Exploring the Filming Locations of When Calls the Heart

Hallmark Channel has renewed the network’s original, primetime drama series When Calls the Heart for a tenth season

When Calls the Heart is a popular television series set in the early 20th century Canadian West. The show follows the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a young teacher from a wealthy Eastern family who moves to Coal Valley (now known as Hope Valley) to start her new life.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As viewers follow Elizabeth on her journey, they are also taken on a virtual tour of some of the most beautiful and historic locations found in Canada. From breathtaking mountain views to quaint town squares, the series’s filming locations provide an unforgettable backdrop for the show.

In this article, I will explore the various filming locations used in When Calls the Heart including both interior and exterior locations as well as uncover some of the hidden secrets behind these beautiful places.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When Calls the Heart returns for a season 10

Back in June 2022, fans of the Hallmark show When Calls the Heart were thrilled to hear the news that the long-running series inspired by Janette Oke’s book of the same name is officially returning for a season 10.

No specific date has been confirmed for the release of season 10 but according to Deadline fans can expect to see more of Hope Valley sometime in the middle of 2023. That said, filming kicked off this past July and recently wrapped up in November, so When Calls the Heart season 10 could arrive in February, similar to previous installments.

>> Read Next: Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

No other significant changes have been announced scheduling-wise so it is safe to assume that fans can still expect new episodes to be released every Sunday at 8 pm. ET on the Hallmark Channel and like in seasons past, it will probably be 12 episodes-long—one of which will be the 100th episode!

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Comparing the exterior and interior filming locations of When Calls the Heart

The exterior filming locations for When Calls the Heart are all located in Canada. The series primarily shoots in Vancouver, British Columbia although other locations have been used including Langley and Victoria. The breathtaking mountain views and lush forests featured in the show are all real-life locations found throughout Western Canada.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interior filming locations, on the other hand, are chosen based on the specific needs of each episode. The production team looks for locations that are large enough to accommodate the cast and crew as well as having the necessary amenities such as dressing rooms and bathrooms. Most of the interior locations used in the show are sound stages located in Vancouver. However, other interior locations have been used including a schoolhouse in Langley and a homestead in Abbotsford.

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Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring the picturesque Canadian towns that serve as the backdrop for When Calls the Heart

The small towns featured in When Calls the Heart are all based on real-life Canadian towns. The main setting of the show is Coal Valley which is based on the real-life town of Hope, British Columbia. Other towns featured in the show include Fort Langley and Langley City. All these towns offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests as well as a glimpse into the past. Each town has its own unique charm, with cozy cafes, charming boutiques, and historic buildings.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Touring the on-location sites of When Calls the Heart

In addition to the towns featured in the show, When Calls the Heart also visits a variety of on-location sites. These locations range from mountain trails to homesteads and even a farm. One of the most iconic sites visited in the show is the Fraser River Railway Bridge which was built in 1884 and is still standing today. This bridge is featured in many episodes of the show and provides a stunning backdrop for the scenes.

Fort Langley National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Uncovering the real-life history behind the When Calls the Heart filming locations

The filming locations used in When Calls the Heart not only provide a picturesque backdrop for the show but they also tell the story of the people who lived there before. The towns featured in the show were once bustling communities filled with miners, farmers, and merchants. The buildings and landmarks seen in the show are reminders of a bygone era and serve to bring the stories of these forgotten people to life.

>> Read Next: Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show has also had an impact on the real-life towns featured in it. Tourists from all over the world come to visit these locations hoping to get a glimpse into the world of When Calls the Heart. Many of the businesses in the towns have benefited from the influx of tourists and the towns themselves have become more popular destinations.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Revealing the secrets of the When Calls the Heart filming locations

The production team behind When Calls the Heart takes great care to ensure that the sets look authentic. Every detail is meticulously planned out from the costumes to the props. For example, the show has recreated an old-fashioned saloon, complete with vintage furniture and décor. Even the food served in the saloon is made according to recipes from the era.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The attention to detail can also be seen in the exterior locations used in the show. The Fraser River Railway Bridge, for example, is decorated with old-fashioned lanterns and signs to give it an authentic look. The production team also took great care to recreate the town of Coal Valley, building a replica of the original town hall and other buildings.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Examining how the filming locations of When Calls the Heart enhance the story

The various filming locations used in When Calls the Heart help to bring the show to life. The stunning mountain views and quaint towns provide a beautiful backdrop for the characters’ stories while the meticulous attention to detail brings a sense of realism to the show. The show also transports viewers back to the early 20th century providing a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there at the time.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


When Calls the Heart is a beloved television series that takes viewers on an unforgettable journey to some of the most beautiful and historic locations in Canada. From the breathtaking mountain views to the charming towns and sites, the show’s filming locations provide an immersive experience. The show also pays homage to the history of these locations bringing the stories of the people who lived there to life. All of these elements combine to create an unforgettable viewing experience that showcases the beauty of Western Canada.

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Worth Pondering…

For what is life but a bittersweet mixture of sadness, wonderment, hope, and joy!

—Janette Oke, When Calls the Heart

Most Iconic RVs from the Movies

You’d know these rolling homes anywhere

RVs have featured prominently in many movies and TV shows. Over 70 movies and TV shows feature RVs.

There have been examples from the early days of travel trailers such as the comedy Long Long Trailer in the early 1950s with Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball about a couple who take a trailer on their honeymoon. There’s also the mobile meth-making motorhome that was a large part of the Breaking Bad TV series.

Airstream at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at the company’s headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, the new Airstream Heritage Center showcases the history of perhaps the most famous travel trailers in the world. The word iconic gets thrown around a lot these days but these silver bullet trailers deserve the title. They still evoke the optimism of the space race although now of course are filled with all modern conveniences.

