You might not know it, but the 43rd state has a bit it can brag about. From the longest gondola ride in North America at Silver Mountain Resort to the highest navigable river in the world at St. Joe. From the first ski resort in the United States at Sun Valley to the longest boardwalk in the world (3300 feet) at Coeur d’Alene Lake.
And while yes, potatoes are important in Idaho, they grow about 1/3 for the entire nation, the Gem State has also been host to many film crews over the years, who have come to the first state to use nuclear power to create scenes or film movies in their entirety. Check out this shortlist below of some of the most famous flicks:
Table of Contents
- Movies Filmed in Idaho
- Toys (1992)
- Breakheart Pass (1975)
- Pale Rider (1985)
- Moving (1988)
- Bus Stop (1956)
- Dante’s Peak (1997)
- Northwest Passage (1940)
- Wild Wild West (1999)
- Bronco Billy (1980)
- Town and Country (2001)
- Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
- Soda Springs (2012)
- Heaven’s Gate (1980)
- Ghost Dad (1990)
- Breakfast of Champions (1999)
- Magic Valley (2011)
- Talent for the Game (1991)
- Duchess of Idaho (1950)
Movies Filmed in Idaho
This fantasy comedy was Jamie Foxx’s first movie role; actually, his first anything other than In Living Color. Also starring Robin Williams, the movie was set and filmed in Moscow, home of the University of Idaho. The movie was considered a flop, making only half of what was spent, and garnered a Razzie nomination for worst director.
Breakheart Pass (1975)
One of action star Charles Bronson’s many movies, this American western adventure film was set a bit farther west in California and Nevada but was actually filmed in North Central Idaho, near Pierce, at the Camas Prairie Railroad. It was one of three movies that Bronson appeared in that year. He was paid $1 million for his role.
Pale Rider (1985)
This was Clint Eastwood’s fifth movie that he produced, directed, and also starred in. Although it was released only halfway into the decade, it was the most profitable western movie released in the 80s. Parts were filmed in the Boulder Mountains and Sawtooth National Recreation Area, although the story itself was set in California.
Richard Pryor’s Arlo Pear is thankful for his new job; except he has to move his family from New Jersey to Boise, where a few shots were done. There’s a quite a few bumps along the way, namely from rather colorful characters played by Dana Carvey, Rodney Dangerfield, and even Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). It was one of Pryor’s last ten roles.
Bus Stop (1956)
Although this was Marilyn Monroe’s 25th movie, it was the first where she strayed from her comedic and musical roles, and jumped into a more dramatic one, even toning down her usual extravagant costumes and using an accent. The story took place in Phoenix, and filming was done both there as well as in Idaho’s Sun Valley and Wood River Valley.
Dante’s Peak (1997)
Back when disaster films were more like films than true to real life, this thriller starred Bond No.5, Pierce Brosnan, and Linda Hamilton of the Terminator franchise fame, fighting to withstand the catastrophe of a volcano eruption in Washington State. Filming took place in Wallace and Sagle, among many other locations across the US.
Northwest Passage (1940)
Based upon the 1937 novel of the same name by Kenneth Roberts, this film starred Spencer Tracy, with Robert Young of Father Knows Best co-starring. Locations included Payette Lake and McCall. The Northwest Passage itself is of course not in Idaho, and other scenes from the movie were set in the Northeast part of the US, in New Hampshire.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Similar to many movies, this American Western action comedy was based in part upon a 1960s TV show. It starred Will Smith and Kevin Kline as secret service agents dedicated to keeping President Grant safe during his presidency. While most of the movie was done in Santa Fe, there are a few scenes that were shot at the Camas Prairie Railroad.
Bronco Billy (1980)
Another American Western, this one was again directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Filming for the story of Bronco Billy’s traveling circus of criminals took place in Boise, Eagle, and Meridian, along with a few scenes in New York and Oregon. The wild west show theme was based on that of Buffalo Bill in the late 1800s.
Town and Country (2001)
With an all-star lineup that included big names like Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Charlton Heston, it would be very hard for a movie to fail. Unfortunately, this romantic comedy royally did, making only $10 million while spending $90. Parts of the movie were actually set in Sun Valley, and filmed there as well.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
This comedy, starring Jon Heder in the lead role, was filmed in Preston. The movie was made with a mere $400,000 budget but ended up raking in not only a huge cult following but also over $46 million at the box office. Heder and co-star Aaron Ruell were actually friends of director Jared Hess, and were hired to help cut film costs.
Soda Springs (2012)
Soda Springs tells the story of a former criminal, who upon his release from jail, begins his journey of making amends and escaping his past life and deeds in order to make a future for himself. It was shot in Caldwell, Boise, Sweet, Payette, Emmett, Crouch, of course, Soda Springs. The cast included Hollywood veteran Tom Skerritt.
Heaven’s Gate (1980)
Another Western filmed in Idaho, this cast included major names like Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, and Willem Dafoe in his very first role, with Michael Cimino in the director’s chair. The story was set in Wyoming; however, it was filmed elsewhere, in both Montana and Wallace.
Ghost Dad (1990)
This fantasy comedy movie was director Sidney Poitier’s last and Bill Cosby’s twelfth. While the Hopper family lived in Seattle, most of the movie was made in Los Angeles, with some shots in Idaho at the High Bridge at Lucky Peak Reservoir. Reviews of the movie were less than flattering, but it did do modestly at the box office.
Breakfast of Champions (1999)
Based upon Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 novel, this satirical black comedy was filmed, for the most part, right in Twin Lakes, despite it being set in Ohio. And although the book is Vonnegut’s most famous and influential out of his fourteen novels, the theatrical version starring Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, and Barbara Hershey did extremely poorly.
Magic Valley (2011)
When two young boys come across a dead body in an Idaho small town, what you are looking at is actually a small town in Idaho; namely Buhl, where the writer-director Jaffe Zinn actually grew up. The murder mystery starred Scott Glenn, Matthew Gray Gubler, Brad William Henke, and Kyle Gallner.
Talent for the Game (1991)
Both set and filmed partly in Idaho (Genesee), this sports movie starred Edward James Olmos and Lorraine Bracco. The movie did not fare well at all at the box office and went to video within a very short time. It tells the story of a baseball scout without any prospects who breaks down in a rural area and coincidentally meets a prospect.
Duchess of Idaho (1950)
One would think that a movie that has a state name in its title would have at least had a scene or two filmed there. While this is not always the case, for this musical romantic comedy, it was. Starring Van Johnson and Esther Williams, the movie was filmed on a lot at MGM, but the outdoor shots were done right in Sun Valley.
While the thirteenth-largest state is of course not the place for filming Hollywood blockbusters, due to its remoteness and abundance of open land and lush scenery, with places like Shoshone Falls, aka “Niagara of the West”, it will likely continue to be one of the more unique choices for filmmakers to use for locations.