Films set in the Desert

by Mike_Noga | created - 20 Dec 2015 | updated - 2 months ago | Public

The desert is a place sometimes associated with rebirth or purification. You enter the desert for a period of time, you wander around lost and confused but eventually emerge a new person for having survived your trials. It's also got some great, stark natural beauty. The extremity of the climate makes it interesting Here are some films that are not only set, at least in part in a desert, but but that wouldn't be the same without it.

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1. Bagdad Cafe (1987)

PG | 95 min | Comedy, Drama

71 Metascore

A lonely German woman ends up in the most desolate motel on Earth and decides to make it brighter.

Director: Percy Adlon | Stars: Marianne Sägebrecht, CCH Pounder, Jack Palance, Christine Kaufmann

Votes: 11,266 | Gross: $3.59M

2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Approved | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

100 Metascore

The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 241,342 | Gross: $44.82M

3. Paris, Texas (1984)

R | 145 min | Drama

78 Metascore

Travis Henderson, an aimless drifter who has been missing for four years, wanders out of the desert and must reconnect with society, himself, his life, and his family.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clément

Votes: 74,401 | Gross: $2.18M

4. Committed (I) (2000)

R | 98 min | Comedy, Drama

44 Metascore

A young woman goes in search of her midlife crisis suffering husband who left her.

Director: Lisa Krueger | Stars: Heather Graham, Casey Affleck, Luke Wilson, Goran Visnjic

Votes: 3,510 | Gross: $0.04M

5. Fata Morgana (1971)

Not Rated | 79 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

Footage shot in and around the Sahara Desert, accompanied only by a spoken creation myth and the songs of Leonard Cohen.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Lotte Eisner, Eugen Des Montagnes, James William Gledhill, Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg

Votes: 3,068

6. The Ten Commandments (1956)

G | 220 min | Adventure, Drama

The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson

Votes: 57,520 | Gross: $93.74M

7. Greed (1924)

Not Rated | 140 min | Drama, Thriller, Western

The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.

Director: Erich von Stroheim | Stars: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller

Votes: 8,239 | Gross: $0.16M

8. Bitter Victory (1957)

Approved | 82 min | Drama, War

A Commander receives a citation for an attack on General Erwin Rommel's headquarters, which is actually undeserved, as the Commander is unfit for his job. On top of that, unbeknownst to him, his wife is having an affair with one of his officers.

Director: Nicholas Ray | Stars: Richard Burton, Curd Jürgens, Ruth Roman, Raymond Pellegrin

Votes: 1,548

9. Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Not Rated | 123 min | Drama, Thriller

An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Stars: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui

Votes: 14,774

10. Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

Approved | 130 min | Adventure, Drama, War

During World War II in North Africa, a medical field unit must cross the desert in their ambulance in order to reach the British lines in Alexandria.

Director: J. Lee Thompson | Stars: John Mills, Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Syms, Harry Andrews

Votes: 4,556

11. Sahara (I) (1943)

Approved | 97 min | Action, Drama, War

After the fall of Tobruk in 1942, during the Allied retreat in the Libyan desert, an American tank picks-up a motley group of survivors but they face advancing Germans and a lack of water.

Director: Zoltan Korda | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges

Votes: 7,248

12. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

Not Rated | 142 min | Adventure, Drama

After a plane crash in the Sahara, one of the survivors says he's an airplane designer and they can make a flyable plane from the wreckage.

Director: Robert Aldrich | Stars: James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Hardy Krüger

Votes: 17,562

13. Walkabout (1971)

GP | 100 min | Adventure, Drama

Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg, John Meillon

Votes: 20,755

14. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

R | 178 min | Western

90 Metascore

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè

Votes: 621,295 | Gross: $6.10M

15. Gerry (2002)

R | 103 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

54 Metascore

A friendship between two young men is tested when they go for a hike in a desert and forget to bring any water or food with them.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Casey Affleck, Matt Damon

Votes: 16,771 | Gross: $0.24M

16. Feast (2005)

R | 95 min | Action, Comedy, Horror

43 Metascore

Patrons locked inside a bar are forced to fight monsters.

