Desert Movies: The 25 Best Desert Movies

You may think that making a list of desert movies would not be a difficult task, but it was quite difficult because there are not many movies shot in the desert. While the desert provides a stunning backdrop to any movie, the conditions in the desert cause a filmmaker to tick almost every box on the ‘things you don’t want when trying to make a movie’ list. Despite all the difficulties, there are some very good films shot on the burning sands under the sun. We have compiled those movies for you here, here are the best desert movies!

25) Gerry (2002) | IMDb: 6.1

Director: Gus Van Sant

Cast: Casey Affleck, Matt Damon

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%

Two friends, Gerry (Affleck) and Gerry (Damon), take a hike to Death Valley. However, they are so far from the path that they have no idea how to get back. At first, they try not to get demoralized by retelling old stories and making jokes. However, the seriousness of the situation gradually emerges. Friends who go the wrong way get lost in the desert. As the purity, hypnotic attraction and mirages of the desert affect them, they question their will to live and their identity. Their efforts to find their way home gets them in even more trouble.

24) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) | IMDb: 6.6

Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley

Rotten Tomatoes: 37%

Bringing the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy to the big screen, Walt Disney Pictures presents Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, an epic action-adventure set in the mystical desert lands of Persia. In the holy city of Alamut are the sands of time that give mortals the power to turn back time. After Dastan (Gyllenhaal), the adopted son of the Persian king, launches an attack on the city, he receives a dagger that gives the holder access to the sands. After being accused of murdering his father, Dastan escapes with an Alamut princess named Tamina (Arterton). The couple must protect the ancient treasure from dark forces and unmask the king’s assassin.

23) Kandahar – The Sun Behind the Moon (2001) | IMDb: 6.8

Director: Muhsin Makhmalbaf

Cast: Niloufar Pazira, Hasan Tantai, Sadou Teymouri

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Nafas is a young Afghan journalist who took refuge in Canada. He receives a desperate letter from his younger sister, who has decided to end her life before the impending solar eclipse in Afghanistan. Nafas cannot enter Afghanistan legally, as his family fled the country for political reasons. He fled his country during the Taliban civil war. She decides to help her sister in Kandahar and tries to cross the Iran-Afghanistan border. In Persia, he pays a traveling merchant traveling between the two countries to bring him as one of his wives; He wears a burqa that covers all parts of him from head to toe. The film won many international awards after its screening at festivals.

22) The Mummy – The Mummy (1999) | IMDb: 7.0

Director: Stephen Sommers

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%

One of the first movies that comes to mind when desert movies are mentioned, The Mummy is about the adventurous desert expedition of explorers looking for treasure in the Sahara Desert in 1925. Hunters who came across an old tomb do not have enough information about the history of the city. They unwittingly release a 3,000-year-old evil spirit. The vengeful spirit of an Egyptian priest, sentenced to eternity as one of the undead, faces dire consequences for humanity if he is not caught.

21) Stargate – Stargate (1994) | IMDb: 7.1

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Vivea Lindfors

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%

In modern Egypt, Professor Daniel Jackson (Spader) finds a clue to an ancient Egypt-like world while researching. This trail will take him to another planet. He teams up with retired Colonel Jack O’Neil (Russell) to decipher an interstellar portal. They arrive on a planet ruled by the demigod RA (Jaye Davidson), who holds the key to the safe return of the world travelers. The intergalactic crew must find a way out of RA. As a solution, Jackson and O’Neil must convince the people of the planet that RA must be overthrown.

20) The Three Godfathers – The Desert Cub (1948) | IMDb: 7.1

Director: John Ford

Cast: John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Three thieves Robert Hightower (Wayne), Pete Fuerte (Armendáriz) and Abilene Kid (Carey Jr.) rob a bank in a small town in Arizona. Chased through the desert by the tireless Sheriff Buck Sweet (Ward Bond), the trio lose their horses. They are injured and encounter a dying woman (Mildred Natwick) while giving birth. Promising to transport the woman’s newborn baby to safety, the criminals make a grueling journey to reach the New Jerusalem village.

19) Tremors – Underground Monster (1990) | IMDb: 7.1

Director: Ron Underwood

Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Among desert movies, Tremors is one of the cult movies where both comedy elements and suspense come together. Repairman Val McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) live a boring life in the small desert town of Perfection, Nev. A series of mysterious deaths begin to take place in the town. The two friends decide to find out the cause of these deaths. Rhonda LeBeck is a seismologist who studies underground events. Rhonda and two other friends realize that the source of the deaths is a giant creature. With the help of an eccentric couple (Reba McEntire, Michael Gross), a great battle begins in the desert town against the creature.

