Navajo Nation in the Movies

By Ron Goulet

The movie industry has shown its benefits by what it can use and share through its Navajo movie filming sessions. Within this structure, the Navajos have filmed with the hope that this will attract more movie creations to the reservation in the future. Even in the point of enveloping movie films upon the Navajo prairies, it has also attracted television production being shaped and filmed upon the Navajo fields, structures, and associations within their nation in what they have to offer.

This business has been welcomed as money is spent by movie making companies when they are on location, and tribal leaders believe that the exposure of scenic vistas to the movie-going public with attract more tourism.  The red rock mesas and Navajo prairies have also attracted television production companies.

An example of this movie production is from the book “The Searchers: the Making of an American Legend” by Glenn Frankel. John Ford handled the movie making based on a true story of Cynthia Parker, captured and held captive by the Commanches for two decades before being rescued. Ford enjoyed working with the Navajos and had made several movies there in the last two decades, so this was an outstanding place to make this great story with pure eminence in its passage.

Monument Valley alone shows great opportunities for television and movie filming overall. As it offers exceptional scenes for the American western genre, it didn’t stick with simply dusty cowboy movies. As time flew by, it also aided in science fiction, contemporary action, and comedy movies. Some of those that were established through Monument Valley were:

Stagecoach was the first major film set in Monument Valley by director John Ford, and starring John Wayne.

Ford enjoyed working with the Navajos and made several movies in Monument Valley and in the surrounding area.  Monument Valley became iconic as the Western landscape of the U.S. and has been portayed in movies, on television, and in advertising ever since.  As time went by it was the backdrop for many other movies in genres other than cowboy movies including science fiction, comedy and action films.

A partial list includes:

Stagecoach (1939)

My Darling Clementine (1946)

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

The Searchers (1956)

How the West Was Won (1962)

Easy Rider (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Forrest Gump (1994)

The Lone Ranger (2013)

Other productions were also filmed on the Navajo Nation, and some are more for Navajo viewership.

Blue Gap Boy’z

Broken Rainbow

The Dark Wind


Mile Post 398

Miss Navajo

Pete & Cleo

The Return of Navajo Boy


Turquoise Rose