Five Solid American Made Movies That Take Place in Mexico

There are a select number of things that come to mind when thinking about Mexico and the movies: Westerns, drug cartels, and sunny vacations. Unfortunately, most of those movies never see the land of the Aztec Sun during production. Some are made in New Mexico (that doesn’t count) while other are set in New Orleans (yes, it’s true). These five movies are awesome for one of two reasons. Either they are classics that will be talked about for another 100 years or they were actually shot entirely in Mexico.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

This movie stars Humphrey Bogart in what the American Film Institute (AFI) ranks in its top 100 list in 5 different categories. Though there were some scenes that were shot back in Hollywood, the majority of the actual shooting took place in Mexico. It was one of the first films to explore Mexico as a major setting. One of the most famous quotes from the movie has been changed a bit over the years, but the original quote is better: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

One interesting story that follows this legendary film is during its production in Tampico, Mexico, production was halted by the local government. The producers thought they had the green light to film, but didn’t know the Tampico “custom” of paying off local officials. The local newspaper printed an article saying the movie put Mexico in a bad light. The money was ponied up, and production resumed. Real life often trumps the movie world: a few weeks later, the editor of the paper that printed the story was found in bed with another man’s wife — who then proceeded to shoot him dead.

Two Mules for Sister Sara

Clint Eastwood found his way to Mexico in Two Mules for Sister Sara. Filmed entirely in Mexico, if you think his epic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was filmed in Mexico, you are likely to be disappointed. For this movie, Eastwood shoots a real rattlesnake with a real gun because while Eastwood is opposed to killing animals, the local government didn’t want to turn the rattler lose after the film was completed and everyone headed back home to America. (Yes, this is odd given the hundreds of men Clint has killed in his movies. Animals? No. Men? Let God sort out the mess.)

A fair number of the stars and crew, including Shirley MacLaine, got sick from the food and water in Mexico. The movie is set in Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico and has both American and Mexican actors featured in it. Ennio Morricone composed the film music. (If you saw Kill Bill, Volume 1, and the scene “The House of Blue Leaves” you have heard Morricone’s music.)

The Magnificent Seven

This is the about the 1960 (original) movie. It’s a good example of why to leave the originals alone and forget about any remake. Five of Hollywood’s future stars were to appear in this Mexican set Western: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn. The village and the border town were built specifically for the film. Locations were in Cuernavaca, Durango, and Tepoztlán and at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico. In a classic “bad guys turned good to defeat other bad guys” theme, the movie manages to make sure not all of The Seven survive without bruising any egos (that we know of).

According to Hans Buchholtz who played Chico in the movie, there was considerable tension between Brynner and McQueen, a problem that often happens when you put multiple Hollywood stars together in one movie. The biggest issue is usually the number of lines each actor has because, naturally, the camera is usually focused on the person who is speaking. But, as so often is the case, a great movie is the result.

Desperado

Put together Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, and you can be sure to have one hot movie. Add to that the heat of Mexico and the result is Desperado. This action-romance was set totally in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, across from Del Rio, Texas. This is far from a classic Western, as there is a good amount of 20th century technology in view (telephones, automatic machine guns) but there is enough of the historical Mexico backdrop to give you the feeling of Old Mexico. The movie is intended to be mostly a visual experience — at least if you listen to what the movie critics have to say. But with both Banderas and Hayek co-starring (would the movie be half as good without Hayek?) there is plenty of action for everyone.

Amores Perros

The list had to include at least one Mexico setting that is completely Mexican — in language and setting. Though made by American film company Altavista, the entire movie is in Spanish (available with subtitles) and has been called the Spanish equivalent to Pulp Fiction. The movie title can have a number of meanings depending on your knowledge of Spanish or the way you see the movie. Simply translated it means “bad loves” but you can decide for yourself. The movie itself follows three connected storylines, so may not be the first choice for people who like linear productions.

There were parts of the movie that were filmed in the poorer parts of Mexico City, where street gangs actually robbed some of the crew members during the filming. The entire movie was filmed in Mexico City.

Now that you’ve seen the list, there is a reason or two that movies filmed exclusively in Mexico are rare. One is that many of the most popular movies are filmed in different international locales more than they used to be. The second is that actors, producers, and the crew have been made sick by the water and food, robbed by local gangs, and had run-ins with the local government. Some things never change.

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