Big and memorable cinematic productions have frequently graced the Navajo National – particularly Monument Valley, which, thanks to director John Ford, became the familiar backdrop for the American western genre. Yet Monument Valley isn’t only for dusty cowboy movies – it’s also appeared in science-fiction flicks, contemporary action movies, and even comedies. Here are 12 movies that filmed memorable scenes in the iconic Navajo landscape.
John Ford was a veteran director who had worked in many genres, but Stagecoach was the beginning of the career for which he is remembered. It was the first of 10 films Ford shot in Monument Valley, Ford’s first western since the introduction of sound in films, and featured John Wayne in his breakthrough role.
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE
Henry Fonds starred as Wyatt Earp in this Ford-directed western. The story is said to take place in and around Tombstone AZ, which is actually some 500 miles south of Monument Valley.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON
The structure used for the exterior of Captain Brittles’ headquarters is till standing; it was actually a storehouse for vegetables and is now part of the museum attached to Goulding’s Lodge. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon was another John Ford-John Wayne collaboration.
The only Western made by Ford during the ‘50s. The Searchers was named the greatest western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
John Ford was one of three directors who worked on this five-part epic. But, not ironically, the segment that used Monument Valley. Henry Hathaway shot that one; Ford helmed the chapter dedicated to the Civil War.
Billy (Dennis Hopper), Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and a hitchhiker cruise into Monument Valley at dusk, and spend the night in the ruins at Wapatke.
A SPACE ODYSSEY
When Dave (Keir Dullea) goes through the stargaze during the film’s enigmatic final segment “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite”, shots of Monument Valley (among other places) are used to create a triply extraterrestrial landscape.
THE EIGER SANCTION
Star/Director Clint Eastwood and co-star George Kennedy shot a memorable scene atop the “Totem Pole” rock formation – and were among the last people allowed on it. It’s now off limits to climbers.
NATIONAL LAMPOONS VACATION
Family man Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his brood are lost in the desert when he blows through a ROAD CLOSED sign and the family trickster launches off a ramp. “Dad, you must have jumped this thing about 50 yards!” his son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) says.
BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III
A full scale drive-in theater used in the movie was built solely for the filming, and demolished after the movie wrapped.
After a three year, coast to coast run, the character (played by Tom Hanks) stops running in Monument Valley leaving a pack of followers stranded and befuddled.
THE LONE RANGER (2013)
Johnny Depp…Tonto…bird on the head…perhaps you heard of it?
Set and produced in Albuquerque, the phenomenally popular AMC series “Breaking Bad”, which aired its final episode in September of 2013, has filmed on Indian territory numbers times. The most recent notable episode to feature Native land was “To’hajiilee”. The episode was shot in an area of the same name that is a non-contiguous part of the Navajo Nation.
Goulding’s Monument Valley Campground & RV Park
A perfect location to park the RV and explore Monument Valley and relive some of your favorite movie moments.