Five Cult, Non-Western,
Films Shot In Arizona
While Film Fans May See Arizona As Nothing More Than The Setting For A Few Dusty Westerns, The State Has Actually Played Host To A Range Of Cowboyless Cult Films
By Mike Sallustio
Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 30, 2016 — Let’s face it, Arizona is not exactly synonymous with the word cinema and even in the offbeat world of cult films that doesn’t change much as auteurs prefer to highlight more well-known landscapes. Films like The Warriors and Escape from New York made The Big Apple the default cult film setting for the dystopian future throughout the 1970s and 1980s until Giuliani turned Times Square into a super mall and it kind of lost its post-apocalyptic appeal. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off celebrates Chicago, Cameron Crowe spotlighted Seattle with Say Anything…, and is there any better way to show the fall of humanity than a shot of a collapsed Golden Gate Bridge?
In film, Arizona’s setting is largely relegated to Westerns because, outside of Phoenix and Tucson, most our state looks relatively unchanged since 1883. Beyond that, the Coen Brothers threw us Raising Arizona (thanks guys!), and what Phoenix native hasn’t pointed out the Westward Ho as that hotel in the opening of Hitchcock’s Psycho? (It wasn’t, by the way. That structure with the radio tower is the Heard Building, and the hotel Hitchcock zooms into is the San Carlos). But, otherwise, even in the more unconventional cult films, Arizona hasn’t historically gotten the focus it deserves.
That being said, there are a few outlier cult films you may have heard of that have taken advantage of our locales.
Here are five cult films shot right here in Arizona:
The Wraith (1986)
The Wraith stars an up-and-coming Charlie Sheen as a ghostly drag racer hell bent on getting revenge on the men who killed him. Fans of fast cars and big explosions are not going to want to miss this film. Fans of Charlie Sheen’s charisma can skip it, or better yet, he’ll skip you because he’s barely in it.
The film is best known for its jet black futuristic sports car which was actually a present day concept vehicle from Dodge called the MS4 Turbo Interceptor.
The entire film was shot along the streets of Tucson. Many race scenes were shot in the Sabino Canyon area and around Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. One particularly significant setting in the film, Big Kay’s Burger’s, was built at 2755 E. Benson Highway, but the set no longer exists
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Aside from the Westward Ho factoid, the second most common film fact you’re most likely to hear about Arizona is that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was shot here. More specifically, that the mall shown in the film was actually Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix. This is a fact, but that’s not all. Many of the locations in the film’s version of San Dimas, Calif. were actually shot at Arizona landmarks. For instance, some of the high school scenes were shot at Coronado High School. Other notable spots include Tempe locations such as the Circle K at 1010 W. Southern Ave. and the bowling alley AMF Tempe Village Lanes.
One Scottsdale location is at 7337 E. Second Street. This is the police station where Ted’s father works, but it is now an oncology clinic.
Many of the Napoleon scenes were also shot in various Arizona locations. For instance, the scene where the kids take Napoleon for ice cream? That was shot at the Chuck E. Cheese on 35th and Northern Avenues. Also, Waterloo waterpark is actually Mesa landmark Golfland-Sunsplash.
Finally, Bill’s house is located somewhere around 18th Street and Bethany Home Road, but if you go looking for it, be respectful of real-life tenants who have probably soured on Keanu-fueled antics ages ago.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
Much of this creature-feature parody takes place in the fictional mining town of Prosperity, Ariz. It stars David Arquette and Kari Wuhrer as they try and survive an attack from giant, radioactive spiders.
Much of the film was actually shot in and around Page, Ariz., but some of the film’s more suburban scenes were shot in Glendale.
The mall scenes were actually shot in the abandoned West Valley Mall along 59th and Northern Avenues. The mall was eventually demolished and is now known as the Northern Crossing which houses a Super Walmart.
Right across from the mall is the Manistee Ranch, where scenes in Aunt Gladys’ house and basement were shot.
Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
Electra Glide in Blue is easily the least recognizable cult film on this list, but probably the most acknowledging of its filming locations.
The film was directed by Caribou Records founder James William Guercio. As his one and only film, it stars Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop who wishes to be a homicide detective. When he finally gets his break, he learns that detective work requires crossing some ethical boundaries he simply can’t.
The film was shot all throughout Monument Valley and Fountain Hills areas of Arizona. Many popular Arizona roads are name-dropped throughout the film such as Buckeye, Camelback and the Black Canyon Freeway.
Due to the subject matter of the film, the Arizona Highway Patrol was uncooperative with the production of the film. As a result, much of Electra Glide in Blue was shot without a permit.
Tank Girl (1995)
Tank Girl was based on the popular British, post-apocalyptic comic of the same name. It stars a spunky Lori Petty in a memorable performance and Ice-T as a human-kangaroo hybrid. The film still holds a cult following and some consider it an overlooked edition in the feminist cult film genre.
Although some scenes were shot in White Sands, N.M., the majority of the film was shot around Tucson. One particular scene was shot at the supposedly haunted Domes of Casa Grande. Some other scenes were shot at the failed Scottsdale Galleria, which is now the Galleria Corporate Centre.