Film in SLO County

Have you ever been watching a movie and thought to yourself, "Hey, that place looks a little familiar." Odds are that location you think looks much like our beautiful SLO County, is in fact, beautiful SLO County! With the SLO International Film Fest right around the corner on March 15-20, we've compiled a list of feature films as well as a few television shows that have been filmed right here on the Central Coast. Can you think of any that we missed?

1) The Sheik (1921) & The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: Silent romantic drama meant to be based in the deserts outside of the Algerian city of Biskra.

Actors: Rudolph Valentino, Agnes Ayres

Fun Fact: The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes stood in for the North African desert. As the production of the first film was such a success, the sequel to The Sheik was also shot in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.  

 
2) Morocco (1930)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: Star-crossed lovers struggle to make things work in this vintage film

Actors: Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich

Fun Fact: The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes were used to represent the sandy environment of Morocco.

 
3) Of Mice and Men (1939)

Location: San Luis Obispo & Hearst Ranch

Synopsis: Two itinerant migrant workers, one mentally disabled and the other his caretaker, take jobs as ranch hands during the Great Depression to fulfill their shared dream of owning their own ranch. Based on the novel by John Steinbeck.

Actors: Lon Chaney Jr., Burgess Meredith, Betty Field

 

4) The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Location: Morro Bay (Morro Rock) & San Luis Obispo

Synopsis: Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O’Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.

Actors: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane

 

5) The Ten Commandments (1956)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.

Actors: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter

Fun Fact: Much of the original movie set was still buried beneath the sand until 2012 when an excavation team was brought in to uncover the artifacts. These artifacts not only represent the silent movie age but also the work of famous filmmaker, Cecil B. DeMille. Some of these artifacts can be seen, restored, at the Dunes Center.

 

6) The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)

Location: Morro Bay (Morro Rock) & Cayucos (Remember When Antiques)

Synopsis: Horror sci-fi monster film

Actors: Jeanne Carmen, Les Tremayne, Pete Dunn

Fun Fact:  What once stood in as a meat shop for the monster is now a well-known antique shop called Remember When. This three-story shop is full of novel finds and is also a part of the SLO CAL Antiques Trail. However, Cayucos is home to much more than antiques and monsters, with ample coastline, tasty bites, and murals to explore.

 

7) Spartacus (1960)

Location: Hearst Castle

Synopsis: The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic.

Actors: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons

Fun Fact: Hearst Castle acts as Crassus' home in this 1960 film. During these scenes you will be able to see the famous Neptune Pool.

 

8) Pete’s Dragon (1977)

Location: Avila Beach

Synopsis: An orphan boy and his magical dragon come to town with this abusive adoptive parents in pursuit.

Actors: Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy, Jim Dale

Fun Fact: A fake lighthouse was built specifically for the film on Point Buchon, making this the most expensive Walt Disney production to date. Hikers can enjoy the same views as Pete's Dragon, minus the lighthouse, by taking a stroll along the Point Buchon Trail open Monday-Friday from 8-5pm.

 

9) The World's Greatest Lover (1977)

Location:  Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

 

Synopsis: Meant as a spoof of the silent romance films of the 1920s and 1930s, this comedy once again utilizes the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes as a backdrop to stand in for foreign deserts.

Actors: Gene Wilder

Fun Fact:  Gene Wilder plays a banker turned Hollywood actor who now goes by Rudy Valentine to compete with Rudolph Valentino, the star of “The Sheik” and “The Son of the Sheik”.

 

10) Commando (1985)

Location: San Simeon ("Val Verde Barracks")

Synopsis: A retired elite Black Ops Commando launches a one man war against a group of South American criminals who have kidnapped his daughter to blackmail him into starting a revolution and getting an exiled dictator back into power.

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya

Fun Fact: The producers of this movie thought the W.R. Hearst State Beach resembled their South American town of "Val Verde" and began building barracks, which later were blown up as part of the movie.

 

11) To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

Location: San Luis Obispo (Men’s Colony)

Synopsis: A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.

Actors: William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow

 

12) Aria (1987)

Location: San Luis Obispo (Madonna Inn)

Synopsis: This British anthology film consists of 10 short films, one of which details the love affairs of a married couple, all filmed in various themed rooms at the renowned Madonna Inn

Fun Fact: The Gold Rush Steak House, the Caveman Room, and even the opulent men’s bathroom can be spotted in the art film. The Madonna is still known today for its unexpectedly whimsical décor, sprawling grounds, and decadent cakes. 

 

13) Arachnophobia (1990)

Location: Cambria (Coast Union High School & Downtown) & Halter Ranch Vineyard

Synopsis: A species of South American killer spider hitches a lift to the U.S. in a coffin and starts to breed and kill.

Actors: Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, John Goodman

Fun Fact: In the football scene, many of the football players and onlookers were actual members of the Coast Union High School football team and student body. You can also still walk through the historic (now remodeled) Victorian as well as the barn, both of which were featured in the film, at Halter Ranch Vineyard.


Photo Courtesy of Halter Ranch Vineyard

 

14) My Blue Heaven (1990)

Location: San Luis Obispo, Atascadero & Paso Robles

Synopsis: An all too uptight FBI agent must protect a larger than life mobster with a heart of gold, currently under witness protection in the suburbs.

