The 47th state to enter the union isn’t called “The Land of Enchantment” for nothing. The 121,697 square foot southwest state boasts not only mountains (88 ranges), but also seven national forests, including the 3.3 million-acre Gila National Forest. And Santa Fe lies at a whopping 7,199 feet, making it the highest capital city in the US.
Within New Mexico’s borders, there are two National Parks (Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Park) and 35 state parks. However, it does lack water, with only .24% of the total area being made up of it.
With a population of over two million, the state ranks 37th. And among that population exists about 27,000 square miles of the Navajo reservation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States.
And that’s not all that’s unique. Along with Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, New Mexico is part of the Four Corners area of the US, the only area where four states’ borders meet.
Then, of course, there’s Roswell, the site of a rumored UFO crash. And Taos Pueblo has been inhabited for 1000 years, much longer than most areas in the United States.
You probably know who Smokey Bear is, but you may not know that he was based on a real bear cub that was found in Lincoln National Forest during a fire in the 1950s. And Carlsbad Caverns has thousands of bats within its 73 square miles, which also includes the Big Room: 255 feet at its highest, 625 feet wide, and about 4000 feet long.
With so much unique scenery to work with, the state has become one of many that Hollywood filmmakers branch out to when making their movies. See below for a list of some of the most interesting:
Movies filmed in New Mexico
Let Me In (2010)
This romance/horror was a remake of a 2008 Swedish movie. It starred Chloë Grace Moretz, Elias Koteas, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. A 12-year-old suffers from constant bullying and loneliness until he meets a young girl, who happens to be a vampire. The film was set in Los Alamos with some filming done there as well as in Albuquerque.
Young Guns (1988)
This western was Morgan Creek Productions’ first movie. It had an ensemble cast, including Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, and Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid. It is based upon The Kid and his Regulators’ exploits in New Mexico from 1887–1889. Filming was done in Cerrillos and Santa Fe, among many other spots.
Easy Rider (1969)
This road movie was written, produced, and starred Peter Fonda, with Dennis Hopper costarring. The two play bikers traveling from California to New Orleans with a great deal of money made from a cocaine sale. Jack Nicholson and Karen Black costarred. Some filming was done in Santa Fe, Madrid, and Taos.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
This western had Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in the lead roles. Bale is a down-on-his-luck rancher who takes a job as a transporter for a dangerous criminal. It is a remake of a 1957 movie and based upon an 1853 short story by Elmore Leonard. The movie was set in Arizona with some filming done in Abiquiu, Santa Fe, and North Galisteo.
This western starred Kevin Kline, Rosanna Arquette, Brian Dennehy, and John Cleese. It was director Lawrence Kasdan’s third movie. Kline and his cowboys head to Silverado to find fortune but encounter trouble instead. Some filming was done in White Rock, Los Alamos, Abiquiu, Galisteo, Santa Ana Pueblo, Nambe, Black Mesa, and Santa Fe.
This Marvel superhero film had Chris Hemsworth in the title role, with Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, and Natalie Portman in supporting roles. When Thor mistakenly starts a war in Asgard, he and his hammer are sent to Earth as punishment. Two sequels followed with another coming in 2022. Some filming was done in Galisteo and Santa Fe.
This action-comedy was a spoof on the 1985–1992 TV show MacGyver and had also been a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Will Forte took on the title role with Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe costarring. Here, the hero goes up against the man responsible for his wife’s murder. Some filming was done in Albuquerque.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Movie number three in the franchise, Spielberg, and Lucas teamed up again as director and writer, and of course, Harrison Ford reprised his role as Indy. Sean Connery took on the role of Indy’s father and River Phoenix played a young Indy in flashback scenes. Filming was done all over the world, including Chama.
Odd Thomas (2013)
This thriller was based on a 2003 Dean Koontz novel. It starred Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, and Addison Timlin. Odd Thomas is a psychic who sees dead people. This comes in handy when mysterious things start happening around town and the police need his assistance. Some filming was done in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Pecos.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
This sci-fi movie starred Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, and James Mason. The film was based upon an 1864 novel by Jules Verne. When a geologist and an assistant decide to find the center of the earth, they come across an assortment of issues, including both evil monsters and humans. Carlsbad Caverns stood in as the “center of the earth.”
A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Yet another western, this comedy was directed by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. He starred in it along with an ensemble cast that included Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, and Liam Neeson. Albert is not cut out to be a cowboy; that is until Anna comes to town. Some filming was done in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
This musical comedy was the first big-screen Muppets movie and was produced by Jim Henson. It is an origin story of how the Muppets met, each with the same dream of making it in Hollywood. Live-action stars included Charles Durning, Austin Pendleton, Steve Martin, Dom Deluise, and Mel Brooks. Some filming was done in Albuquerque.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Director Oliver Stone’s 11th movie, this crime film had Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in lead roles as Mickey and Mallory, a couple extremely in love with one another and also mass murderers. Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Sizemore costarred. Some filming was done in Gallup, Taos, Albuquerque, and Farmington.
This was the first in the Superman film series and had Christopher Reeve in the title role with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. It was director Richard Donner’s fifth movie and was an origin story of Clark Kent, his upbringing in Smallville, and his rise to Superman. Some filming was done in Gallup and Church Rock.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
This movie was a follow-up to the 2008–2013 series Breaking Bad. The movie was written, directed, and produced by Vince Gilligan, and had Aaron Paul back in the role of Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s partner in meth-making. As Breaking Bad was a very New Mexico show, it is no surprise that some filming for the movie was done in Albuquerque.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
This western starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the title roles as two criminals who take part in several train robberies and must go on the run from the law. They decide to head to Bolivia to continue their crime spree. Other costars included Katharine Ross. Some filming was done in Chama and Taos.
This biopic starred Kurt Russell, Meryl Streep, and Cher. It was based on a 1981 book by Howard Kohn. The film is about Karen Silkwood and the mysterious circumstances that led to her death after she began exposing unsafe practices and radiation exposure at the plant she worked at. Some filming was done in Albuquerque and Los Alamos.
As you can see, there are quite a few different movies that have New Mexico to thank for their backgrounds. And they’re not even all just westerns! Whether it’s a musical, a sci-fi film, a road movie, or one of the many other different genres, New Mexico is a state that can do them all.