Thelma and Louise: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has featured prominently in the American cinematic legacy. Thelma and Louise (1991), the controversial feminist road comedy, also ends at the Grand Canyon–albeit in a more mythic way than Grand Canyon. Geena Davis, a repressed housewife in curlers, and Susan Sarandon, a cynical waitress, climb into an 1966 Thunderbird convertible, leave their men in a small town in Arkansas, and hit the road. “I have had it up my ass with sedate,” Davis says early on. The two women want freedom, and in the most devastating way find it. Riding across the heroic landscape of the Southwest, they get high on their newly found liberation.

Written by Oscar-winner Callie Khouri, Thelma and Louise is a giddy, intoxicating comedy, with a looming sense of fatality. At the end of the film, with an army of police cars behind them, the two female buddies choose to leap into void and drive their car into the Canyon–instead of of going to jail and to their previous oppressive surroundings.

The Grand Canyon may be Arizona’s most famous touristy spot, but it is certainly not the only locale used by American movies. The following survey shows how Hollywood has used Arizona’s diverse settings and rich geography over the last six decades. One should not be surprised to find out that many silent films were shot in Arizona.

In 1926, Rudolph Valentino, the noted silent star, and his leading lady, Vilma Banky, spent some time in Yuma, shooting Son of the Sheik. Since the silent era, there has not been one year, in which at least a couple of Hollywood film crews have traveled to the neighboring Arizona for on-location shooting.