The Harder They Fall Locations
Like many modern Westerns, The Harder They Fall wasn’t filmed in the territory the movie depicts. Instead, the production was filmed at a variety of sites near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In fact, you’ll find The Harder They Fall locations at a range of Western movie ranches that have also featured in a host of other well-known Hollywood productions. Take Bonanza Creek Ranch, for example, which is found less than 20 miles southwest of Santa Fe. It features as a Texas church in The Harder They Fall, but you can also spot it in films like Tom Hanks’ News of the World.
San Cristobal Ranch is where you’ll find Mary Fields’ chain of saloons, while Cerro Pelon Movie Ranch was the site of the movie’s Redwood City. Both of these locations are fewer than 30 miles from Santa Fe.
However, there were also some shots filmed away from ranches, including an ambush in the Diablo Canyon Recreation Area and an attack on a train along the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.
If you’d like to check out where some of the best scenes in The Harder They Fall were filmed, you’ll find details of some of the movie’s most memorable settings below. Just be warned — this article does contain spoilers.
Many of the characters in the film actually existed in real life at different periods throughout history. Rufus Buck, for example, led his gang on a violent crime spree in Arkansas in 1895, at just 18 years of age. The gang members were hanged in 1896.
Nat gets revenge on Cortez scene in The Harder They Fall
Bonanza Creek Ranch
Following the brutal scene where Nat’s parents are murdered, the film transports us into the future. Nat is now a fully-grown man, and a bona fide badass to boot!
At a church in Salinas, Texas, we see that the priest is none other than Cortez, the man who carved a cross into Nat’s forehead all those years ago. He’s also instantly recognizable thanks to the tattoo of a scorpion on his hand.
“Who are you?” Cortez asks the mysterious stranger who has appeared in his church. “A man here to kill The Scorpion, Jesus Cortez,” he says ominously. Cortez tries to explain that whatever happened between he and Nat must have been many years ago, in different times. But when Nat removes his hat to reveal the cross on his forehead, Cortez knows he has no choice but to fight. He reaches for his guns but Nat is quicker on the draw, shooting Cortez dead.
This scene was filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a famous filming location near Santa Fe. The ranch was also the site of the tragic fatal shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin film Rush.
Jim and Pickett ambush the Crimson Hood gang scene in The Harder They Fall
Diablo Canyon Recreation Area
In one of the opening scenes from The Harder They Fall, after we’ve met Nat and learned his backstory, we’re introduced to two other members of his gang — and their M.O. The scene starts with eight riders on horseback, all wearing crimson hoods, who are fleeing the scene of a robbery with the spoils of crime.
But little do they know that waiting for them in a narrow passage through the rocks are Jim and Pickett, two members of Nat’s gang. And as the oblivious bandits ride into the ambush like lambs to the slaughter, Jim and Pickett spring their trap. In a violent gunfight, Jim and Pickett pick off their enemies one by one.
The leader of the Crimson Hoods, Monroe Grimes (Damon Wayans Jr.), shoots his own horse to use as a shield, and tries to convince his men that there’s only one person shooting at them. All they need is patience.
“I hear patience is a virtue,” says Jim Beckwourth, as the remaining Crimson Hoods members wheel around in surprise. Beckwourth isn’t holding any weapons, and after a brief exchange with the remaining bandits, he makes a lightning-quick draw to shoot them both.
This memorable scene was shot in the Diablo Canyon Recreation Area, roughly 15 miles northwest of Santa Fe. A hiking and climbing destination known for its sheer vertical cliffs, this recreation area also featured in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and 3:10 to Yuma.
Nat and Mary reunite scene in The Harder They Fall
San Cristobal Ranch
After the violent ambush scene above, we see Nat riding into Douglastown. It’s in this wild town that an old flame of his, “Stagecoach” Mary Fields, runs a saloon, which Nat of course plans to visit.
Following a brief meeting with Cuffee, who may be unimposing but clearly has no trouble dealing with a couple of unruly customers, Nat is clearly entranced when he first spots Mary. As this fierce and beautiful woman arrives singing a musical number, she soon locks eyes with Nat and sparks fly.
