Although it was the 44th state to enter the Union, Wyoming is full of firsts: the first state to allow women to vote (hence its nickname, the Equality State); home of the first National Park in 1872 (Yellowstone) and the first national forest in 1891 (Shoshone); and Devils Tower was the nation’s first national monument in 1906.
Aside from Old Faithful and its regularity, the largest coal mine in the country lies in Wyoming as well as the largest living dune system in the Red Desert. And while Yellowstone National Park is of course a sight to behold, don’t forget about the majesty of Grand Teton National Park.
With so much history and so much natural splendor, it is not uncommon for a film crew to set up shop in the state. Here are some of the most famous and interesting movies that have had scenes done in the Cowboy State:
Movies filmed in Wyoming
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
This 20-year-spanning film about the relationship between two cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) was based on a 1997 short story by Annie Proulx. The film was set in Wyoming with filming location in Grand Teton National Park, although it was mostly shot in Canada. It won three Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee.
2 h 15 min | R
Starship Troopers (1997)
This sci-fi film about humans battling insects starred Casper Van Dien, Neil Patrick Harris, and Denise Richards. It was based on a 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlen. Filming locations included Hell’s Half Acre and Powder River. Two other live-action movies followed as well as two computer-animated ones.
2 h 9 min | R
Father and son (Bruce Dern and Will Forte) embark on a road trip from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a substantial sweepstakes prize. Supporting actors included Bob Odenkirk and June Squibb. The film was shot in various states, such as Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Buffalo in Wyoming.
1 h 54 min | R
Django Unchained (2012)
Director Quentin Tarantino’s eighth movie, this revisionist western had an all-star cast, including Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christoph Waltz, among others. With parts set in the Old West, filming locations included Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Waltz).
2 h 45 min | R
Bright Angel (1990)
Based upon Richard Ford’s short stories in his 1987 Rock Springs collection, this movie starred Dermot Mulroney and Lili Taylor as two Montana teenagers who abandon their families and head to Wyoming to get Taylor’s brother out of jail. Sam Shepard and Bill Pullman costarred. True to the storyline, scenes were done in Montana and also Wyoming.
1 h 33 min | R
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Director Steven Spielberg’s fifth film, this sci-fi movie starred Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, and Teri Garr. After Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) makes contact with a UFO, he becomes obsessed with learning more. Many different filming locations were used, such as Devils Tower National Monument and Black Hills National Forest.
2 h 14 min | PG
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Not only did Kevin Costner star in this western, but he also directed and produced it. This film about a Union Army lieutenant and his time spent with the Lakota tribe was based on Michael Blake’s 1988 book. Some locations were done in Jackson Hole. It won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Writing, and Film Editing.
3 h 1 min | PG-13
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Not to be confused with any of the many other Star Trek movies, this film was the first to follow after the 1960s TV show on NBC. It was also produced by series creator Gene Roddenberry and starred the original actors, such as William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock. Filming locations included Yellowstone National Park.
2 h 11 min | G
SLC Punk! (1998)
SLC stands for Salt Lake City which lies in Utah, this comedy-drama starring Matthew Lillard as a 1980s punk rock fan partying in his 20s, also had some scenes done in Evanston. Costars included Annabeth Gish, Devon Sawa, Summer Phoenix, and Jason Segel, in one of his first film roles.
1 h 37 min | R
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
Although based upon the real Lakota Sioux Chief Crazy Horse, this western starring Victor Mature, John Lund, and Suzan Ball was a fictionalized telling of important moments and events in his life. Filming locations included South Dakota and Wyoming.
1 h 26 min | ALL
The Vanishing (1993)
This thriller starred Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock as a young couple traveling by car for vacation. After a random stop at a gas station and an encounter with chemistry professor Barney Cousins (Jeff Bridges), their plans suddenly change. The movie was set in Washington state with locations done there as well as in Cody.
1h 49m | R
Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
While actor Clint Eastwood is known for westerns and action movies, this one was rather comedic. Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe is a trucker, a fighter, and a proud pet orangutan owner. Despite this change in roles, it was his most successful film, and spawned a 1980 sequel. Locations were done in several states, including Jackson, Wyoming.
1 h 54 min | PG
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
Although it lasted five seasons, avid fans always wanted more from the hit AMC drama, Breaking Bad. Five years after it ended, they got just that from this movie, which follows Jesse Pinkman after the events of the show. While a majority of the movie was done in Albuquerque, New Mexico, there were some scenes filmed in Wyoming as well.
2h 2m | 15+
This family-friendly movie about a girl and her special bond with a horse was based upon Mary O’Hara’s 1941 book, My Friend Flicka (although with an updated setting). The cast included Alison Lohman, Maria Bello, and Ryan Kwanten. True to the novel, the McLaughlins live in Wyoming, and filming for the movie was done in Sheridan.
1 h 34 min | PG
Spencer’s Mountain (1963)
Although the 1961 novel by Earl Hamner Jr. used the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, in this film, the Spencer family lives in the Grand Teton Mountains. So it’s no surprise that the film starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara was shot in Grand Teton National Park. The 1971-1982 TV show, The Waltons, was also based on this movie.
1 h 58 min | NR
Endangered Species (1982)
This sci-fi movie starred Robert Urich and JoBeth Williams as an ex-cop and sheriff who team up to investigate a string of strange cattle deaths, and also fall in love along the way. The film was set in Colorado with filming locations done there as well as Buffalo. Costars included Paul Dooley and Hoyt Axton.
1 h 36 min | R
Rocky IV (1985)
The fourth and most successful movie in the sports drama series about championship boxer Rocky Balboa took Stallone, Carl Weathers, Dolph Lundgren, and a host of others to the Soviet Union. But the film crew never actually went there, and instead used Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole to portray it.
1 h 31 min | PG
Although it’s the tenth-largest, Wyoming is actually the least populated of the 48 connected states. This might be one of the many reasons that it is chosen as a perfect setting for movies that call for a more natural and uninhabited setting.
And considering that the state has no plans to eliminate any of its open space and land, it’s sure to remain a great option for filmmakers for many to come.