Filmschauplätze in Arizona
© Unsplash/Marc Philips

Hollywood in the Grand Canyon State: the most famous movie locations in Arizona

Surreal desert landscapes in the south, coniferous forests in the north and in between pretty much everything nature can offer. No wonder the state so often serves as a backdrop.

12 August 2021

Huge saguaro forests rising into the bright blue sky. Route 66. The Grand Canyon. Monument Valley with its bright orange rock formations. What is spectacular not only in the eyes of locals and tourists, directors have long since discovered for themselves. Therefore, there are many film locations in Arizona, some of them even played a leading role in Hollywood blockbusters. If you want to follow in the footsteps of famous actors through the state, you should know these places and films:


One of the latest Hollywood productions in this regard is "Nomadland". The flick tells the story of a working nomad in the southwest of the USA. Film critics around the world showered praise and awards on the production by Chinese director Chloé Zhao. Two Golden Globes and three Oscars are among them. The small town of Quartzsite and its desert surroundings served as the filming location, among others.

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Easy Rider

In 1969, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) casually roared along the legendary Route 66 on their Harleys after smuggling cocaine from Mexico into the USA. The film, a classic road movie, represents not only the lifestyle of the late 1960s, but freedom, the American dream and independence in general. It also set the style for the entire genre and was one of the first films for which a soundtrack was composed. Route 66, originally a 3,945-kilometre highway between Chicago (Illinois) and Santa Monica/Los Angeles (California), runs through the state of Arizona, among other places. Here, particularly many sections of the old, original route are still preserved, which visitors can experience for themselves. Whether by car or Harley.

Mother Road attracts bikers from all over the world. © Unsplash/Morten Andreassen

Star Wars: Yuma 

In 1983, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Darth Vader returned to movie screens for the sixth episode of George Lucas' Star Wars saga. The sequel to "The Empire Strikes Back" was partly filmed in southwestern Arizona, more precisely in Yuma. Several scenes for "Return of the Jedi Knights" were shot here. None of the film locations in Arizona, but only a few meters from the border, located in California, were also the Buttercup Sand Dunes.

Historic Downtown and Prison National Park in Yuma are also worth a visit. © Yuma Visitor's Bureau

Back to the Future III: Monument Valley

In the north of the Grand Canyon State, the red, 300-million-year-old mesas form a contrast against the deep blue Arizona sky. Almost everyone has seen them before - perhaps also in the third part of the "Back to the Future" film series about Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), who races through time in his car, the Delorean. Among other places, he hits Monument Valley in 1885. In the film he is persecuted by indigenous peoples. In the Goulding's Lodge, film fans can see some original equipment from all the films that were shot in Monument Valley.

Fascinating, million-year-old rock formations await visitors. © Unsplash/Andrew Coelho

Transformers: Hoover Dam

Many scenes of the series around out-of-control giant robots were filmed at Universal Studios in Hollywood as well as in southern Mexico at Holloman Air Force Base and Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque. But also the imposing Hoover Dam can be seen. It forms the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada. It dams up the Colorado River to Lake Mead and can be visited. The Hoover Dam has the status of a National Historic Landmark.

Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1935. © Unsplash/Alan Thorpe

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