What Movies Have Been Filmed in the Columbia Valley?
For decades, Jasper was a popular spot for filming Hollywood movies, but due to the restrictions in recent years, production companies looking for a mountainous setting have filmed elsewhere.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) recognized the promotion value of passenger train-scenery films and contracted New York-based Edison Motion Pictures, founded by Thomas Edison with his invention of the motion picture camera, to produce a series of dramatic films across Canada. Five of the 13 CPR/Edison films were made in the Canadian Rockies, including THE SONG THAT REACHED HIS HEART (1910), about a lumberman and his sweetheart, which was mostly filmed in downtown Golden and the surrounding valley. The Song That Reached His Heart is the only surviving CPR/Edison motion picture showing the Canadian Rockies. A copy is held by the Library and Archives of Canada and can be viewed on You Tube.
The Conflict (1921) was filmed around Cranbrook at the south end of the Columbia Valley, including along Galbraith Creek and the Bull River. This Northwoods Melodrama follows a young woman living with her controlling lumber baron uncle, until she escapes to live with rival loggers. The dramatic scenes featuring the heroine navigating a logjam were filmed on the Bull River southeast of Cranbrook.
Following in the footsteps of Universal’s The Conflict, the Louis B. Mayer company created an identical logjam scene on the Bull River the following summer for HEARTS AFLAME (1923). Other locations near Cranbrook were Perry Creek, what is now Wycliffe Regional Park, and Fort Steele. The story followed the son of a lumber baron who falls in love with a woman who wants to protect the forest.
In UNSEEING EYES (1923), a pilot flies the heroine to gold country in search of her brother. The plane is forced down and the heroine goes looking for help, becoming snowblind in the process. She is found by a villain, who convinces her to marry him and goes looking for a priest. The pilot becomes airborne again, discovers the heroine and saves her from the evil-doer. The action took place at Lake Windermere and two mines west of Invermere. Unseeing Eyes was one of the first movies to use aerial footage, which was shot over the same area.
SILENT BARRIERS (1937) was loosely based on the search for a pass through the Canadian Rockies and subsequent building the rail line. Real-life figures Sir John A. Macdonald, Major A.B. Rogers and members of the CPR board are portrayed, but the railway town of “Moodyville,” with its card sharks and barmaids, is far more colourful than historical. Columbia Valley locations included the Kicking Horse River and mountains around Golden. (The Moodyville set was near Revelstoke).
HACKSAW (1971) was a Walt Disney family adventure about the Calgary Stampede—a young girl captures and tames a wild stallion. With the help of a cowboy, they train it to pull a chuckwagon and race in the Calgary Stampede. It was filmed at the Calgary Stampede, and at locations throughout the Columbia Valley, including Lake Windermere, Lake Enid, and Wilmer, which was the setting of the runaway horse-drawn wagon scene.
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 Mount Swansea near Invermere.
Starring Kurt Russell, THE THING (1982) is considered one of the all-time classic sci-fi horror movies. The story revolves around an Antarctic research station where an alien life form assimilates into its human victims. The movie was filmed mostly in Alaska and Hollywood studios, but scenes were also shot in Kimberley.
At the opposite end of the budget scale was BULLIES (1986), filmed almost entirely in Kimberley. Bullies centres around an urban family who move to a small town, interacting with a local family that has been the town bullies for years.
ALIVE (1993), starring Ethan Hawke, was a dramatized account of the real-life 1972 plane crash in the Andes involving an Uruguayan rugby team and their family members. After two months, three of the surviving players hike over the mountains to trigger the rescue of their comrades. Many scenes were filmed on the Delphine Glacier, west of Invermere, which was lower than the real-life crash site in the Andes (3,600 metres/11,800 feet, but still one of the highest Canadian movie set locations. Every day of shooting, the cast and crew of 150 were transported by helicopters from Panorama Mountain Resort to the remote set. Interior shots of the crashed plane were shot in a reconstructed fuselage at the base of the ski resort.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) was an action-adventure movie about an espionage operation based in the U.S. that was exposed by a rogue agent. Much of the filming was done in Kananaskis Country, but the Golden Airport also features briefly.
Set in a fictional Colorado ski town, COLD PURSUIT (2019) was filmed in various Canadian Rockies locations outside of the national parks, including some scenes at the abandoned Fortress Mountain Ski Resort and elsewhere in Kananaskis Country. Mountain location scenes were set to film in Banff National Park, but Parks Canada withdrew permission at the last minute (Parks officials were unhappy with the portrait of indigenous people in the movie) and the main set was relocated to Fernie, British Columbia.
Set in Utah and starring Kate Winslet, THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017) told the story of two strangers stranded in the wilderness following a plane crash. Winter scenes were filmed above the treeline in the remote Horsethief Creek headwaters west of Radium Hot Springs. You also get a glimpse of the Canfor log storage yard at Radium Hot Springs.
SUCK IT UP (2017) may not have had the star power or budget of The Mountain Between Us, but this low-budget Canadian movie about love, loss, and grief, was set in Invermere, which is also where it was filmed. You’ll see lots of lake and highway scenery, as well as driving scenes along Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park.
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 Kananaskis Country?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Yoho?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Canmore?
What Movies Have Been Filmed in Waterton Lakes?
Movies in the Mountains—A eBook About Movies Filmed in the Canadian Rockies
The Columbia Valley movie content on this page was written by Brian Patton, an Invermere resident 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.