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13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Arizona That Will Inspire You To Visit!

13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Arizona That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Nestled in the heart of the American Southwest, Arizona’s rugged landscapes and iconic landmarks have been the setting for a wide array of Movies Set in Arizona, captivating audiences with their cinematic tales.

From the sprawling deserts to vibrant cities and awe-inspiring canyons, Arizona’s diverse topography has been a magnet for filmmakers aiming to capture its unique charm on the silver screen. This article takes you on a cinematic journey through the best of these films, each set against the breathtaking landscapes that define Arizona.

Prepare to revisit beloved classics, discover hidden gems, and delve into contemporary masterpieces as we delve into the movies that have masterfully harnessed Arizona’s scenery, captivating audiences worldwide. So, grab your popcorn and join us on this celluloid adventure, as we celebrate the best films that have etched Arizona’s indelible mark in the annals of film history.

Movies Set In Arizona

Arizona is not only a treasure trove for filmmakers but also a gateway to some of the most stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA. Films set in this state often feature these breathtaking locales, from the Grand Canyon’s vast expanse to the architectural marvels of the Puebloan peoples. As we explore movies set in Arizona, we also embark on a virtual tour of these heritage sites, offering a cinematic perspective that complements the best USA tours. These films provide a unique lens through which to appreciate the state’s natural wonders and historical significance. They stand as a testament to the rich tapestry of landscapes and stories that make up the broader narrative of movies set in the United States of America. In this collection of films, Arizona emerges not just as a backdrop, but as a character in its own right, shaping and enhancing the stories told on screen.

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

Movies Set In Arizona
Movies Set In Arizona
Movies Set In Arizona

Raising Arizona (1987)

Raising Arizona is a delightful comedy film directed by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, known for their unique storytelling and offbeat characters. Released in 1987, this film marked the Coen brothers’ second feature film and showcased their distinctive blend of humor, quirkiness, and visual style that would become their signature.

The plot revolves around H.I. McDunnough, played by Nicolas Cage, a small-time criminal who falls in love with Edwina Ed McDunnough, portrayed by Holly Hunter, a police officer who takes his mugshot after his arrest. After marrying and discovering their inability to conceive a child, they decide to kidnap one of the quintuplets born to a wealthy local businessman. Chaos ensues as the couple tries to raise the baby amidst the comedic and eccentric characters they encounter.

Set in the fictional town of Tempe, Arizona, Raising Arizona brilliantly captures the essence of the American Southwest. The dusty landscapes, sprawling deserts, and barren highways serve as a backdrop for the characters’ misadventures, painting a vivid picture of Arizona’s rugged beauty. The Coen brothers infuse the setting with a colorful and exaggerated portrayal, amplifying the film’s comedic elements.

With its witty dialogue, energetic performances, and quirky storytelling, Raising Arizona is a cinematic gem that continues to captivate audiences. The Coen brothers’ skillful direction showcases their ability to seamlessly blend comedy and drama while maintaining a distinctive visual style. The film’s eccentric characters and fast-paced narrative keep viewers engaged from start to finish.

Tombstone (1993)

Tombstone is a Western film directed by George P. Cosmatos, known for his expertise in the action genre. Cosmatos, a Greek-Italian filmmaker, made a name for himself through his work on popular films such as Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Cobra (1986). His visual style and knack for crafting gripping narratives shine through in Tombstone, making it a memorable addition to his career.

The film is set in Tombstone, Arizona, during the late 1800s. The plot revolves around the legendary events of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the ongoing feud between the Earp brothers and the outlaw Cowboys gang. Led by the fearless lawman Wyatt Earp, portrayed by Kurt Russell, the Earp brothers seek to restore order to the lawless town of Tombstone, where chaos and violence have become the norm.

Tombstone brilliantly captures the essence of the Old West and paints a vivid picture of the rugged and untamed landscape of Arizona. The cinematography showcases the stunning beauty of the desert, with wide shots capturing the vastness of the territory and intimate close-ups highlighting the characters’ struggles and determination.

Tombstone is a must-watch for any fan of the Western genre. Its thrilling action sequences, well-crafted storytelling, and exceptional performances make it a true gem of its time. Whether you are a history enthusiast or simply appreciate a well-executed film, Tombstone offers an engaging and immersive experience that will leave you captivated until the very end. So, saddle up and prepare for an unforgettable journey through the Wild West.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men is a critically acclaimed neo-Western thriller directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coen brothers, known for their distinct storytelling and unique visual style, have established themselves as masters of filmmaking over the course of their illustrious careers. With an impressive filmography that includes works like Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), and A Serious Man (2009), the Coens have consistently impressed audiences and critics alike.

Set in the desolate landscapes of West Texas and the border region of Arizona in the early 1980s, No Country for Old Men revolves around a gripping tale of chance, greed, and morality. The film follows Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin, who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and seizes the opportunity to take a satchel filled with two million dollars.

