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10 Movies Every Arizonan Should See

If you were a teenager in Phoenix, you definitely have to see this Christian Slater flick.
If you were a teenager in Phoenix, you definitely have to see this Christian Slater flick.
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

There are some movies out there that just feel like Arizona. While some were shot in the state or take place in the state, other films get that Grand Canyon touch from the local talent who made them. Here are 10 movies every self-respecting Arizonan should watch to feel some local love on the silver screen.

See also: 10 Movies You Didn't Know Were Filmed in Arizona

Tombstone

When you tell people, especially people who live in other countries, that you're from Arizona, they almost always revert to the Wild West depiction of the state. Instead of getting bogged down by that assumption of what life here is actually like, study up. There are plenty of great Arizona gunfighter and outlaw flicks, and Tombstone is a great summary of infamous historical events like the gun fight at the O.K. Corral and the stories of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. After watching, you can wow foreign friends with your cowboy know-how and even tell them how you've visited Tombstone in real life. Plus, Sam Elliott is the best.

 

Los Wild Ones

Although this documentary is about a California-based record label, it's directed by local Elise Salomon, who you should know if you live here. After its 2013 release, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the movie on the festival circuit, including a few best documentary wins. That's because the story of the struggle of Latino rockabilly musicians and the fledgling Wild Records label they play under has as much heart and soul as the rock 'n' roll they play.

 

Raising Arizona

If people don't think of cowboys when you say you're from Arizona, they just might mention something about this late 1980s Coen brothers movie. Filmed and set in-state, there are some vaguely familiar locations. However, chances are this crime-filled baby caper flick doesn't exactly resemble your day-to-day life. Don't let that spoil it for you. It's easily one of the funniest Arizona-centric movies ever made.

 

Psycho

If a part of you doesn't get giddy and cheer (at least internally) when the opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic thriller Psycho flashes the words "Phoenix, Arizona" on screen with a panning shot over vintage downtown, you're probably not actually from here. Take some city pride and watch it over and over again until you're adequately psyched on the scene.

 

Pump Up the Volume

Thanks to what's quite possibly one of the best teen movie soundtracks ever (featuring Leonard Cohen, Pixies, and Bad Brains), this movie is great. Since it stars a young Christian Slater as a part-time lit nerd, part-time disgruntled, filthy pirate radio host, it's even greater. But its setting in the fictional yet realistic Phoenix suburb of Paradise Hills, lined with strip malls and dull houses that all look the same, makes this a movie that you can't help but relate to. We were all there at one point and we all wish we were as cool as Happy Harry Hard-On.

 

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

Usually road trip buddy movies pass through Arizona on the way to California or somewhere else westward, but Romy and Michele are headed to Tucson as their final destination. While this isn't the best movie on the list by any stretch, it's silly, hilarious, and features Janeane Garofalo. Just try to not have "Time After Time" stuck in your head after watching it.

 

Piranha 3D

If you've ever been to Lake Havasu for spring break, Memorial Day, or Labor Day, this movie is for you. Unless you were completely plastered like everyone else there, chances are the party kids that invade the popular Arizona destination annoyed the heck out of you. Don't try to act like you haven't imagined them all getting munched to bits by a pack of ferocious piranha. No? You haven't? Okay, well the movie was at least filmed there so watch it because of that.

 

Bus Stop

Did you know that even Marilyn Monroe made a movie in Arizona? Bus Stop tells the story of a cafe singer and the virgin cowboy who kidnaps her. How this movie premise ever actually got the green light is a mystery, but there are some cool shots of the classic Hollywood actress in Arizona.

 

A Fire in the Sky

Filmed and set in northern Arizona, this '90s sci-fi flick tells the maybe true story of a group of men who make contact with aliens. After one of them is abducted in a particularly disturbing scene, he is found naked and rambling in Heber. The film is based on Travis Walton's account of his abduction experience in The Walton Experience.

 

The Joe Show

If we have to live in a place where the sheriff is somehow still Joe Arpaio, we might as well make a movie about it. Well, that's what local filmmaker Randy Murray did. The documentary gives insight (although it's slightly depressing) into the huge media circus and pageantry that surrounds "America's toughest sheriff." It's also interesting to see what national figures like Larry King and Noam Chomsky have to say about all of it.

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