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On these long, dark winter nights, here are favorite movies about Wyoming


With our nights getting longer and colder, this gives me an excuse to watch my favorite movies that take place in our state, feature our state or include themes about Wyoming.

Here is my list of favorites:

Most recently, the best movie of the year according to the Academy Awards was The Revenant, which has over-riding Wyoming themes with much of it filmed as if it were here. A very cold, wintry Wyoming was depicted.

Other western movies dominate these selections. In Hollywood jargon, cowboy movies were often called “oaters.” Most of these on this list are much better than run-of-the-mill cowboy flicks.

The two best of this genre are Unforgiven and Shane, filmed decades apart but both portraying Wyoming as the often-tough place that it can be. Clint Eastwood directed and starred in Unforgiven, which was named Best Picture of the Year in 1992. Shane was made back in the 1953 in Jackson Hole with Alan Ladd playing the good guy. The American Film Institute ranks the two movies 4th and 3rd on the all-time list of greatest westerns.

It would be interesting to watch these two movies, back-to-back. The style of acting, directing and photography changed dramatically over that 40-year period. The over-acting in Shane is distracting. And typically the plot is much simpler. But I love that call at the end of Shane: “Come back, Shane. come back.”

My personal favorite movie that features the Cowboy State as locale is Once Upon A Time In The West. It features Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda. A lengthy visual treat. Its musical score is, by far, the best of any movie ever made about Wyoming. It is also the best spaghetti western of all time, filmed in fictional Sweetwater, Wyoming.

The Hateful Eight by director Quentin Tarantino was in theatres earlier this year and included scenes purportedly in the Cowboy State. Tarantino’s earlier movie Django Unchained had very chilly winter scenes that were filmed in Jackson Hole.

Moviegoers saw some amazing Wyoming footage in the movie 2012, which featured some of the best special effects ever. If you ever worried about Yellowstone blowing up, well, there it is – right there on the big screen.

Brokeback Mountain was a huge hit in 2005. Although filmed in Canada instead of Wyoming, it portrays our state in a beautiful way. Wyoming’s Annie Proulx wrote it. It featured the second best musical score for movies on this list.

One of our favorite movies of this genre is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Wyoming places are mentioned throughout.

The most famous science fiction movie filmed here was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a huge success by director Stephen Spielberg. Much of the action features Devils Tower. Rated one of the best sci-fi movies of all time.

Starship Troopers was a huge hit and featured scenes from Hell’s Half Acre near Casper.

If you like Coen Brothers movies, then watch Red Rock West, a very entertaining movie with lots of odd twists. It was actually made by the Dahl brothers and uses Wyoming as a locale. Another terrific movie is An Unfinished Life written by a Cody author Mark Spragg.

Flicka and The Horse Whisperer have strong Wyoming connections and are high-quality oaters for horse lovers and more.

A funny movie called Did You Hear About The Morgans takes place in Wyoming when a mobster couple is hiding out in the Cowboy State.

If you want a real treat, watch Heartland. Be sure to get the 1979 version starring Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell. Based on a book written about homesteading in southwest Wyoming years ago, it is amazing. And yes, this is the same Conchata who plays the loud-mouthed housekeeper in the TV series Two and a Half Men. A gritty movie that is long on amazing scenes and short of dialogue.

A fantastic and sobering movie is Taking Chance, which is about Marines returning the body of Chance Phelps, a young Dubois man killed in Iraq.

Broken Trail starring Robert Duvall takes place at the Lander Cutoff just south of the Wind River Mountain Range. Monte Walsh starring Tom Selleck is set in fictional Antelope, Wyoming.

Other movies nominated by friends included Spencer’s Mountain, Cat Ballou, Jubal, Hellfighters, Cheyenne Autumn, The Man From Laramie, The Mountain Men, Hallelujah Trail, Tom Horn, A Day on Teton Marsh, Heavens Gate and The Johnson County War.

These are my favorite Wyoming-themed movies. What are yours?

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is “Wyoming at 125,” which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at


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