The Top 10 Movies Set in Alaska

08/22/2023 Back To Blog

Alaska has captivated imaginations for centuries. People have always been intrigued by Alaska, from the Indigenous peoples who first lived in the area to the gold rush era of the late 19th century.

But Hollywood certainly knows how to capitalize on a good thing. Many great movies are set in the rugged Alaska wilderness. While the following movies aren’t all filmed in Alaska, these are a few of the best movies (if we do say so ourselves) to be set in the 49th state.

1. The Proposal (2008)

“The Proposal,” released in 2008, is a romantic comedy film set in Alaska. The story revolves around Margaret Tate, a high-powered executive played by Sandra Bullock. She hatches a plan to marry her assistant, Andrew Paxton, portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, to avoid deportation to Canada. Andrew brings Margaret home to Sitka, Alaska, to make the engagement look real. Their tumultuous journey is filled with hilarious misunderstandings, unexpected emotions and an unlikely love story that blossoms amidst the chaos.

Sitka is a charming coastal town with breathtaking landscapes featuring snow-capped mountains, crystal-clear waters, and lush forests. Visitors to Sitka can indulge in various activities, such as fishing for salmon and halibut, exploring the historical sites and cultural heritage of the Tlingit people and taking scenic hikes in the nearby Tongass National Forest. Many cruises stop in Sitka, which offers an unforgettable opportunity to see glaciers and wildlife up close.

2. Mystery, Alaska (1999)

This movie tells the fictional tale of a tiny hockey-loving town named Mystery, Alaska. The town’s local team gets the chance of a lifetime to host the New York Rangers for a game on their home ice. This movie captures small-town life in Alaska as the local community shines under the unexpected national spotlight and gives the Rangers the game of their life. Plus, the film features a stellar cameo by none other than Little Richard. Alaska, hockey and iconic rock n’ rollers: What more could you ask for?

3. Into the Wild (2007)

“Into the Wild,” released in 2007 and directed by Sean Penn, is a thought-provoking film based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book. The movie tells the captivating true story of Christopher McCandless, a young adventurer who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the vast wilderness of Alaska.

The movie primarily takes place in Alaska, where McCandless explores the breathtaking landscapes and challenges himself in the face of nature’s raw power. One notable location in Alaska portrayed in the film is the small town of Healy. Nestled near Denali National Park and Preserve, Healy provides a glimpse into the remote and rugged lifestyle of the state. Visitors to Healy can immerse themselves in the stunning wilderness by hiking the trails, observing wildlife, and taking in the majestic beauty of Denali, North America’s tallest peak. The town also offers opportunities for river rafting, fishing, and exploring the unique flora and fauna that make Alaska an extraordinary destination for adventure seekers.

4. Runaway Train (1985)

Filmed in Whittier, Alaska, this classic 1980s action movie starring Jon Voight isn’t just about a prison breakout; it’s also about two escaped prisoners who find themselves on a train that cannot be stopped! As the runaway train hurtles through Alaska’s dramatic landscape, the prisoners eventually end up in an epic battle with their ruthless prison warden. Hollywood sure knows how to pull out all the stops, huh?

For an experience completely the opposite of “Runaway Train” visit the stunning summertime scenery of Whittier and the Kenai Peninsula with a stay at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. This lodge is a relaxing way to enjoy the Alaska wilderness that sets the backdrop for the intense action film.

5. The Fourth Kind (2009)

“The Fourth Kind,” released in 2009, is a gripping sci-fi thriller in the remote town of Nome, Alaska. The fictional film combines found footage and reenactments to depict a series of unexplained disappearances and events. The plot follows Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist played by Milla Jovovich, as she investigates the mysterious occurrences affecting her patients. As the story unfolds, Dr. Tyler discovers a pattern of encounters with otherworldly beings and uncovers an alarming truth about the town’s dark history.

The only thing out of this world in the real Nome are the views! Visitors to Nome can explore the idyllic Bering Sea coastline, witness stunning natural landscapes and experience the town’s rich gold mining history. Additionally, visitors can engage in activities like fishing, wildlife viewing, and immersing themselves in the unique Indigenous culture of the region. Nome is also known for being the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The Iditarod is an iconic long-distance sled dog race that spans 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome. The town comes alive with excitement as the mushers cross the finish line, and a festive atmosphere engulfs the community. Visitors to Nome during the Iditarod can witness the celebration and immerse themselves in the unique culture of dog sledding that holds a special place in Alaska history.

