The Beehive State, while known for being a mecca for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or more simply, Mormons (about 60 percent of the state follows this religion), is unique and special for lots of other reasons besides that.
The name itself links back to the Ute Native American tribe and translates to “people of the mountains.” And due to its central location and three substantial land areas (Basin and Ridge Region, Rocky Mountains, and Colorado Plateau), it is frequently known as the “Crossroads of the West.”
Its capital, Salt Lake City, is named after the Great Salt Lake, which at 1700 square miles, happens to be the largest lake you can find west of the Mississippi. And its water is four times saltier than any ocean you can find in all the world. Antelope State Park is a wildly popular destination for recreating at the lake.
While Utah may not exactly scream “skiing” to you at first glance (it does, after all, rank number two as the driest state in the country), you’d be very mistaken to count it out as a snow adventure destination. Cottonwood Canyon, located just outside Salt Lake City, gets about 500 inches of snow every year.
And geographically, it’s a nature lovers paradise. There’s the unique rock formation in Kanab known as “The Wave”. And Brigham Canyon, the world’s biggest open mine pit. And of course the “Big Five” National Parks: Zion, Canyonland, Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef, which amount to a very impressive amount of land to explore and make use of.
Filmmakers come to Utah to take advantage of the state’s natural beauty. See below for some of the most famous that have had scenes done in the 45th state to join the union:
Movies filmed in the State of Utah
High School Musical (2006)
Actor Zac Efron’s first movie role, this musical TV movie was the first of three in this series. Similar to Romeo & Juliet, Efron and Vanessa Hudgens play two teens, or “star-crossed lovers”, trying to get parts in their high school musical. A majority of the film was done in Salt Lake City and Murray.
1 h 37 min | ALL
In Old Arizona (1928)
While completely common now, this western was the first ever to not only have sound but to be filmed outdoors. It was based on a character from a 1907 story by O. Henry. Filming locations took place in California as well as two National Parks in Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Warner Baxter won a Best Actor Oscar.
1 h 38 min | NR
Ski Patrol (1990)
This comedy starred some of the biggest comedians of the time, including Paul Feig, Leslie Jordan, George Lopez, and Martin Mull. When a developer tries to tear down a long-running ski lodge to replace it with a resort, the ski patrol team swoops in to thwart it. The movie was set in Utah, with scenes done in Park City and Snowbird.
1 h 32 min | ALL
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Movie number six in the long-running horror film franchise, this one brought back Donald Pleasence as Dr. Samuel Loomis and added Paul Rudd. And as he has so many times before, Michael stalks the Strode family; except this time it’s Laurie’s cousins. Filming locations included Salt Lake City, Rush Valley, and Cottonwood Heights.
1 h 28 min | R
Galaxy Quest (1999)
This sci-fi parody was about a bunch of sci-fi actors who suddenly find themselves needing to play their fictional parts in real life when they are met with actual aliens. Main actors included Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Alan Rickman. Some scenes were done at Goblin Valley State Park in Green River.
1 h 42 min | PG
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Whitney Houston’s second movie, this romance was also actor Forest Whitaker’s first directed film. It was based on Terry McMillan’s 1992 novel about a group of friends and the ups and downs of maintaining platonic and romantic relationships. While the movie was set in Phoenix, some scenes were shot in Monument Valley.
2 h 3 min | R
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Marty McFly and Doc take one final trip back again; this time to the old west in 1885. The film took place directly after the second movie, and Marty must save Doc before one of Biff’s ancestors kills him. It was the least successful movie of the trilogy. Scenes were done in California and Arizona as well as Monument Valley.
1 h 58 min | PG
Based upon an actual town in Oklahoma that banned dancing, this drama put Kevin Bacon’s dance moves on the map. While the film was set in a fictional town in Utah, filming was done in the real cities of Payson, American Fork, Orem, Springville, Vineyard, and others. Bacon’s costars included John Lithgow, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Chris Penn.
1 h 47 min | PG
Another Chevy Chase 1980s hit, this one cast him as a reporter for the LA Times, who while working undercover, is hired to kill a man. It is based on the series of novels by Gregory Mcdonald. The film is set in California and filming locations included Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, and Orem. A sequel was released in 1989.
1 h 38 min | PG
Thelma and Louise (1991)
When Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) end up involved in a murder, the two set out on a road trip to run from the law, taking them from Arkansas to the Grand Canyon. Filming locations did not include Arkansas or Arizona, but instead California and several parts of Utah, such as Moab and Arches National Park.
2 h 9 min | R
Better Off Dead (1985)
This comedy centers around Lane Myer (John Cusack in his fifth role) who finds himself down in the dumps after his girlfriend breaks up with him. But the film might be most famously known for actor Demian Slade’s “I want my two dollars!” threats. The story is set in California and had scenes done in Alta, Brighton, Holladay, and Snowbird.
1h 37m | 15+
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Instead of taking his kids to someplace exotic like Hawaii, Clark Griswold packs his wife and children into his Family Truckster to head from Chicago to California to go to Wally World, an amusement park. Considering its road trip storyline, shots were done in many states, including Monument Valley.
1 h 38 min | R
Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Oh, behave! The third installment in the spy comedy series parodying James Bond, this film brought back Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, and Fat Bastard, with the addition of Goldmember, all played by Mike Myers. It was also Beyonce’s first film role as Foxxy Cleopatra. The movie had locations in several places, including Moab.
1 h 34 min | PG-13
Grand Canyon (1991)
This drama about life-changing events and how they specifically alter the lives of a group of friends had an ensemble cast that included Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, and Steve Martin, among others. Lawrence Kasdan, known for 1983’s The Big Chill, wrote and produced this movie. Most of it was shot in California, with some scenes done in Ivins.
2 h 14 min | R
The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is back in this sequel to 1984’s Romancing the Stone. And for this adventure, she is once again joined by Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) and Ralph (Danny DeVito). The main action takes place in North Africa, but some filming was done in Utah at Zion National Park.
1 h 45 min | PG
Joy Ride (2001)
While Lewis (Paul Walker) and Fuller (Steve Zahn) think they are just pulling a fun prank on “Rusty Nail” with their CB radio, it turns out to be extremely far from just that. This horror movie was written by J.J. Abrams and had scenes done in several states such as Nevada, California, and Grantsville, Delle, and Skull Valley in Utah.
1 h 37 min | R
In terms of the number of movies, Utah is certainly not Hollywood, or Georgia, or even New York, for that matter, Utah is one of those states whose surroundings and features are chosen more often than not for movie settings.