Directed by Renny Harlin (‘Die Hard 2’), ‘Cliffhanger’ is an action survival film that tells the story of Gabriel “Gabe” Walker (Sylvester Stallone), an erstwhile mountain climber and rescue ranger, who finds himself and his estranged friend Harold “Hal” Tucker (Michael Rooker) reluctantly helping a criminal group’s attempt to retrieve the $100 million they stole from a US Treasury plane.
Unfortunately for the criminals, both Gabe and Hal know every inch of the Colorado Rockies and can turn the snowy terrain to their advantage. The 1993 film is set in the Southern Rocky Mountains in the US state of Colorado. If you are wondering whether the movie was shot on location or elsewhere, we have got you covered.
Cliffhanger Filming Locations
Renny Harlin, Cinematographer Alex Thomson, and the rest of the cast and crew shot the film predominantly in the Dolomite Mountains, near Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The director reportedly decided not to shoot the film in Colorado because he found the Rocky Mountains too old and round and couldn’t be accessed for dramatic filming.
Some scenes of the film were shot in other locations in Italy, including Rome. The production crew did shoot several scenes on location in Colorado. Principal photography began on April 11, 1992, and ended on August 19, 1992. Let’s look at specific locations in detail.
The Dolomite Mountains, Italy
Located in northeastern Italy, the Dolomite Mountains are part of the extended Southern Limestone Alps. Various recognizable locations in the Dolomites are featured throughout the film. The scene in which Hal’s Girlfriend Sarah (Michelle Joyner) dies was filmed at the Vajolet Towers, the six summits in the Dolomites located in Val di Fassa or Fassa Valley.
The scenes depicting all the climbing were shot on Tofane Group, which is made up of three peaks: the southern Tofana di Rozes, the middle one Tofana di Mezzo (also the tallest one), and the northern Tofana di Dentro.
The filming for the base jump scene took place on the Catinaccio/Rosengarten Group, a massif located between the South Tyrol and Trentino.
The helicopter shot at the end of the movie was filmed on Marmolada, the highest mountain of the Dolomites that lies between the edges of Trentino and Veneto.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Located at the epicenter of the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a picturesque town and comune. In the film’s final part, the town briefly appears on the screen in a shot taken from the top of Funivia Faloria or Faloria Cable Car. During their time in Cortina, the crew worked out of Rifugio Lagazuoi, a hotel situated on the peak of Mount Lagazuoi. In the film, the hotel appears as a lodge in Colorado. The hiking trail Sentiero Ferrato Astaldi also makes an appearance in the film.
The bridge scenes were filmed on and around Monte Cristallo in the via ferrata VF Ivano Dibona in the province of Belluno, Veneto. It was destroyed in an explosion during filming. However, immediately after the filming concluded, the bridge was rebuilt.
Some interior scenes were filmed at Cinecittà (Cinecittà Studios), located at Via Tuscolana, 1055. Projects like ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ were also shot in the Italian capital.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
The memorable plane hijack scene was shot in the skies over the Rocky Mountains. Stunt performer Simon Crane reportedly earned $1 million for transferring from one plane to the other mid-flight at 15,000 ft. (4,600 m). This remarkable stunt also found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the costliest aerial stunt of all time.
Durango, a municipality in La Plata County in southwestern Colorado, also served as a filming location for ‘Cliffhanger.’ Some of the other projects filmed in the area are ‘The Prestige’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation.’
Other Locations in Colorado
In the credits, the filmmakers thanked the Ute Tribe for granting them permission to shoot a portion of the film in the Ute Mountain reservation, implying a few scenes of ‘Cliffhanger’ were also shot at the location.
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