You never know where a production crew and cast might show up next; however, we're always cheering once we finally see Greater Phoenix on the big screen.
Why, you might ask? Because movies have always inspired travel — and we could all use a little inspiration to stream from the comfort of our own home right about now.
That said, we’re not sure the Red Mountain Freeway in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2016) or the Arizona State flag in Lady Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” (2018) are enough to do the trick. So, we did some extensive (ahem) research to bring you our favorite movies shot in Phoenix, which feature must-see area landmarks, and we’ll leave the trip inspiration role to you.
Does it have to be a #ThrowbackThursday or a #FlashbackFriday to enjoy a holiday movie? We vote no. So, the next time you could use a little holiday (or desert) magic, you can check out a variety of Phoenix locales in this festive flick, including the Desert Botanical Garden. At 140 acres, the garden is home to more than 50,000 desert plants, on display throughout five thematic trails. Each November and December, Las Noches de las Luminarias — Arizona's longest-running holiday tradition — lights up the garden with 8,000 flickering luminaria bags and twinkling lights (pictured above). Spoiler alert: You’re welcome to check out all the places Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader visit in our blog post here.
Desert Botanical Garden: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
"Transformers: The Last Knight" (2017)
While the salvage yard scenes in this installment of the "Transformers" series were shot at Desert Valley Auto Parts, which was home to various Trans Ams and pickup trucks from the 1970s at the time, you might also recognize a stretch of Loop 303, between I-17 and Lake Pleasant Parkway, in the Northwest Valley as well. But if you're the type of auto buff that's planning to drive out here in hopes of a glimpse at the iconic neon sign, you'll want to add a visit to the Penske Racing Museum to your itinerary. Here, you can explore a collection of cars, trophies and racing memorabilia chronicling the career of one of the most successful dynasties in all of sports – all up-close and personal. If you plan your trip accordingly, you can also catch the annual Barrett-Jackson Auction, which showcases the finest selection of quality collector vehicles — from classic and one-of-a-kind vehicles to exotics and muscle cars — on the auction block each January at Westworld of Scottsdale.
Desert Valley Auto Parts: 23811 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix
Penske Racing Museum: 7191 E. Chauncey Lane, Phoenix
Westworld of Scottsdale: 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
"Everything Must Go" (2011)
Will Ferrell, C.J. Wallace (Biggie Smalls' son) and Michael Peña came to Phoenix to shoot this film, which is centered around a front yard that’s referenced as the Arcadia neighborhood in the dialogue. But keep an eye out for the restaurant scene, shot at Aunt Chilada's. Nestled in the shadow of the Piestewa Peak (Phoenix Mountains Preserve), this historic landmark was constructed from desert stone and railroad ties in the1890s. The original building served as a supply depot and general store for the mercury miners passing through the area. Today, you can sit where Will Ferrell sat and dig into signature Mexican dishes that have proven to withstand the test — and taste — of time.
Calling all sports trivia fans: What do Phoenix, Brad Pitt and the first overall pick of the 1980 Major League Baseball draft have in common? Short answer: "Moneyball." Long answer: Pitt, who portrayed the legendary Billy Beane, hit Phoenix Municipal Stadium to shoot the Oakland A's spring training scenes for this flick. While the Athletics moved on to Hohokam Stadium in 2015, "Phoenix Muni" was their home field each March from from 1982 to 2014 for Cactus league Spring Training. And, as all of you sports trivia fans know, that's a lot of history. The field is now home to the Arizona State University Sun Devils, and still boasts a pretty iconic outfield backdrop: the red rock formations of neighboring Papago Park.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium: 5999 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix
Hohokam Stadium: 1235 N. Center St., Mesa
"The Savages" (2007)
“America’s Friendliest Airport” co-stars alongside Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco in this dramedy that follows a sister and brother as they face the realities of familial responsibility and begin to care for their ailing father — who, by the way, lives in Sun City. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which was rated No. 1 airport in the nation by The Wall Street Journal in 2019, has also appeared in "Jolene" (2000), "What Planet Are You From" (2000), "The Grifters" (1990) and "Private Lessons" (1981). Today, the airport is home to local eateries, award-winning shopping, an art collection, exhibition program and the Aviation History Collection.
In this film, Queen Latifah is the driver of a racecar-esque cab, which she uses to help Jimmy Fallon catch a gang of female bank robbers from Brazil — but not before a scene at Phoenix Raceway. Home to the 2020 NASCAR Championship Weekend and the FanShield 500 Speed Fest Weekend, Phoenix Raceway has been the premier motorsports venue in the Southwest since 1964. The raceway also appears in the 1994 crime adventure “The Getaway,” starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger as well as 1990's "Days of Thunder" starring Tom Cruise).
"Jerry Maguire" (1996)
Most football fans will instantly recognize that Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium was the set for Jerry Maguire’s climactic final game. But we can’t give Tom Cruise all the credit. This venue has played host to two annual college football bowl games — the Fiesta Bowl (1971-2006) and the Cactus Bowl (2006-2015) — was home field to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals (1988-2005), and was the Super Bowl XXX site in 1996.
However, you may not have known that the Rod’s Camel Chevrolet Commercial Shoot was set at Lost Dutchman State Park. The 320-acre park hasn’t changed nearly as much as the football stadium since 1996, and is a popular hiking area to this day (scroll down to "Raising Arizona" for more).