6. Togo (2019)

“Togo” is the untold story of the 1925 serum run to Nome featuring musher Leonhard Seppala and his husky Togo. The name most people think of when they hear about the serum run is Balto. Balto was the dog who finished the last 55 miles of the serum run, while Togo was the unsung hero of the story. Togo ran 261 miles of the trip to deliver the diphtheria serum to Nome. This inspiring movie highlights Seppala and Togo’s bond, determination and grit.

Today, sled dog racing is Alaska’s state sport. In some places, dog teams are still a popular mode of transportation. You can witness mushing and meet real-life dog teams in Denali National Park, Talkeetna and more! The Denali Kennels house the national park’s sled dog team, providing a crucial mode of transportation for park rangers in winter.

7. The Call of the Wild (2020)

The 2020 movie “The Call of the Wild” is the most modern adaptation of the classic novel by Jack London, with previous versions released in 1935, 1972 and 1997. The 2020 movie follows the captivating journey of Buck, a lovable St. Bernard/Scotch Collie mix, who is stolen from his comfortable home in California and sold as a sled dog in the harsh Alaska wilderness. Harrison Ford delivers a heartfelt performance as John Thornton, a grieving recluse who forms a bond with Buck. Together, they navigate the rugged terrain and encounter a host of colorful characters, both human and canine. The film beautifully captures the spirit of Jack London’s novel, exploring themes of loyalty, survival and the primal call of the wild.

The Alaska setting plays a pivotal role in the movie, showcasing the untamed beauty of the region. While the story primarily unfolds in Dawson City, the film also takes viewers to Skagway, an Alaska town known for its connection to the Klondike Gold Rush.

Skagway offers visitors a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking the scenic Chilkoot Trail, exploring the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.

8. The Race to Alaska (2020)

“The Race to Alaska,” released in 2020, is an exhilarating adventure documentary set in the breathtaking wilderness of Ketchikan, Alaska. The movie follows a group of daring competitors as they embark on an epic 750-mile race from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, known as the Race to Alaska. The film revolves around the diverse contestants who utilize various watercraft, including sailboats, rowboats, and even stand-up paddleboards, to conquer treacherous waters, icy conditions, and formidable challenges. As the race climaxes in Ketchikan, viewers are treated to stunning visuals of the town’s picturesque surroundings, including towering mountains, pristine forests, and abundant wildlife.

Apart from the race excitement, Ketchikan offers visitors a range of activities such as exploring the historic Creek Street, immersing in the rich Alaska Native culture at the Totem Heritage Center, indulging in fresh seafood, and embarking on unforgettable fishing and wildlife tours in the surrounding areas.

9. Snow Dogs (2002)

The family-friendly comedy “Snow Dogs” follows the story of Ted Brooks, a successful dentist in Miami who unexpectedly inherits a team of mischievous sled dogs. Unaware of his roots, Ted travels to Alaska to claim his inheritance and soon finds himself navigating the unfamiliar world of dog sledding. With the help of a local innkeeper and a quirky dog musher, Ted embarks on a hilarious and heartwarming adventure, discovering his true identity and forming an unbreakable bond with the lovable canine companions. The movie takes place against the picturesque backdrop of Alaska’s snowy wilderness, showcasing the stunning landscapes and cultural charm of the region.

10. Big Miracle (2011)

“Big Miracle,” a heartwarming drama released in 2011, is based on the true story taking place in Barrow, Alaska, (now Utqiaġvik) and a trio of gray whales trapped under the ice in the Beaufort Sea in 1988. This movie was one of the first full-length features to be filmed completely in Alaska. The movie follows the efforts of a determined news reporter, played by John Krasinski, and a Greenpeace activist, portrayed by Drew Barrymore, as they join forces with the local community, Iñupiat hunters, and various organizations to rally for the rescue and release of the trapped whales. Amidst the harsh Arctic winter, the movie unfolds with themes of unity, compassion and the extraordinary lengths people will go to protect and save whales. “Big Miracle” showcases resilience and the power of coming together in the face of adversity.

Utqiaġvik, Alaska, is one of the northernmost towns in the world. Its Indigenous Iñupiat heritage is evident in its rich traditions, artwork, and cultural events, making it a fascinating destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in Arctic history and culture.

If anything, this list proves that dramatic scenery makes for dramatic stories. Who knows, maybe you’ll get an idea for the next great Hollywood blockbuster on your next visit!

Now that you’ve loaded your film queue, why not plan to see the real thing? Head to Alaska and view its cinematic vistas in person with an Alaska train tour, a day-trip adventure from one of our Alaska hotels or a complete Alaska vacation package.

Posted in: Alaska & the Yukon