Summer’s the perfect time to hit the road in Oregon. For us, that means laid-back adventures like visiting famous film sites and catching open-air movies in unusual places, like an Oregon State Park or on the side of a 100-year-old flour mill.
As two die-hard Oregonian moviegoers who’ve turned our love of film into careers — Jake is a freelance screenwriter and Robin has done everything from copywriting to co-directing short creative and commercial films — we’ve done the research to help you shape your perfect film-buff road-trip itinerary.
We highlight some of Oregon’s top film locations and attractions — from film-based murals to historic theaters serving free popcorn — in small towns and big cities all over the state. Before you set off, consider downloading the free app called SetJetters, a partnership with the Oregon Film Trail and Oregon Film Office to help you navigate film locations, local communities and your favorite movie scenes in Oregon.
Here are some of our favorite silver-screen experiences across Oregon’s seven regions.
Classic Films and Outdoor Theater on the Oregon Coast
The Oregon Film Trail may be the most comprehensive experience on this list with a statewide collection of over 30 unique trail markers commemorating some of the 500 or so films shot in Oregon. Astoria, well known as the filming location of the beloved children’s classic “The Goonies,” is also where the Oregon Film Trail project began. One of the iconic locations of the film, the old Clatsop County Jail, also appeared in the films “Short Circuit” and “Come See the Paradise,” and has since been transformed into the Oregon Film Museum with exhibits for cinephiles of all ages.
The Coast features a number of historic theaters as well as film locations. City Lights Cinemas is an independently run theater in Florence, providing both arthouse fare and blockbusters to the area. The Egyptian Theatre in Coos Bay is offering tours while they undergo preservation and restoration efforts of the rare Egyptian Revival-style interior of this 1925 theater. It’s also the only theater in the state with an operational Wurlitzer orchestra organ.
Independent Theaters in Portland
Popular as a film shoot location, Portland also offers theaters and festivals for every taste. Home to two of the state’s oldest operating theaters — the Avalon and Clinton Street theaters — it also makes you feel at home downtown in the Living Room Theaters with cushy seating and a full dining experience. Or you might just opt for free popcorn and obscure films at 5th Avenue Cinema, operated by Portland State University. The quirky Hollywood Theatre also operates a free microcinema at Portland International Airport. (It’s also one of several sponsors of a great series of free outdoors films at a rotating selection of Oregon State Parks this summer.)
Many Portlanders consider the Kennedy School Theater, located in a hotel run by local chain McMenamins, one of the best theater experiences in town. A repurposed former school auditorium, this second-run film theater is outfitted with an assortment of comfortable couches and chairs, plus a full bar.
When it comes to keeping Portland weird, PAM CUT has you covered. Their Cinema Unbound series offers creative theater experiences, like movies on the rooftop of the Lloyd Center Mall and outdoor pop-ups at Zidell Yards.
Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge
The Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge region is home to more than a few experiences for movie lovers. Film buffs will surely recognize the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” But this region is home to much more, like the unique Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza in The Dalles. This 100-year-old former flour mill, renovated into a wine-tasting and events venue, offers outdoor movie nights with screens mounted on the sides of the mill.
Mt. Hood Meadows also features outdoor film showings in their Movies on the Deck series. Imagination Station in Troutdale offers free summer features in the park while you picnic. Rather than a projector, they utilize a giant LED wall, providing the audience with sharp, cinema-quality images.
Film Tours in the Willamette Valley
Film buffs will definitely want to head to Salem with a tour of the infamous Oregon State Hospital, featured in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the 1962 novel by one of Oregon’s most famous authors, Ken Kesey. It’s now a fascinating museum in its own right, the OSH Museum of Mental Health, with exhibits on medical equipment and practices, some of which were highlighted in the film.
Fans of the college comedy “Animal House” will love the self-guided tour of sites related to the film that were shot on or near University of Oregon’s Eugene campus. Or skip the food fight and join in on a blueberry pie-eating contest in nearby Brownsville, as the town celebrates “Stand By Me” Day each July 23, paying tribute to Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age tearjerker that was filmed locally. Farther south in downtown Cottage Grove, you’ll immediately notice the large mural commemorating Buster Keaton’s classic “The General,” completely refurbished in 2021. The town has been used as a location in several films, including parts of “Stand By Me.”
As for theaters, the Willamette Valley has plenty. Enjoy an old-fashioned show from your car at the 99W Drive-In Theater, located in Newberg, which has been owned and operated by the same family since it opened in 1953. Or if you miss the comforting darkness of a theater, pop into Darkside Cinema in Corvallis, the only independent, locally owned theater in town. The name is a play on the nearby historic Whiteside Theatre, which now hosts films and live events — as well as tours of the impressive 1922 structure.
Stay at the Movies in Southern Oregon
The city of Ashland inspired the setting for “Coraline,” earning this area an Oregon Film Trail marker. The film “Phoenix, Oregon” was shot in Klamath Falls, with film locations throughout the town. And Medford is credited in over 60 films, including plenty for horror and thriller genre lovers.
Headed to the region in your RV? Check out Sutherlin’s Hi-Way Haven RV Park, which was built on the site of an old drive-in and screens nightly films for its campers. Or opt to catch some family-friendly films in Central Point during the city’s free outdoor Movies in the Park series.
The Last Blockbuster and More in Central Oregon
The Bend Blockbuster is more than just a video-rental spot. As showcased in the 2020 documentary “The Last Blockbuster,” this historic Blockbuster is not your average store. The aisles are bursting with hard-to-find titles and assorted film props on display, and it even smells the same as you remember — that mixture of popcorn and new plastic. Trying to choose what to rent? You’ll love the Central Oregon views in “Into the Wild” or the “The Apple Dumpling Gang.”
While in Bend, also check out the Tin Pan Theater. This 28-seat independent arthouse cinema boasts a wide range of offerings from virtual screenings to video lecture series.
Drive-Ins and History in Eastern Oregon
Visit some of the filming locations of the grand Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood vehicle “Paint Your Wagon,” which was shot outside of Baker City and in the Wallowas in 1968. There’s even a saloon named after the one in the film at the Anthony Lakes Ski Resort in North Powder.
If Old Hollywood interests you, the historic 1910 Liberty Theatre in La Grande — including the magnificent 100-year-old chandelier in the lobby — needs to be seen. This community treasure is under renovation and will be offering tours soon.
Eastern Oregon loves its drive-in theaters, and so will you when you check out the classic M-F Drive-In Theater , located in Milton-Freewater, which shows movies and live concerts in the summer season. It’s been entertaining Eastern Oregon movie fans for about 50 years.