Hollywood in the High Desert

New Mexico's magnificent mountains and wide open skies have starred in hundreds of films and television series, starting with the world's first movie, shot in 1898 by Thomas Edison—Indian Day School on Isleta Pueblo. Since then, New Mexico's dazzling landscape has shared the cinematic spotlight with gunfighters, outlaws, aliens and even a Marvel Comics superhero. From Westerns to sci-fi thrillers, blockbuster action movies and so many other genres, Hollywood's long love affair with New Mexico is thriving. Check out the exciting film locations to discover in Santa Fe County, home to all six of New Mexico's Western movie sets.

The Ranch of the Swallows

The pastoral setting and historic buildings of the acclaimed living history museum El Rancho de las Golondrinas (“The Ranch of the Swallows) have appeared in numerous films and television series.

Devoted to the region's Spanish, Mexican and Territorial heritage, the museum is yours to explore on a self-guided film tour when it's open, June through October.

Highlights include locations for the 2020 Western News of the World starring Tom Hanks, who visits a 19th-century schoolhouse and farm field. When he rescues the young girl Johanna, who's fallen into a river, the scene was actually shot in the museum's parking lot, with giant green screens creating the illusion of water. The 2003 Western The Missing,  starring Tommie Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett and set in 1885, was  filmed at the museum's rustic Mora House, where Jones crashes through a movie glass window and Val Kilmer puts in a cameo appearance playing a U.S. Army officer in charge of a group of Apaches. (Kilmer was then living on a nearby ranch.)

 A night scene in the 2000 Western All the Pretty Horses, based on the novel by Santa Fe resident Cormac McCarthy and starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz, was filmed at the museum's Sierra Village. The bright lights from the tall cranes kept the neighbors up. The director of  the 1994 Western biography Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner as the legendary lawman, had to yell “Cut” when lightning struck the ground close to where the hero was walking away from his wife's grave.

Other productions filmed at El Rancho de las Golondrinas include:

Better Call Saul, Season 5, 2019

The Kid, 2019

Godless, 2017 (Diablo Canyon)

Longmire, 2012-2017

Comanche Moon, 2006 (Bonanza Creek Ranch, private movie ranches)

Into the West, 2005

Young Guns, 1988 (Los Cerrillos)

MacGruber, 2010

Walker Texas Ranger, 1993-2001 (Diablo Canyon)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (1969)

From Cattle to Movie Classics

The legendary Bonanza Creek Ranch was a working a cattle ranch until Hollywood arrived to film the 1955 Western, The Man from Laramie starring Jimmy Stewart.  More than 130 movies have since filmed at the ranch, which continues to see productions come through to this day. (The ranch is not open to the public.)

When the Western Silverado was released in 1985 with an all-star cast that includes Kevin Costner, it launched a revival of classic Westerns. The film's sprawling ranch set has appeared in many other productions, including the 1988 Western television mini-series Lonesome Dove. Anjelica Huston's character, Clara” lived on the ranch. Her old flame, retired Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae played by Robert Duvall, wore a cowboy hat known as “The Gus,” a style that's still popular in Santa Fe County hat shops.

Other productions filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch include

News of the World, 2020 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018 (Bonanza Creek, private movie ranches)

Cowboys & Aliens, 2011 (Private movie ranches, Diablo Canyon)

3:10 to Yuma, 2007 (Private movie ranches, Diablo Canyon)

Comanche Moon, 2006 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas, private movie ranches)

The Missing, 2003 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas)

All the Pretty Horses, 2000  (El Rancho de las Golondrinas, private movie ranches)

Appaloosa, 2008  (Private movie ranches, Lamy, Diablo Canyon)

Young Guns,1988 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas,, Los Cerrillos)

Walker Texas Ranger, 1997 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Diablo Canyon)

Gunsmoke: The Long Ride, 1993

The Return of Desperado, 1988 (Private movie ranches)

Astronaut Farmer, (2006)

Mining Towns on the Turquoise Trail

Small, sleepy Los Cerrillos was once a boom town, filled with miners seeking gold, silver and turquoise. The main street's historic buildings and wooden sidewalks provided a perfect set for The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, a 1958 Walt Disney television series about a real-life Western hero. Three decades later, Young Guns, the 1988 Western about Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, was famously filmed in the area.

