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.
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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."