However, his impulsive decision sets off a chain reaction of violence, leading to the relentless pursuit of a ruthless hitman named Anton Chigurh, portrayed chillingly by Javier Bardem.

The film’s setting in Arizona, specifically the border town of Eagle Pass, provides a stark backdrop that mirrors the dark and unforgiving nature of the narrative. The Coens skillfully capture the harshness of the terrain, highlighting the vast stretches of desert and the isolation of the characters within it. 

No Country for Old Men is a gripping and thought-provoking cinematic experience that demands the viewer’s attention from start to finish. With its expertly crafted suspense, masterful performances, and profound exploration of human nature, the film has garnered numerous accolades, including four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine is a heartwarming film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, marking their directorial debut in the world of feature films. Prior to this, Dayton and Faris had gained recognition for their work in directing commercials and music videos. Their collaborative effort in Little Miss Sunshine garnered critical acclaim and solidified their place in the industry.

Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the film revolves around the dysfunctional Hoover family. The story unfolds as they embark on a cross-country road trip to California in their dilapidated yellow Volkswagen van. The journey is driven by the youngest family member, Olive, who dreams of participating in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Along the way, the family encounters a series of comedic and poignant moments that test their bonds and challenge their perspectives on success and self-worth.

While the film’s title suggests a focus on beauty pageants, Little Miss Sunshine is ultimately a tale of personal growth and acceptance. It cleverly blends humor with genuine emotions, tackling themes of family dynamics, societal pressures, and the pursuit of dreams. Through its engaging script and memorable performances by a stellar ensemble cast, including Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, and Abigail Breslin, the film manages to strike a delicate balance between laughter and poignancy.

Little Miss Sunshine is primarily set in Albuquerque, with some scenes taking place in Phoenix, Arizona. The portrayal of Arizona captures the vast, barren landscapes and scorching heat, effectively setting the stage for the characters’ physical and emotional journey. The desolation of the surroundings serves as a metaphor for the Hoover family’s fractured relationships and their search for personal redemption.

The Grand Canyon (1991)

Lawrence Kasdan, the acclaimed director behind The Grand Canyon (1991), has long been recognized for his ability to capture the complexities of human relationships on the silver screen. With a career spanning several decades, Kasdan has established himself as a master storyteller, known for his insightful narratives and exceptional character development.

Set against the backdrop of the stunning natural beauty of Arizona, The Grand Canyon takes place in contemporary Los Angeles, but it is the awe-inspiring landscape of the Grand Canyon itself that serves as a metaphorical centerpiece. Kasdan skillfully uses the majestic setting to reflect the emotional journey of the film’s characters.

The plot revolves around a group of interconnected individuals whose lives collide after an unexpected act of violence. The ensemble cast, which includes Kevin Kline, Mary McDonnell, Steve Martin, Danny Glover, and Mary-Louise Parker, delivers powerful performances that showcase the complexities of human nature and the profound impact of chance encounters.

As the characters grapple with their own personal struggles and confront the harsh realities of life, their paths intersect in unexpected ways, leading to moments of profound self-discovery and transformation.

For those seeking a thought-provoking cinematic experience, The Grand Canyon is a must-watch. Kasdan’s skillful direction, coupled with the exceptional performances of the ensemble cast, creates a compelling and emotionally resonant film. As the characters navigate the unpredictable terrain of life, viewers are reminded of the inherent beauty and fragility of the human condition.

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Waiting to Exhale is a captivating film directed by Forest Whitaker, a talented actor-turned-director who has made significant contributions to the film industry. Whitaker’s career is adorned with remarkable performances both in front of and behind the camera, establishing him as a respected figure in Hollywood. His directorial style shines in Waiting to Exhale, a movie that skillfully intertwines drama and romance to create an engaging narrative.

Set in Phoenix, Arizona, the film follows the lives of four African-American women who navigate the complexities of love, relationships, and self-discovery. Savannah, Robin, Bernadine, and Gloria, portrayed brilliantly by Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett, and Loretta Devine, respectively, form a sisterhood that provides them solace and strength in the face of various challenges.

Waiting to Exhale depicts Phoenix as a backdrop that mirrors the characters’ emotional landscapes. The arid desert climate and sprawling suburban neighborhoods reflect the women’s search for fulfillment in a city known for its sprawling, sometimes soulless development. The juxtaposition of the vastness of the Arizona landscape with the characters’ personal struggles serves as a metaphor for the depth of their desires and the hurdles they must overcome.

Waiting to Exhale is a must-watch for several reasons. Firstly, it presents a poignant portrayal of the complexities of relationships, exploring themes of heartbreak, betrayal, and resilience. The characters are relatable, and their journeys resonate with viewers on a deep level.

