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On Location: Films Shot in El Paso

With its scenic vistas and Old West character, El Paso is a natural choice for filmmakers looking for the kind of rugged romanticism that helps set the mood – for a high-octane action flick, a moody drama or even a knockabout comedy. Check out some of the movies that have taken advantage of the El Paso landscape:

  • The Border (1982) – U.S. Border Patrol agent Charlie Smith just wants to do a good job and provide for his wife. But between her demands for a more affluent lifestyle and the pleas of his partner to take part in illegal activities in exchange for bribes, Charlie gets caught up in helping smuggle illegal immigrants across the Texas border. When a young Mexican girl loses her baby to abductors who plan to sell the child, Charlie decides to take a stand for her and against the corruption he’s fallen into. Directed by Oscar winner Tony Richardson, “The Border” stars Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel. All the border scenes, the refugee camp scene and the U.S. Embassy scene were all shot in and around El Paso.
  • Courage Under Fire (1996) – A U.S. Army officer, despondent about a deadly mistake he made, investigates a female chopper commander’s worthiness for the Medal of Honor. The movie, which stars Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan, is set during the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War – and all of the Iraqi battle scenes were shot at the Indian Cliffs Ranch in El Paso.

“Courage Under Fire” Trivia

Many of the props used in the film during the scenes shot at Indian Cliffs Ranch were left behind, and the area is now a tourist attraction in El Paso.


  • Fandango (1985) – Five college buddies from the University of Texas (circa 1971) embark on final road trip odyssey across the Mexican border before facing up to uncertain futures, in Vietnam and otherwise. An early starring vehicle for Kevin Costner, with wedding scenes that were filmed in front of Mission San Elizario.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) – A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshipping cult. Shot in and around El Paso, where it also had its premiere (at the Capri Theater), this is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made.
  • Due Date (2010) – A high-strung father-to-be is forced to hitch a ride with an aspiring actor on a cross-country road trip in order to make it to California for his child’s birth. While this “road comedy” has some big-name star power in Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis and Jamie Foxx, it might have spent a little bit of its budget on geography lessons. In terms of the route this road trip takes, it is – quite literally – all over the map, and doesn’t make much sense. However, Interstate 25, between El Paso and Las Cruces, New Mexico, was heavily used.
  • Traffic (2000) – A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is an addict. Three interwoven stories tell a fascinating tale in director Steven Soderbergh’s drama, which picked up four Academy Awards – including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Benicio del Toro. Portions of the film were shot at the El Paso Intelligence Center.
  • 25th Hour (2002) – Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Monty Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term. A fascinating character study (pictured above), directed by Spike Lee, and starring Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper. Although this is clearly a New York film, the ending – which I won’t spoil here – was filmed in Austin, Elgin and El Paso.

“25th Hour” Trivia

Monty Brogan (played by Edward Norton) is sentenced under the Rockefeller drug laws, named after former New York governor (and Vice President) Nelson Rockefeller. Norton played Rockefeller in “Frida,” which was released the same year as this film.


  • Lolita (1997) – Humbert Humbert, a British professor coming to the U.S. to teach, rents a room in Charlotte Haze’s house, but only after he sees her 14-year-old daughter, Dolores (Lolita), to whom he is immediately attracted. Though he hates the mother, he marries her as this is the only way to be close to the girl, who will prove to be too mature for her age. Based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov and directed by Adrian Lyne. Various scenes were filmed in El Paso, particularly at Austin High School.

El Paso is just one of the many cinematic destinations that you can discover with Take a Getaway. To learn more, or inquire about traveling there (or more than 40+ other cities), drop us a line at info@takeagetaway.com.

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