18) Tracks – Traces in the Desert (2013) | IMDb: 7.2

Director: John Curran

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Rainer Bock

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Tracks is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska) who traveled nearly 2,000 miles across the Australian desert with four camels and a black dog named Diggity. Even though her family and close friends try to dissuade her, Robyn is determined to distance herself from everyone and everything. He spends a long time adjusting the equipment he needs for the journey and taking measures against difficult conditions. Photographer Rick Smolan accompanies him on this long desert journey. This journey will allow the two to discover both themselves and each other.

17) The Way Back – Freedom Trail (2010) | IMDb: 7.3

Director: Peter Weir

Cast: Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

Accused by his wife of being a spy in 1939, Janusz (Sturgess) finds himself in a Siberian labor camp. Faced with brutal conditions at home and abroad, Janusz is determined to escape. A blizzard provides him with the perfect opportunity. A group of prisoners join Janusz; Mr. Smith, Zoran, Valka and Irena (Saoirse Ronan). This small group is willing to walk 6000 km to gain their freedom. They have to cross the Gobi Desert and reach India. It will be a drama-filled journey in bad weather conditions. The Way Back stands out with its rich cast among desert movies.

16) Rabbit-Proof Fence – Fence (2002) | IMDb: 7.4

Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

The film tells the true story of three Indigenous girls who were forcibly taken from their families in 1931 to be trained as domestic servants as part of the Australian government’s official policy. In those years, many children were kidnapped from their families and taken to slave camps. After staying in the camp for a while, the children are sold as slaves to wealthy families. The three little girls decide not to give in and plan a daring escape. They embark on an epic 1,500-mile journey back home, following the rabbit-proof fence that divides Australia in half.

15) The English Patient – The English Patient (1996) | IMDb: 7.4

Director: Anthony Minghella

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje, a badly burned patient, Laszlo de Almasy (Fiennes), is taken to an Italian convent at the end of World War II by a Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche). Hana’s spirit is shattered by the death of her lover and best friend. So while treating this lonely man, she has a different kind of compassion and falls in love with him. Through flashbacks to the pre-war Sahara desert, she learns that the man is a Hungarian count. The film won many Oscars in 1996.

14) The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994) | IMDb: 7.5

Director: Stephen Elliott

Cast: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

The film tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender, who travel on a bus named Priscilla to a remote resort town in the Australian desert. The trio, who spend long hours on the road, meets many people along the way. They party with friendly locals, meet townspeople who don’t like drag queens. They meet Bob (Bill Hunter), a warmhearted mechanic drag fan who joins them on the last leg of their journey when their bus breaks down. They are implicit messages that families come together in every way, friends can start a family, and love truly knows no bounds.

13) The Flight of the Phoenix – Endless Flight (1965) | IMDb: 7.5

Director: Robert Aldrich

Cast: James Stewart, Richard Attenbrough, Peter Finch

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

The film tells the tense and action-packed story of a group of men stranded in the middle of the Gobi Desert after a plane crash. Their only hope of survival is to rebuild the ship so that it can fly again like a phoenix and transport them to safety. But can the captain and sailor calm the passengers as tensions escalate and time is running out? When they run out of food and run out of water, they try to fly the plane again as soon as possible, but at the same time they have to resist the attacks of the Bedouins.

12) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Fear and Loathing in Vegas (1998) | IMDb: 7.6

Director: Terry Gilliam

Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Craig Bierko

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%

Raoul Duke (Depp) and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Toro) drives a red convertible from the Mojave desert to Las Vegas with a drug-filled suitcase for a motorcycle race. As their drug consumption rises at an alarming rate, the drunken couple fears getting caught. Duke decides to return to Los Angeles. But after an awkward encounter with a cop (Gary Busey), he returns to Sin City and enters a wild drug realm. This movie, which has become a cult not only among desert movies, but also in cinema, has taken the youth of the period under its influence in a short time.

11) The Hill (1965) | IMDb: 7.9

Director: Sydney Lumet

Cast: Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Five British soldiers During World War II, he is sent to a detention camp in the Libyan Desert. Among them is Staff Sergeant Roberts (Connery), whose conviction for assault on an officer is concealed. As punishment for the prisoners at the camp, Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry) orders them to climb a man-made hill constantly in the scorching desert heat. His colleague, Staff Sergeant Harris (Bannen), sympathizes with the new detainees, but merely watches Williams go to sadistic excesses. Five captive soldiers seek a way to escape the sadistic guards who torture them in the North African desert.

10) The Searchers – Desert Lion (1956) | IMDb: 7.9

Director: John Ford

Cast: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Ethan Edwards (Wayne) in Western returns to Texas after the Civil War. Edwards, whose relatives were killed by the Comanches, vows to track down his surviving relatives and bring them home. Eventually, Edwards receives word that his niece Debbie (Wood) is alive and embarks on a dangerous mission to find her, along with his half-brother Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). They set out on a journey into the depths of the Comanche region.