Director: John Gulager | Stars: Navi Rawat, Krista Allen, Balthazar Getty, Judah Friedlander

Votes: 28,132 | Gross: $0.05M

17. Phase IV (1974)

PG | 84 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the desert inhabitants. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to destroy them. ... See full summary »

Director: Saul Bass | Stars: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick, Alan Gifford

Votes: 6,311

18. The English Patient (1996)

R | 162 min | Drama, Romance, War

87 Metascore

At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

Director: Anthony Minghella | Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas

Votes: 165,850 | Gross: $78.65M

19. Tin Cup (1996)

R | 135 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

60 Metascore

A washed up golf pro working at a driving range tries to qualify for the US Open in order to win the heart of his successful rival's girlfriend.

Director: Ron Shelton | Stars: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin

Votes: 42,959 | Gross: $53.85M

20. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Music

68 Metascore

Two drag performers and a transgender woman travel across the desert to perform their unique style of cabaret.

Director: Stephan Elliott | Stars: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Rebel Penfold-Russell

Votes: 43,096 | Gross: $11.22M

21. 3 Godfathers (1948)

Passed | 106 min | Drama, Western

Three outlaws on the run find a dying woman in the desert who gives birth to a baby. The mother entrusts the care of the child to the three men.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond

Votes: 7,481

22. Stargate (1994)

PG-13 | 116 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

42 Metascore

An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra.

Director: Roland Emmerich | Stars: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors

Votes: 165,480 | Gross: $71.57M

23. Mad Max (1979)

R | 88 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley

Votes: 176,639 | Gross: $8.75M

24. The Road Warrior (1981)

R | 94 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich community escape a horde of bandits.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps

Votes: 154,630 | Gross: $12.47M

25. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

PG-13 | 107 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

71 Metascore

After being exiled from the most advanced town in post apocalyptic Australia, a drifter travels with a group of abandoned children to rebel against the town's queen.

Directors: George Miller, George Ogilvie | Stars: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence, Adam Cockburn

Votes: 117,935 | Gross: $36.20M

26. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

R | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search for her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz

Votes: 778,161 | Gross: $154.06M

27. Them! (1954)

Not Rated | 94 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization.

Director: Gordon Douglas | Stars: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness

Votes: 17,955

28. Dune (1984)

PG-13 | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

40 Metascore

A Duke's son leads desert warriors against the galactic emperor and his father's evil nemesis when they assassinate his father and free their desert world from the emperor's rule.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino

Votes: 111,364 | Gross: $30.93M

29. Raising Arizona (1987)

PG-13 | 94 min | Comedy, Crime

68 Metascore

When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman

Votes: 116,359 | Gross: $22.85M

30. Zabriskie Point (1970)

R | 113 min | Drama

At Zabriskie Point, United States' lowest point, two perfect strangers meet; an undergraduate dreamer and a young hippie student who start off an unrestrained romance, making love on the dusty terrain.

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni | Stars: Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin, Paul Fix, G.D. Spradlin

Votes: 13,288

31. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure

85 Metascore

In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before Adolf Hitler's Nazis can obtain its awesome powers.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Votes: 809,725 | Gross: $248.16M

32. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

PG | 94 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

80 Metascore

In 1931, three half-white, half-Aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their houses to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a journey across the Outback.

Director: Phillip Noyce | Stars: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Kenneth Branagh, Laura Monaghan

Votes: 25,991 | Gross: $6.17M

33. The Mummy (1999)

PG-13 | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

48 Metascore

At an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion accidentally awakens a mummy who begins to wreck havoc as he searches for the reincarnation of his long-lost love.

Director: Stephen Sommers | Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo

Votes: 366,608 | Gross: $155.25M

34. The Mummy (1932)

Approved | 73 min | Fantasy, Horror

A resurrected Egyptian mummy stalks a beautiful woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his lover and bride.

Director: Karl Freund | Stars: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron

Votes: 20,669

35. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

Approved | 79 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Bud and Lou find themselves pursued by an Egyptian cult for a special medallion linked to a walking mummy.

