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12 Extraordinary Movies Set In New Mexico That Will Inspire You To Visit!

12 Extraordinary Movies Set In New Mexico That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Nestled in the enchanting landscapes of the American Southwest, New Mexico has been the setting for an array of Movies Set in New Mexico, captivating audiences with its cinematic allure.

Known as the Land of Enchantment, its rugged deserts and breathtaking mountain ranges provide a unique and picturesque setting for a multitude of narratives. These films have utilized New Mexico’s distinctive landscapes to tell stories that resonate with viewers, showcasing the state’s natural beauty and cultural richness.

In this article, we embark on a cinematic journey through the vibrant tapestry of New Mexico, uncovering the finest films that have beautifully showcased the state’s diverse terrain, rich culture, and compelling narratives. Each film on our list not only takes advantage of the state’s stunning natural beauty but also weaves its essence into the very fabric of the story, creating an indelible connection between setting and plot.

Movies Set In New Mexico

This profound connection between New Mexico’s landscapes and the stories told in movies set in New Mexico mirrors a broader trend in movies set in the United States of America. The state’s unique geography, with its sprawling deserts and towering mountains, often stands in for the quintessential American wilderness, a motif that has been central to the nation’s cinematic identity.

These films, set against the backdrop of New Mexico’s grandeur, offer viewers a glimpse into the raw and untamed spirit of the American Southwest. The state’s rich cultural heritage, influenced by Native American and Hispanic communities, adds depth and authenticity to the narratives, making New Mexico a character in its own right within these films.

Furthermore, New Mexico’s landscapes are reminiscent of the awe-inspiring beauty found in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA, offering a natural majesty that enriches every frame of the movies shot here. For film enthusiasts and travelers alike, the best USA tours that include New Mexico provide an opportunity to experience the breathtaking vistas and cultural landmarks that have inspired filmmakers. These tours allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of movie characters, exploring the same rugged terrain and experiencing the same enchanting atmosphere that make these films so captivating.

In essence, New Mexico’s role in cinema is not just about providing a backdrop for stories; it’s about sharing its soul, its history, and its natural wonder with the world, creating an emotive and unforgettable cinematic experience.

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 New Mexico
Movies Set In New Mexico
Movies Set In New Mexico

Sicario (2015)

Denis Villeneuve, the highly acclaimed Canadian director, known for his mastery of suspenseful storytelling, helms the gripping thriller Sicario. With a career spanning both French and English-language cinema, Villeneuve has established himself as a versatile filmmaker with a keen eye for evoking visceral emotions.

Set in the desolate and unforgiving landscapes of the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically in the border town of Juárez and the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sicario delves into the morally ambiguous world of drug cartels and the murky war on drugs. The film follows FBI agent Kate Macer, played brilliantly by Emily Blunt, as she is recruited by a government task force led by the enigmatic Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro).

As the task force delves deeper into their mission to dismantle a Mexican drug cartel, Sicario exposes the brutal reality of the ongoing drug trade and the harrowing choices faced by those caught in its web. The tension builds relentlessly, and the audience is taken on a heart-pounding journey filled with moral dilemmas, betrayals, and shocking revelations.

New Mexico’s stark and barren landscapes serve as a powerful backdrop, mirroring the desolation and corruption that permeate the narrative. The film captures the sense of unease and danger that looms over the border region, depicting it as a place where lawlessness and violence are an everyday reality.

Watch Sicario to experience a meticulously crafted thriller that examines the darkness lurking beneath the surface of a relentless battle against crime. It is a testament to Villeneuve’s skill as a director and a reminder of the power of cinema to engage and challenge its audience.

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

The Milagro Beanfield War is a captivating film directed by Robert Redford in 1988. Known for his remarkable acting career, Redford showcased his directorial prowess in this adaptation of John Nichols’ novel. The film tells a compelling story that intertwines elements of magical realism with social and political commentary.

Set in the fictional town of Milagro, located in northern New Mexico, the plot revolves around the struggles of the local community against big developers and corporate interests. The film portrays Milagro as a close-knit and culturally rich community deeply connected to its land and traditions. The character development is masterfully done, allowing the viewers to become invested in the lives and dreams of the townspeople.

