Walking down Colorado Avenue in the Old Colorado City area of Colorado Springs, you think you’ve just passed Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. You do a double-take. “Could it be?” you wonder. Colorado Springs isn’t known as a hotbed of celebrity hangouts. Chances are, though, if you think you’ve spotted a famous actor, you’re right.
The magnificent beauty of Colorado makes it a ripe spot for film shoots. Many great and, not-so-great movies have been filmed in the Centennial State. Boulder, Castle Rock, Denver, and Durango have all shown up as settings in major motion pictures. Scenes from Dumb and Dumber (1994) showcase the familiar Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
But, Colorado Springs has set the locale for some fantastic films too. Okay, fantastic is a stretch for several, but still wonderful to see local landmarks in a feature movie. Here are the top five films shot—in part—in Colorado Springs.
Independence Day (1996)
“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind…We are going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” —Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore, Independence Day.
Independence Day became the highest-grossing film of 1996, with over $300 million netted at the worldwide box office. Although the film is set in Nevada, Colorado Springs also played a role in the blockbuster. All of Will Smith’s military base scenes were shot right here on Peterson Air Force Base. Or, as of July 21, 2021—Peterson Space Force Base, so perhaps Independence Day will prove forebodingly prophetic?
Furious 7 (2015)
It’s hard to believe there have been nine films in the Fast and Furious franchise thus far. And, harder still to recognize that some of the mountain road race scenes were filmed on the Pikes Peak Highway. And Furious 7 will go down in history as Paul Walker’s last franchise feature before his tragic death.
In 2013, while filming in Colorado Springs, Walker even spent time hanging out at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. He was also spotted downtown on Tejon Street as he waited to wrap up filming. Ecstatic fans spotted Walker at the now-defunct Ritz Bar and Grill, and he graciously chatted with locals. Ritz management reportedly allowed Walker and his friends to leave through the backdoor into an alleyway to avoid the chaos of the love-struck throngs.
Cop Car (2015)
In 2014, Kevin Bacon also made many appearances in both Colorado and Manitou Springs. He starred in Cop Car, a thriller directed by Colorado Springs native Jon Watts. Cop Car filmed entirely in Fountain and the Springs.
Bacon stayed in Colorado Springs for a twelve-day shoot. He was spotted at The Broadmoor, the Pikes Perk downtown location, and hiking up The Incline in Manitou Springs. On his ascent of The Incline, Bacon clocked a respectable time of 54 minutes and 2 seconds. Bacon made the most of his time in Colorado Springs and explored Garden of the Gods as well.
According to Westword.com, Cop Car features Bacon “as a sheriff whose car is stolen by two kids who take it on a joyride.” The film, also starring Camryn Manheim, initially screened in Colorado Springs on August 14, 2015.
Our Souls at Night (2017)
The Netflix film, Our Souls at Night, stars Jane Fonda as widow Addie Moore and Robert Redford as her widower next-door neighbor, Louis Waters. Their neighborhood may look familiar to Colorado Springs residents. Old Colorado City stands in for the fictional Holt, Colorado, and the Broadmoor is featured in scenes too.
The protagonists’ homes are both located on Pikes Peak Avenue. Fonda stayed at The Broadmoor during the shoot, and locals spotted both her and Redford in the area. Based on the novel by Colorado author, Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night tenderly explores shared grief and late-aged romance.
Fast Food Nation (2006)
Directed by the great Richard Linklater, Fast Food Nation is set in the fictitious town of Colby, Colorado. Most of the film was shot in and around Colorado Springs.
Fast Food Nation brought Wilmer Valderama, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Willis to our streets. Based on the book by Eric Schlosser, the film sets its story in Colorado Springs—which is also where the majority of Schlosser’s book takes place. Both the film and the non-fiction book take a critical look at the massive consumerism that plagues our “fast-food culture.”
Could a list of Colorado Springs-based films feel truly complete without this horror film from Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider? Long after he “felt the noise” of the 1980s, Snider chose to make his directorial debut in Colorado Springs.
Strangeland was filmed on location in August 1997. Snider enlisted locals for bit parts and extra roles in the horror film. The low-budget feature starred Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), Elizabeth Pena, and Snider as sadistic killer, Captain Howdy. The movie didn’t send Snider into the world of prestigious film-making, but it’s fun and campy—and a bit scary. Strangeland was also one of the first horror films to introduce chat rooms as a lure for victims.
Colorado Springs provides built-in beauty and atmosphere for filmmakers. The aforementioned films aren’t all award-winners, but they do our city proud. Did I omit any noteworthy entries? Let me know in the comments.
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