How the Wild-West Came to Life in Spain's Countryside


| LAST UPDATE 01/21/2022

By Stanley Wickens
wild west spain movies
Matthias Clamer via Getty Images

Ah, the Old West. Most young people today can only know about it via specific means: stories, photos, and, most importantly, television. However, most people would be quite surprised to know that most American frontier movies weren't filmed in the United States at all - rather, they were brought to life in a small village called Tabernas, Spain.

The movie set, named Fort Bravo, is one of three "Western-style" towns in the village of Tabernas. It covers a vast area of rocky mountains, dry plains, and canyons and is surrounded by the Almería province. It has provided the unique scenery for several Western movies, including The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, as well as Once Upon a Time in the West. Aside from serving as a setting for Western movies, it was also the filming location for non-Western productions, such as Indiana Jones and Game of Thrones. However, this Andalusian area of land, located near the Mediterranean, remains closely associated with the American frontier. Today, it is an attraction for many travelers who wish to realize their imaginations of the expanding American western landscape. Fans of the genre can visit Almería's three sets and watch movie screenings - in addition to dressing up like gunmen and enjoying Western-style food.

Western Movies Tabernas Spain
José Carlos Díaz Hidalgo / EyeEm via Getty Images
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However, Fort Bravo - and all of Almería - hasn't always been such a popular and esteemed travel destination. When the area was discovered by Western productions only a few decades ago, in the 1960s, it was one of the poorest in Spain - featuring both high unemployment and emigration rates. This made production costs very affordable for aspiring producers. Not only that, but residents of the area were expert horsemen and could easily serve as extras in the movies and TV shows when it was needed.

Today, Fort Bravo is owned by former actor and stuntman Rafael Molina, who bought the set towards the end of the 1970s. "When I was a kid, I could only dream about all this," he shared. "My aspiration was to see a film set firsthand. Today I own one of the most famous ones in the history of Western movies."

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