Director: Charles Lamont | Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara

Votes: 4,710

36. Three Kings (1999)

R | 114 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

82 Metascore

In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, four soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.

Director: David O. Russell | Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze

Votes: 152,522 | Gross: $60.65M

37. Jarhead (2005)

R | 125 min | Biography, Drama, War

58 Metascore

A psychological study of operations desert shield and desert storm during the gulf war; through the eyes of a U.S marine sniper who struggles to cope with the possibility his girlfriend may be cheating on him back home.

Director: Sam Mendes | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Lucas Black, Scott MacDonald

Votes: 161,748 | Gross: $62.66M

38. The Desert Rats (1953)

Approved | 88 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.

Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Richard Burton, James Mason, Robert Newton, Robert Douglas

Votes: 4,249

39. 3 Nights in the Desert (2014)

R | 90 min | Drama

THE BIG CHILL meets THE GRADUATE. What could have been? What might have been? Reunions can be exciting, frustrating, exhilarating, nostalgic, one life given over to practicality while ... See full summary »

Director: Gabriel Cowan | Stars: Wes Bentley, Vincent Piazza, Amber Tamblyn

Votes: 1,406 | Gross: $0.00M

40. Killer Tongue (1996)

R | 98 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi, Horror

This horror story involves a woman hiding out with four pastel colored poodles in a desert gas station with the loot from a heist while her boy friend does prison time. A meteorite crashes ... See full summary »

Director: Alberto Sciamma | Stars: Melinda Clarke, Jason Durr, Mapi Galán, Mabel Karr

Votes: 1,005

41. The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951)

Approved | 88 min | Biography, Drama, War

The story of the final years of the respected World War II German general, Erwin Rommel.

Director: Henry Hathaway | Stars: James Mason, Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy, Luther Adler

Votes: 5,127

42. Desert (2010)

82 min | Drama

Desert is the story of Jenny, pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend on their wedding day and increasingly isolated as she is rejected by the people around her. Pushed to the outside, she ... See full summary »

Director: Stephen Kang | Stars: Jane Kim, Andrew Han

Votes: 12

43. Gas Food Lodging (1992)

R | 101 min | Drama, Romance

In the boring desert of New Mexico, a single mother raises her two teenage daughters, Shade and Trudi, whose deepest desire is to leave the dead calm town. Shade is the type to escape in ... See full summary »

Director: Allison Anders | Stars: Brooke Adams, Ione Skye, Fairuza Balk, James Brolin

Votes: 3,127 | Gross: $1.35M

44. Dreamland (I) (2006)

R | 88 min | Drama

57 Metascore

A young woman who lives in a desert trailer park must choose between caring for her hapless father and sick friend or fulfilling her own destiny.

Director: Jason Matzner | Stars: Agnes Bruckner, Kelli Garner, Justin Long, John Corbett

Votes: 2,325 | Gross: $0.00M

45. Desert Hearts (1985)

R | 91 min | Drama, Romance

A woman on the precipice of divorce becomes drawn to a ranchowner's daughter.

Director: Donna Deitch | Stars: Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley, Andra Akers

Votes: 4,317 | Gross: $2.49M

46. She Sings to the Stars (2015)

106 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

The endless desert. A Native American grandmother lives alone tending her corn. Her half-Mexican grandson and a white, aging magician are stranded. No water. A river of stars. Everything changes: anything is possible.

Director: Jennifer Corcoran | Stars: Larry Cedar, Fannie Loretto, Jesus Mayorga

Votes: 33

47. Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)

Passed | 80 min | Adventure, Comedy

Two Brooklyn wrestling promoters go to French Algeria in search of a famous Algerian wrestler but accidentally end-up in the French Foreign Legion.

Director: Charles Lamont | Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patricia Medina, Walter Slezak

Votes: 2,566

48. Heat Lightning (1934)

Passed | 63 min | Crime, Drama

In the Mohave Desert, Olga runs a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp with her younger sister Myra. In a 24-hour period, Olga must deal with Myra's desire to go to a town dance with a... See full summary »

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot

Votes: 524

49. Solitude (2002)

Not Rated | 99 min | Drama