Secondly, the performances are exceptional, with each actress delivering a captivating and emotionally charged portrayal of their respective characters. Lastly, Waiting to Exhale offers a powerful commentary on gender roles, race, and societal expectations, encouraging viewers to reflect on these issues.

The Kingdom (2007)

The Kingdom is a gripping action thriller directed by Peter Berg and released in 2007. Peter Berg, known for his knack for intense storytelling and visual flair, has established himself as a versatile director in both film and television. His career spans a wide range of genres, from sports dramas like Friday Night Lights to true-story adaptations like Lone Survivor. With The Kingdom, Berg ventures into the realm of political suspense, delivering a compelling and thought-provoking film.

Set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, The Kingdom follows a team of FBI agents who are dispatched to investigate a deadly terrorist attack on an American housing compound. Led by Special Agent Ronald Fleury (played by Jamie Foxx), the team faces numerous challenges as they navigate the complex political landscape of Saudi Arabia. The plot delves into themes of cultural clashes, justice, and the impact of international relations on criminal investigations.

The film primarily takes place in the capital city of Riyadh, but it also showcases the stark beauty of Mesa, Arizona. The Arizona setting serves as the backdrop for the initial scenes, highlighting the stark contrast between the vast deserts and modern cityscapes. Through its portrayal of Arizona, the film establishes a visual juxtaposition between the two worlds, reflecting the clash of cultures and ideologies explored throughout the narrative.

The Kingdom stands as a testament to Berg’s directorial prowess and storytelling skills, making it a highly recommended choice for anyone seeking an enthralling blend of action and intrigue on the silver screen.

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Revenge of the Nerds is a comedy film directed by Jeff Kanew. Kanew, known for his knack for capturing humor in the most unexpected scenarios, had previously directed films like Tough Guys and Eddie Macon’s Run. With Revenge of the Nerds, Kanew’s talent shines through as he brings together an ensemble cast to deliver an entertaining and memorable cinematic experience.

Set in the fictional Adams College, located in the small town of Chandler, Arizona, the film follows a group of socially marginalized nerds who find themselves constantly targeted by a fraternity of jocks known as the Alpha Betas. Determined to seek revenge and reclaim their dignity, the nerds form their own fraternity, Lambda Lambda Lambda, and challenge the Alpha Betas’ dominance on campus.

The film cleverly portrays Chandler, Arizona as a typical American college town with its picturesque landscapes and suburban neighborhoods. The contrasting cultures of the nerds and jocks are skillfully juxtaposed against this backdrop, highlighting the social divide that exists within the community. Through humorous encounters and unexpected alliances, Revenge of the Nerds effectively explores themes of acceptance, self-discovery, and the power of unity.

Revenge of the Nerds is a must-watch for fans of classic ’80s comedies. It not only delivers laughs but also touches on important social issues that remain relevant today. The film’s witty dialogue, hilarious pranks, and memorable performances, particularly by Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine as the iconic nerds Lewis Skolnick and Gilbert Lowe, make it a timeless gem in the comedy genre.

8 Seconds (1994)

8 Seconds is a captivating film directed by John G. Avildsen, a seasoned filmmaker known for his ability to bring powerful and emotional stories to the big screen. Avildsen, who rose to prominence with the iconic Rocky series, has proven himself as a director capable of depicting the triumphs and struggles of ordinary individuals in extraordinary circumstances.

Set in the mesmerizing landscape of Arizona, 8 Seconds delves into the exhilarating yet treacherous world of professional bull riding. The film follows the life of Lane Frost, played by Luke Perry, a young and talented rodeo cowboy striving to make a name for himself. As Lane’s star begins to rise, he must confront personal challenges, grapple with fame, and navigate the intense demands of the competitive rodeo circuit.

Against the backdrop of the rugged Arizona terrain, the film skillfully captures the essence of the American West. From the sprawling deserts to the adrenaline-pumping rodeo arenas, Avildsen paints a vivid picture of the region, accentuating its raw beauty and its unforgiving nature.

Whether you’re a fan of rodeo sports or simply appreciate a well-crafted story, 8 Seconds offers a captivating cinematic experience. It explores themes of love, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams, leaving viewers with a sense of awe and admiration for the brave souls who dare to chase their passions against all odds. So, grab your popcorn, settle in, and prepare to be moved by the thrilling and poignant tale that is 8 Seconds.

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Can’t Buy Me Love is a delightful romantic comedy directed by Steve Rash, a talented filmmaker known for his work in the comedy genre. Rash has established himself as a versatile director, having helmed numerous successful films such as The Buddy Holly Story and Bring It On: All or Nothing.