At the center of the story is Joe Mondragon, played by Chick Vennera, an ordinary man who inadvertently discovers an irrigation ditch that could revitalize the barren beanfield. As Joe begins to irrigate the land, a conflict arises between him and the developers who want to exploit the area for their own gain. The ensuing battle becomes a symbol of the struggle between progress and tradition, encapsulating the larger themes of social justice and cultural preservation.

The Milagro Beanfield War serves as a powerful commentary on the importance of community, resilience, and standing up for what is right. It beautifully captures the essence of the New Mexican landscape, depicting its vast beauty and cultural heritage. The film’s cinematography brings the arid beauty of the desert to life, creating a visually stunning backdrop for the narrative.

Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider is a countercultural masterpiece directed by Dennis Hopper. Hopper, an actor and filmmaker, became an influential figure in American cinema, known for his rebellious spirit and unconventional storytelling. His career spanned several decades, and he was renowned for his ability to capture the essence of the counterculture movement through his works.

Set in the vast landscapes of New Mexico, Easy Rider follows the journey of two bikers, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), as they embark on a cross-country motorcycle trip. With the proceeds from a lucrative drug deal, they set out to discover the real America and find freedom on the open road. Along their way, they encounter various characters and communities that both challenge and reinforce their own ideals.

The film’s portrayal of New Mexico is captivating, with its stunning visuals showcasing the state’s scenic beauty. From the arid desert landscapes to the picturesque mountain ranges, Hopper skillfully captures the essence of the Southwest. The characters’ journey through New Mexico highlights the clash between their free-spirited existence and the conservative values prevalent in the region.

Easy Rider is a thought-provoking exploration of freedom, identity, and the disillusionment of the American dream. It delves into the counterculture movement of the 1960s, examining the tensions between the establishment and those who sought to challenge it. The film’s iconic soundtrack, featuring artists like Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf, adds an extra layer of depth to the narrative, amplifying the rebellious energy that defines the era.

Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

Sunshine Cleaning is a heartfelt and poignant film directed by Christine Jeffs, known for her ability to capture the nuances of human relationships with sensitivity and authenticity. With an impressive repertoire of works like Sylvia and Rain, Jeffs has established herself as a skilled storyteller capable of delving into complex emotional landscapes.

Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sunshine Cleaning revolves around the lives of Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) and Norah Lorkowski (Emily Blunt), two sisters struggling to find direction and purpose in their lives. When Rose, a single mother, realizes that her dead-end cleaning job is not enough to provide for her son’s future, she decides to venture into the unconventional business of crime scene cleaning. With Norah as her accomplice, the two embark on a journey of self-discovery as they clean up the aftermath of violent incidents.

The film’s portrayal of Albuquerque adds an authentic backdrop to the story, capturing the essence of the city’s rugged beauty and its inhabitants’ resilience. The setting becomes more than just a location; it becomes a character in itself, with its vast desert landscapes and vibrant cultural tapestry.

Sunshine Cleaning is a touching exploration of the complexities of family dynamics, personal growth, and the pursuit of happiness. It skillfully balances moments of humor and heartache, making it a profoundly human story that resonates with viewers. The exceptional performances by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt bring depth and relatability to their characters, capturing the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Wild Hogs (2007)

Wild Hogs is a comedy film directed by Walt Becker, an American filmmaker known for his work in the comedy genre. The film follows the escapades of a group of middle-aged friends who embark on a motorcycle road trip to escape the monotony of their everyday lives.

Stuck in a rut, Doug (played by Tim Allen), Woody (played by John Travolta), Bobby (played by Martin Lawrence), and Dudley (played by William H. Macy) set off on a journey to rediscover adventure and camaraderie. However, their trip takes an unexpected turn when they encounter a biker gang known as the Del Fuegos, led by Jack (played by Ray Liotta).

Set in the small town of Madrid, New Mexico, Wild Hogs beautifully captures the essence of the American Southwest. The film showcases the rustic charm of Madrid, with its picturesque landscapes and dusty roads, providing a visually appealing backdrop for the characters’ journey.

With a talented cast and Walt Becker’s skillful direction, Wild Hogs delivers a feel-good experience that will leave you laughing and reminiscing about the importance of friendship and embracing life’s unexpected adventures. So, hop on your metaphorical motorcycle and join the Wild Hogs on their unforgettable road trip.

The Tao of Steve (2000)

The Tao of Steve is a captivating romantic comedy directed by Jenniphr Goodman, a talented filmmaker known for her unique storytelling approach and distinctive style. Goodman began her career in the late 1990s and quickly gained recognition for her ability to blend humor, introspection, and genuine human connection within her films.

