Park Pop Culture: National Parks in the Movies

Posted on Thu, Aug 24, 2023 | HOMAGE Blog

America’s national parks preserve the stunning natural beauty, important history and culture that helps us tell the story of America. They’re also backdrops for some of our best-loved television shows and movies. Take a gander at some places in the National Park System that might look more than a little familiar to you, with HOMAGE and the National Parks Conservation Association.

As one of NPCA’s partners, HOMAGE is committed to the protection of our national parks. For every product purchased from HOMAGE’s National Park collection from April 16, 2022 to April 15, 2024, HOMAGE will donate 5% of the purchase price to NPCA.


Death Valley National Park: Star Wars, A New Hope

Death Valley

Photo by Nick Möllenbeck on Unsplash

Is that you, Tatooine? Nope, just the rolling dunes of Mesquite Flats in Death Valley National Park. While most scenes featuring that famous “coarse, rough, irritating and gets everywhere” sand were set in Tunisia, Death Valley’s epic dunes served as the backdrop for additional shots. And, good news Anakin: unlike the sand on Tatooine, the sand at Mesquite Flats is soft and powdery. Take a trip there for unforgettable sunsets, mountainous backdrops, and Death Valley’s famously dark night skies.


Redwood National and State Parks: ET


Photo by Adrián Valverde on Unsplash

ET might not have been a looker, but the forest that served as the backdrop for scenes with him and his pal Elliot sure is. Do Redwood National and State Parks’ namesake trees remind you of a galaxy far, far away? Redwood National Park was also the setting of the forest moon Endor in Return of the Jedi.


Devil’s Tower National Monument: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Devil's Tower

Photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash

There’s something uncanny about the massive Devil’s Tower in Wyoming – that’s probably why aliens chose it as a landing site in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the wake of the film’s release in 1977, the park saw nearly double the number of visitors as the year before, and rightfully so – the park boasts amazing night sky viewing, hiking and fishing.


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: Westworld


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Located just outside of Los Angeles, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is home to Paramount Ranch. Before it became a national park, Paramount Ranch was purchased in 1927 to serve as a “movie ranch” for Paramount Pictures. In 1953, a western town was built there to serve as a backdrop for Western TV shows and movies – if it looks familiar to you, it’s probably because of the recently filmed Westworld, however it was also featured in American Sniper and other popular films.


Yosemite National Park: Star Trek V, The Final Frontier


Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

Anyone who has been to Yosemite National Park leaves inspired by the massive granite that surrounds Yosemite Valley – and apparently, Captain Kirk was no different. In 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk decides to tackle El Capitan during shore leave. Why? As he tells Spock, “Because it’s there.” While your own Yosemite adventures might be a little tamer, the towering El Cap and iconic Half Dome are just two of the myriad locations in the park that stun visitors.


Grand Canyon National Park: National Lampoon’s Vacation

Grand Canyon

Photo by Henri Buenen on Unsplash

There might not be a national park more famous than Grand Canyon National Park or a road trip movie better loved than National Lampoon’s Vacation. The Griswold family stops at the iconic canyon on the way to Wally World, and so did the cast – unlike many movies that showcase the massive canyon, National Lampoon’s Vacation was actually filmed on the canyon’s South Rim. The scene was only a blip in the movie itself, but even Clark Griswold took a second to take it all in.

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