As the folks at the Colorado Film Commission will tell you, our fair state offers an incredible variety of potential movie locations: mountains, deserts, farmland, big cities, little towns and so on. And even though we don't offer Hollywood types — many of whom spend their leisure time at such tony resorts as Aspen and Vail — nearly as much in the way of economic incentives for filming here, colorful Colorado still shows up in numerous projects. Some of these films have been wonderful, while others were dreadful to a degree that's hard to calculate, let alone forgive. The following tour of a dozen cinematic settings stretches to both extremes.
And now, without further ado...action!
6896 Weld CR 5, Mead
The old Stapleton Airport lives on in 1990's Die Hard 2, the okay-but-not-great sequel to the 1988 favorite starring Bruce Willis as tough-talking hero John McClane; it briefly substitutes for Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. But a much more memorable scene takes place at historic Highlandlake Church near Mead, between Longmont and Loveland. "A facade was built on the church to make the front look like the back," notes location scout Greg Babcock. "There was a big machine-gun fight, and Bruce stabs the bad guy in the eye with an icicle." That's entertainment!
Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway
1193 Fremont County Road 3A, Cañon City
Buckskin Joe's, an Old West setup southwest of Colorado Springs, turns up in plenty of flicks, among them 1965's Cat Ballou and 1969's True Grit. But our favorite is Mr. Majestyk, a 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle (based on a novel by Elmore Leonard) that Matt Chasansky, curator of exhibits for the Aurora History Museum, calls "the best crime film ever about a cantaloupe farmer." Amen to that, brother.
Ramada Inn Downtown
1150 East Colfax Avenue
Much of About Schmidt, director Alexander Payne's fine 2002 character study starring Jack Nicholson, revolves around Denver. Unfortunately, the filming primarily took place in Omaha, Payne's preferred headquarters, and it shows. In one scene that's supposed to be Denver-based, a car in the background sports Nebraska license plates. Still, one local establishment gets its share of screen time: the Ramada Inn Downtown, known to many a musician as the Rockmada. A wedding supposedly happens at the joint, which has certainly seen its share of bliss, happily wedded and otherwise.
1165 13th Street, Boulder
Along with the Pearl Street Mall, the venerable Sink is among the Boulder locations seen in the 2006 Jennifer Garner stinker Catch and Release. Anyone who caught it no doubt wishes it had never been released.
Interstate 70, near Exit 116
While Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a 2005 Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie hit, gives viewers a glimpse or two of the natural wonder that is Glenwood Canyon, the 1971 drive-in classic Vanishing Point provides a considerably longer look. Speed freak Kowalski (Barry Newman) is charged with piloting a souped-up Dodge Charger from Denver to San Francisco, but when he arrives at the canyon, two motorcycle cops try to pull him over, and mayhem ensues. Bad idea, officers.
1850 West 89th Avenue, Federal Heights
And who thought it would be a good idea to set 2006's The Surfer King in Colorado, a landlocked state? Writer-director Bernard Murray Jr., who reportedly based some of his script on anecdotes collected by former Water World employees (his sons). But if Murray also thought the presence of such acting legends as Lindsay "The Bionic Woman" Wagner and Alan "Growing Pains" Thicke would help the film make a splash, he was all wet.
333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park
The spectacular Stanley Hotel is most associated with Stanley Kubrick's indelible 1980 version of author Stephen King's The Shining, even though none of the film was shot there. (The 1997 miniseries version was.) But the Estes Park landmark plays a more substantial role in a movie that was a bigger smash, if a considerably less pedigreed one: 1994's Dumb and Dumber, starring Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as a couple of idiots. You'd think the Stanley would attract a better class of guest.
2500 East First Avenue
A misbegotten, quasi-fictionalization of an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe J.R. Moehringer, 2007's Resurrecting the Champ co-stars mannequin-like Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson, who seems to be under the impression that the movie can be saved. No chance — especially not with a cameo by John Elway, who appears in a scene in his namesake restaurant that's memorable mainly for its awkwardness. Talk about being thrown for a loss.
The Sculptured House
24501 Ski Hill Drive, Golden
The 1973 futuristic comedy Sleeper, from writer-director Woody Allen's early, funny period, may be the most hilarious movie partly made in Colorado — although aficionados of Ladybugs, a 1992 Rodney Dangerfield catastrophe, may disagree. But it's undeniable that the clamshell abode Allen helped make famous has become a landmark for generations of I-70 commuters. And it can be yours: An online notice advertises its price at $7.95 million. Get that checkbook ready.
3317 East Colfax Avenue
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, a 1995 offering populated by the likes of Andy Garcia and Christopher Lloyd, is an erratic affair. But it's got a great title, courtesy of the late Warren Zevon, and shows off plenty of vivid Mile High City attractions — not just the Bluebird, but also the Rossonian Hotel and the Casino Cabaret, which 21st-century hippies now know as Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom.
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Hotel de Paris
409 6th Street, Georgetown
The historic Hotel de Paris was among the Georgetown-area sites temporarily begrimed by 1998's Phantoms, a tepid adaptation of a Dean Koontz shocker featuring Ben Affleck. Clint Eastwood did better by the community with 1978's Every Which Way But Loose, which also shot in several locations along Colfax. The final face-off between Clint and a motorcycle gang was staged in the middle of Georgetown, with an actor named Clyde proving to be every inch Affleck's equal as a thespian. Oh, yeah: Clyde was an orangutan.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
28194 U.S. Highway 6, Keystone
Colorado ski areas have ranged across many a movie. Who can forget Snowball Express, a 1972 Walt Disney production fronted by Dean Jones? (Okay, pretty much everyone.) Still, none of these hits the heights of Arapahoe Basin. Location manager Brooke Johnson points out that an A-Basin peak posed as Mount Everest in 2007's The Bucket List, which also starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. That's a mighty big performance.