Set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Tao of Steve follows the life of Dex, a charming and overweight slacker played by Donal Logue. Dex possesses an intriguing philosophy of life, inspired by the teachings of Taoism and the seductive powers of iconic figures such as Steve McQueen and Steve Austin.

His Tao of Steve theory revolves around three principles: be desire-less, be excellent, and be gone. Dex’s life takes an unexpected turn when he falls for Syd (Greer Goodman), an attractive and intelligent woman who challenges his belief system.

The film skillfully showcases the enchanting beauty of Santa Fe, capturing the essence of the city’s vibrant cultural scene, breathtaking landscapes, and artistic ambiance. The serene desert backdrop, combined with the city’s unique blend of Native American and Spanish influences, adds depth and authenticity to the story.

The Tao of Steve is a hidden gem that deserves recognition for its witty dialogue, compelling performances, and thought-provoking exploration of love and self-discovery. It offers a refreshing take on romantic comedies by delving into deeper philosophical themes while maintaining a lighthearted tone. The film serves as a reminder that true happiness lies not in conforming to societal expectations, but in embracing our authentic selves.

The Hi-Lo Country (1998)

The Hi-Lo Country is a captivating Western drama film directed by Stephen Frears. Frears, a distinguished British filmmaker, is renowned for his ability to craft stories that delve into complex human emotions and social issues. He has earned critical acclaim throughout his career, with notable works including My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), and The Queen (2006).

Set in post-World War II New Mexico, The Hi-Lo Country follows the lives of two best friends, Pete and Big Boy, brilliantly portrayed by Billy Crudup and Woody Harrelson, respectively. The film paints a poignant portrait of their struggle to maintain their friendship amidst the challenges of a changing society and the allure of an enigmatic woman named Mona, played by Patricia Arquette.

The film itself refers to a region located in the vast grasslands of eastern New Mexico, characterized by its arid landscapes and rugged terrain. Frears skillfully captures the essence of this place, accentuating the desolate beauty of the area and its inhabitants. The starkness of the landscape serves as a metaphor for the characters’ internal conflicts and the harsh realities they face.

The Hi-Lo Country is a must-watch for fans of character-driven dramas and Westerns. Frears’ masterful direction, combined with stellar performances from the cast, brings depth and authenticity to the story. The film’s evocative cinematography and nuanced storytelling offer a captivating glimpse into a bygone era, inviting viewers to reflect on the enduring power of friendship and the indomitable spirit of the human heart.

Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart is a captivating drama film directed by Scott Cooper, an American filmmaker known for his ability to create emotionally charged narratives. Cooper, hailing from Virginia, made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed film Crazy Heart, which solidified his reputation as a director with a keen eye for raw human stories.

The film follows the life of Bad Blake, played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges, a once-famous country music singer now struggling with alcoholism and personal demons. Set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the movie beautifully captures the essence of the southwestern landscapes, enhancing the story’s authenticity.

As the plot unfolds, we witness Blake’s chance encounter with a young journalist named Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), which sparks a complicated romance. Their relationship serves as a catalyst for Blake’s self-reflection, as he navigates the challenging path of redemption and attempts to revive his stagnant career.

Crazy Heart is a masterfully crafted film that offers a poignant exploration of the human spirit and its capacity for reinvention. Jeff Bridges delivers an exceptional performance, fully immersing himself in the character of Bad Blake and capturing the heartache and longing that define the country music legend. The film’s soundtrack, featuring original songs performed by Bridges himself, adds another layer of authenticity and emotional depth to the narrative.

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

The Night of the Iguana is a captivating film directed by the renowned John Huston. Throughout his illustrious career, Huston established himself as a versatile filmmaker, delivering masterpieces across various genres. From the thrilling The Maltese Falcon (1941) to the epic adventure The African Queen (1951), Huston’s directorial prowess consistently captivated audiences.

Set in the fictional coastal village of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, The Night of the Iguana follows the turbulent journey of Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, portrayed brilliantly by Richard Burton. A defrocked clergyman turned tour guide, Shannon finds himself entangled in a series of predicaments during a stopover in the remote Mexican resort town. The film unfolds against the backdrop of a dilapidated hotel run by Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner), who captures Shannon’s attention with her captivating allure.

