From breathtaking mountain and desert landscapes to scenic open highways, filmmakers often rely on real-life locations to effectively convey a narrative and draw audiences closer. Roadside motels and motor lodges often serve as the backdrop for many American films. Whether you are searching for unique motel accommodation ideas for your next roadtrip vacation or are simply an avid fan of the road movie genre, the following list features some famous motels used in movies that you can add to your travel bucket list.
Known for its original retro structure and vintage appeal, the Safari Inn’s love affair with the Silver Screen has been going strong since the late 1970’s, making it one of the more prominent motels used in movies such as True Romance, Apollo 13, and Coach Carter. In director Tony Scott and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino’s darkly romantic drama True Romance , the historical landmark serves as a hiding spot for young lovers Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence (Christian Slater). Although the kitschy room shown in the film was a set and not an actual room at the Safari Inn, the motel’s facade, outdoor swimming pool, and iconic neon sign were all utilized for exterior sequences. Located in Burbank, near some of LA’s most prestigious motion picture studios including Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and NBC, it’s easy to see why it has become a popular tourist destination.
Vagabond Inn Motel in Thelma & Louise (1991)
Los Angeles, California
Directed by Ridley Scott Thelma & Louise is arguably the ultimate ‘girls trip’ flick with its empowering feminism and friendship themes. Scenes at the Oklahoma City motel where fleeing besties Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) meet handsome cowboy hitchhiker J.D. (played by a then virtually unknown Brad Pitt), were actually filmed at the Vagabond Inn in downtown LA. It may not be the most attractive lodging option but its convenient location near many LA attractions including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the California Science Center, absolutely makes up for the less than inspiring decor.
The Regal Motel in No Country For Old Men (2007)
Las Vegas, New Mexico
In brothers Joel and Ethan Coen’s Oscar winning chef d’oeuvre No Country For Old Men, Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is on the run after impulsively snatching two million dollars in cash left behind after a violent drug deal gone terribly wrong. The Regal motel is where Moss decides to check-in when he realizes that Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a cold-blooded hitman hired to recover the money, is hot on his trail. With its desolate off-highway placement, wood-panelled interiors, and dusky lighting, the real-life Regal motel (which is actually located in Las Vegas, New Mexico) serves as the perfect mise en scene for the drama that ultimately unfolds. You too can spend a night at the famed motel if you dare.
The Pink Motel in Drive (2011)
Sun Valley, California
Renowned for its kitschy mid-century vintage glamour (and you know I have a soft spot for that kind of stuff) and aesthetically-appealing pink and blue-hued scheme and outdoor ‘fish bowl’ pool, the Pink Motel is one of Los Angeles’s most recognizable motels used in movies across the scope of cinema. In Nicolas Winding Refn’s moody, slow-pulsing thriller Drive, the unnamed protagonist (Ryan Gosling) and accomplice Blanche (Christina Hendricks) hide out at the Pink Motel after a robbery goes south. Whilst it has since permanently closed its doors to vacationers, The Pink Motel continues to operate as a prime filming location for movies, music videos, and photoshoots. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the Sun Valley neighborhood.
The Pink Motel
9457 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley CA 91352
The Hitching Post in Fargo (1996)
Forest Lake, Minnesota
Fargo is another cinematographic gem from the Coen brothers. In this stratagem-gone-wrong film noir, the Hitching Post Motel in Forest Lake doubles as the fictitious Bismarck Motel. (Spoiler alert…) It is there that Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is ultimately tracked down and arrested.
The Travel Inn in Memento (2000)
In Christopher Nolan’s nonlinear psychological thriller Memento, Leonard (Guy Pearce), a bewildered man suffering from anterograde amnesia, tries desperately to piece together the puzzle of his wife’s brutal murder. Several scenes take place at the Travel Inn in Tujunga, California which was temporarily renamed the ‘Discount Inn’ for the film. Quite the popular option in when it comes to motels used in movies, scenes from Seven Pounds featuring Will Smith were also shot at this location.