Airstream and NASA have a long tradition of partnership including the construction of the quarantine chamber used by returning Apollo missions and the RV that took astronauts to the launch pad right up to the era of the Space Shuttle. And it is also synonymous with the way Hollywood told these stories. The Airstream used by Tom Hanks when he was shooting the movie Apollo 13 sold at auction several years ago for $235,200.

Airstream at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From families clustered around TV sets in 1969 to silver screen blockbusters, to highways and side roads across the country, Airstream RVs and trailers are instantly recognizable to everyone. And this got me thinking: what other RVs have achieved lasting fame? Or maybe infamy?

Watching Robin Williams roll through Colorado in a RV and young couples embarking on their first cross-country RV road trip is kind of the same as being there, right? Okay, maybe it’s not the same, but it’s definitely the next best option.

Related article: 10 Iconic Road Trip Movies

These RVing movies feature what those of us in the RV community loves most about this lifestyle—beautiful scenery, wide-open spaces, family and above all, a good sense of humor. Check out some of my favorite RV movies below.

Winnebago at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spaceballs — 1986 Winnebago Chieftain 33

One of the few parodies that stand the test of time, Spaceballs perfectly skewers the Millennium Falcon with this slightly decrepit winged Winnebago. No, it will not go to plaid but it will make the jump to hyperspace thanks to secret onboard jets allowing Lone Starr and Barf to outrun the evil Dark Helmet.

The joke here is to double down on the rough around edges feel of the Falcon. The Eagle 5 (complete with vanity plate) is a shabby ol’ bird, fine for a man-dog named Barf but not up to the standards of the prissy Princess Vespa. Still, it’ll jam any radar. Literally!

Spartan Motor Home at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaking Bad — 1986 Fleetwood Bounder

If the Eagle 5 skirted galactic law then the Fleetwood from Breaking Bad was definitely up to no good. A rolling laboratory for cooking up illegal methamphetamines, the “Krystal Ship” became something of a recurring character on the show.

Despite being destroyed in a crusher in season six (another RV was destroyed), the Fleetwood survived filming. There was even a charity contest in 2018 that offered fans a chance to cook in the RV with Aaron Paul—not meth, just breakfast.

Touring Ford at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — 1972 Ford Condor II

RVs don’t seem to get the glamorous roles in movies and television. This particular crusty-looking machine was a reflection of just how rude and crude the Griswolds’ Cousin Eddie was. Case in point: his most famous line isn’t even printable here.

Related article: 11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Yet even Eddie becomes a lasting part of the Christmas spirit. The motorhome is too. It’s parked at Castle Noel in Ohio, an entire museum dedicated to Christmas movies.

Winnebago at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Independence Day — 1967 Winnebago Brave

It’s time to redeem the RV a little. When aliens invade the earth, a herd of RVs flees into the desert rescuing Will Smith along the way and ending up at Area 51.

A classic Winnebago with a suitably apt name leads the way. It’s a bit of redemption for Cousin Eddie too, in a way. Actor Randy Quaid takes on another RV-driving role here but this time he’s a disgraced fighter pilot who gets his revenge.

GMC Motorhome at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stripes — 1976 GMC Motorhome

Beloved comedian John Candy makes another motorhome-related appearance here (he played Barf) with the EM-50 Urban Assault vehicle. With more gadgets than a Bond car—periscope, missiles, bulletproof armor—the EM-50 easily saves the day.

Stripped of the movie magic, the EM-50 was actually a GMC Motorhome from the 1970s. These were pretty advanced for their day being front-wheel-drive and having a low floor. After filming, Candy reportedly kept one of the motorhomes and used it for touring around.

GMC Motorhome at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blues Brothers — 1976 Fleetwood Southwind

Direct from Nashville, it’s the Good Ole Boys playing both kinds of the best music there are—Country and Western. They’re touring the country in a Fleetwood RV painted with desert cowboy scenes and fitted with bull horns.

Unfortunately, Jake and Elwood Blues get on the wrong side of the Ole Boys which resulted in a car chase. Most things in this movie result in car chases. In this case, Elwood’s messed with the accelerator pedal—“glue, strong stuff”—and the RV ends up going for a swim.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lost World: Jurassic Park — 1996 Fleetwood Southwind Storm

The original Jurassic Park was such a huge smash that we all couldn’t wait to travel back. This time, though, we’d need something a little tougher than a painted-up Ford Explorer.

Related article: The Ultimate Road Trip for Clint Eastwood Fans

Enter the Southwind Storm done up as the Challenger trailer. A mobile lab equipped with anti-dinosaur defenses it was theoretically the safest way to study dinosaurs at a distance. Unfortunately, it ended up getting rolled into the ocean by two angry T. Rexes.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Far Green Country — 2005 Bounder

This is a real life story—an overcoming adversity story. This is a story about a great adventure in the wild spaces—whether in national parks, within oneself, or in relationships with others. A young couple struggling to stay afloat set out on the road in a class A motorhome in search of the hope of healing. This real-life documentary tells of the comedy, the hardships, and the passion of living intentionally and adventurously in marriage and with children.

House Trailer at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About Schmidt — 2001 Winnebago Adventurer

This 2002 Oscar-winning movie features Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt, a bitter and recently retired widower who travels to his estranged daughter’s wedding in a 35-foot 2001 Winnebago Adventurer. Along the way, Nicholson’s character narrates via long letters to Ndugu, a Tanzanian orphan that he’s sponsoring.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re the Millers — 2013 Coachman Encounter

This raunchy 2013 comedy features Jason Sudeikis’ character hiring a fake family to smuggle a massive amount of marijuana across the Mexican border. “Me, crossing the border alone? Huge red flag! But families, don’t get a second look so I need you to be my wife,” he says to Jennifer Aniston’s character, a stripper. The RV in the movie is played by a 2013 Coachmen Encounter.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV — 2005 Forest River Georgetown 395 and 1948 Flexible Clipper

This Robin Williams-helmed film stars the late actor as Bob Munro who takes his family on a road trip that, of course, results in all manner of shenanigans and tomfoolery—including some of the specifically RV variety. The family’s rig is a 2005 35-foot Forest River Georgetown 359 but another RV—the vintage 1948 Flxible Clipper—kind of steals the show. The latter can be toured at the Jack Sisemore RV Museum in Amarillo, Texas.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nomadland — 2001 converted Ford Econoline

As the title suggests, the RV in this film features prominently as Fern, played by Frances McDormand travels the western half of the U.S. in 2001 converted Ford Econoline she names Vanguard. The Chloé Zhao-directed film—nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture—explores themes of economic collapse, community, and survival, and features real-life nomads alongside McDormand’s performance. 