Actors: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack

Fun Fact: Many local people were involved as extras, prop and set suppliers with some even having a few bit parts.

 

15) Patriot Games (1992)

Location: Morro Bay

Synopsis: When CIA Analyst Jack Ryan interferes with an IRA assassination, a renegade faction targets him and his family for revenge.

Actors: Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, Anne Archer, Samuel L. Jackson

 

16) Little Giants (1994)

Location: San Luis Obispo & Arroyo Grande

Synopsis: Misfits form their own opposing team to an elite peewee football team, coached by the elite team coach’s brother.

Fun Fact: The scene in which Danny and Ed race each other in a corvette and go-kart was filmed on East Branch St. in the Village.

Actors: Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron

 
17) The Odd Couple II (1998)

Location: Los Osos

Synopsis: Oscar and Felix take a road trip to their son and daughter’s wedding.

Actors: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Richard Riehle

 

18) Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: Rocky & Bullwinkle join the live-action scene in this children’s comedy.

Actors:  Robert DeNiro, Rene Russo, and Jason Alexander.

Fun Fact: The pair chase their enemies across the country as they try to stop their evil schemes, and even pass through the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes on their adventure.

 

19) Murder By Numbers (2002)

Location: San Luis Obispo (Courthouse, Mission Plaza), Morro Bay & Los Osos

Synopsis: Two gifted high school students execute a “perfect” murder – then become engaged in an intellectual contest with a seasoned homicide detective.

Actors: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling

Fun Fact: When watching this movie you'll be able to see such locations as the San Luis Obispo Courthouse, Fremont Theatre, Mission Plaza (exact location pictured above), Morro Bay (where Bullock's character lives on her houseboat), and Los Osos.

 
20) We Were Soldiers (2002)

Location: Area around Fort Hunter Liggett

Synopsis: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

Actors: Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear

 

21) The Whole Ten Yards (2004)

Location: Oceano Dunes

Synopsis: This crime comedy is a sequel to the film “The Whole Nine Yards”.

Actors: Bruce Willis, Mathew Perry

Fun Fact: Known as a popular spot for filming, the Oceano Dunes are a backdrop in the film. Oceano Dunes is a subset of the greater Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes and is accessible through Grover Beach. 

 

22) Hildago (2004)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: A rugged cowboy fighting for his reputation and his life in the Middle East, based on the legend of Frank Hopkins and his famous mustang Hidalgo.

Actors: Viggo Mortenson

Fun Fact: The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes once again stand in for Arabian sands in this epic western.

 

23) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Location: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Synopsis: Captain Barbossa, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan must sail off the edge of the map, navigate treachery and betrayal, and make their final alliances for one last decisive battle.

Actors: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly

Fun Fact: Remember the scene where crabs carry the stranded Black Pearl to the shore? Those sand dunes are in fact the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.


Oceano Nipomo Sand Dunes Sand in SLO CAL

24) I Know Who Killed Me (2007)

Location: San Luis Obispo (Fremont Theatre, SLO High School) & Morro Bay

Synopsis: A young girl who was missing reappears, but she claims to be someone else entirely.

Actors: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough

Fun Fact: While this movie isn't necessarily cinematic gold, many scenes feature SLO High School, Higuera Street, the Fremont Theatre, and Morro Bay. This movie was dubbed "A movie you love to hate" and won 8 Razzie awards for Worst Movie, Worst Actress and Worst Director among others.

 

Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo

25) Destination Wedding (2018)

Location: Paso Robles (Dubost Vineyard & Winery) San Luis Obispo (Apple Farm Inn, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa) 

Synopsis: A romantic comedy following two strangers paired together at a wedding.

Actors: Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder

Fun Fact: Filmed primarily in Paso Robles and around SLO CAL, many sights featured in the film can still be seen today. The wedding takes place at the elegant Dubost Vineyard & Winery nestled within the hills of Paso Robles. Also featured in the movie is SLO CAL’s famed Apple Farm Inn, situated right off the 101 and known for its classic charm and conveniences.

1) Rawhide (1959 – 1965)

Location: Episodes filmed in Paso Robles

Synopsis: Gil Favor is a trail boss of a continuous Cattle Drive; he is assisted by Rowdy Yates. The crew runs into characters and adventures along the way

Actors: Clint Eastwood, Paul Brinegar, Steve Raines

 

2) Redwood Kings (2013-Present)

Location: Daniels Wood Land in Paso Robles

Synopsis: Animal Planet reality show that follows fraternal twins Ron and John Daniels as they run their tree house and theming business, Daniels Wood Land.

Fun Fact: Daniels Wood Land is located next door to the highly popular Barrelhouse Brewing and Tin City wine enclave in Paso Robles. If you're ever in the area, you might be able to spot one of their creations in the driveway or nearby "stump" yard, where the giant redwood stumps are kept.

Music Videos

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G.U.Y by Lady Gaga (2014)

Location: Hearst Castle

Artist: Lady Gaga

Music Video: G.U.Y. (2014)

Click here to watch Hearst Castle make a cameo in Lady Gaga's 2014 music video.

Commercials

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Average Joes (2015)

Location: Morro Rock

You may have noticed a familiar rock in Visit California's "Average Joes" tv commercial. This television commercial not only has aired nationally but also internationally and features our iconic Morro Rock. Click here to watch Morro Bay make a cameo in Visit California's commercial.