9) Mad Max: Fury Road – Dusty Roads (2015) | IMDb: 8.1

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy , Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Years after the collapse of civilization, the cruel Immortan Joe enslaves the survivors of the apocalypse inside the desert fortress of the Citadel. When warrior Imperator Furiosa (Theron) leads the despot’s five wives on a daring escape, he allies himself with Max Rockatansky (Hardy), a loner and former prisoner. The duo embark on a desert adventure in the massive armored truck War Rig, attempting to escape the ruthless warlord and his men in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland. Mad Max, one of the first movies that comes to mind when desert movies are mentioned, marked the Oscar in 2016. It won Best Editing, Best Costume, Best Sound Mixing and three more awards.

8) The Wages of Fear – The Dreadnoughts (1953) | IMDB: 8.1

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Cast: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Four desperate men embark on a suicide mission to drive nitroglycerin-laden trucks down a dangerous mountain road in a South American oil town. The oil company pays four men to deliver the supplies in two trucks. An intense rivalry develops between two groups of drivers on rugged, remote roads where the slightest jolt could result in death. Each bump and jolt tests their friendship and nerves as they carry their explosive charge to a distant oil fire. The result has earned its place among cult films from France’s legendary master of suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot, as one of the greatest thrillers ever made.

7) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – Treasures of Gold (1948) | IMDb: 8.2

Director: John Huston

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

In this classic adventure movie, two wanderers, Dobbs (Bogart) and Curtin (Holt), meet up with Howard (Huston), a veteran prospector in Mexico, and head to the Sierra Madre mountains to find him. Despite discovering the treasure, they encounter many problems, not only from the ruthless bandits lurking in Mexico’s dangerous wilderness, but also from their own insecurity and greed that threatens to bring conflict at any moment.

6) Dune: Desert Planet (2021) | IMDb: 8.2

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Paul Atreides is a very talented young man. To secure the future of his loved ones and people, he must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe. Unexpectedly, the planet they live in is attacked and they have to take shelter in the desert with their mother. Paul’s dreams also tell him that his future is in the desert.

5) Lawrence of Arabia – Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | IMDb: 8.3

Director: David Lean

Cast: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Knowing about the indigenous Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant TE Lawrence (O’Toole) embarks on a mission to find Prince Faisal (Guinness). In this mission, he goes to Arabia to act as a liaison between the Arabs and the British in their struggle against the Turks. With the help of native Sheriff Ali (Omar Sharif), Lawrence rebels against his superior’s orders and embarks on a daring camel ride across the desert to attack a well-guarded Turkish port. Lawrence of Arabia, which has a special place among desert movies, is based on a true life story. It also won seven Oscars at the same time.

4) Raiders of the Lost Ark – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) | IMDb: 8.4

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Set in the early 20th century, the film is about the famous archaeologist Indiana Jones, hired by the US government, in a race against time to locate the mysterious and supernatural Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is believed to contain the Ten Commandments and sacred powers. Trying to use the power of the Bible as a tool for world domination, the Nazis are also after the treasure. Indy and her ex Marion go through many perils on a journey that takes them from Nepal to Cairo. The film left its mark on the Oscar in 1982 by winning Best Sound, Best Film Editing and six more awards.

3) Woman in the Dunes – The Lady of the Sands (1964) | IMDb: 8.5

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Cast: Eiji Okada, Kyoko Kishida, Koji Mitsui

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Entomologist Niki Jumpei (Okada) misses the last bus home while searching for insects in a series of dunes. He is persuaded by the villagers to spend the night in a house under the sandbox. An unnamed young widow (Kishida) lives alone in that house. The woman is forced by the villagers to dig up sand, which they sell to nearby cities for construction. Niki learns that the bodies of the woman’s wife and child have not been found. On the other hand, he is looking for a way to leave there. Enslaved to dig sand next to the widow, Niki plans her escape as she gets used to being imprisoned.

2) Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) | IMDb: 8.5

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

A Western movie among desert movies. There is only one piece of land with water around Flagstone. Railroad baron Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) wants to own the land, thinking that the new railroad will be built there. The landlord sends his butler Frank (Fonda) to scare McBain (Frank Wolff). Kills Frank McBain. The newly married wife of the murdered man, Jill, set out to come to his wife. Greeted by her husband’s funeral, Jill decides to stay in town. This time, Frank goes after Jill, but there are two men protecting Jill. Things get messy as can be.

1) The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) | IMDb: 8.8

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

The Italian Western genre film is the director’s third and arguably one of his best desert films. There is good and bad and ugly in the film, which tells the adventures of three friends in the arid lands of the Southwest during the Civil War. The good one catches the notorious criminal Ugly to earn money and brings him to justice. While Ugly is to be executed, Good saves him because he has to survive for another job. When a treasure is revealed, Evil also takes the stage. The three friends do not trust each other at all and they have to do business together.


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