The American motion picture industry owes as much to its National Parks as the government who keeps them awe-inspiring, safe, and pristine; had President Lyndon B. Johnson never designated the Redwoods as federally protected land, who knows if there would even be an Endor for Return of the Jedi’s Ewoks to jam out on “Yub Nub." As our current presidential administration continues to show a combative inclination to incinerate their importance, it’s more important than ever to appreciate these wild lands as not just rugged pockets of natural splendor but a playground of our imaginations captured through film.
After all, a visual medium demands a compelling backdrop and it’s not just our science fiction stories – your E.T.s, your Planet of the Apes adventures – that respectfully depend on our country’s organic back lots. America the Beautiful has historically doubled as a treasured resoure and favorite filming locale for its national (and international) film industries. Thelma & Louise shot its climactic send-off in Canyonlands National Park, countless westerns called the Monument Valley of the Colorado Plateau (which is chocked full of federally reserved land) home, and even comedies like ¡Three Amigos! have used Arizona’s Coronado National Forest as milieu for its many jokes.
I keep returning to Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild as an exhibition of all that the diverse West Coast wildnerness has to offer along the Pacific Coast Trail. Without the National Parks and Forests there wouldn’t even be an Oregon mountaintop for Reese Witherspoon to thrust her malfunctioning hiking boot off. This is where the stakes get personal when we don’t support our National Parks: less empassioned actressing.
What are some of your favorite movies - domestic or international - that hike upon America’s purple mountain majesty or weave through its amber waves of grain?