Where were the old westerns filmed

Once Upon a Time in the West

The western classic "Play me the song of death" ("Once Upon A Time In The West") by Sergio Leone is one of the most successful films among the spaghetti westerns. A story of revenge, greed and murder unfolds around the construction of a railway line, centered around four people. Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda play the leading roles. The film music by Ennio Morricone with the plaintive harmonica is one of the most famous film compositions of all.

The film was initially shot in Utah and Arizona, especially in Monument Valley, where director John Ford has filmed many important westerns. However, there were problems with the US crew and there were too many telegraph poles in the way for the filming. Therefore, the production moved on to Europe in the Cinecittà Studios in Rome and for the outdoor recordings in the Desierto de Tabernas near Almería in Spain.

Monument Valley © Andrea David
Monument Valley © Andrea David

The Tabernas Desert has already served as a filming location for numerous other westerns such as “Winnetou”, “Four Fists for a Hallelujah” or “The Magnificent Seven”. Some film sets can still be viewed today. Especially in Mini Hollywood in the Oasys amusement park and in the western town known as “Leone Ranch” you can still walk in the footsteps of “Play me the song of death”. The gallows still stands on the outskirts of the last true-to-the-original scenery city of Fort Bravo.

Tabernas, Spain © Andrea David

The regional tourist office has even published a guidebook that guides visitors to the locations of famous films across the desert. Well-known productions also include “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” with Harrison Ford and “Conan the Barbarian” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since the Badlands of Almería are also reminiscent of the landscapes in North Africa and the Orient, films such as “Cleopatra” with Liz Taylor and “Lawrence of Arabia” with Peter O’Toole were shot here in the desert sand. Tabernas and its lunar landscape can also be seen in Stanley Kubrick's “2001: A Space Odyssey”.


Tour tip:Tabernas desert tour

Related article:Cinecittà Studios Rome