhill Racer”
Director: Michael Ritchie.
Locations include: Boulder, Durango.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Camilla Sparv, Dabney Coleman.
Summary: An unlikable and mean-spirited skier makes the American Olympic team by capitalizing on another skier’s injury. He finds himself involved with a glamorous European woman as annoying as he is. Redford, who plays the skier, attended the University of Colorado.

1969: “True Grit”
Director: Henry Hathaway.
Locations include: Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway, Cañon City, Castle Rock, Gunnison,
Montrose, Ouray, Owl Creek Pass, Ridgway. (A 2010 version of “True Grit” was shot in New Mexico.)
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Jeremy Slate, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper.
Summary: Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross embarks on a mission to avenge her father’s murder. Her choice for the job is Rooster Cogburn, a tough old marshal, whom she likes because he has “grit.” A Texas Ranger looking for the same gunman, Tom Chaney, for a murder in Texas, joins up with them in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and they head into the Indian Territory to find their man, with disastrous results for several of them.

1972: “When the Legends Die”
Director: Stuart Millar.
Locations include: Durango.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Richard Widmark, Frederic Forrest, Luana Anders, Vito Scotti, Herbert Nelson, John War Eagle.
Summary: An aging, drunken rodeo cowboy takes under his wing a young, rebellious Ute Indian who joins the rodeo circuit, teaching him the ways of the rodeo and the world.

1973: “Sleeper”
Director: Woody Allen.
Locations include: National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Church of the Risen Christ, Currigan Exhibition Hall, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Genesee Park.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton.
Summary: A clarinet player who also runs a health food store is frozen and brought back in the future by anti-government radicals in order to help in their attempts to overthrow an oppressive government. When he goes off on his own, he begins to explore the new world with confessional robots and “orgasmatron” booths to replace sex.

1978: “Ice Castles”
Director: Donald Wrye.
Locations include: Colorado Springs.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Cast: Robby Benson, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Colleen Dewhurst, Tom Skerritt.
Summary: A young figure skater is on top of the world until she is blinded in a tragic accident, destroying her dreams of becoming a world-class performer. Her loved ones help her find out that she still can realize her dreams.

1983: “National Lampoon’s Vacation”
Director: Harold Ramis.
Locations include: Durango, Alamosa.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Brian Doyle-
Murray, James Keach, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Christie Brinkley, Jane Krakowski.
Summary: In a screenplay written by John Hughes, the Griswold family sets off on vacation, driving from Chicago to the West Coast and a fabulous vacation at Walley World. The trip, painstakingly planned by dad Clark, is doomed from the start. Bad luck follows the Griswolds across the country, including a stop at a campground in South Fork, and when they get to Walley World the park is closed for maintenance. A SWAT team and the park’s owner arrive to save the day. This is the first of several National Lampoon’s Vacation films.

1991: “Thelma & Louise”
Director: Ridley Scott.
Locations include: Bedrock, an unincorporated town in Montrose County.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Brad Pitt.
Summary: Louise and her friend Thelma have boring jobs and man problems, and one day they jump in the car and go on a road trip. Things turn sour when Louise kills a man who threatens to rape Thelma. They decide to go to Mexico, but have to flee from American police. A young Brad Pitt began to be noticed in this film.

2002: “Bowling for Columbine”
Director: Michael Moore.
Locations include: Columbine High School, Littleton, Denver.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cast: George Bush, George W. Bush, Richard Castaldo, Dick Clark, Steve Davis, Byron Dorgan, Barry Glassner, John Harris, Charlton Heston.
Summary: In a documentary three years after the shootings at Columbine High School, filmmaker Michael Moore explores America’s tendency toward gun violence. Moore, himself a champion sharpshooter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, confronts NRA president Charlton Heston at his home, and the elderly Heston becomes confused and upset.

Related article: Movies filmed in Colorado