Before you know it, the two are locked in a passionate embrace, which Mary eventually breaks so she can whisper in Nat’s ear, “Get out.” Nat is confused, but Mary explains that the kiss was to remind her of “what it was.” She then punches Nat square in the face. “That’s to remind you of what it is,” she says coldly.
Douglastown and the shots of the saloon were filmed at San Cristobal Ranch, which is found just under 30 miles to the south of Santa Fe. You might even recognize the town from the Netflix series Godless, which was filmed at the ranch a few years earlier.
Train ambush scene in The Harder They Fall
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Rufus Buck is a feared and violent man, and he’s about to be set free once again. In one The Harder They Fall film scene that’s highly memorable, we see Buck’s gang riding through mountainous terrain before coming to a stop overlooking a railroad.
Then Trudy Smith (Regina King) stands in the middle of the track and forces the train to stop. The driver climbs out to confront her and she shoots him dead, then Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield) and two more bandits appear.
They board the train to free Buck, who is being transported by a group of soldiers, and Cherokee Bill has a clear message for any passengers intent on causing trouble: “Let it be known that I don’t particularly enjoy violence. That being said, you are now in the company of extremely violent individuals.” he says menacingly.
The train ambush scene was filmed along the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in northern New Mexico. This 64-mile railroad is a National Historic Landmark and offers scenic steam train rides through gorgeous mountain scenery.
Rufus returns to Redwood scene in The Harder They Fall
Cerro Pelon Movie Ranch
Now that he’s a free man again, Rufus’ first step is to return to Redwood and regain control of the town. He cuts an imposing figure as he arrives on the main street on horseback, flanked by riders on either side. The citizens of Redwood know that Buck’s return will spell trouble, and the gang draws plenty of frightened looks as they pass.
What follows soon after is a tense showdown with Wiley Escoe (Deon Cole), the sheriff who’s been selling the town down the river in Buck’s absence. Rufus brutally beats Wiley in front of a host of frightened onlookers, leaving the other man bloody and barely conscious. Standing over his opponent’s body, he utters words that surprise everyone: “I’m not going to kill you, Wiley. We were friends once. But know this: Redwood will never be yours.”
Found roughly 40 miles south of Santa Fe, Cerro Pelon Movie Ranch was a key filming location of The Harder They Fall. It was the site of Redwood throughout the movie, and it’s also featured in a host of other productions including Wild Wild West and Thor.
Nat and Cuffee rob a bank scene in The Harder They Fall
Eaves Movie Ranch
After Mary has been captured by Buck’s gang in Redwood, Nat and his allies ride into town to save her. But Nat too is captured and beaten after a tense stand-off. As well, Rufus has plans for his rival: he wants the money that Nat’s gang stole from his, plus interest. And to get it, Nat will need to rob a bank in Maysville, a predominantly white town.
Nat and Cuffee ride into Maysville and walk into the bank under plenty of watchful eyes, but Cuffee’s request to make a withdrawal is met with sniggering disbelief by the teller. “Oh, I’m not talking about that kinda withdrawal, ma’am,” lifting up her dress and awkwardly pulling out a gun. And while violence ensues, the two manage to carry out the heist without killing anyone.
The town of Maysville was shot at Eaves Movie Ranch, which is about 20 miles southwest of Santa Fe. Wyatt Earp, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and a host of other memorable productions have been filmed at the ranch, so it’s a site that’s quite well known among movie buffs.
A revisionist Western with a captivating black-led cast, The Harder They Fall was generally well received by critics — and it’s easy to see why. With a host of impressive performances, charismatic main players, a killer soundtrack, and top-class cinematography, there’s a lot to like about this Jeymes Samuel film.
The film offers a wonderful blend of shootouts, ambushes, and dynamite explosions, with plenty of gory violence thrown into the mix. But at the same time, there’s a deeper message to be garnered from the action on-screen, and some stunning New Mexico scenery to admire along the way.
And with all The Harder They Fall filming locations easily accessible from Santa Fe, and a host of other famous productions filmed nearby too, it’s well worth checking out some of this film’s most iconic settings.