The 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28, will see its share of glamor and pizzazz, not least of which will be the movie locations on show. And with Leonardo DiCaprio’s gripping wilderness survival epic, The Revenant, gunning for top Oscars honors, we thought it time to round up our favorite movies—and the epic movie landscapes that star. Ordered by release date, tell us what you think in the poll below the jump!
Epic movie landscapes in North America
Easy Rider (1969)
The open road and legend of Route 66 await in this classic stoner road-trip movie, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. The journey takes a pair of hippie bikers from Southern California to New Orleans and through the stunning lands of the American Southwest. It’s a harsh tale of rural American life, framed by the austere and monochromatic lines of desert buttes and mesas.
A River Runs Through It (1992)
A breakout movie for a younger Brad Pitt, the now-megastar teams up with Robert Redford in this coming-of-age movie about two brothers growing up under the stern hand of their minister father. The true stars here, however, are the rivers, mountains and vistas of Montana, where the brothers discover solace and wisdom while pursuing their love of fly-fishing in Big Sky Country’s blue-ribbon waters.
This quirky 2004 indie flick chronicles a trip by two middle-aged buddies to California’s wine country ahead of one of their impending nuptials. While the friends, played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, come to grips with the letdowns and lessons of life over multiple glasses of Merlot—to Giamatti’s famed chagrin—Napa Valley’s vineyards and dusky hills glitter in the California sun.
Into the Wild (2007)
Emile Hirsch trudges west across the country as Christopher McCandless and off into the Alaskan backcountry in this retelling of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book of the same name. While the movie never really gets to the heart of Krakauer’s revealing portrait of the doomed McCandless, Alaska’s breathtaking and epic scenery serves as a siren call to the wanderer in all of us.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Brutal, unsparing and relentless: No Country for Old Men is a crime thriller that unfurls across the borderlands of West Texas. While we might not care for the central characters, especially the psychotic hit man played beautifully by Javier Bardem, the movie is infused with a uniquely Texan spirit and attitude. Interestingly, while on location in Marfa, Texas, the Coen brothers had to stop shooting on account of smoke billowing from a film shoot happening nearby for another all-Texas movie, There Will Be Blood, which came out that same year.
Epic movie landscapes around the world
Star Wars (1977)
Last year’s record-breaking release of the seventh Star Wars chapter, ‘The Force Awakens,’ took the intergalactic franchise on location to Ireland, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and New Mexico. The endless vistas and sweeping dunes of Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine home were first represented by the Tunisian and Death Valley, California, deserts in 1977—and we eagerly wait to see where the next chapter of the Star Wars odyssey takes us as it transforms very real lands into galaxies far, far away.
Out of Africa (1985)
The second of two Robert Redford-helmed movies in this list, Out of Africa paired Redford and Meryl Streep in a timeless love story that has the Kenyan savanna as its canvas. While the scenery and wildlife is peerless, exuding atmospherics and drama that only Africa can offer, the story relates the shifting social, political and cultural landscape of pre-WWII society.
The Beach (2000)
We’re willing to wager that Leonardo DiCaprio was much more comfortable on location for this movie shoot than his latest wild offering. Set amidst the stunning beaches, bluffs and backpacker enclaves of southern Thailand, DiCaprio takes on the role of dirtbag backpacker Richard from Alex Garland’s novel of the same name. While paradise is very quickly lost for the characters in this flick, the scenery of Thailand sparkles and dazzles while all else goes awry.
Harry Potter (2001)
While a generation of Potterites probably actually believe there is a real Platform 9¾ operating out of London’s Kings Cross Station, the end stretch of the rail journey that Harry, Hermione and Ron make each year to Hogwarts is very much a real place located in the Scottish Highlands. West Coast Railways operates the Jacobite Line, an 84-mile round trip that’s considered one of the world’s great rail journeys as it cuts through the brooding moors and munros of western Scotland. Just don’t expect to see Hedwig fluttering alongside your chugging train.
Lord of the Rings (2001)
Like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings took the mythical lands and creatures of Middle Earth and placed them very squarely in the lap of landscapes that make the make-believe seem so real (along with a decent helping of CGI). Even 15 years on from the release of the original trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s New Zealand homeland is still dining out on the publicity brought with the scrabbling of tiny hobbit feet across—and up and down and over and across—the country’s epic volcanic slopes, towering peaks and mighty rainforests.