When you hear the term ranch, you may think of the hilarious TV show starring Ashton Kutcher, your favorite type of salad dressing, or a place filled with cattle and cowboys. If you are a fan of western movies, the latter may come to mind first. Have you ever wondered where these scenes of dust, tumbleweed, boot spurs, and saloons were filmed?
SoCal is often chosen because of the climate and the landscape. In addition, locations and ranches that are situated in the Movie Overlay Zone (MOZ) or Thirty-Mile Zone – yes, the one that TMZ is named after – are often preferred because they generally allow continuous filming and are not bothered by noise constraints.
Take a look at these famed Southern California locations that have earned their keeps in Western film history and are continue to be marketed as film locations.
Big Sky Movie Ranch
First on our list is the Big Sky Movie Ranch. It’s located in Simi Valley, also home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Even though there are not many traditional Western films being made today, this ranch was the main location for many of the most popular Western films and TV shows of all time. Big Sky Movie Ranch was home to Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide. Even if you have never watched any of these TV Shows, you have no doubt heard their names or at least heard the Bonanza theme song being overused in later films. Other titles that you have probably heard are The Thorn Birds and Westworld, but the most famous of them all is most likely The Little House on the Prairie.
Corriganville Movie Ranch
Also located in Simi Valley was the Corriganville Movie Ranch. It was located in an area called the Santa Susana Pass, which was previously named Simi Pass. The pass is surrounded by a vast mountainside filled with rocks and shrubs making it a perfect scene for some western movies. The ranch is now a national park operated by Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, but there are still some foundations from the early movie sets and appropriate scenery that could still make it a good location given that you receive permission to film. If you are not familiar with Western movies that were made in the 40s such as the Range Busters franchise, then you may not be aware of why this area is famous, but back in those days, it was a prime western filming location.
Melody Ranch is located in Santa Clarita Valley, where it offers a well-equipped motion picture studio and museum tours. It’s perfect for shooting that classic western scene complete with the town and main street style seen in every western film. It’s generally flanked with swing-door saloons, a bank, a jail, a sheriff’s office, and at least one white wooden church. This is an old western setup and the Melody Ranch provides it all, along with props and production facilities. Some famous films from this location include Django, Wyatt Earp, and The Lone Ranger.
Blue Cloud Movie Ranch
The Blue Cloud Movie Ranch or BCMR for short is also located in that prime Santa Clarita filming area. The BCMR ranch houses numerous buildings and scenes that can be used for various film productions. Albeit not Western films, the ranch has been used for productions such as NCIS and American Sniper. However, their “Lower Thirty” open land or “Mountainside Amphitheater” sets could be ideal for a classic or modern western film backdrop. Additionally, they have been declared a Permanent Movie ranch which allows them to offer you 24/7 shooting for more convenience.
Kill Bill Church
The Sanctuary Adventist Church in Lancaster, California, is a very popular and infamous filming location. It’s more commonly known as “The Kill Bill Church.” If you have never seen the cult classic Kill Bill from Quentin Tarantino, we won’t give you any spoilers, but we will say that it involves Uma Thurman, a wedding dress, guns, and some really great fighting scenes (with a sword no less). Even though it is most known for Kill Bill, this location has appeared in other films including Crossroads with Britney Spears, Inferno with Jean-Claud Van Damme, and another movie starring Robert De Niro. While you can definitely utilize the church into a modern Western film, the external areas may also draw your attention with a single Joshua tree just out front and the surrounding desert lands.
Rancho Deluxe is another Southern California location to shoot a western film or TV show. It has a dedicated Western town with various internal and external set styles. Their location is extremely versatile and has been used for TV shows such as Shooter, NCIS, Sons of Anarchy, and many more. They have also been in feature films such as Iron Man 3, Rush Hour 3, and Bad Teacher. They even have commercials and music videos done by well-known artists including Eminem, CeeLo Green, Bruno Mars, and Travis Scott.
Diamond V Ranch
The Diamond V Ranch allows you to shoot a classic or modern Western film or TV show. Their Wilderness Area would be ideal to adjust to the Western style. There is even a post-apocalyptic set with props that could be used in an interesting Western zombie concept, or not. Either way, the variety allows flexibility and inspires creativity.
Polsa Rosa Ranch
The Polsa Rosa Ranch, located in Acton, California, is just south of the Antelope Valley and the northern outskirts of Los Angeles County. It boasts 750 acres of shooting areas and borders the Angeles National Forrest, and it runs along the Santa Clara River. While it may not have been used typically for Western projects, the vast landscape can be adjusted to fit a modern western or an old western set. The ranch has been used in feature films such as Fast and Furious, Pineapple Express, and The Titanic.
Golden Oak Ranch
The Golden Oak Ranch is located in the Santa Clarita Valley and is more of a modern-day ranch setting. It does have what they call “natural areas,” which can be used to create a more contemporary western set. You can easily get a Little House on the Prairie type setting with very few adjustments. With the construction of a Business District and a Suburban Street by Disney and ABC Studios, you won’t be surprised to know that this location served as all or a part of the set for Disney movies such as The Shaggy Dog, Old Yeller, and even Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. 11. Our last two ranches on the list are Rancho Maria and Sable Ranch. These two ranches not only share the same management but also a continuous boundary for up to a mile. They then branch off into separate canyons that both lead to waterfalls. While both locations could facilitate a Western, the Rancho Maria has a dedicated “Western Street” that is ready for action. It comes complete with a large hotel and saloon that is often featured in westerns. It also includes the lobby bar with the classic 1866 style and a smaller individual saloon, a Sheriff’s office and jail cell, and a general store.
Rancho Maria and Sable Ranch
Our last two ranches on the list are Rancho Maria and Sable Ranch. These two ranches not only share the same management but also a continuous boundary for up to a mile. They then branch off into separate canyons that both lead to waterfalls. While both locations could facilitate a Western, the Rancho Maria has a dedicated “Western Street” that is ready for action. It comes complete with a large hotel and saloon that is often featured in westerns. It also includes the lobby bar with the classic 1866 style and a smaller individual saloon, a Sheriff’s office and jail cell, and a general store.
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