Top 10 list of Colorado movies a ten-cent ticket fee didn't subsidize

"The Searchers."
The Colorado legislature just nixed a plan to tack a ten-cent fee onto movie tickets, money that would have been used to provide financial incentives for film companies that want to make movies in this state. As revised, the bill would now ask for donations from movie-goers -- a good idea, because no one wants to be forced to finance films like The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox or another round of Perry Mason movies.

Although other Western states -- most notably New Mexico and Utah -- have ramped up their economic efforts to attract movies, the Colorado Film Commission's incentive program has little to work with. Besides talented crews who live here because they love it, and incredible scenery. And that's been enough to get some great movies made here. Here's Westword's top ten list of movies filmed in Colorado, compiled when the American Film Institute came up with its 100 greatest films four years ago (and not including local independents):

1. The Searchers (1956)
Starring: John Wayne; directed by John Ford
Location: Aspen and Gunnison
Notes: Number 12 on the AFI list.

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Starring: Paul Newman and Robert Redford
Location: Durango and Silverton; train heists were filmed on the D&RG narrow gauge railroad
Notes: Number 50 on the AFI list; won four Oscars.

3. The Shining (1980)
Starring: Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall; directed by Stanley Kubrick based on a Stephen King novel
Location: Stanley Hotel, Estes Park
Notes: Despite myth, most of the movie was shot in the U.K. The Stanley Hotel stood in for a few exterior shots; the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, was the interior.

4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
Starring: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
Location: Glenwood Springs
Notes: Nicole Kidman was originally tapped to play Mrs. Smith.

5. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt, Harvey Keitel
Location: Unaweep Canyon, Route 141 outside of Gateway
Notes: George Clooney auditioned five times for the role of J.D., but it eventually went to Pitt.

6. Sleeper (1973)
Starring: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton
Location: What's now known as the Sleeper House on Genesee Mountain, Denver Botanic Gardens, Church of the Risen Christ on Monaco Parkway, former Currigan Hall.

7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Starring: Harrison Ford and Sean Connery
Location: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad running between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico
Notes: Won an Oscar.

8. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Starring: Bruce Willis and William Sadler
Location: Stapleton International Airport (doubling for Dulles International Airport in D.C.), Breckenridge and Highland Lake Church in Mead.

9. Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)
Starring: Andy Garcia, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd
Location: Five Points in Denver, particularly the Rossonian Hotel and the Casino Cabaret, now Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom
Notes: Title is taken from a Warren Zevon song.

10. True Grit (1969)
Starring: John Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall
Location: Canon City, Castle Rock, Gunnison
Notes: John Wayne won his best acting Oscar for True Grit.

Honorable mention:
1. Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
Locations: Aurora, Denver, Georgetown
Notes: Right turn, Clyde. Tough, tough choice between this and True Grit for the last spot on the top ten list.

2. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Locations: Alamosa and Durango
Notes: You have to love the Griswolds. You just have to.

3. Independence Day (1996)
Locations: Colorado Springs
Notes: Won an Oscar for best effects. And seriously, anything that blows up that much shit has got to be good.

4. Vanishing Point (1971)
Locations: Denver, Glenwood Springs and Rifle
Note: One hot Dodge Challenger scores it a higher position that it would have received otherwise.

5. City Slickers (1991)
Location: Destination Ranch outside of Durango
Notes: Jack Palance won a best supporting actor Oscar for City Slickers.

6. Silver City (2004)
Location: Denver, Leadville, Sedalia, Idaho Springs
Notes: I made a guest appearance as a reporter in this John Sayles film, which was shot exclusively in Colorado -- with no incentives at all.

7. Catch and Release (2006)
Locations: Pearl Street Mall and across Boulder
Notes: It has Jennifer Garner. That's enough to set this awful film above the rest of the dreck -- but not by much.

8. Cliffhanger
Note: Although most of this was shot in Italy, the aerial photography during the hijack was set over the Rockies, around Durango.

9 About Schmidt (2002)
Locations: Denver and Boulder
Notes: Jack Nicholson's second appearance on this list.

10. Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Locations: Aspen, Estes Park, Copper Mountain, Stanley Hotel, Stapleton International Airport, Breckenridge
Notes: That we even have to acknowledge this film is disconcerting.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Gary Coleman's short -- very -- time as a Denver celebrity."

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This list is great but it really hammers home that there's been very little production in-State since the mid-2000's, which is when competitive Film Incentives - and Colorado's lack of them - really begin to bite. In contrast, all of the following films, with combined production budgets of over $300 million, were actually set, entirely or in part, in Colorado. However inspite of Colorado's great crews, talent, equipment and locations, they all shot out of State because others could offer more attractive financial incentives.....

About Schmidt – 2002Jack Nicholson’s road trip to his daughter’s wedding ends in Denver, but filmed in Omaha. Production Budget: $30 million

Blades of Glory - 2007The pivotal World Winter Sports Games at the start of the film takes place at the Denver Arena. It filmed in Montreal.Production Budget: $53 million

Alien versus Predator - 2007A space ship carrying a Predalien – really, you’d have to be there – crashes in Gunnison, CO. The movie filmed for 52 days in Vancouver though.Production Budget: $40 million

Catch and Release – 2007Yes it’s set in Boulder and yes it’s got Jennifer Garner, but it filmed mostly in Vancouver.Production Budget - $25 million

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer - 2006In another one of those implausible twists, the Fisherman Killer follows a group of teens away from the ocean to a Colorado cabin. Production Budget - $65 million

Matador – 2005Assassin Pierce Brosnan’s work takes him to Vienna,, Vegas, Sydney, Budapest, Manila and others, but the emotional heart of the film is at Greg Kinnear’s home in Denver. The whole thing shot in Mexico City. Production Budget - $10 million

Day of the Dead – 2008Day of the Dead begins in Leadville but films in Bulgaria.Production Budget - $18 million

The Prestige – 2006Christopher Nolan scouted Colorado Springs for the site of Nikola Tesla’s Colorado laboratory but ultimately filmed it on a sound stage in LAProduction Budget - $40 million

And whilst True Grit – 1969, filmed in Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway in Cañon City, Cañon City, Castle Rock, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Owl Creek Pass and Ridgway, True Grit 2011 – production budget $38 million, filmed in Texas and New Mexico.

Michael Conti
Michael Conti

I think a better approach would be if the fees were put into a pot to match production funds raised by in-state producers for local features rather than for just out of state productions.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Lots of information here, Martin. Thanks for reading and posting.

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