What Movies Have Been Filmed in Canmore?
Due to the restrictions on movie filming in national parks, production companies looking for a mountainous setting often turn to adjacent Canmore and the Bow Valley, especially in the last 30 years.
When director Arthur Penn filmed portions of LITTLE BIG MAN on the Stoney Reserve west of Canmore during the fall and winter of 1969, he set the scene for much of Hollywood’s future in the Canadian Rockies. That section of the Bow Valley east of Canmore, along with Canmore itself and adjacent Kananaskis Country would provide settings for nearly 50 movies in the decades since.
CAMERON OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (1921) is the story of a young Scot who immigrates to Canada to become a Mountie. He is stationed in the West during the CPR construction, where he encounters desperados, Indian uprisings, barroom fights, a train robbery, and romance. Mountain scenes were filmed in Bow Valley near Canmore, while other locations included Banff and Calgary (Elbow River, Exhibition Grounds, Palliser Hotel, Pat Burns residence). The first two reels of this six-reel film have survived and are preserved at the Library and Archives of Canada, although unfortunately neither contain mountain scenes.
There is a brief sighting of Canmore in FORTY-NINTH PARALLEL (1941), a British war drama about the survivors of a German U-boat sunk in Hudson’s Bay that journeyed across the country. Mountain scenes were shot on a CPR train near Canmore (as well as in Banff and Yoho National Park). None of the major actors were in western Canada for filming (doubles were used) and Forty-Ninth Parallel was the first major, theatrical-release film to use actual locations to portray a story set in Canada. Having been nominated for three Academy Awards, and winning Best Original Story, it was the most successful British movie to date.
In NORTHWEST STAMPEDE (1948), when a cowboy inherits a ranch near Calgary, he wants to capture a wild, white stallion, sell the ranch and return to his rodeo life. Although mostly filmed near High River, mountain scenes were shot east of Canmore.
NIKKI, WILD DOG OF THE NORTH (1961) was a Walt Disney family adventure about a dog that befriends an orphaned black bear cub. Scenes were filmed throughout the Bow Valley, from Bow Summit in Banff National Park to the east of Canmore.
WHEN THE NORTH WIND BLOWS (1974) was set in Alaska but shot around Canmore and in Kananaskis Country. It tells the story of a trapper who encounters a Siberian tiger and her cubs and goes about protecting them from hunters.
A family-friendly Western, MUSTANG COUNTRY (1976) told the story of a Montana sheep rancher and former rodeo star who sets out with his dog to capture a wild horse near the Canadian border. Most of the movie was shot in Banff National Park, although you’ll also see scenes around Canmore and east along the Bow Valley.
THE HIGH COUNTRY (1981), about an intellectually disabled girl who travels through the Canadian Rockies wilderness to escape her father, was not particularly successful at the box office but did showcase dozens of locations throughout the Canadian Rockies, including extensive filming in Canmore (including many interior scenes, which were on sets in a Canmore hall).
DEATH HUNT (1981), starring Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, and Angie Dickinson, was the first big-budget movie to use Canmore and nearby Spray Lakes (see What Movies Have Been Filmed in Kananaskis Country?) as the primary set location, and as a result, many Canmore locals were recruited as extras. Death Hunt was loosely based on the true-life story of Albert Johnson (The Mad Trapper of Rat River) who was pursued by the Mounted Police in the Northwest Territories and Yukon after shooting a police constable in 1932.
KELLY (1981) was a family adventure about a young girl who escaped a broken home and school problems by traveling to the Alaska wilderness to live with her father. Filming centred on Canmore, the Bow Valley east of town, and Spray Lakes (Kananaskis Country).
A dramatization of a real-life American outlaw who was pursued across Washington state in the late 1890s in one of the largest manhunts in American history—that was the storyline of HARRY TRACY, DESPERADO (1982). Although filmed mostly in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, some scenes were shot at Canmore, including in a cabin on the west (Mineside) side of the Bow River.
In STONE FOX (1986), some scenes were filmed on the west side of the Bow River as it flows through Canmore, although the main set was a ranch built in the meadows below Mount Engadine Lodge. The ranch was designed to look like a 1905 Wyoming homestead, where a young boy helped his grandfather win a sled dog race.
The final scenes of DEAD-BANG (1989), an action-drama starring Don Johnson as a detective who discovers a white supremacist conspiracy, using the Provincial Building on Railway Avenue as a backdrop.
Esteemed Hollywood director John Frankenheimer returned to Canmore following the filming of Dead Bang to shoot THE FOURTH WAR (1990), a Cold War drama set along the German-Czech border involving a border incident that degenerates into a personal war between an American colonel and a Soviet unit commander. Although filmed mostly around Bragg Creek, there are Canmore scenes, including at the Rose and Crown Pub.
One of the best-known movies to have been filmed in Alberta was LEGENDS OF THE FALL (1994), starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Set on a Montana ranch in the early 1900s, the movie focused on a former military officer who raised his family far from the influences of government and society. The main set was on the Stoney Reserve but the Bow Valley east of Canmore including Bow Valley Provincial Park is seen throughout the movie.
A Western drama about the discovery of a “lost” indigenous tribe starring Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey, THE LAST OF THE DOGMEN (1995) was a major attraction for Canmore locals as the main street was closed for filming during a busy day in August 1994. Only in the movies can a drunken bounty hunter be tossed out of a bar in Banff (Magpie & Stump) and land on the main street of Canmore!
Mountain scenes for ANGEL FLIGHT DOWN (1996), about the crash of a medical evacuation aircraft and the survivors, were partly filmed at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
Loosely based on the real-life Stouffer brothers and their quest to become wildlife filmmakers, WILD AMERICA (1997) was a family-friendly adventure movie with winter scenes filmed in around Canmore.
THE EDGE (1997) was an action thriller filmed mostly in nearby Kananaskis Country in the summer of 1996. The stars—Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, and Elle Macpherson—all stayed in Canmore for the duration of filming and were often seen mixing with locals downtown. The Edge was about an American billionaire who survives an Alaskan plane crash only to be pursued by a killer grizzly bear. At the time, the opening plane crash scene staged at Whiteman’s Pond just west of Canmore on the way to Spray Lakes, was thought to be the most expensive scene ever filmed in the Canadian Rockies. Other scenes were filmed east of Canmore.
I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (1998), about a college student’s adventures as he hitchhikes across the United States to be home in time for Christmas, had many scenes in and around Canmore, including the Canmore Hospital and along the Trans-Canada Highway between Canmore and Lac des Arcs.
Starring Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack, Burt Reynolds, and Hank Azaria, Quarry Lake at Canmore was the setting for MYSTERY, ALASKA (1999), about a small-town Alaskan hockey team that takes up the challenge of playing the New York Rangers. An entire village and outdoor rink were built for the movie, with hundreds of locals filling in for spectators watching the night-time hockey match.
SHANGHAI NOON (2000), a raucous Western comedy about a kidnapped princess and starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, was shot throughout Alberta. The rock quarry scene was filmed east of Canmore at Exshaw and some prairie-and-mountain scenes further east on the Stoney reserve.
Filmed mostly in Calgary, the motel scenes in SPEAKING OF SEX (2001), starring Bill Murray, James Spader, Jay Mohr, and Catherine O’Hara, were shot at the Rundle Chalets in Harvie Heights.
Starring Robert Duvall and Denzel Washington, JOHN Q (2002), about a father who takes a hospital hostage to save his son’s life after being refused a heart transplant, was filmed mostly in Toronto. But sharp-eyed locals will see the Three Sisters Parkway briefly during the accident scene.
SNOW DOGS (2002) was a Walt Disney family comedy about a Miami dentist who inherits an Alaskan dog sled team. The movie was filmed through Canmore and the Bow Valley in the winter of 2001. The “Alaskan village” was actually a film set at Quarry Lake and the start of the dog race was along Canmore’s Main Street.
Craig’s Way Station was transformed into the Angel Food Diner for ANGELS FALL (2007), a romance starring Heather Locklear, that was filmed throughout Canmore.
THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG (2014) was a romantic comedy filmed in the towns of Canmore and Banff and throughout Kananaskis Country.
The sci-fi movie INTERSTELLAR (2014) was filmed throughout southern Alberta, including a very brief night-time shot at Whiteman Gap above Canmore. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, Interstellar was about a world rapidly dying from the effects of global warming and the search for a new planet to offer mankind a future home.
THE REVENANT (2015), an adventure drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was loosely based on the real-life story of American mountain man Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow trappers in the 1820s. Glass survives his injuries and makes his way back across a vast, wintry landscape, seeking revenge on the trappers who abandoned him. Filmed primarily in Kananaskis Country, there are scenes from the Bow Valley east of Canmore, including Bow Valley Provincial Park.
THE LAST OF US (2023) TV series was filmed throughout Alberta, including Calgary, Edmonton, and Waterton Lakes. Canmore’s historic Engine Bridge across the Bow River features in the trailer and the south end of Main Street was transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland for a few scenes. It is rumoured that The Last of Us cost $10 million per episode to film—which would make it the most expensive TV series ever.
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Other Parts of the Canadian Rockies?
Click through the links below to read about movies filmed in the Canadian Rockies:
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Banff?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Jasper?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Yoho?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in the Columbia Valley?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Kananaskis Country?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Waterton Lakes?
Movies in the Mountains—A eBook About Movies Filmed in the Canadian Rockies
The Canmore movie content on this page was written by Brian Patton, who has been studying moviemaking in the Canadian Rockies for many decades and has been called upon as an expert on the subject by a variety of media. Patton is best known as the co-author of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide but is also the author of Movies in the Mountains: A History of Moviemaking in the Canadian Rockies. This book is available in two formats:
Movies in the Mountains as a Kindle eBook through Amazon.
Movies in the Mountains as a PDF download directly from the publisher.