What Movies Were Filmed in Oregon?
The location selected for a film is often as compelling as the characters and dialogue itself. The Pacific Northwest is lush and green, filled with the beauty of lakes, streams and rivers. Majestic mountains rise above the horizons. The Pacific Ocean borders the western edge of the states of Washington and Oregon. And it rains. Heavy gray skies give a gloomy cast, adding drama or intensity to some movies that have been shot in cities such as Portland and Astoria (one of the rainiest cities in the United States).
There are a number of movies that are based in, or have been created in part, in the state of Oregon. Some are well-known, while others will surprise you. Read on for a tour through history.... we'll take a trip through the "Beaver State." Both sides of the Cascade Mountains are represented in the film arts over many decades of Hollywood productions.
A Short List of Memorable Oregon Films
- The Shining
- National Lampoon's Animal House
- Stand By Me
- The Goonies
- Kindergarten Cop
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Body of Evidence
- Drugstore Cowboy
- Free Willy (Original and Free Willy 2)
- Mr. Holland's Opus
- My Own Private Idaho
- The Postman
- Apple Dumpling Gang
- The Ring (Original and The Ring 2)
- What the Bleep Do We Know?
- Rooster Cogburn
- The River Wild
- Jackass: The Movie
- Point Break
My Own Private Idaho Trailer
Rainy Scenes West of the Mountains
You want gloomy? Does it need to be scary? Then set your movie in a city that rains. Portland is somewhat like Seattle, Washington. Located in the Pacific Northwest, the days are temperate. Not too hot, and not too cold. That usually means overcast and/or rainy. A usual day in spring or fall includes temperatures in the mid 50s and light winds. Low clouds add to the angst. Move closer to the Oregon coast and weather forecasting gets even more difficult. Storms blow in as often as moods change. For this reason, films like the recent Untraceable, as well as Body of Evidence and My Own Private Idaho, have been shot in Portland.
Untraceable. Diane Lane looks sexy in the pouring down rain in this scary drama released in 2008, called the "Silence of the Lambs" for the Internet age. A fast-paced cat and mouse game in which an FBI agent tries to track down a killer who posts pictures of his victims online.
Body of Evidence. Madonna and Willem Dafoe star in this Portland crime drama (1993). Did she kill for millions? Watch to find out, if you can stand Madonna's acting skills (or lack thereof). Also filmed in Olympia, Washington, this movie showcases the Northwest.
My Own Private Idaho. This sad film (1992) by Gus Van Sant, starring Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix is about Portland youths that live on the street and make money for drugs and alcohol by turning tricks. Nominated for a number of awards at independent film festivals.
The essence of scary is found in The Ring (2002) and its sequel. This movie, directed by Gore Verbinski and filmed in Astoria, concerns an evil videotape. Anyone who watches it will die within one week. The video, not the movie....
The Ring: Watch it if you Dare!
Classic Oregon Films
There are a few movies that have been based in and/or filmed in Oregon, with which any film buff should be familiar. This is the list of the "best" Oregon films, if you will. So enjoy and, if you have any additions or comments, please share below.
The Shining. This 1980 thriller, based on a novel by Stephen King and directed by Stanley Kubrick stars the accomplished actor Jack Nicholson and Sissy Spacek, but is not actually set in Oregon. However, many scenes are filmed at the historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, just east of Portland, in the Cascade Range. The remoteness of the location... all alone, snowed in, and Jack suffering from extreme writer's block (not to mention a few other delusional disorders). Great movie. Scary as you know what.
Animal House. Who does not know about this 1978 National Lampoon film? Shot at the University of Oregon in Eugene, it is a cult comedy classic. Long live John Belushi! Toga! Toga! Toga! Any parent who watches this movie will immediately decide that their child should not "go Greek" at college.
Shot at a Salem, Oregon mental hospital, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) is another classic starring Jack Nicholson. It was nominated for and won numerous Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Actor and Best Picture. You've really got to see this movie! Watch it again if it has been some time.
Another film that everyone should have seen is Stand by Me, a coming of age story of young boys, filmed in Eugene, Oregon. Starring the extremely talented River Phoenix (who died much too young) and a group of cronies, this charming movie is set in the 1960s when life seemed easy and when boys get in trouble, it doesn't seem all that bad!
The Goonies. A Steven Spielberg film shot at the Oregon Coast, in Astoria (1985). Of the actors starring in this movie, you will probably only recognize the name Josh Brolin (stepson of Barbra Streisand). Still, it has a strong cult following. Let's all do the Truffle Shuffle!