Madrid, a coal-mining town deserted by the 1950s, is now full of colorful character, its main street lined with restaurants and shops in the buildings of yesteryear. Madrid's Wild West flavor appeals to movie makers, but so does its quirkiness. When David Bowie comes tripping down a scorched mountain in the 1976 sci-fi cult classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, he's just outside of Madrid. The town played a starring role in the 2007 biker road comedy Wild Hogs, featuring John Travolta and Tim Allen. Maggie's Diner was built for the film on Madrid's main drag and left behind for the town's residents. Fittingly, Peter Fonda shows up to prevent a fight with a rival biker gang,  a nod to his 1969 iconic biker movie, Easy Rider, also filmed in Madrid.

Other productions filmed in Cerrillos and Madrid include:

Longmire, Pilot, 2012

Beer for My Horses, 2008

The Hi Lo Country, 1998

Outrageous Fortune, 1987

Railroad Town

Once a major stop for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, the little town of Lamy has a few movie credits. The historic Legal Tender Saloon & Eating House appeared in Only the Brave, a 2017 drama about elite Arizona firefighters starring Jeff Bridges, and also the 2008 action thriller Conspiracy, featuring Val Kilmer. A famous train-heist scene was filmed on the tracks north of town for the fifth and final season of the Breaking Bad television series (2012-2013). Today, a new train rides these tracks—Sky Railway, an interactive adventure train co-owned by George R.R. Martin, who wrote fantasy novels that became the basis for the HBO hit, Game of Thrones, in Santa Fe.

Private Movie Ranches

From The Cheyenne Social Club (1970), starring James Stewart and Henry Fonda, to the 2011 Marvel Comics superhero tale Thor, films of every genre are made on private ranches in Santa Fe County, often working cattle and horse ranches that double as complex movie sets. A town built for Thor, for instance, was beset by a giant automaton. Crews for the 2017 Netflix mini-series Godless, spent three months building a set for the gold rush town of La Belle, with a hotel, saloon, jail and 25 buildings.

Other films and TV series shot on private movie ranches include:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2017 (Bonanza Creek, Diablo Canyon)

The Hitcher, 2017 (Chimayó)

The Lone Ranger, 2013

Cowboys & Aliens, 2011 (Diablo Canyon)

True Grit, 2010

Appaloosa, 2008 (Bonanza Creek, Lamy, Diablo Canyon)

3:10 to Yuma, 2007 (Bonanza Creek, Diablo Canyon)

Comanche Moon, 2006 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Bonanza Creek Ranch)

The Missing , 2003 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Bonanza Creek Ranch)

All the Pretty Horses, 2000 (El Rancho de las Golondrinas)

Wild, Wild West, 1999

Lonesome Dove, 1989 (Bonanza Creek)

Up North

Diablo Canyon Recreation Area is a place of stark beauty, with towering basalt cliffs. In Cowboys and Aliens, a 2011sci-fi action film starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, the alien creature is tracked to the canyon, and the 2017 Netflix miniseries Godless features a chase scene on horseback and several train heists in this striking terrain.

Other productions filmed in Diablo Canyon include:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018 (Bonanza Creek, private movie ranches)

Walker Texas Ranger, 1993-2001 (Bonanza Creek Ranch)

Appaloosa, 2008 (Bonanza Creek,  Lamy)

Earth 2, 1994-1995

The Last Outlaw, 1993

With its  plazas and placitas, orchards and chile fields, the historic village of Chimayó has appeared in several films, including the 2011 sci-fi comedy, Paul, starring Seth Rogen and Simon Pegg and the 2007 thriller The Hitcher.

Filmed elsewhere in Santa Fe County

Independence Day Resurgence , 2016

A Million Ways to Die in the West, 2014

Terminator Salvation, 2009

The Longest Yard, 2005

Natural Born Killers, 1994

City Slickers, 1991

Todo Local

Santa Fe hosts an incredible variety of film festivals each year, from independent and indigenous films to films that celebrate nature's mountains and wild and scenic rivers, as well as many other topics. Panels, parties, workshops, and award ceremonies are often on the schedule, offering participants a chance to meet and mingle with directors and stars.