The first argument you have when making a best-of list is with yourself.
After that it’s kind of fun.
The dispute with everyone else, that is. And it’s a list worth arguing about.
A surprising number of good films have been made in Arizona. And with tax credits coming back, it stands to reason there will be more.
But what are the best movies made in the state?
This is personal preference, of course, in the sense that my personal preferences are correct and those of people who disagree are not.
This list has changed about 500 times since I started working on it. It’s cruel. It’s crazy. But, as the sports cliché goes, it is what it is.
These are my five favorite movies made in Arizona. Read them and cry.
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Midnight Run (1988)
Robert De Niro plays a bounty hunter who accompanies the annoying Charles Grodin, a mob accountant, around the country. It’s a great, underrated movie, an all-time favorite, with a supporting cast that includes John Ashton, Yaphet Cotto, Dennis Farina, and Joe Pantoliano. It was filmed in several locations in Arizona, including Flagstaff, Globe, Williams, Casa Grande, and more.
How to watch: Rent or buy on Prime Video, Apple TV and YouTube.
Raising Arizona (1987)
yes Nicolas Cage’s recidivist criminal tries to go straight after marrying cop Holly Hunter. Things don’t go as planned in the Coen Brothers’ wackiest film (and one of their best). It features one of John Goodman’s great comedic lines when he escaped from prison: “We felt that the institution had nothing more to offer us.” Arizona filming locations included Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Florence.
How to watch: Stream on Starz. Rent or buy on Prime Video, Apple TV and YouTube.
Chloé Zhao’s brutally honest look at the effects of a collapsing economy on the American West was a magnet for the Oscars, rightfully so – Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, the latter for the deserving Frances McDormand. Quartzsite is a central location, a home base for a group of nomads who wander from one job to another. A terribly beautiful film.
How to watch: Stream on Hulu.
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Bit of a cheat since only the opening establishing shots were shot in Phoenix (and Alfred Hitchcock didn’t shoot it). But Arizona sets the dark tone for a woman (Janet Leigh) who embezzles money and ends up at the Bates Motel. “We all go crazy sometimes,” says Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). “Right?” Maybe stay away from the shower.
How to watch: Peacock Stream.
“Near Dark” (1987)
In the great American vampire film directed by none other than future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, Adrian Pasdar ends up running around with a gang of vampires, one of whom is the late great Bill Paxton as a truly no-nonsense bloodsucker. It’s scary, violent, disgusting and all that, but it’s also a meditation on small-town America. Or something. Most of the time it’s just good. Arizona locations include Coolidge and Eloy.
How to watch: Shudder stream.
These great movies almost made it: Everything Must Go (2010), Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), Used Cars (1980), Crooks (1990), Little Miss Sunshine ” (2006), “Three Kings” (1999), “Starman” (1984).
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Contact Goodykoontz at [email protected]. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movie newsletter.
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