Stand by Me: Filmed in Eugene, Oregon
Central Oregon Movies
The eastern side of the mountains in Oregon has a completely different climate than the western side. Much drier and sunnier, the vegetation is comprised primarily of ponderosa and juniper pines. Clouds are high, instead of low-hanging, and the number of sunny days outnumber the cloudy days each year. Several notable films have been made in Central Oregon, including:
The Postman (1997). Kevin Costner stars in this epic movie that failed as badly as "Dances With Wolves" succeeded. Shot near the gorgeous Smith Rock near Terrebonne, Oregon (between Redmond and Madras), the rock formations, clear blue sky and endless landscape set a magnificent scene for the end-of-the-world, second Civil War story.
Rooster Cogburn (1975). There area must have looked a lot different than present day, when John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn came to Central Oregon in 1974 to shoot this film. Reviewers say this is one of the best movies to showcase the magnificent talents of these two actors in the twilights of their careers. Based on the novel, "True Grit."
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975). One of my favorite movies from my childhood, this Disney film, starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts, was shot in Bend, Oregon. The duo is hilarious as a pair of crooks, who get thwarted by a "gang" of misfit children. Rent this one for some great, wholesome laughs.
Oregon Coast Movies
Free Willy(1993). Shot in Astoria, Oregon, this story about a 12-year old boy who saves a killer whale is an all-time favorite! As a result of the movie, donations poured in to find Keiko (its star) a new home in Oregon, that would be better than his amusement park location in Mexico City. The film was followed up with Free Willy 2 in 1995 and Free Willy 3 in 1997. Sadly, Keiko died of pneumonia in 2003 after finally being set free into the wild in 1998.
Point Break(1991). Another Keanu Reeves movie, also starring Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey. If you like to surf, you'll love this action movie that involves FBI agents and a group of surfers that just may be bank robbers. Swayze looks good along the Oregon coastline!
Kindergarten Cop(1990). Ivan Reitman's police comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed on locations along the Oregon coast, including Astoria and Cannon Beach. Stunning views of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park are showcased in this film. Oh, and Arnold is pretty funny trying to wrangle a bunch of 5-year olds!
The list continues with additional movies that were filmed in and/or based in Oregon. Who knew that this Northwest state was such a popular location for Hollywood?
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995). This endearing story about an inspiring music teacher spans 30 years of his life, and the important historical events of the time between 1960 and 1990. Richard Dryfuss did such a terrific job portraying the emotions of his character that he was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. Wonderful insight into the lives of the deaf and American Sign Language (ASL), as well. It was filmed in Portland.
Drugstore Cowboy (1989). Starring Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch and James LeGros, this is another Gus Van Sant film about drug addiction, shot in the Portland area. The plot centers on a pharmaceutical drug burglary ring, and chronicles the members' slide into drugged out nothingness.
The River Wild (1994). This film stars Merryl Streep and Kevin Bacon and is an action-adventure movie that was nominated for several Golden Globes. Filmed in part near Grants Pass, Oregon and on the Rogue River, Streep's character battles several armed killers, while attempting to navigate a rushing whitewater river.
What the Bleep Do We Know? (2004). A memorable title, as well as a great film, starring Marlee Matlin and filmed in Portland. If you have not seen it, be prepared for a unique entertainment experience. Matlin's character is a divorced woman who finds herself in an "Alice-in-Wonderland" experience taking her into the depths of quantum physics and employing amazing visual special effects. It will leave you truly wondering what the "bleep" do we know?
Elephant (2003) Gus Van Sant loves the Pacific Northwest! He manages to shock us, and make us think once again in this Portland-based film that centers on the lives of several high school students before a Columbine-style shooting occurs. One of the first films to take on this controversial topic, it was highly received at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d'Or.
More Movies in Oregon
The list will continue, as the Pacific Northwest continues to be a terrific backdrop for film locations and a popular locale to which Hollywood sends its stars. Whether the story requires an ocean, dry desert and rock formations, or gloomy overcast skies, Oregon has it!
So watch your local cineplex and keep your eyes out for more treats from this treasure of a state.
Do You Have Any Favorites? Any I Missed? Please Leave me a Comment
No one on June 15, 2020:
Fire in the sky
Ramona on July 25, 2015:
They called Brownsville Castle Rock in Stand by Me.They celebrate Stand By Me every year in Brownsville by guided tours, trivia contests, pancake breakfasts and more. I just went to it on the 23rd. Saw the bridge they walked across, the tree where the treehouse was, Blue Mon Diner, hardware store and more, it was awesome.
