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February 22, 2016NPF Blog
— Rip Rippey, Share the Experience
Iconic National Park Settings in Famous Movies

Some of Hollywood's biggest movies have relied on the incredible (and sometimes otherworldly… looking at you “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) landscapes of our national parks to help create the perfect setting – from modern blockbusters all the way back to the silent film era. In honor of awards season, here are some of the most famous movie scenes shot in national parks. Even the best movie buffs might not know some of these!

“Rocky IV” (1985)

A couple of old wooden buildings in front of the granite mountains of the Teton Range
National Park Service

The fourth installment in the “Rocky” franchise includes one of the great training scene montages of all time. Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa chops wood, heaves rocks, and sprints through the snowy Russian countryside while his nemesis Ivan Drago (Dolf Lundgren) trains in a high-tech gym that looks more like a mad scientist's lab.

We all know how the fight turned out, but what you might not know is that Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park served as a stand-in for rural Russia in those outdoor training scenes. It might not be as famous a location as the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps from the original “Rocky,” but you can visit the park any time and run around to your heart's content without the locals looking at you like you're off your rocker.

“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997)

Ray of sun cutting through the trees lighting up green ferns at Redwood National Park
Sankar Salvady, Share the Experience

Stephen Spielberg and his cohorts needed a prehistoric forest for the second “Jurassic Park” film, and they found one in present-day Northern California. When you visit Redwood National Park, it's not hard to imagine a herd of triceratops or a pack of velociraptors emerging from under some of the world's tallest (and oldest) trees. You might even catch a glimpse of Jeff Goldblum in his natural habitat.

Fun fact: “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” is far from the only movie filmed at Redwood National Park. Spielberg had previously filmed scenes from “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” there in 1982, and George Lucas transformed the redwoods into the forested Ewok world in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)

River running through the valley in the canyon of Zion National Park
Edel Mohr, Share the Experience

National parks in the western states preserve such a wealth of great scenery that it's no surprise a lot of western movies have been filmed in parks throughout California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Even today, seeing a gang of outlaws being filmed as they come riding out of the desert wouldn’t seem too out of place.

In the case of Robert Redford and Paul Newman's “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” much of the film's stunning cinematography comes courtesy of Zion National Park. The park’s wild landscape of sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons, arid grasslands, and pinyon forest provided a classic western backdrop as the film's two antiheroes fled the law.

“Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope” (1977)

The yellow sand dunes of Death Valley National Park
Jonathan Baskin, Share the Experience

Perhaps no park has served as a backdrop to more films than California's Death Valley National Park National Park. The parched desert landscape has hosted dozens of movies over the decades, from “Spartacus” to “American Vacation,” but by far the park's most famous role was in “Star Wars: A New Hope” in 1977.

While many of the movie's desert scenes were filmed abroad in Tunisia, several key moments and transitional shots took place in Death Valley. Visit Mesquite Flats, where R2-D2 and C-3PO had their spat after crashing on Tatooine, or the Artist's Palette area, where R2-D2 was kidnapped by Jawas.

Have your own motion picture moment by getting out there to #FindYourPark this award season. 

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