As Shannon grapples with his inner demons, the film explores themes of desire, redemption, and the complexities of human nature. Huston skillfully brings Tennessee Williams’ play to life on the screen, delving into the emotional depths of its characters and their tumultuous relationships.

Immerse yourself in the captivating world of The Night of the Iguana for an unforgettable cinematic experience. Witness the convergence of stellar performances, skillful direction, and a thought-provoking plot that delves into the depths of the human soul. Whether you are a fan of classic cinema or a newcomer seeking an enriching film, The Night of the Iguana offers an immersive journey that will leave you captivated and craving for more.

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is a film directed by Robert M. Young, a talented filmmaker known for his dedication to showcasing underrepresented stories and communities. Young’s career has been marked by a commitment to social justice and exploring themes of cultural identity.

Set in New Mexico, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is a captivating historical drama based on real events that took place in 1901. The film tells the compelling story of Gregorio Cortez, a Mexican-American rancher who becomes a fugitive after a misunderstanding leads to the killing of a Texas lawman. As Cortez tries to outrun the relentless pursuit of a group of determined Texas Rangers, the film explores themes of racism, cultural clashes, and the struggle for justice.

The film’s setting in New Mexico plays a significant role in shaping its narrative. The rugged landscapes and small communities of the region are beautifully captured, providing an immersive backdrop that reflects the essence of the era. Through its detailed portrayal, the film brings to life the challenges faced by individuals living in this remote part of the country and highlights the cultural dynamics between the Anglo-American and Mexican-American communities.

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is a must-watch for film enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It offers a thought-provoking examination of a pivotal moment in the history of the American Southwest, shedding light on the complexities of race and identity. Whether you are interested in American history, enjoy character-driven narratives, or simply appreciate well-crafted storytelling, this film will captivate you with its emotional depth and historical significance.

Convoy (1978)

Convoy is a gripping action film directed by Sam Peckinpah, an acclaimed American filmmaker known for his distinctive style and exploration of violence in cinema. Throughout his career, Peckinpah challenged conventions and pushed boundaries, establishing himself as a director with a penchant for gritty and intense storytelling.

Set against the backdrop of the vast and rugged landscapes of New Mexico, Convoy follows the adrenaline-fueled journey of a group of truckers led by the enigmatic Rubber Duck (played by Kris Kristofferson). Frustrated by the oppressive tactics of a corrupt sheriff named Lyle Wallace (played by Ernest Borgnine), the truckers form a rebellious convoy, embarking on a defiant cross-country race to evade the law and protest their mistreatment.

Peckinpah skillfully captures the essence of the New Mexican terrain, using it to heighten the film’s tension and reinforce the themes of freedom and rebellion. From the dusty desert plains to the majestic mountain ranges, the film presents New Mexico as a character in its own right, reflecting the harsh realities faced by the truckers and underscoring the vastness of the struggle they endure.

With its thrilling chase sequences, memorable characters, and thought-provoking themes, Convoy remains a captivating cinematic experience. Whether you’re a fan of Peckinpah’s work or simply appreciate well-crafted action films, this movie is a must-watch. Its exploration of the human spirit and its unyielding desire for freedom resonates even today, making Convoy an enduring classic that continues to entertain and inspire audiences.

El Camino (2019)

El Camino is a gripping film directed by Vince Gilligan, released in 2019. Gilligan is widely recognized for his exceptional work as the creator and showrunner of the critically acclaimed television series Breaking Bad. This film serves as a continuation of the series, offering closure to the storylines of its beloved characters.

Set in the picturesque landscapes of New Mexico, El Camino takes place primarily in Albuquerque, where the events of Breaking Bad unfolded. The film explores the aftermath of the series’ finale, focusing on the character of Jesse Pinkman, played brilliantly by Aaron Paul. Jesse embarks on a treacherous journey to escape his haunting past and the clutches of his tormentors.

Gilligan’s direction skillfully captures the essence of the New Mexico setting, utilizing the vast desert landscapes and urban cityscapes to enhance the narrative. The cinematography beautifully captures the distinct atmosphere of Albuquerque, with its unique blend of desolation and urban grit.

El Camino is a must-watch for fans of Breaking Bad as it beautifully complements the series while offering an engaging standalone experience. Gilligan’s impeccable storytelling and Paul’s compelling performance make for an unforgettable cinematic experience. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or new to the franchise, this film is sure to captivate and immerse you in its thrilling narrative. Prepare for a gripping journey that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.