The film industry has used the countless beautiful (and sometimes, not-so-beautiful) backdrops of New Mexico since the inception of moving pictures. With its diverse topography, picturesque scenery, and over 300 days of sunshine each year, New Mexico has a lot of to offer, including a combination of historic and futuristic sites and rugged western landscapes. In fact, over 600 productions have been shot wholly or partly in New Mexico; for film buffs attending the Annual Conference in Albuquerque this September, many of these locations are easy to visit.
New Mexico made its motion picture debut in 1897, with a 38-second silent documentary called “Indian Day School,” shot at Isleta Pueblo just south of Albuquerque. Other Pueblos have also made their way to the silver screen, including Laguna Pueblo west of Albuquerque, which was featured in the 1940 classic, “Grapes of Wrath.”
More recently, Albuquerque has been in the spotlight as the setting for the Emmy award-winning television series “Breaking Bad” and the hit spin-off “Better Call Saul.” Fans of the series can catch a tour bus run by ABQ Trolley Company that visits the best known shooting locations and receives high marks from visitors and locals alike. In addition, the historic railyard repair shop in the Barelas neighborhood south of downtown has served as the backdrop for scenes in blockbuster Hollywood productions such as “Avengers,” “Transformers,” and “Terminator Salvation.”
The remote western landscapes of New Mexico have long been popular shooting locations for movies and television series. For a taste of the action, drop by the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch just south of Santa Fe. The Ranch has brought the Wild West to life in a number of productions including “3:10 to Yuma,” “Appaloosa,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and the television series “Longmire.” Continuing north, visitors can take in the majestic mountain landscapes around Abiquiu, Taos, and Chama that were featured in such films such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Wild Wild West,” and “Natural Born Killers.” Finally, if your time in the Land of Enchantment has you heading south from Albuquerque, grab a coffee in Carrizozo where the Denzel Washington hit “Book of Eli” was filmed, or make a side-trip to the Very Large Array, a scientific marvel in its own right, where Jodie Foster communicated with aliens in “Contact.”
As you make plans to visit Albuquerque for the conference this fall, be sure to schedule some extra time to experience the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico. You just might recognize one of our scenic vistas the next time you visit a theater or turn on the TV!