The Top Five Moments in Phoenix Film History

The Top Five Moments in Phoenix Film History
Making the top five list of classic films shot in Arizona is, of course, the iconic dude-fest that is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Close to Hollywood, with a desert landscape and shining city as adaptable to "New Mexico" as "Saudi Arabia" (just ignore that non-native cactus in the corner), the Phoenix metropolitan area has a rich history of film production. 

Our time in the spotlight has been bright -- from 1960's Psycho, when Janet Leigh drove away from the city to the creepy Bates Motel (and director Alfred Hitchcock sets a new record in promptly killing the film's major starlet), to 2010's Everything Must Go, when Will Ferrell rides his bike along the canals.   

What it doesn't include is no less notable: that so-called "Phoenix" house and "Phoenix" hotel in Twilight (in reality, California and Oregon). Praise the film crew that saved us from an even larger annual pilgrimage of Twi-moms and -tweens.

Here are five of the most memorable movie moments in Phoenix filmmaking history:

Upcoming Events

5. Raising Arizona (1987)
: Probably the quintessential made-in-Arizona film, this dark comedy from the Coen brothers shot in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Apache Junction, and Tempe. Our misguided but well-intentioned heroes, Ed (Holly Hunter) and Hi (Nicolas Cage, before he forgot how to read scripts), meet over mug shots at the Tempe Police Station on 5th Street.
Memorable Line: "You want to find an outlaw, hire an outlaw. You want to find a Dunkin' Donuts, call a cop."

See which other four films made the cut after the jump.

4. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
Rundown: This totally bodacious film was shot all around Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, with the latter's Coronado High School serving as the primary set (including where the two dudes present their final report). Look for Napoleon Bonaparte gleefully conquering the waterslides at Mesa's Golfland Sunsplash water park (dubbed "Waterloo" in the film) and bowling at what is now AMF Tempe Village Lanes. You can visit the Circle K (where Past Ted tells Present Ted about the princesses) at the corner of Southern and Hardy in Tempe.

Memorable Line: "Oh, you beautiful babes from England, for whom we have traveled through time... will you go to the prom with us in San Dimas? We will have a most triumphant time!"

3. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Rundown: Tom Cruise had us at not a complete lunatic back in the days before his star persona was irreparably linked to scientology and jumping on Oprah's couch, but it's Cuba Gooding, Jr., who steals the show as Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell. Jerry Maguire was shot on location in both Phoenix and Tempe, most memorably at Sun Devil Stadium, where Tidwell catches a touchdown pass, appears to be injured, and then dances for the crowd in the film's stand-up-and-cheer climax.

Memorable Line: "Show me the money!"

2. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Rundown: There's a reason the freeways start to look really familiar as the quirky family of Little Miss Sunshine coasts its way through "New Mexico" and on to California. Around the time that Dwayne (the always weirdly brilliant Paul Dano) has his heartbreaking meltdown, you'll recognize our classic tan stacks.

Memorable Line: "I'd like to dedicate this to my grandpa, who showed me these moves."

1. The Kingdom (2007)

Rundown: The Kingdom was filmed so extensively in and around Phoenix that even scenes actually shot in Saudi Arabia begin to look familiar (Is that a gunfight on Central Avenue? Protect Fez!). What passes as the American compound (where the major explosions and subsequent investigations take place) is in fact the ASU Polytechnic campus, while the FBI is briefed at the Gilbert Police Department and car chases speed along the 202. Tragedy struck the film crew in Mesa when an SUV carrying director Peter Berg collided with another car driven by production team member Nick Papac, who did not survive.

Memorable Line: "Not to go after criminals because they might try to harm you is really not a policy of the FBI. See, we try not to say uncle. We try."

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming Events

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >