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Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 | 5 comments

Alabama Hiils: Hollywood’s Premier Filming Location

Today’s post is about a place you have probably seen in movies or TV but don’t know by its proper name.

I am referring to the Alabama Hills located at the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in the Owens Valley, west of the town of Lone Pine.  The “Hills” are rock formations or piles of rocks (as I see them).  Experts consider them part of the Sierra.

Alabama Hills


The name of the area comes from the CSS Alabama, a Confederate ship used during the Civil War.  Californians identifying with the Confederation named mines in the area after the ship.  With time, the entire range acquired the name.

Now, this is truly a famous location and I am sure you have seen it before.  Hundreds of movies, commercials, shows, music videos and other productions have been filmed in the area.  Why is this place so important for producers scouting for locations? First, it is three to four hours from Hollywood.  An excellent place to film really close to the studios.  Second, the area is beautiful.  A lot of people in the industry like to have the amazing Sierra peaks as a background.  Plus, the “Hills” are full of spectacular formations and natural arches. Third, the place can double as a far away locale.  In some movies, it has been used to represent the Himalayas or the Arabian Desert.

Close up of one of the hills


Hundreds of cowboy movies used the “Hills” as its location.  So, this is the real Old West you have seen in the 1920- 1960’s movies.  Below is a sample of the big names that have filmed in the area.

  • Hopalong Cassidy
  • Roy Rogers
  • John Wayne
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Joe Kidd
  • Gene Autry
  • Classics such as the Lone Ranger

I don’t really associate with this genre.  But for I was able to experience in the area, these types of movies were the favorite in the United Sates for many decades.  Learning about all this history gave me a sense of respect for all the people who made a life working in the industry for years.   Take a look at the movie location map to discover what other movies has been filmed in the area.

Contrast between the road rocks and the rocks on the hills


Ok, once the cowboy fever passed, other movies started to be filmed in the area.  Now, I can associate with this.  Here is an example of some blockbusters filmed there:

  • Tremors (that movie with Kevin Bacon)
  • Gladiator
  • Star Trek Generations
  • Disney’s Dinosaur
  • G.I. Joe
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Iron Man

Another view of the hills


Additionally, commercials for almost all models of cars have been filmed in the area (you are going to see the car riding in front of a mountainous backdrop, the other day I saw one of these commercials for a SUV). Tons of artists (even international artists) film music videos in the area.

See, I told you the place is famous.

Alabama Hills seen from the top


If you want to learn more about this area, you can always pay a visit to the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Film History located in the town of Lone Pine.  The museum celebrates and preserves the diverse movie history of Lone Pine, Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra.

Exhibits at the museum reflect the museum’s extensive collections and include: early silent films, post war films, “eastern,” science fiction and the many cowboy heroes who worked locally. Temporal exhibits highlight famous times, characters and actors.

The museum also includes an 85 movie theatre (a 15 minutes movie summarizing the history of the area is presented every half an hour) and a shop are found on the premises.

Here are some photos:

Movie murals at Film Museum


Car used in one of the Old West movies


Dress used in one of the movies filmed in the area


Posters depicting famous movie characters


Detail of one of the cars used in the movies filmed in the area


Sign at the men's restroom


Museum Information:

701 South Main Street,

Lone Pine, Ca

Admission: $5

Have you seen the Alabama Hills or the Easter Sierra featured in a movie or other TV production?  Let me know in the comments section below.


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  1. How funny I’m reading this and watching Joe Kid at the same time. We go camping in Lone Pine all the time. It’s a nice little town. Great info

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