Alaska has inspired the backdrop for many great films. Its vast wilderness and remote setting make it adaptable for any genre. While the state may be the location of the film, many movies inspired by Alaska are filmed out of state for financial reasons. While audiences might not know the difference, if you’ve ever been to Alaska, you know there is no substitute.
Here’s a look at five must-watch movies set in Alaska but filmed elsewhere, as well as five must-watch films that were actually filmed in the 49th state.
Movies Set in Alaska but Filmed Elsewhere
1. The Proposal (2009)
We love Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in “The Proposal.“ This romantic comedy centers on Bullock as Margaret Tate, an executive who convinces her assistant (Reynolds) to pretend they’re engaged to avoid deportation to Canada. He brings her to his home in Sitka, Alaska, where (spoiler alert!) the two end up falling in love.
The movie was actually filmed in Rockport, Massachusetts, and the production company spent a lot of resources making it look like Sitka. But it just doesn’t compare to the real thing! Visitors to Sitka will love its coastal charm, rainforests, glaciers, and activities such as fishing and exploring Tlingit heritage.
2. The Fourth Kind (2009)
“The Fourth Kind” is a thriller that blurs the line between fact and fiction as it explores the phenomenon of alien abduction through the eyes of a psychologist investigating a series of mysterious disappearances in Nome, Alaska.
Nome is depicted in the movie as surrounded by dense forests when it is actually all tundra. Of course, that’s because the movie was filmed in British Columbia and Bulgaria. Nome is on the Bering Sea coastline, with stunning landscapes and a rich gold mining history. It is probably best known as the finish line of the renowned Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
3. Dear Lemon Lima (2009)
“Dear Lemon Lima” is a heartwarming coming-of-age film about a young girl’s journey to find her identity and self-confidence through involvement in an eccentric school’s unique cultural club. The prep school she attends is supposed to be in Fairbanks, Alaska, but the movie was filmed in and around Seattle, Washington, including remote Washington towns like Cashmere.
Fairbanks is the second-most populated city in Alaska and located in the Interior region. In the wintertime, Fairbanks offers excellent chances of seeing the northern lights.
4. The Big Year (2011)
This comedy revolves around three avid birdwatchers competing in a year-long bird-spotting contest, exploring themes of friendship and passion in their pursuit of the rarest sightings. The movie stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black — all in one film!
We’re sure Attu Island, Alaska, would have gladly welcomed any or all of these stars to film on location. After all, Attu is one of the best places in the Western Hemisphere to see Asian bird species. The movie was instead filmed in Canada. Fun fact: Attu Island is closer to Russia than to Canada!
5. The Grey (2012)
“The Grey” portrays a group of oil rig workers stranded in the Alaska wilderness who must fight for survival against harsh elements and a pack of relentless wolves.
We had at least one staffer weeping into her Alaskan Amber when she found out Liam Neeson would be filming this adventure film in Smithers, British Columbia, instead of Alaska.
Movies Filmed in Alaska (in Whole or Part)
1. Into the Wild (2007)
“Into the Wild” chronicles the true story of Chris McCandless as he abandons societal norms to embark on a soul-searching adventure into the vast and unforgiving wilderness of Alaska.
The movie primarily takes place in Alaska, including the small town of Healy outside of Denali National Park and Preserve. Healy is a great spot to call basecamp while exploring the park and offering river rafting, fishing, and hiking activities.
2. The Call of the Wild (2020)
“The Call of the Wild” follows the journey of a domesticated dog named Buck as he adapts to the rugged life of the Yukon during the gold rush, forming bonds with humans and other animals along the way.
Filming occurred in California, Canada, and the Alaska town of Skagway, known for its role in the Klondike Gold Rush.
3. Big Miracle (2012)
“Big Miracle” is a heartwarming film based on a true story, depicting the collaborative efforts of people from different backgrounds who come together to rescue a family of gray whales trapped under ice in the Arctic Ocean. The town where the film takes place is Utqiaġvik, Alaska.
At the time of filming, the town was called Barrow. This movie was one of the first full-length features to be filmed entirely in Alaska. Utqiaġvik is situated above the Arctic Circle and experiences unique phenomena like the polar day and night due to its latitude.
4. White Fang (1991)
“White Fang” tells the story of a wolf-dog’s adventures in the Yukon wilderness, highlighting his interactions with humans and his challenges as he navigates between two worlds. Starring Ethan Hawke and Jed, the wolf-dog, this movie was filmed in Haines, Alaska.
Haines is located between coastal mountains and the Chilkat River, acclaimed for its beauty, rich Alaska Native culture and opportunities for outdoor activities.
5. Grizzly Man (2005)
“Grizzly Man” is a documentary that explores the life of Timothy Treadwell, an eccentric environmentalist who spent years living among wild grizzly bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Katmai National Park is a pristine wilderness in Alaska. It is renowned for its landscapes, diverse wildlife, and the iconic Brooks Falls, where visitors can witness grizzly bears catching salmon in the summer months.