13 February 2015

Movies in your geology

Posted by Jessica Ball

Can't get the geology any more prominent than that!

Can’t get the geology any more prominent than that!

No, that’s not a typo – it’s the topic of a discussion I prompted on Twitter a few weeks ago and then immediately forgot to post about. Fortunately, through the wonder of Storify, I can recap it for everyone. The backstory is that I had a request from a reader for movies he could show that featured geologically interesting places, but weren’t necessarily about geology or disasters. He also requested that they be fairly popular (things that had done well at the box office and might be expected to have been seen by a wide audience) and that they be things that intro students would recognize, either because they were recent or widely re-watched.

Unfortunately I can’t get it to embed directly here (or maybe I can but it’s too early in the day to fiddle with html), but here’s the link to the Storify story:


I’ll let you all be the judge of how successful we were – I think we didn’t do particularly well on the “recent” part, but that’s unavoidable in some cases if you want a list of blockbuster movies. But I now have a list of things I need to watch just for the geology! For those of you who want the TL:DR version, here’s our collection of movies and filming locations of geological interest in order of production (note that some really obvious ones like “Lawrence of Arabia” were left out because it’s unlikely an undergraduate will have heard of them, or because the original questioner already had them on their list):

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959): Carlsbad Caverns, NM; Little Lake and Fossil Falls, Lone Pine, CA
  • You Only Live Twice (1967): Sakurijima Volcano, Japan)
  • Star Wars IV (1977): Golden Valley and Dunes, Death Valley NP, CA; Tikal National Park, Guatemala
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981): Lyme Regis, Dorset, England
  • The Goonies (1985): Haystack Rocks, OR
  • Star Trek V (1989): Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989): Arches National Park, UT
  • Tremors (1990): Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA
  • Jurassic Park (1993): Red Rock Canyon State Park, CA; Kaua’i, HI
  • Maverick (1994): Yosemite NP, CA; Lake Powell, AZ; Columbia River Gorge, OR; Glen Canyon, UT; Grand Canyon NP, AZ
  • Galaxy Quest (1999): Goblin Valley State Park, UT
  • Crounching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Anhui Province, China
  • Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003): Tongariro National Park, New Zealand; Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand; Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand; Mount Tasman, Southern Alps, New Zealand, and many others
  • Die Another Day (2002): Jostedal Glacier National Park, Norway; Gunnar Jokull Karlson Glacier, Iceland
  • Master and Commander (2003): Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005): Elephant Rocks, Otago, New Zealand; Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
  • Stardust (2007): Jökulsárlón, Iceland; Lochs Lomand, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
  • Hellboy 2 (2008): Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
  • Quantum of Solace (2008): Atacama Desert, Chile
  • Star Trek (2009): Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, CA; San Rafael Swell, UT
  • The Road (2009): Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA; Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR
  • Cowboys and Aliens (2011):  Plaza Blanca and Abiquiu, NM
  • Prometheus (2012): Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland; The Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland; Wadi Rum, Jordan
  • Oblivion (2013): Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland; Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Iron Man III (2013): Point Dume, Malibu Coast Fault, CA
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013): Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
  • Thor 2: The Dark World (2013): Skogarfoss Waterfall, Iceland
  • Wild (2014): Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA; Crater Lake NP, OR
  • How To Train Your Dragon II (2014): Animated columnar basalt, but we’ll call it Giant’s Causeway again

I’m seeing a trend toward Iceland as a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a few of these, but also realizing just how much some of my favorite movies date me. (I mean, I still have trouble conceptualizing that most intro students weren’t even born yet when Jurassic Park came out…)

Any others we missed?