Thanks for tuning in to 7 Things Arizona, “Movies Featuring Arizona”. Dating back to the beginning of show business, Arizona has been featured in movies ranging from blockbuster westerns to desert thrillers. Here are seven we definitely feel earned the right to be on the list.
1 – Raising Arizona is the predictable opening act to our list. This wacky comedy beyond belief starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, made its debut in the US in 1987. When an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to another family’s baby, their lives become a bit more complicated. Throw in a bad-ass ugly turd on a Harley, and the Coen brothers creativity, you find yourself getting nominated for awards. That’s right, Nick Cage, Holly Hunter, and the Coen brothers were all nominated for a variety of awards from screenplays to acting. Arizona takes center stage in this 80’s cult comedy featuring everywhere from Superior, Tempe, Scottsdale, Florence, Camelback Mountain, and even Sun Devil Stadium. IMDB gives this flick a 7.3 out of 10, and that’s about where I stand as well. If you consider yourself a movie buff, you have no excuse for leaving this classic off your must-see list.
2 – A balance of comedy and drama, 2011’s Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell brings us to number two on our list. Phoenix’s well-known neighborhood Arcadia is featured front and center in this pic based on Raymond Carver’s short story “Why Don’t You Dance?” Now, you might be thinking “Will Ferrell, in a drama? Sure.” but I think you’d be pleasantly surprised that the answer is “Yes, Will Ferrell in a drama. More please.” Everything Must Go depicts an alcoholic character living the aftermath of a bad day where he gets fired, then comes home to find his wife ditched him too AND she moved all of his stuff to the front lawn. Ouch. Our character, Nick Halsey just goes with the flow by living and drinking beer on the front lawn amongst his stuff. Eventually, he discovers the path to letting go and moving on with his life, with the help of some kind neighbors who turn his new front yard living room into a yard sale. Everything Must Go….Lost is a good place to find yourself.
3 – Alright, let’s head on up to Snowflake, Arizona. That’s pine country, with remarkably clear night skies. So clear in fact, you apparently can’t see a UFO conducting “Operation Sneak Attack”. Go back to 1975 and take a look at what Travis Walton claimed happened to him on the night of November 5th of that year. The film is called “Fire In The Sky”, and it’s based on true events as portrayed by Travis and his colleagues. Although I won’t be providing any spoilers with this one, I will say the story is deeply chilling and absolutely makes you stop, think, and look up. D.B. Sweeney plays the role of Travis Walton as this film easily places Arizona as an alien abduction hot spot. “Fire In The Sky” was originally released in 1993, but you can watch a documentary released in 2015 on Amazon Video called “Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton”.
4 – Wilderness, self-discovery, adventure, survival, and mystery are a few adjectives to describe number four on our list…“Into the Wild”. The 2007 biographical film adaption of the book by Jon Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless’s hiking and traveling adventures around the country to Alaska in the early ’90s. Okay, since I’m not into spoilers I’m just gonna leave it to you to discover the rest of the story. (Yes, I know it’s a true story from a book written nearly 25 years ago and the movie has been out for 13 years) That being said, I will tell you that Arizona’s Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon are beautifully featured in this film. Bonus, director Sean Penn insisted on filming at each actual location or close to the locations McCandless traveled to. So not only are we able to experience other state’s gorgeous landscapes, like the Alaskan wilderness but, filming on location enhanced the overall authentic feel and I personally think elevated the actors’ performances. Thumbs up to that.
5 – In my humble opinion, one of the greatest westerns of all-time is called “Tombstone”. You guessed it, the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona lays claim to the most famous shoot-out in Western-American history. This iconic film released in 1993, features Wyatt Earp and his brothers as they set up shop in Tombstone. Oh yeah, there’s another bad mammajamma called Doc Holiday that rides into town to steal the show. On a couple of occasions, Doc casually drops…hands-down the best one-liner in movie history. “I’m your huckleberry.” That means game over son.
6 – Number six on our list brings us to some always welcomed comic relief. Traveling back to the Griswald’s 1983 infamous family truckster road trip from the suburbs of Chicago to California’s Wally World. You guessed it, National Lampoon’s Vacation made our list of movies featuring the great state of Arizona. Even 37 years after it’s debut, I’m sure you can’t deny coming across this cinematic treasure while channel surfing and stopping to watch. (Yes, I said channel surfing, it’s still a thing!) Anyhow, Arizona actually made several significant appearances during this epic journey of mishaps across the good ole US of A. 1. Who can forget the loaded up green and wood paneled station wagon plowing through the roadblock sign, flying through the air and crash landing somewhere off road in Monument Valley? Followed by Clark’s heroic trek across the relentless desert landscape for help. 2. Then of course there’s the iconic scene of the family taking in the splendor and majesty of the Grand Canyon…only to be rushed by Clark since he just robbed the hotel clerk. 3. And then there’s the quote “delivery” of Aunt Edna to her son Norman’s house in Phoenix…probably one of the most funny and disturbing scenes of all time. “She’s a beaut Clark”.
7 – I’m not gonna sugarcoat this one, the last film on our list was hard to get through. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was well done with terrific actors, action, and screenplay. But it was also an eye-opening hard to swallow “I’m-Gonna-Kick-Your-Ass” movie. Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, “Only The Brave” ranks as one of Arizona’s greatest feature films. It’s just heart-wrenching that it actually took place. This heroic film was released in 2017, starring Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, and Jennifer Connelly. Prescott, Arizona took the stage in this story about brotherhood, sacrifice, and the heroes that stand between all of us…and the front line of wildfires. Director Joseph Kosinski showed off his uncompromising visual style and brought wildfires to life, unlike any feature film I can recall. The movie is called “Only The Brave”. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks for watching 7 Things Arizona, a World Of Arizona Video series. See you next time, and remember, more information on all 7 Things can be found at worldofarizona.com.