Ramona on July 25, 2015:
Stand by Me was also filmed in Brownsville Oregon
Carmen on December 25, 2013:
Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn filmed Management in Madras, Oregon.
alpha5280 from Missouri on September 06, 2012:
A great hub! Had no idea so many good movies were done in OR. Also, great use of photos.
greg on July 28, 2012:
This is a bit repetitive of the list you've provided, but here are all the Central Oregon movies I'm aware of, including a few I don't see mentioned in your list. Enjoy:
*Golden Earrings - Marlene Deitrich - '47
Indian Fighter - Kirk Douglas - '56
The Way West - Kirk Douglas - '56
Island at Top of the World -Disney - '74
*Rooster Cogburn - John Wayne - '74
*Apple Dumpling Gang - Don Knotts - '75
*Hot Lead & Cold Feet - Don Knotts '78
*St Helens - Art Carney - '81
Up the Creek - Tim Matheson - '84
Love at Large - Tom Berenger - '84
*My Own Private Idaho - River Phoenix, Keanu Reaves - '91
*Homeward Bound - Michael J. Fox - '93
*White Wolves - '93
*Even Cowgirls Get the Blues - Uma Thurman - '95
*The Postman - Kevin Costner - '97
louromano on March 25, 2012:
Woe ! Very interesting hub.
Kathy on March 11, 2012:
Just watched new TV movie with Kristen Davis called Of Two Minds. The license plates on the cars said Oregon. Looked like maybe Lake Oswego is where the family home was. But what about all the scenes with the horses. Some gorgeous ranch that I'd like to know more about.
Shilo on February 25, 2012:
You forgot to mention some movies that were filmed in Eastern Oregon, such as Paint Your Wagon (filmed in Baker City,OR)and also Napoleon and Samantha (filmed in John Day, OR).
Renee T on November 21, 2011:
I know that "Bandit" (with Bruce Willis & Billy Bob Thornton) and "Maverick" (with Mel Gibson) were also filmed in Oregon! Very notable films, please include these in your list :)
Maggie on September 09, 2011:
Stand by me was also filmed in Veneta-- the junkyard scene! Veneta is 15 minutes from Eugene!
ace on March 27, 2011:
Where are all the movies that were made on the Native American Indian rezervations, WARM SPRINGS,PENDELTON,GRANDROUND .ECT, ECT ,ECT, ECT ????
Karen from Salem, OR on February 02, 2011:
I love Stand By Me and always knew that it was filmed in Oregon. I grew up in Eugene, and I had no idea it was filmed there. I'm not sure if Castle Rock is a real town in Oregon or not, but I do remember him referring to Harlow Road and Portland. Great Hub!
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 05, 2011:
Hi Jeff, thank you! We had a good laugh last year when an episode of "Criminal Minds" was said to be taking place in Bend, Oregon, but it was so clearly not our terrain and landscape - more like Southern California!
Yes, Oregon is a great backdrop for films and its wonderful to have our beautiful state taking a role in the movies!
I'll have to check out "Winter's Bone." Sounds like Missouri would be a perfect place for such a film.
Jeffrey Penn May from St. Louis on January 05, 2011:
Hi steph.. I'm always checking to see if movies get their location correct, and hate it when they say they are supposedly in one state or area of the country when it is obviously not. Oregon is excellent for movie-making as your hub indicates. I live in St. Louis, and we don't get nearly as many movies made here, and if they are they tend to focus on the city. However, one notable exception, was "Winter's Bone," which captures the landscape of the Missouri Ozarks like no other movie I've seen. Landscape does matter, and in this case, was perfect.
Hans on July 25, 2010:
Sissy Spacek was not in the Shining! It was Shelly Duval.
Bend,Overall Guidebook on May 28, 2010:
Hey Steph, great list...I hadn't heard that the Apple Dumpling Gang in Bend--thanks!
One that the list missed was "Up the Creek", the Animal House copycat set on the Ddeschutes river in Bend...with plenty of "T and A"...and then there's the old 1958 Disney "classic" Tonka which was filmed in Bend's new Badlands wilderness as well as Smith Rock and the Warm Springs Reservation.
Larry on January 08, 2010:
Was Emperor of the North Pole filmed in Oregon?
Jay Mahn on September 24, 2009:
Here is an interesting little bit of trivia. In 1971 when Kurt Russell was a player for the then bend Rainbows. The Theater in Bend hosted the Premier for the Barefoot executive.
I know it wasn't made in Oregon But gee how many premiers did Oregon ever get and really How many has bend ever seen? Just thought I would toss that in.
Ray and Migdalia Etheridge on September 21, 2009:
"The Vernonia Incident" (1989), shot in Vernonia Oregon
(Where "Ring of Fire" was shot in the early 60s).
Kambakkht Ishq on April 30, 2009:
so many films in oregon ,i am quite surprised
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 09, 2009:
Thanks B - it was really fun putting this hub together. Quite a few gems from Oregon in the film industry. :) Steph
"B" from Portland, OR on April 09, 2009:
Oregon Movies- Films Shot in and about the Beaver State
I have lived in oregon my entire life and am a film major at PSU and I am still amazed how this information has escaped me! I never realized how many movies were made here, very interesting stuff!
