Oregon Movies - Films Shot in and About the Beaver State
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.