Sun Devil Stadium: 500 E. Veterans Way, Tempe
Lost Dutchman State Park: 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction
"Waiting To Exhale" (1995)
Leading ladies, Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine and Whitney Houston made their descent on Greater Phoenix to film “Waiting To Exhale" (Shoop, Shoop). Anyone who’s seen this chic flick remembers the car scene, but did you miss some of the area’s most iconic properties? First up, Houston's character celebrates New Year's Eve at LON's at the Hermosa Inn — specifically the main dining room. This luxury, boutique hideaway was created by famed artist Lon Megargee, who created it in the 1930s as his private escape before opening up to guests.
And later on, Bassett is joined by Wesley Snipes for a drink at Wright’s at the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, the Arizona Biltmore opened in 1929 is one of the only Wright-influence luxury hotels in the world. Editor's Note: the Arizona Biltmore also appears in “The Getaway” (1994), including a scene where Kim Basinger is checking into the resort.
LON’s at the Hermosa Inn: 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley
Wright’s at the Biltmore: 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix
"Raising Arizona" (1986)
Nicolas Cage (the ex-con) and Holly Hunter (the ex-cop) team up in kidnapping hijinks in this slapstick-meets-Wild-West comedy. The infertile couple steals a baby from a set of quintuplets that belong to a furniture tycoon who resides at the unmistakable Jokake Inn at The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort in Scottsdale. The unique, adobe house was built in 1926 and given its name by a young Hopi boy (jokake means mud house). Today, the inn stands just inside the grounds of The Phoenician as a symbol of the hospitality of the old Southwest.
And, in stark contrast, Cage and Hunter settle down with the new baby in a mobile home set against the Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park. Named after the fabled lost gold mine, this park is located 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix, and offers a variety of scenic hiking and nature trails, 35 regular campsites, picnic facilities, and special programs throughout the year.
Jokake Inn at The Phoenician: 600 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
Lost Dutchman State Park: 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction
"Just One of the Guys" (1985)
Do you remember that time when a high-school journalist (Joyce Hyser) went undercover as a boy at a rival school in an effort to win a newspaper internship? Spoiler alert: it worked! The campuses in this movie were Coronado and Scottsdale high schools. But there were two other attraction appeared in scenes worth mentioning: The prom scenes were shot at Big Surf Waterpark (closed for the 2020 season), and the unmistakable red rock buttes of Papago Park are easily identifiable in the movie’s cave scene. The intriguing formation these teen's explored is actually named Hole In The Rock, and its main chamber looks out over nearby lagoons, the adjacent Phoenix Zoo and the distant downtown skyline.
Papago Park: 625 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
With "Charlie's Angels" still in full swing, Jaclyn Smith moonlighted as the wife of a corrupt businessman (Mike Connors) in this twisty thriller. Filmed at a mansion on Camelback Mountain, these scenes feature south-facing views, including peeks at Papago Park and downtown Phoenix. While much of the city has changed in the past 40 years, Camelback Mountain still remains the area’s most noticeable and identifiable landmark, as well as a popular hiking destination. Two difficult trails — Echo Canyon (1.2 miles out-and-back) and Cholla (1.5 miles out-and-back) — ascend 1,420 feet to a summit that resembles the hump of a camel's back. Each year, thousands of hikers make the trek for the impressive 360-degree views of the surrounding city.
Echo Canyon Trailhead: 4925 E. McDonald Drive, Phoenix
Cholla Trailhead: 6131 E. Cholla Lane, Paradise Valley
"A Star is Born" (1976)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen recording artists take the stage in-person. And we say the next best thing is watching concert-centered movies. Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were on location in Greater Phoenix for this film, in which the concert scenes showcase droves of fans at Sun Devil Stadium — the largest concert held in the state at the time. In the years since, Sun Devil Stadium has hosted U2 (1987), The Rolling Stones (1997) and even Kanye West and the Sunday Service Choir (2020). The film’s other concert scenes were shot inside ASU Gammage. This landmark opened in 1964 and has the designation of being the only public building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona. Throughout the years, this auditorium has hosted a wide range of events — from author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and such classical musicians as Yo Yo Ma to the 2004 presidential debate and the hit musical “Hamilton.” Editor's Note: Jerry Lewis' "The Nutty Professor" (1963) was also filmed on Arizona State University's Tempe campus.
Sun Devil Stadium: 500 E. Veterans Way, Tempe
ASU Gammage: 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe
In the opening shots of what would become one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best-known films, throwback views of downtown Phoenix are still recognizable today. The shot was intended to portray a fly’s eye view, buzzing over the city and into the window of the hotel, which was the Jefferson Hotel at the time (now the Barrister Building). “Friday, December The Eleventh” flashes across the screens and, to this day, it’s observed unofficially as Psycho Day in Phoenix.
While CityScape is the most prominent addition to the area, the historic Luhrs Building — which was completed in 1924 across the street in 1924 — has been well preserved and is now home to internationally recognized Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. (And, yes, we recommend stopping in for an award-winning beverage.)
Barrister Building: 101 S. Central Ave., Phoenix
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour: 11 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
“Bus Stop” (1956)
A young and naive cowboy travels to Phoenix to participate in a rodeo, where he falls in love with a beautiful young lady. Sound familiar? While this could be the storyline of any number of films, this particular one is distinguished by the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Here, she portrays Cherie, an Arkansas girl who dreams of making it in Hollywood, but meets Beau Decker, a rodeo cowboy played by Don Murray. The rodeo takes place at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, which is still home to the fair each October, and Monroe is pictured watching attentively from the grandstands. And, as a loosely related bonus, the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix is home to a Marilyn Monroe suite at as well as a star commemorating the young actress on the walk of fame that surrounds the hotel.
Arizona State Fairgrounds: 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix
Hotel San Carlos: 202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix