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Thelma & Louise: 30 Years Later

It has been 30 years since the 1991 release of Thelma & Louise shook up Hollywood and viewers were finally exposed to a desperado duo, who happened to be female. It was the first script written by screenwriter, Callie Khouri, which ultimately landed her an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The film made its mark on film history, becoming a case study for great filmmaking, and transcending generations. However, if it weren’t for the right people, in the right places, at the right time, the screenplay may not have ever seen the light of Dead Horse Point, Utah.

Thelma & Louise shot about 50% of the film within a 50-60 mile radius of Moab, Utah during the Summer of 1990. It was important to Callie Khouri and director, Ridley Scott, that the scenery play an instrumental role in telling the story. The film features iconic Utah landscapes like; Cisco, Thompson Springs, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and around the La Sal Mountains.

Opening credits were shot near La Sal Mountains, Utah.
Thelma & Louise (1991) photos courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

 

La Sal Mountains & Roads

Southeastern Utah is full of some of the most scenic byways you can come across, which is exactly why Ridley Scott chose it for the backdrop of Thelma & Louise. The opening credits start on a monochromatic shot on the La Sal Mountains just southeast of Moab. Throughout the film we get glimpses of the pair driving along Highway 191 and Utah State Route 46.

Near La Sal Mountains, Utah
Thelma & Louise (1991) photos courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Cisco, Utah

Cisco is a ghost town in Grand County, Utah, close to the border of Colorado near the junction of SR-128 and I-70. It was established in the 1880s as a saloon and water-refilling station but as the steam locomotive began its demise, so did the town. In the early 1990s, the town began to take on its current form as abandoned cars and buildings continued to sit and wither. The deteriorating buildings and barren landscape made it a perfect filming location for the chase scene.

 

Thompson Springs, Utah

Right off I-70 between Green River and Cisco is a little place called Thompson Springs. There isn’t much nearby, which made it the perfect place to film the explosion of an 18-wheeler.

 

Arches National Park

“You be sweet to ’em. Especially your wife. My husband wasn’t sweet to me and look how I turned out.”

Courthouse Towers is one of the most iconic views within Arches National Park. It’s also the place where Louise gets taken into the squad car and Thelma uses her newfound empowerment to take control of the situation.

 

Canyonlands National Park

🚨 Spoiler alert 🚨 that cliff where Louise stated, “I think it’s the Grand Canyon.” – it’s not, it’s Dead Horse Point State Park. That infamous final shot of the Thunderbird flying through the air was also the final scene to shoot before production wrapped. The crew loaded up their gear and headed out on Shafer Trail towards the spot now affectionately known as, Thelma & Louise Point. Did you know production had three identical 1966 turquoise Ford Thunderbirds at the ready to get that shot? The first car did an ugly nose dive right off the cliff and Ridley Scott knew he needed to see some air. The crew rigged the setup so the second car would launch for the next take and the rest, as they say, is film history. If you’re curious, yes, the third replica of the Thunderbird is safe and still frequents the streets of Moab.

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