With its diverse geography, range of rural and urban settings, and proximity to Hollywood, Utah has long been a favorite filming location. Although Southern Utah and Salt Lake City get the most screen time, Utah Valley has seen its fair share of productions. From big-budget classics to small independents, here are 10 movies set everywhere from Boulder to Belgium whose backdrops you may recognize close to home.
This weekend Utah filmmakers will celebrate the films made in Utah at the Filmed in Utah Awards. Before recognizing the recent films shot in Utah, Derek Mellus at the Utah Film Commission and Warren Workman of the Filmed in Utah Awards helped us take a look at the eight of the higher-profile Utah-filmed movies from the past.
1. “Footloose” (1984)
Arguably the most famous movie shot in Utah Valley, the 1980s classic uses several towns to double for rural Bomont. In the film, Chicago native Ren, played by Kevin Bacon, struggles to adjust to life in a small, religious town where rock music and dancing are banned. Ren’s nemesis, the Rev. Moore, led his flock at what’s really the Community Presbyterian Church in American Fork.
Payson provided the backdrop for several scenes. While trying to prove his rural street cred, Ren plays chicken while behind the wheel of a tractor along the road that parallels the canal from Payson to Salem — and according to one online source, the struggle faced by the loser trying to get out of the canal was real.
When Ren’s not fighting to repeal the town’s dance ban, he works at a flour mill, with scenes shot at Lehi Roller Mills. Ren’s angst-ridden dance/gymnastics scene at the mill was filmed at Geneva Steel Mill in Orem instead, though, and the dance that’s set in the mill actually took place at Osmond Studios in Orem.
2. “Darling Companion” (2012)
What do you do when your husband loses the dog who you love more than anything? Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline spend lots of time searching for their missing dog, Freeway, in and around American Fork Canyon and Sundance in the film, which doubles for the family’s country cabin in the High Rockies of Colorado.
3. “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972)
This Sydney Pollack-directed western about a mountain man was filmed predominantly in star Robert Redford’s backyard around Sundance and the Alpine Loop in Provo and American Fork canyons, among nearly 100 locations across Utah. The gorgeous scenery came at the insistence of Pollack and Redford, who fought against studio executives’ decision to constrain filming to its backlot.
4. “Savannah Smiles” (1983)
In this sweet family feature (and possible Girl Scout Cookie namesake), a 6-year-old girl named Savannah tires of being ignored by her politician father and decides to run away by hiding in the car of two escaped convicts who end up becoming father figures to the lonely girl. Savannah gets lost in the mountains, with scenes shot in Spanish Fork Canyon. Provo Canyon’s Bridal Veil Falls is also easily recognizable, including its now-defunct aerial tram.
5. “The Stand” (1994)
The post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy miniseries of Stephen King’s novel tells the tale of survivors from a pandemic who gather into two groups — one in Boulder, Colorado, led by a woman they see as the embodiment of good, and one in Las Vegas, led by the embodiment of evil. Several Utah Valley locations doubled for Boulder, including Provo Canyon, Orem, Sundance, Lehi (by where the Micron campus stands today) and Pleasant Grove. Osmond Studios in Orem served for much of the indoor shots. Easily recognizable is the Olmstead Station Power House in Provo Canyon.
6. “The Devil’s Brigade” (1968)
The classic World War II film starring William Holden, Cliff Robertson, and a slew of recognizable actors tells the true story of a special fighting unit of Canadian Army and U.S. Army soldiers whose initial hate for each other turns to respect and camaraderie that helps them succeed in an impossible mission. Camp Williams in Lehi took the place of Fort William Henry Harrison near Helena, Montana. According to the DVD case, 300 members of the Utah National Guard played soldiers in the mass battle scenes filmed in the Wasatch Mountains.
7. “Saints and Soldiers” (2003), “Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed” (2012) and “Saints and Soldiers: The Void” (2014)
All three of the franchise’s religious-themed World War II films use Highland, Alpine, and American Fork Canyon as Belgium, France, and Germany, respectively. Heavily used is Fort Canyon, outside of Alpine; the location is a common one for other war films as well. The popular Olmstead Station Power House in Provo Canyon was used extensively as well, including serving as the prisoner of war camp in “Saints and Soldiers: The Void.” The 1940s Craftsman-style caretaker residence there served as the setting for a flashback scene in “Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed.”
8. “The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd” (2000)
The small, southern Utah Valley town of Goshen is the filming location of choice for many productions filmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including “The Testaments,” to double for the Holy Land. Goshen’s location at the southern end of Utah Lake makes it ideal to capture scenes placed at the Sea of Galilee. Sets created for the church’s productions also help bring Jerusalem close to home.
The Filmed in Utah Awards is taking place Saturday, March 21, at the Covey Center in Provo. While the award show is already sold out, people can watch it live on YouTube.