Film locations are rarely given much screen time. They are seen in a moment, establishing where the action takes place. They are no more than a beautiful backdrop, and the actual location may not be remembered. Yet there are some locations that become characters themselves on film.
Countless films have been shot on location in the Appalachian Mountains, on lush lakes, rivers, and, of course, the mountains. In a number of these films, the Mountains are integral to the story, whether their history, sheer expanse, or dramatic beauty.
The Fugitive, 1993
Despite the fact that Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) escapes while being transported to prison in Illinois, the famous train wreck scene was filmed on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The remnants of the wreck still lie on Railroad property, crumpled and twisted. The film site can be visited today, either directly or by taking the Tuckasegee River Excursion, a 36-mile train ride that passes the site.
The Last of the Mohicans, 1992
No film features the Blue Ridge Mountains more prominently than Michael Mann’s adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans. From the stunning opening sequence across the mountain tops to the staggeringly sheer cliffs at the end of the film, the Mountains served as a symbol of both beauty and death, the beauty of untouched nature and the dangers of the ragged rocks. The dramatic final scenes of the film were shot on Chimney Rock, where Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Chingachgook chase the Hurons across the cliffs, Magua battles Uncas, and Alice (Jodhi May) jumps to her death.
Deliverance may have scarred the South with backwoods hillbilly stereotypes, but it was an undeniably successful film. Portions of the film were shot on the Chattooga River and the Tallulah Gorge, along the river rapids. The enormous bolder featured in the film at the foot of the river was actually installed for the shoot and the so-called Deliverance Rock still sits there today.
Dirty Dancing, 1987
Although much of Dirty Dancing was filmed in Virginia, the famous lift scene was shot at Lake Lure. The idyllic man-made Lake Lure sits within the vast canyon walls of Hickory Nut Gorge. The actual dance finale was then later filmed at the Lake Lure Inn.
Forrest Gump, 1994
Once Forrest Gump finally manages to run, one of his biggest accomplishments is a non-stop three-year running expedition across the country. Several of these epic running scenes were filmed on the winding roads leading up to Grandfather Mountain. The scenes are commemorated on a signpost that reads “Forrest Gump Curve” on the road up to the mountain.
– Katherine Springer