Some movies, like The Frozen Ground (Nicholas Cage and John Cusack) and Big Miracle (Drew Barrymore), actually film in Alaska. But more often, production locations decisions are made for financial reasons—producers think audiences don’t know the difference.
But if you’ve ever been to Alaska, you know there is no substitute. Here’s a look at where your favorite movies set in Alaska were really filmed.
Recent Movies Set in Alaska but Filmed Elsewhere
Remember this psychological thriller? Originally a Norwegian film, Christopher Nolan directed Al Pacino and Robin Williams in the American remake. Though the film was set in Nightmute, AK, it was shot in Canada.
30 Days of Night (2007)
The filmmakers got the location and the timeline wrong for this film produced by Sam Raimi. The longest night of the year in Barrow, AK is actually two months long. And the movie, starring Josh Hartnett and Danny Huston, was filmed in New Zealand.
The Fourth Kind (2009)
Milla Jovovich’s performance in The Fourth Kind was pretty well received by critics. What few mentioned, however, is that Nome, AK (where the movie is set) is surrounded by tundra rather than the dense forests depicted. Of course, that’s because the movie was filmed in British Columbia and Bulgaria.
The Proposal (2009)
We love Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal. Actually, the entire cast is adorable. What we don’t understand is why a film company would spend serious cash rebuilding parts of Rockport, MA to look like Sitka, AK when Sitka already looks like Sitka.
Dear Lemon Lima (2009)
This adorable indie by newbie director Suzi Yoonessi tells the story of a young girl’s experience at a prep school in Fairbanks, AK. Filming took place in and around Seattle, WA including remote Washington towns like Cashmere. As if anyone does remote as well as Alaska.
The Big Year (2011)
Steve Martin and Owen Wilson and Jack Black… We’re certain Attu Island, AK would have welcomed any or all of these stars for this movie about birding. After all, Attu is one of the best places in the western hemisphere to see Asian bird species. Instead, they filmed in Canada. We’re off to re-watch the movie to see if they got the bird species right.
The Grey (2012)
We have at least one staffer who was weeping into her Alaskan Amber when she found out Liam Neeson would be filming this adventure film in Smithers, British Columbia instead of Alaska. She promises to forgive him if he visits soon.
It’s not just movies. The classic TV series Northern Exposure is modeled on Talkeetna, but was filmed in Roslyn, WA.
Movies Filmed in Alaska for Real
Alaska has been home to film shoots since the early days of the silver screen. The Chechahcos was filmed in Anchorage as early as 1924. Some other movies that are authentically Alaskan (in whole or in part) include:
- Into the Wild (2007). The Alaskan portions of Sean Penn’s interpretation of Jon Krakauer’s book were filmed in Cantwell, AK—just 50 miles from where Christopher McCandless died.
- On Deadly Ground (1994). This Steven Seagal film featured scenes shot at the Worthington Glacier near Valdez, AK.
- White Fang (1991). Starring Ethan Hawke and Jed the Wolfdog, this movie was filmed in Haines, AK.
Do you look for authenticity of setting when you go to the movies? What movies set in Alaska would you like to see?