Related article: Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Supernova — 2004 Auto Trail Cheyenne 632

In this 2020 film, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play Sam and Tusker, partners of 20 years who travel the English Lake District visiting friends and family in a camper van as they try to come to terms with Tusker’s early-onset dementia diagnosis. The RV in this critically acclaimed movie is a 16-year-old Auto-Trail Cheyenne 632.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meet the Fockers — 2016 Fleetwood Pace Arrow

Since the first movie, Meet the Parents (2000), the main character Ben Focker has been accepted by his fiancé’s parents and it is time for her parents to meet him. Sounds easy enough but the parents are polar opposites. The movie follows Ben and his fiancé, Pam, trying everything they can to try to make the parents get along and come to terms with being one big family. Their attempts lead to some hilarious scenarios like when Ben decides to take a trip with his fiancé’s parents to meet his parents in an RV.

Worth Pondering…

It’s crazy isn’t it? Look at that RV it’s like a camper on steroids.

—Robin Williams (the dad) in the movie, RV

The Ultimate Road Trip for Clint Eastwood Fans

Get excited, Clint Eastwood fans!

The Man With No Name. Dirty Harry. A western movie icon. There are movie stars and then there are Hollywood legends. Clint Eastwood rose from a TV actor to an Oscar-winning filmmaker, forever making his mark on the entertainment industry as one of the greatest we’ll ever see. His moody glare has made his acting roles iconic and his undeniable directing skills have made him one of the most talented entertainers not only of his generation but ever.

Early on, Eastwood’s rise to fame can be tied to his starring roles in spaghetti western movies which are some of the most beloved from his lengthy resume. Though most of those were filmed overseas this Clint Eastwood-inspired road trip will take you around the United States to visit some other notable film sites from his legendary career.

Sutter Creek, a former mining town in California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pale Rider – Boulder Mountains, Idaho

Eastwood has made a career starring in memorable westerns and this was one of the most popular of the ’80s. He stars as the mysterious Preacher, an enigmatic character who helps protect a struggling California mining town from treacherous prospectors. The title and Eastwood’s character are based on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with a pale ghost rider portraying death itself. Eastwood even directed this epic western which was primarily filmed in the beautiful Boulder Mountains of Idaho despite taking place in California.

Jacksonville, an old Oregon mining town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bronco Billy – Treasure Valley in Boise, Oregon

Another solid ’80s western directed by and starring Eastwood is this action comedy. He stars as the title character and star of Bronco Billy’s Wild West Show, a traveling show similar to Buffalo Bill’s real western-themed show that traveled the world. Billy struggles to keep his show popular and relevant while dealing with declining interest from the public. Despite his best efforts to keep his team’s spirits up they seem to run into a series of bad luck after a spoiled heiress joins their group as Billy’s assistant. It’s funny, unique, and one of the least Clint Eastwood movies on his resume. The stunning Treasure Valley in Oregon served as the backdrop for filming.

Related article: 10 Iconic Road Trip Movies

Hangman’s Tree in Placerville, California

Dirty Harry – San Francisco, California

There are a handful of roles that come to mind when you think of Eastwood and this is one of them. Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan gets assigned to a serial killer case on the SFPD, a case inspired by the real-life zodiac killer. Frequently recognized as one of the iconic films in Hollywood history it’s the ultimate ’70s action film whether or not you’re a die-hard Eastwood fan. Filming was kept as authentic as possible mostly taking place in San Francisco.

An old mine near Salone, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outlaw Josey Wales – Kanab, Utah

Set after the Civil War, Eastwood directed and starred as Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer whose family gets murdered by Union soldiers during the war. He sets out on a war path of revenge on those who took his family joining up with a Confederate guerrilla band and earning a reputation as a feared gunslinging outlaw. It’s another incredibly iconic performance from the beloved star, especially in his repertoire of memorable westerns. Despite taking place in the Midwest the movie was filmed in the small Utah town of Kanab known for being a popular spot for western films. You can visit the town and see some fun Josey Wales memorabilia and filming spots.

Old Tucson Studios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joe Kidd – Tucson, Arizona

Eastwood rocked the ’70s and ’80s with a slew of solid westerns. Joe Kidd was another standout with Eastwood starring as the bounty hunter Joe Kidd hired by a wealthy land baron to hunt down a Mexican revolutionary leader. Though set in New Mexico the movie was filmed in the state next door in Tucson, one of many western films to be shot at the historic Old Tucson Studios. It’s now a western theme park and tourist attraction you can visit but has been temporarily closed to the public since 2020.

Related article: 11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hang em High – Las Cruces, New Mexico

Back in the ’60s, Eastwood was quickly becoming one of the biggest western stars in Hollywood. In Hang em High, he stars as an innocent man falsely accused of cattle rustling and sentenced to hang. He somehow survives the incident and becomes a lawman, later able to bring the men who falsely convicted him to justice for other crimes. The movie was filmed at the White Sands National Park where Eastwood allegedly did his own stunts including letting a horse drag him through the park with a noose around his neck.

Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cry Macho – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Eastwood’s most recent film is this modern western which he directed and starred in. Based on the 1975 novel the movie follows an old rodeo star hired to reunite a young Mexican boy with his father (played by country singer Dwight Yoakam) in the U.S. The film follows the Texan rodeo star (Eastwood) as he travels across the Texas border and back but it was fully filmed in the city of Albuquerque.

Cattle drive, Sarita, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rawhide – Tucumcari, New Mexico

The western TV series that helped turn Eastwood into a star was shot all over California and parts of New Mexico. Multiple episodes were notably filmed on ranches in the Tucumcari area back in the late ’50s. The actor played the role of cattle driver Rowdy Yates for eight seasons notably gaining the attention of Italian director Sergio Leone who took his career to the next level by casting him in his historic spaghetti westerns.

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Beguiled – Napoleonville, Louisiana

In this 1971 thriller, Eastwood plays a wounded Union soldier seeking care from a southern girls’ school. The school matron holds him captive but becomes angered when he rejects her romantic advances. It becomes a psychological game of wits for the soldier to try and escape the school and make it back to his troop, but does he? The Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville served as the main filming location for the film which mostly takes place in the house itself. Real Union soldiers had a hospital on the plantation’s grounds during the Civil War.

Related article: Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trouble with the Curve – Athens, Georgia

Later in his career, Eastwood primarily focused on directing projects so when he stars in something you know it’s good. Trouble with the Curve follows an old baseball scout whose adult daughter joins him on his last scouting trip. It was the first time Eastwood starred in something he wasn’t directing himself since 2005. Eastwood’s character is a scout for the Atlanta Braves so the movie was fittingly filmed in the nearby city of Athens.

Worth Pondering…

People love westerns worldwide. There’s something fantasy-like about an individual fighting the elements. Or even bad guys and the elements. It’s a simpler time. There’s no organized laws and stuff.

—Clint Eastwood

Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Locations tied to Louisiana-filmed movies and TV shows are numerous

Louisiana’s official state nickname is Sportsman’s Paradise thanks to rich and abundant natural resources and the fish and wild game that call it home. Related nicknames for the state include The Pelican State, about the state bird, and Bayou State, thanks to the slow-moving streams.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s another nickname for Louisiana that is not all about the flora and fauna—Hollywood South. Thanks to its diverse settings for movies (Louisiana has everything including bustling cities, antebellum mansions, and lush wilderness areas), generous state tax incentives for film producers, and numerous production support businesses, Louisiana is a global player in a movie and TV filming location. And, like other visitors to the state, movie and TV stars rave about enjoying the food, music, and joie de vivre away from the sets.

A comprehensive list of major movies and TV shows made in Louisiana in recent years would be too long to list here but here are a few ideas for mixing some of Louisiana’s more notable filming sites with your travels throughout the state.

Gator at Jungle Gardens on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Scene: Filmed in Natchitoches, a good part of the film takes place in M’Lynn Eatenton’s (Sally Field) fictional 1830s home in the fictionally named Chinquapin Parish. It’s the site of memorable quotes such as one during the annual Christmas party when Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacClain) turns to M’Lynn and quips, “M’Lynn, what’s wrong with you these days? You got a reindeer up your butt?”

Crawley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Laugh through tears (Truvy’s [Dolly Parton] “favorite emotion”) as you enjoy a weekend staying in the actual 1830s, six-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath Steel Magnolia House. The bed and breakfast is where much of the movie was filmed.

Related: Cool-As-Hell Louisiana Towns You Need to Visit (Besides New Orleans)

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Scene: Louis (Brad Pitt), an unwilling vampire, decides he’s had enough of his so-called life and takes a torch to his sprawling manor setting the curtains ablaze which ticks off the aristocratic vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) who was rather fond of the place.

Crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Louis’ homeplace was filmed at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Take a tour and see the restored antebellum Greek Revival mansion—sans flames—plus spots where the graveyard scenes were filmed. Decide for yourself if it’s a fitting estate for a vampire.

Frog mural in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Scene: On a break from their iconic, cross-country road trip, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) along with a couple of bleary-eyed prostitutes, drop acid in an ancient cemetery prompting them to get dazed, philosophical, and naked.  

Above-ground cemetery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Don’t drop acid or get naked but do get philosophical while wandering around the famous, above-ground St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans where the scene took place. Specifically, seek out the massive, queen-like sculpture set into the “Italia” gravesite where, like Wyatt, you can imagine yourself talking to dead relatives. Several tour companies offer cemetery tours.

Louisiana sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Scene: Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) wakes up his father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), drives him out to a lake, and then carries him on his shoulders to the pier where he sets him on a chair and they watch the sunrise. During the three-minute scene, a beautiful song, Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain, is playing in the background.

Tabasco factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Start early and park yourself on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans where the song takes its name. Watch a real sunrise while listening to the music and chances are you’ll end up teary-eyed at the beauty of both. Afterward, take a ride by the Nolan House at 2707 Coliseum Street, a spectacular Garden District mansion where the bulk of the film took place.

Related: ‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

Along the Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Duck Dynasty (2012-2017)

Scene: The Robertson boys deck themselves out with camo gear, shotguns, and their famous, handmade duck calls, then cruise on an airboat through the North Louisiana marsh, gather ’round the duck blind, and proceed to gleefully blast down one quacker after another.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: If that sounds like your idea of happiness then order a few of the Robertsons’ custom duck calls from the Duck Commander company website and head to one of the prime duck hunting areas in North America: Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. On the Sabine and Lacassine national wildlife refuges in Cameron Parish, it’s where you can fire away at gadwalls, blue-winged teal, pintails, mottled ducks, and white-fronted geese. 

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tremé (2010-2013)

Scene: This Emmy Award-winning HBO drama (2010-2013) is set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Co-created by David Simon—best known for blockbuster television drama The Wire—Wendell Pierce (a native New Orleanian) and a cast of costars work on rebuilding their lives in the wake of one of the nation’s most significant natural disasters. The series name refers to a New Orleans neighborhood that is the historical heart of the city’s African American community through Tremé was filmed throughout the Crescent City.

Experience: All over New Orleans including numerous bars and restaurants (Vaughn’s Lounge, Liuzza’s By the Track), the French Quarter, and historical shotgun-style homes central to New Orleans’ architectural distinctiveness.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swamp People (2010–present)

Scene: This reality show based in south Louisiana focuses on the lives of alligator hunters in the Atchafalaya Basin swamps and depicts life (and wildlife) in the bayous. At times intense—alligator hunting is not for the squeamish, after all—Swamp People is a testimony to the resilience of the men and women who call the region home. 

Related: Lake Martin: An Accessible Louisiana Swamp and Rookery

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Throughout rural central and south Louisiana. Pierre Part, a village a few miles due south of Baton Rouge, is among the primary filming locations. Others include Houma, Hammond, Bayou Sorrel, Thibodaux, and Zwolle. An airboat swamp tour with RJ Molinere, star of Swamp People, is about as close as you can get to the real thing you see on the show.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NCIS: New Orleans (2014-2021)

Scene: A spinoff of the enormously successful CBS network show, NCIS. NCIS: New Orleans stars Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Pride whose investigations into crimes involving military personnel have made for captivating, edge-of-your-seat viewing since it premiered in 2014. While NCIS: New Orleans shows off the talent of Golden Globe winner Bakula and an extensive roster of actors, the real star may be New Orleans itself with each episode showcasing the city’s unique architecture and unconventional characters.

Experience: Iconic locations throughout New Orleans. Bourbon Street, Louis Armstrong Park, Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, Plaza Tower, and New Orleans Motorsports Park (in Avondale) make appearances.

Denham Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More stops along the Louisiana Film Trail

Louisiana’s antebellum plantations on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge remain a magnet for blockbuster films. In recent years, 12 Years a Slave was filmed at Felicity Plantation. For the classics enthusiast, the tours at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens explain the mansion’s role in making Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Plantations along the Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Baton Rouge, visit Louisiana’s State Capitol to see where All the King’s Men, a story based on Huey P. Long, was filmed. Just a few blocks away sits the USS KIDD, a WWII-era battleship where Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was filmed.

Read Next: 6 of the Best RV Parks in Louisiana

Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

10 Iconic Road Trip Movies

What is it about the road trip that lends itself so well to cinema?

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet, and the asphalt is calling: road trip season is here.

It’s a mood captured countless times on the big screen over the years with road trips used as a powerful device for narrative progression. Families confined within a space for hours on end, surprise encounters, and the inherent jeopardy of traveling at speed in a metal box have all played a role in some of the most memorable movies of all time.

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is something uniquely American about the idea of hitting the open road and driving endlessly through changing landscapes, either toward the promise of something better or as an escape from real or imagined oppression. While running the gamut from liberating to terrifying, American road trip films share a common thread: through the act of driving there is the opportunity for discovery. Characters often find something new about themselves, others, or some greater principle or purpose.

I researched the history of road trip cinema and chose 10 of the most iconic films in which people drive across the U.S.

On a road trip to Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some road films reveal that running away is futile or even cowardly while others crystalize the fact that we cannot outrun the consequences of our actions even if we drive forever. At the same time, the genre reminds us that there is great potential in removing ourselves from the monotony or comfort of everyday life—that the act of leaving can be a powerful assertion of agency.

The history and diversity of American road trip films span decades and generations and encompass countless genres. From the lawlessness and violence of “Natural Born Killers” to the horror of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and even the bittersweet optimism of “Little Miss Sunshine,” road trip films reflect the politics and sense of national identity of their time and place.

Mural at Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Starring: Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide custom motorbikes

Easy Rider stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as bikers who smuggle drugs from Mexico into California, sell them and head eastward to New Orleans trying to make it in time for Mardi Gras. They stash their money near the gas tank of the “Captain America”—a custom-made motorcycle with a signature long front end—ridden by Fonda’s character. Along the way, they stop at a commune in Arizona and find trouble in New Mexico where they encounter a drunken lawyer played by Jack Nicholson who they convince to join them.

Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Produced on a mere $360,000 budget, Easy Rider is remembered as a film that captures the feeling of late-’60s counterculture complete with hallucinogenic trips, a free-love commune, and a soundtrack studded with The Band, The Byrds, and Jimi Hendrix. Its legacy is also one of subverting the mainstream Hollywood studio system. Its unprecedented commercial success—grossing $60 million globally on a small budget—as well as its indie status, stunned Hollywood executives.

Related: 11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Did you know? Only one bike from Easy Rider—the “Captain America”—is known to have survived. The other choppers were stolen before filming ended and haven’t been seen since.

Depicting life as it was in West Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Starring: 1953 Chevrolet 3100 and 1972 Ford Club Wagon

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre changed the horror film genre and American filmmaking more generally in profound ways. Aside from inspiring nine films in the franchise, it pioneered the slasher genre while showing surprisingly little blood and gore, relying instead on clever camera work and misdirection to suggest horrific images. Filmmakers including Ridley Scott, Wes Craven, and Guillermo del Toro count the film amongst their favorites. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” takes aspects of the traditional road trip film beginning with the group of idealistic young people piled into a car and quickly turning the viewer’s expectations into a nightmare.

Fuel stop from the past in Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The film follows a group of friends who take a road trip through rural Texas to visit a family member’s gravesite but are forced to stop when their car runs out of gas. Early signs of danger include a violent encounter with a hitchhiker and when they stop at a quiet gas station only to find out the pumps are empty. Terror builds when they come across Leatherface, the now-legendary chainsaw-wielding villain who wears a mask made of human skin.

Did you know? The film is an allegory for the Vietnam War.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Starring: Wagon Queen Family Truckster (based on a 1979 Ford Country Squire)

Road comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation follows the Griswold family led by patriarch Clark (Chevy Chase) as they embark on a road trip from Chicago to a southern California amusement park. The trip, a bid to spend more time together as a family and enjoy a picturesque vacation quickly goes awry. Driving a large, ugly station wagon, the family experiences countless misadventures along the way.

An amusement park somewhere in America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The station wagon used in the film, known as the Wagon Queen Family Truckster was specifically designed as a parody of 1970s station wagons complete with faux-wood paneling and a “metallic pea”-colored paint job. Five identical cars were produced for the film due to the extent of the mishaps experienced by the family.

Related: The Best Road Trip Songs

Did you know? The film’s fictional Family Truckster was designed by the American custom car builder George Harris who’s perhaps best known for making the Batmobile used in the Batman live-action TV series.

Traveling the roads of West Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paris, Texas (1984)

Starring: 1958 Ford Ranchero

After emerging from the Texas desert unable to speak or explain where he came from, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) is rescued by a German doctor. The doctor contacts Travis’ estranged brother (Dean Stockwell) who then drives from L.A. to pick him up. When they return to California, Travis meets his young son who has been adopted by his brother and they decide to embark on a journey to find his son’s mother.

A West Texas sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling from southern California to Houston in a classic blue and white ’58 Ford Ranchero, the two reconcile. Passing through desert landscapes, past old road motels and neon signs, the aesthetics of “Paris, Texas” are part-Western, part Edward Hopper Americana.

Did you know? The moving character study was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard,

A scenic byway in Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rain Man (1988)

Starring: 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible

Rain Man tells the story of Charlie (Tom Cruise), a young hustler who discovers he has a brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) after his father dies and leaves Raymond his lucrative estate. Charlie travels to Ohio and finds that Raymond is an autistic savant who has been institutionalized. In an attempt to gain control of the money from their father’s estate, Charlie kidnaps Raymond from the institution. The two embark on a road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles where Charlie plans to fight for custody of his brother in their father’s 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible.

The film’s enduring legacy is complicated: While it was groundbreaking for its representation of a character with autism some have called its portrayal of autism spectrum disorder reductive or stereotypical.

Did you know? The owner of the Buick Roadmaster used in Rain Man is the film’s director, Barry Levinson.

Wigwam Motel, Halbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Starring: 1966 Ford Thunderbird

Thelma & Louise stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as two best friends who depart their unsatisfying home lives in Arkansas for a weekend away only to become fugitives on the run from the law. The two head in the direction of Mexico in Louise’s 1966 blue Ford Thunderbird convertible hoping to cross the border and evade capture by the FBI. Louise insists they avoid driving through Texas so they take a meandering route west traveling through New Mexico and the Grand Canyon.

Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thelma & Louise remains a landmark film in the feminist cinema for its politics, exploration of gendered violence, centering on a best-friend relationship, and for subverting several genres: the Western, the road film, the buddy film, and the crime drama. Davis and Sarandon both received Best Actress Oscar nominations for their co-starring roles.

Did you know? Thelma and Louise isn’t the only famous film to feature a fourth-generation Ford Thunderbird convertible: a yellow example also appeared in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger.

Shoot-out in Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Starring: 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible

Starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a murderous married couple, Natural Born Killers grapples with the way mass violence and its perpetrators are given celebrity status by the media.

The film follows the couple as they go on a multi-state killing spree traveling from New Mexico to Arizona and Nevada, all the while attracting media attention that turns them into macabre cult heroes. Featuring a red 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible, the film subverts the often family-friendly conventions of the road trip movie while incorporating images of Western landscapes to remind viewers it is a particularly American story. The film sparked controversy over its gratuitous violence and director Oliver Stone was sued when the film allegedly inspired copycat crimes (the suit was later dismissed).

Did you know? According to Tom Sizemore, he got the part of Detective Jack Scagnetti after writing a monologue for the character which he made Oliver Stone listen to in the parking lot of a bar. 

The Straight Story (1999)

Starring: 1964 John Deere 110 lawnmower

Based on a true story, The Straight Story follows Alvin (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly Iowa man who decides to visit his estranged brother after he has a stroke. Unable to drive, Alvin hitches a trailer to his lawnmower and embarks on a journey to Wisconsin. Only able to travel at five miles per hour, the journey takes several weeks and involves a series of mishaps and connections made with other long-term travelers and passersby.

The Straight Story was filmed along the actual route that the real Alvin Straight took on his original journey. Farnsworth who died by suicide one year after the film’s release had been suffering from cancer that left his legs partially paralyzed during the filming of The Straight Story. He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the role.

Related: Ultimate Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way Across America

Did you know? As crazy as it sounds, The Straight Story is based on a true story. In 1996, the real-life Alvin Straight really did drive his ride-on mower for 240-mile trip to visit his unwell brother.

Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sideways (2004)

Starring: 1987 Saab Turbo convertible

Sideways stars Paul Giamatti as Miles, an unsuccessful writer who brings his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a road trip to California wine country as a final adventure before Jack gets married. Traveling up the coast of California in a bright red ’87 Saab Turbo convertible, the two men experience a range of mishaps leading up to Jack’s wedding ceremony.

Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The film which centers largely around Miles’ obsession with wine (particularly pinot noir) has been credited with influencing the California wine industry. As of 2017, production of California pinot noir wine had increased by 170 percent since the film’s release—a trend that winemakers labeled “the Sideways Effect.”

Did you know? The reason for the film’s title is never explained in the film itself but it is made quite clear in the novel on which the film is based as the two main characters use the term “sideways” to mean “intoxicated.”

Wigwam Motel, Halbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Starring: 1978 Volkswagen Type 2 camper van

Starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin as members of a dysfunctional family, Little Miss Sunshine tells the story of Olive (Abigail Breslin), a young girl and aspiring beauty queen trying to get to a beauty pageant to compete.

New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Based in New Mexico, her large family—including her parents, grandfather, uncle, and half-brother—travels 800 miles in a yellow VW bus to reach southern California for the competition that is just two days away. Along the way, issues with the bus as well as personal trials and misadventures, bring the family together in unexpected ways. Breslin earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress at just age 10.

Related: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Did you know? Little Miss Sunshine’s screenplay writer Michael Arndt based the issues affecting the Volkswagen on the unreliability of a camper van from a real-life childhood road trip of his own.

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase, Tamed

Why Sedona?

Sedona has the uncanny ability to seem familiar yet mysterious at the same time

As you look into the wilderness, it may seem vaguely familiar. The familiar part is no surprise. Sedona’s distinctive red-rock landscape and renowned scenery has been featured in nearly 100 films, plus numerous videos and commercials.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop by the Sedona Heritage Museum and you’ll be treated to exhibits that highlight the region’s movie power. Beginning in 1923 with the silent film The Call of the Canyon, based on a novel by Zane Grey, through the golden age of American Westerns in the 1940s and ’50s, Sedona has had a distinguished role in film. During the peak years, virtually every major movie studio and big-name movie star worked there. Streets in a Sedona subdivision are even named after movies made in the area.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The strata that contain the famous Sedona red rock were created when a warm, shallow sea brought vast expanses of sand. When those sand grains became covered with thin coatings of iron oxide, they began taking on that red color we see today.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most famous views in Sedona revolve around Cathedral Rock. Oak Creek flows past the base of the formation to create a much-photographed image. That scene is most often captured from Crescent Moon Picnic Area, known locally as Red Rock Crossing.

Red Rock Crossing, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoor adventure fills the Sedona area. Hiking and biking trails abound. Whether you take the easy ½-mile Allens Bend Trail, the 5.6-mile Wilson Mountain Trail with a 2,300-foot elevation change, or any of the numerous other trails, you’ll be treated to fabulous scenery and famous landmarks like Submarine Rock or Vultee Arch.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walkthrough the desert in the coolness of the evening when it’s aglow with moonlight to put a fresh spin on exploring Sedona’s terrain. You don’t need to wander alone. Naturalists at Red Rock State Park offer guided interpretive hikes during the full moon. The tour covers two miles and you’ll learn about Sedona’s fascinating geology, history, and plant life.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Long before T.C. and Sedona Schnebly arrived in Red Rock Country, American Indians considered this land to be sacred. Sedona continues to be regarded as a special place because of its vortexes. Described as intersections of natural earth energy, Sedona’s vortexes are said to inspire meditation and healing. They are usually found on or near a rock formation.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spirit seekers or those just curious about the metaphysical world can hike to one of Sedona’s vortex sites. These natural areas are said to radiate energy (considered masculine, feminine or a balance of the two) from the earth, drawing people to meditate, practice yoga, or engage in other spiritual and wellness activities.

Bell Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although all of Sedona is considered to be a vortex, rock shapes called Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon, and Cathedral Rock are all sites where the energy is reportedly more intense. Some say that Chapel Rock is the site of a fifth vortex, but less powerful than the others.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appearing to rise out of the red rock formations, the Chapel of the Holy Cross towers in a panorama of buttes, valleys, and sky—all a source of inspiration inviting rest and reflection. An eye-catching architectural wonder, the Chapel is built into a 250-foot-tall twin-pinnacled red rock spur. Both the chapel and its 90-foot concrete cross built into the front façade (it functions as both symbol and structural support) are visible from the Red Rock Scenic Byway (State Route 179). Yet thanks to its modernist design, there are no sky-piercing spires or ornate embellishments detracting from its dizzying position. Peek inside the 1956 chapel for a look at the 33-foot bronze crucifix commissioned by a local artist which was installed in 2018. 

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a unique experience, stop at Slide Rock State Park and cool off. You can slide down the slippery creek bed, cruise down the creek in a tube, or take a dip in the natural swimming pools. Listed on the Travel Channel’s “10 Top Swimming Holes in the United States,” this natural waterpark is 7 miles north of Sedona along 89A in Oak Creek Canyon.

Tlaquepaque, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nestled on the banks of Oak Creek is Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, a collection of Spanish-style buildings reminiscent of a Mexican hamlet. Cobblestone walkways meander past splashing fountains, vine-covered walls, and beneath picturesque stone archways. Flower-bedecked courtyards frame a complex of 15 specialty shops, 16 galleries, six jewelry stores, and four clothing stores—plus several restaurants.

Tlaquepaque, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Named after a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico, Tlaquepaque is pronounced “Tlah-kay-PAH-kay.” This internationally renowned art and shopping destination mimics Old Mexico and is covered by the refreshing shade of giant Arizona sycamore trees along the banks of Oak Creek.

Sedona Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The galleries feature one-of-a-kind art in a range of media and styles, including contemporary and abstract works, American Indian, and classic Southwestern fine art. You can find everything from wildlife bronzes to Navajo rugs, wind sculptures, and traditional ceramics.

Yet, Tlaquepaque has so much more. Musicians and dancers celebrate special fiestas throughout the year, bringing the sights and sounds of Old Mexico to Sedona.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why Sedona? Perhaps the meaning of Tlaquepaque contains the most fitting answer. It means the “best of everything.”

Plan your trip: 

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Coined the ‘Main Street of America’, driving along this historic road elicits memories of days gone by when a nickel could buy you a bottle of coke and the sweet sounds of Billie Holiday crooned from every radio

No American road is as iconic as Route 66. Starting in Chicago, Illinois, and snaking cross-country to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 originally consisted of 2,418 miles of highway rich with neon-lit motels, quirky roadside attractions, and stretches of deserted landscape.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With such a wealth of inspiration, it’s no surprise that so many filmmakers have used Route 66 as a backdrop for their films. One of the pivotal scenes in the 1988 film Rain Man takes place at Route 66’s Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma. Rain Man went on to win numerous accolades and prizes including four Academy Awards. While not every movie filmed on Route 66 goes home with an Oscar, there are many that are worth a watch.

