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Top 10 list of Colorado movies a ten-cent ticket fee didn't subsidize

"The Searchers."
"The Searchers."

The Colorado legislature just nixed a plan to tack a ten-cent fee onto movie tickets, money that would have been used to provide financial incentives for film companies that want to make movies in this state. As revised, the bill would now ask for donations from movie-goers -- a good idea, because no one wants to be forced to finance films like The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox or another round of Perry Mason movies.

Although other Western states -- most notably New Mexico and Utah -- have ramped up their economic efforts to attract movies, the Colorado Film Commission's incentive program has little to work with. Besides talented crews who live here because they love it, and incredible scenery. And that's been enough to get some great movies made here. Here's Westword's top ten list of movies filmed in Colorado, compiled when the American Film Institute came up with its 100 greatest films four years ago (and not including local independents):

1. The Searchers (1956)

Starring: John Wayne; directed by John Ford

Location: Aspen and Gunnison

Notes: Number 12 on the AFI list.

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Starring: Paul Newman and Robert Redford

Location: Durango and Silverton; train heists were filmed on the D&RG narrow gauge railroad

Notes: Number 50 on the AFI list; won four Oscars.

3. The Shining (1980)

Starring: Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall; directed by Stanley Kubrick based on a Stephen King novel

Location: Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

Notes: Despite myth, most of the movie was shot in the U.K. The Stanley Hotel stood in for a few exterior shots; the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, was the interior.

4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)

Starring: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Location: Glenwood Springs

Notes: Nicole Kidman was originally tapped to play Mrs. Smith.

5. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt, Harvey Keitel

Location: Unaweep Canyon, Route 141 outside of Gateway

Notes: George Clooney auditioned five times for the role of J.D., but it eventually went to Pitt.

6. Sleeper (1973)

Starring: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Location: What's now known as the Sleeper House on Genesee Mountain, Denver Botanic Gardens, Church of the Risen Christ on Monaco Parkway, former Currigan Hall.

7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Starring: Harrison Ford and Sean Connery

Location: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad running between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico

Notes: Won an Oscar.

8. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Starring: Bruce Willis and William Sadler

Location: Stapleton International Airport (doubling for Dulles International Airport in D.C.), Breckenridge and Highland Lake Church in Mead.

9. Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)

Starring: Andy Garcia, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd

Location: Five Points in Denver, particularly the Rossonian Hotel and the Casino Cabaret, now Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom

Notes: Title is taken from a Warren Zevon song.

10. True Grit (1969)

Starring: John Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall

Location: Canon City, Castle Rock, Gunnison

Notes: John Wayne won his best acting Oscar for True Grit.

Honorable mention:

1. Every Which Way But Loose (1978)

Locations: Aurora, Denver, Georgetown

Notes: Right turn, Clyde. Tough, tough choice between this and True Grit for the last spot on the top ten list.

2. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Locations: Alamosa and Durango

Notes: You have to love the Griswolds. You just have to.

3. Independence Day (1996)

Locations: Colorado Springs

Notes: Won an Oscar for best effects. And seriously, anything that blows up that much shit has got to be good.

4. Vanishing Point (1971)

Locations: Denver, Glenwood Springs and Rifle

Note: One hot Dodge Challenger scores it a higher position that it would have received otherwise.

5. City Slickers (1991)

Location: Destination Ranch outside of Durango

Notes: Jack Palance won a best supporting actor Oscar for City Slickers.

6. Silver City (2004)

Location: Denver, Leadville, Sedalia, Idaho Springs

Notes: I made a guest appearance as a reporter in this John Sayles film, which was shot exclusively in Colorado -- with no incentives at all.

7. Catch and Release (2006)

Locations: Pearl Street Mall and across Boulder

Notes: It has Jennifer Garner. That's enough to set this awful film above the rest of the dreck -- but not by much.

8. Cliffhanger

Note: Although most of this was shot in Italy, the aerial photography during the hijack was set over the Rockies, around Durango.

9 About Schmidt (2002)

Locations: Denver and Boulder

Notes: Jack Nicholson's second appearance on this list.

10. Dumb & Dumber (1994)

Locations: Aspen, Estes Park, Copper Mountain, Stanley Hotel, Stapleton International Airport, Breckenridge

Notes: That we even have to acknowledge this film is disconcerting.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Gary Coleman's short -- very -- time as a Denver celebrity."


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