Free-Tax-Filing on March 12, 2009:
I'm from Portland myself and had no idea Animal House was filmed in Eugene. Partyyyy!!!!!
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 05, 2009:
Hi bgpappa - I was amazed too! I've been a long-time PNW gal, and it was wonderful to hear bout all the Oregon Movies either shot here, or written for here.
bgpappa from Sacramento, California on March 05, 2009:
Great Hub. Didn't realize so many were filmed in Oregon. Knew about the Goonies and Mr. Holland's Opus.
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Bruce Elkin from Victoria, BC Canada on December 22, 2008:
Hi Steph. Luved the hub. I haven't spent much time in Oregon. Drove through it once, saw the Dunes, the Gorge, the Willamette Valley. Spent a couple of days in Portland, and a week at Camp Cascade, up the north fork of the Little Santianne River. Gorgeous spot. But it was enough to build up a kind of mistique for me. So being able to watch videos and think, "hey, that's Oregon" might spur me to get my old butt down there for another visit.
I've go some friends who run The Simple Living Network who live just north of Portland, on the WA side of the river, and up in the mountains. I'd like to visit them, and see more of Oregon. So thanks!
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on December 18, 2008:
Oh, I totally agree - Apple Dumpling Gang is one of my favorites too! :)
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on December 17, 2008:
You mentioned several that I just love. I've got to rent the Apple Dumpling Gang again now.
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on December 16, 2008:
Hi Mike - isn't it great to find out about all these great flicks!? Thanks for the comment and come back for more. :)
Mike the salesman from birmingham alabama/sherwood oregon on December 16, 2008:
Thank You! That was a GREAT hub! I grew up in Oregon and had no idea Animal House was shot in Eugene. Many of those were a surprise! I only thought of Pre, the Steve Prefontaine movie! wow! interesting read!
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 12, 2008:
Thank you for adding to the trivia here, KDorfman! I love finding out new things about these movies. Cuckoo's Nest is one of my favorites. Jack Nicholsen is a pure genuis in my book. Since I've lived in both Washington and Oregon, I'm not offended at all about comments re: one side of the Columbia than the other.
KDorfman from Pacific Northwest on November 12, 2008:
Love the list! An interesting tidbit for you: when Cuckoo's Nest was filmed the doctor that was the head of the facility was the actual head of the facility that they filmed it at, and the guy who was Chief Bromden was a Yakima. (Not to state any preference for a particular side of the Columbia.)
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on June 09, 2008:
Hi Alex - thank you for adding to the list! Yes, I guess I should have titled this Best Known movies in Oregon," although Prefontaine is certainly a U of O Hero! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has its own following as well. Perhaps I need to write a Part II Hub to highlight more movies!
Alex on June 08, 2008:
Great site. What about these movies to add to the list: Mr. Brooks, Antitrust, Mean Creek, Bongwater, Even Cowgirls get the Blues, Benji the Hunted, Bandits, Paint you Wagon, Sometimes a Great Notion, Short Circuit, Incredible Journey, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, The Hunted, Firefox, Leaving Normal, Zero Effect, The Tillamook Treasure, Eight Below, River's Edge, Big Nothing, Feast of Love, We Don't Live Here Anymore, Without a Paddle, Without Limits, Prefontaine
Sign Language Alphabet Guide on May 13, 2008:
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 10, 2008:
Desert Blondie - first of all - no! Your hub is lovely and just perfect! How many other states have musicals/movies names after them?? Anyway, you can see why this took a few days. Lots of movies made here in this state. I hope you enjoy! Steph
desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on May 10, 2008:
OH MY GOSH ! ! ! Your "home state" movies hub makes mine look so lame! BUT Oklahoma is, honestly, a pretty lame state compared to Oregon! WOW! I'm going right now to give you a link in my hub to this one!
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 09, 2008:
Thank you msms! Had fun with this one. :-)
msms on May 09, 2008:
stephhicks68 As always your research and collection is superb. Hats off to your professionalism Dear
Thanks for the great insights
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 09, 2008:
I hope you enjoy them, Rodney!
Rodney Fagan from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City on May 08, 2008:
Thanks great hub, Now I have a list of must sees, which is good as it is now autumn over here.
Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 08, 2008:
Thanks evemurphy! Some really great films shot here in Oregon. I need to catch up on one or two myself. :-)
evemurphy from Ottawa on May 08, 2008:
Well I've got my new list of movies to look for now! Thanks for the great page! That "Untraceable" in particular. :0 Scary!