Set in Tucson, Arizona, the film follows the story of Ronald Miller, played by the charismatic Patrick Dempsey, a high school nerd longing to fit in with the popular crowd. Determined to change his social status, Ronald strikes an unusual deal with the most popular girl in school, Cindy Mancini, portrayed by the talented Amanda Peterson. In exchange for loaning her a considerable amount of money, Cindy agrees to pretend to be Ronald’s girlfriend, leading to unexpected and hilarious consequences.

Can’t Buy Me Love skillfully showcases the dynamics of high school life, particularly in a suburban setting. The film’s portrayal of Tucson captures the essence of a typical American suburban town with its sprawling neighborhoods, football games, and social hierarchies. The warm and sunny landscapes of Arizona provide a vibrant backdrop for the story, enhancing the overall charm of the film.

If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted and nostalgic cinematic experience, Can’t Buy Me Love is a must-see. It offers a delightful trip down memory lane, reminding us of the awkwardness and exhilaration of adolescence. With its timeless appeal and universal themes, this classic ’80s film continues to captivate audiences, making it a worthwhile addition to any movie night.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a cult classic comedy film directed by Stephen Herek. Herek, known for his ability to infuse humor into his works, has a diverse career spanning multiple genres. With films like The Mighty Ducks and Mr. Holland’s Opus, he has proven his talent in both comedy and drama.

The film follows the hilarious and unconventional journey of two high school slackers, Bill S. Preston, Esq. (played by Alex Winter) and Ted Theodore Logan (played by Keanu Reeves). These two aspiring musicians are on the verge of failing their history class, jeopardizing their dreams of forming a successful band, Wyld Stallyns. However, their future changes when they encounter a time-traveling phone booth.

Set in San Dimas, a fictional town in Arizona, the film portrays the location as a typical suburban community. While the focus is primarily on the time-traveling journey, the film’s setting offers a backdrop of a typical American town, adding a relatable charm to the story.

What makes Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure such a great watch is its infectious humor, memorable characters, and the undeniable chemistry between Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. This film’s timeless appeal lies in its ability to capture the spirit of youthful adventure and the importance of friendship. It is a lighthearted, feel-good movie that guarantees plenty of laughs and a heartwarming experience. So, grab some popcorn, hop in the phone booth, and prepare for a most excellent adventure!

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Cameron Crowe’s film Jerry Maguire has stood the test of time since its release in 1996. Crowe, known for his insightful and character-driven storytelling, showcases his directing prowess once again in this iconic romantic comedy-drama. With a captivating plot and memorable performances, Jerry Maguire has cemented its place as a beloved classic in the realm of cinema.

The film revolves around the titular character, Jerry Maguire, played brilliantly by Tom Cruise. Maguire is a successful sports agent who, amidst a moral awakening, experiences an epiphany about the ethical compromises he has made in his career. He pens a heartfelt manifesto that challenges the status quo of the sports management industry. However, his courageous act leads to his firing, leaving him with only one loyal client, Rod Tidwell, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Set in the vibrant and sports-centric backdrop of Arizona, particularly in the city of Phoenix, Jerry Maguire adeptly portrays the essence of the place. The scorching heat and arid landscapes serve as metaphors for the intense pressures faced by the characters, both personally and professionally. Arizona’s cultural elements, such as its love for sports and the American Dream, are intricately woven into the narrative, adding depth and authenticity to the story.

Beyond its entertainment value, Jerry Maguire offers a thought-provoking exploration of themes such as integrity, redemption, and the pursuit of true happiness. It reminds us to question our values and stand up for what we believe in, even in the face of adversity. Whether you’re a fan of romance, comedy, or heartfelt drama, this film has something for everyone, making it a timeless gem that deserves a spot on your must-watch list.

The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch is a Western film directed by the renowned filmmaker Sam Peckinpah. Peckinpah, known for his gritty and realistic approach to storytelling, made a significant impact on the Western genre throughout his career. His unique vision and directorial style challenged conventional storytelling techniques and established him as one of the most influential directors of his time.

Set in the early 1900s, The Wild Bunch follows an aging group of outlaws led by Pike Bishop (played by William Holden) as they embark on a final robbery in the borderlands of Arizona and Mexico. The film explores themes of loyalty, honor, and the changing landscape of the American West.

The film’s setting in Arizona is crucial to its narrative. Specifically, the story takes place in the fictional town of San Rafael, which symbolizes the fading era of the Old West. Peckinpah captures the desolate beauty of the Arizona landscape, portraying it as a harsh and unforgiving environment that reflects the moral decay of the characters. The arid and sun-baked vistas create a sense of desolation and enhance the gritty atmosphere of the film.

The Wild Bunch is a must-watch for any cinephile or Western enthusiast. Its masterful direction, compelling performances, and innovative editing techniques make it a landmark film in the genre. The movie’s depiction of violence, although controversial at the time, revolutionized the portrayal of action sequences in cinema.