Best of Denver

The Ten Best Movies Set in Colorado but Filmed Elsewhere

Orson Welles co-wrote, directed and starred in Citizen Kane.
Orson Welles co-wrote, directed and starred in Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane
With all of Colorado ordered to stay home, we're celebrating some of the iconic films made in Colorado, or made about Colorado, many of which you can enjoy in the privacy of your home. After unreeling the best movies made in the state, here are the ten best movies about Colorado that were all made somewhere else:

Citizen Kane (1941)
Filming locations: New York, California

Decades-old spoiler alert: “Rosebud,” the last word that millionaire newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (director/co-writer/star Orson Welles) vocalizes before shuffling off this mortal coil, is a sled. But what most people forget is that this plaything symbolizes his early years in Colorado, before gold was found on the family’s property — a discovery that ended an innocence Kane still yearns for long after it’s been shattered.

Harvey (1950)
Filming location: California

The story of Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart), a man whose best friend is a human-sized invisible rabbit, comes by its Colorado roots honestly: Mary Chase, who wrote the play of the same name on which the movie is based, graduated from West High School in Denver and later attended both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado Boulder.

The Long, Long Trailer (1953)
Filming location: California

A not terribly successful effort to turn first-couple-of-television Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz into movie draws, The Long, Long Trailer is a road-trip comedy that depicts the pair’s honeymoon nearly crashing during a drive through the mountains of Colorado. Since then, plenty of other films have made fictional treks through this state without crews ever setting foot here.

Support Your Local Sheriff
Filming location: California

One of the most entertaining movies made by actor James Garner, Support Your Local Sheriff takes place in the town of Calendar, Colorado. Since no such town exists, we’re guessing that the filmmakers simply gave up looking for it after a while and decided to take a shot at reproducing it on a Hollywood back lot.

5 Card Stud (1968)
Filming location: Mexico

Unlike Calendar, Colorado, there actually is a Rincon — but it turns out to be a region of New Mexico, not a town 100 miles from Denver, where 5 Card Stud takes place. The only real-life connection between Colorado and this revenge drama, in which Robert Mitchum and Dean Martin are among the principals in a narrative about lethal retribution for the lynching of a man allegedly caught cheating at poker, is that it played in local theaters.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Filming location: Utah

In one of his best roles, Robert Redford plays a Colorado mountain man who commemorated his victories over Native Americans bent on wiping him off the face of the Earth by slaying them and eating their livers. Redford famously attended the University of Colorado Boulder, but he fell in love with Utah, which served as a setting stand-in. At least it wasn’t California.

Red Dawn (1984)
Filming location: New Mexico

The Internet Movie Database description of Red Dawn’s plot begins: “From out of the sky, Soviet, Nicaraguan and Cuban troops begin landing on the football field of a Colorado high school.” But the plucky group of teens who battled these ferociously stereotypical enemies, portrayed by the likes of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Gray and C. Thomas Howell, aided by Powers Boothe and Harry Dean Stanton, didn’t get any closer to Colorado than New Mexico, a state that continues to attract more than its share of movie-production revenue.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts