Up until the end credits, they had me. “Wind River,” which opened in theaters last weekend, was filmed in the Beehive State. Whodathunkit?
Mind you, it’s set in Wyoming. And it looks like Wyoming. And for all I knew, it was Wyoming.
But there it is, at the end of the end credits: “Filmed on location in Utah.”
That may seem strange but Utah is a film-friendly state, with a strong moviemaking infrastructure, locals who are generally friendly and helpful, and quick, direct flights to and from Los Angeles. We’re just an hour and a half away, as the crow (or Delta) flies.
And though outsiders may think of Utah as strictly the home of John Ford Westerns, our fair state is actually quite versatile and has a long history of subbing for other places, ranging from San Francisco to the Grand Canyon to Cleveland to Mars.
We often paraphrase Brigham Young’s famous statement when he looked down on the Salt Lake Valley as, “This is the place.” But where movies are concerned, Utah is also a lot of other places.
Hey, why travel to Alaska or Maine when Utah is closer and, chameleon-like, can impersonate just about any geographical location you can think of?
So, in addition to “Wind River,” here are just a few examples of other films that use Utah as a substitute for some other spot on (or off) the globe, listed chronologically within each category.
• “Hangar 18” (1980, aka “Invasion Force”) is set in Houston; Washington, D.C.; and Arizona, but was filmed in Utah by a locally based production company (despite the end credits stating that it was “filmed on location in Big Springs, Texas”).
• “The Boogens” (1981) was filmed entirely in Park City but is set in a fictional Colorado mining town.
• “Cujo” (1983) is set in novelist Stephen King’s oft-used Castle Rock, Maine, though it has scenes filmed in Utah.
• “The Dream Chasers” (1984) has St. George posing as Cleveland.
• “Better Off Dead” (1985) features Snowbird filling in for the fictional California ski slope mountain “K-Twelve.”
• “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988), “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989) and “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995) were all filmed in Salt Lake City’s Avenues area but are set in fictional Haddonfield, Illinois.
• “Thelma & Louise” (1991) uses various southern Utah locations to simulate four different states — Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona (to include the famous Grand Canyon finale).
• “The Stand” (1993, four-part TV miniseries) is based on Stephen King’s epic novel and has a fair portion of the story set here, but Utah also subs for a variety of small towns in Colorado and Texas.
• “A Home of Our Own” (1993) is set in rural Idaho but shot in the Midway and Heber areas.
• “The Sandlot” (1993) uses Salt Lake City and environs as a fictional small town in Southern California.
• “Beyond Suspicion” (aka “Appointment for a Killing,” 1993 TV movie) was filmed entirely in the Salt Lake City area but is set in St. Louis.
•“Dumb & Dumber” (1994) has Park City subbing for Aspen, Colorado.
• “In the Blink of an Eye” (1995, TV movie) was filmed in Utah but is largely set in North Carolina and Los Angeles.
• “Face of Evil” (1996, TV movie) is set in New Hampshire, with scenes set in both Chicago and New York, but was filmed in and around Salt Lake City.
• “Independence Day” (1996) was partly filmed in Utah, with the Wendover desert subbing for California’s Imperial Valley and Utah’s Salt Flats filling in for Area 54 in Nevada.
• “Nothing Lasts Forever” (1996, two-part TV miniseries) is set entirely in San Francisco but, except for some establishing shots, was filmed entirely in Salt Lake City (complete with recognizable Salt Lake landmarks).
• “Night Sins” (1997, two-part TV miniseries) is set in the fictional small town of Deer Lake, Washington, but was filmed in and around Park City.
• “Breakdown” (1997) is set in Arizona, though it was filmed in southern Utah.
• “Not in This Town” (1997, TV movie) was filmed in northern Utah but is set entirely in Billings, Montana.
• “Legion of Fire: Killer Ants” (1998, TV movie) is set almost entirely in Alaska but was filmed in remote wilderness areas of northern Utah.
• “The Good Earth” (1937) is set entirely in China, with Cedar City providing backgrounds for an invasion of locusts.
• “The Conqueror” (1956) has southern Utah (complete with tumble weeds) as Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.
• “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965) uses Moab for the Holy Land.
• “The Devil’s Brigade” (1968) uses the Oquirrh Mountains as the Italian Alps.
• “The Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) has Kanab portraying an African desert.
• “A Midnight Clear” (1992) has Park City filling in for the Ardennes Forest near the French-German border during World War II.
• “Saints and Soldiers” (2003), “Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed” (2012) and “Saints and Soldiers: The Void” (2014) comprise a locally produced World War II trilogy in which various Utah locations represent areas of Belgium, France and Germany.
• “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” (1983) takes place entirely on a fictional planet and was filmed in Moab.
• “Rocket Man” (1997) has scenes set on Mars that were filmed (with a red filter) in Moab.
• “Galaxy Quest” (1999) uses Goblin Valley for a remote, desolate planet with rock monsters.
• “Star Trek” (2009) has the San Rafael Swell near Green River portraying the planet Vulcan (home of Mr. Spock).
• “John Carter” (2012) uses several southern Utah locations to simulate Mars.