So pop some corn, get yourself comfy, and binge watch these eleven must-see movies on our list.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Filmed along Route 66, primarily in Santa Monica, California, and Flagstaff, Arizona, this 1969 film follows two “biker-hippies” (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) as they head to New Orleans, crossing the west and southern United States. Along the way they encounter a host of interesting characters and strange situations. The ultimate biker road-trip film, this movie had a budget under $1 million and yet went on to gross more than $60 million worldwide. This movie is especially interesting because it marked the beginning of a cinematic revolution in Hollywood. Addressing topics such as sexuality, politics, and drugs with unprecedented candor, it marked a new wave of film and was one of the first low budget movies to enjoy such a high level of success.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, this 1940 film tells the story of an Oklahoman family heading to California on Route 66. Taking place during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl period, the poverty stricken Joad family leaves Oklahoma in search of a better life. Interestingly, Steinbeck was the person who first coined the term the “Mother Road” to describe Route 66, and many of its locations are prominently featured in this movie including spots through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, this movie is also listed 230 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the best movies ever made.

Related: Route 66 across Arizona

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bagdad Cafe (1987)

This 1987 film, also known as Out of Rosenheim, is a German comedy-drama set in a remote truck-stop café and motel in the Mojave Desert in California. The story centers on two women who have recently separated from their husbands and the friendship that grows between them. The setting of this film, Bagdad, California, is a former town on Route 66 which was abandoned and eventually razed after being bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973. While the town of Bagdad did have a Bagdad Cafe, the film was actually shot 50 miles west in the town of Newberry Springs, California, at the now titled, Bagdad Cafe. This café has since become something of a tourist destination on the route.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No Country for Old Men (2007)

This picture, based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, is a tension building cat and mouse drama which follows a Texas welder and a Vietnam veteran in the desert landscape of west Texas. Interestingly however, The Desert Sands Motel in the final scene, while depicted as El Paso, Texas, was actually filmed in the Route 66 town of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Critically acclaimed, this film took home four Academy Awards as well as numerous other prizes.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

This 2006 film follows the motley Hoover crew as they pile into a canary yellow Volkswagen bus, embarking cross-country to get the seven-year-old protagonist, Olive, to a beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California. Portions of the road trip were filmed in Route 66 locations including Chandler, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. Interestingly, this film, while having a relatively small budget of $8 million made a profit exceeding $100 million worldwide. Watch it for the great locations, but stay for the weird family antics.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

In this classic movie, starring funny man Chevy Chase, the Griswold clan drove from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit the theme park Wally World. Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, and other Arizona highway locations were used in this comedy. Other locations close to Route 66 included Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon which the cast actually visited (unlike the cast of Thelma and Louise). This film was a box-office hit earning more than $60 million and increasing the popularity of the National Lampoon series.

Related: Get Your Kicks (And Burros) On Route 66

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starman (1984)

Although filmed in numerous locations throughout the United States, this 1984 film featured the Meteor Crater Trading Post, just west of Winslow, Arizona, on Route 66. Telling the story of an alien who has come to Earth in response to the Voyager 2 space probe’s gold phonograph record, this crater location served as the movie’s rendezvous point where the main character (Starman) was to meet and return to his ship. Interestingly, this film represents a rare instance where a film from the science-fiction genre received an Academy Award nomination for acting (Jeff Bridges for Best Actor).

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beneath the Dark (2010)

Located along Route 66 in the heart of the Mojave Desert sits Amboy, California, the backdrop for this 2010 mystery thriller film. Set largely in Roy’s Motel and Cafe (used over the years in many horror films), this movie introduces us to a couple driving through the desert to attend a wedding. When they end up at Roy’s for a roadside rest stop, it proves to be a strange and unsettling place where uncomfortable secrets will be revealed. Once a popular spot to stop along the route, Amboy struggled after the opening of Interstate 40 in 1973 and is now largely abandoned. Turn this movie on to be spooked, but take in a little piece of Route 66 history while you watch and get out and pay a visit to Roy’s for yourself.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Hogs (2007)

In this 2007 film, a group of middle-aged suburban bikers hit the open road on a quest for adventure. These “Wild Hogs” soon find they’ve gotten a little more than they bargained for when they encounter a New Mexican biker gang called the Del Fuegos. Filmed in a variety of locations in the Route 66 town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this comedy flick has led to an influx of recreational bikers to the area. One key spot to visit is The Library Bar & Grill, a Central Avenue (Route 66) location in Albuquerque that was featured as a friendly biker bar in the film.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

One of the darker films on our list, this 1994 satirical film about serial killers on a murder spree was filmed in a variety of locations on Route 66 (Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona). Following Mickey and Mallory Knox as they drive down the highway in their Dodge Challenger, murdering every few miles, this controversial film focuses on how mass media can irresponsibly glorify individuals. Shot in a unique frenzied and psychedelic style making use of animation, different color schemes, and a variety of camera angles, filters and special effects, this film, while not the archetypal road trip film, is definitely a must-watch.

Related: Route 66: The Road to Adventure

The Outsiders (1983)

Shot on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Route 66 runs through the heart of the city), this 1983 coming-of-age drama is an adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel of the same name. In this film a teen gang (the Greasers) are continually at odds with a rival group (the Socials). When a brawl ends in the death of a Social member, the consequences for everyone involved are serious and tragic. A well acted and crafted film that stars some of Hollywood’s biggest names when they were still young and up-and-coming, this movie performed well at the Box Office, and solidified its place on our list.

Read Next: Road Trips Ratings: America’s Classic Routes Analyzed

Worth Pondering…

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way
Take the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

—Bobby Troup (1946)