Thunderbolt and Lightfoot movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot filmed?

1974

About Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a 1974 crime comedy directed and written by Michael Cimino. It was released on 22nd May 1974, and the shooting took 47 days from July till September 1973.

The film centers around two criminals, Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) and Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood). Lightfoot steals a car from a used car salesman and, in the high-speed drive, goes over an assassin while saving Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a thief masquerading as a preacher while hiding from the killer. While preaching at a Church, the assassin opens fire, causing Thunderbolt to run and the assassin to get run over by Lightfoot's car.

As fate would have it, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot become great buddies. They bond over cars and women and narrowly escape death by the men behind Thunderbolt for double-crossing them and stealing the money from a recent heist. Thunderbolt is the only one from his gang who knows where the money is hidden. In fact, the assassin, Dunlop, was also part of Thunderbolt's gang of criminals.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot eventually get abducted by the remaining members of Thunderbolt's gang – Red Leary (George Kennedy) and Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis). While fighting with his cohorts, Thunderbolt finally tells them he never double-crossed or betrayed them. Seeing the situation diffuse, Lightfoot suggests they rob the same company again.

As they go through the actions of the robbery (without their leading electronics man – the assassin who dies under Lightfoot's car), the four men eventually get caught with the heist money at a drive-in theater where the manager catches someone sneezing in the boot of the vehicle. While exiting the drive-in, they run into the cops where Goody is shot, and eventually, Red is also shot by the police.

However, Lightfoot sustains severe injuries from Red and eventually starts showing signs of neurological damage, which causes him to pass away, and Thunderbolt to be left alone.

City Locations

Cascade, Great Falls, Choteau, Montana

Location Types

American, NatureScapes, Retro, Rustic, Banks, Buildings, Clubs/ Bars, Diners/ Coffee, Motels, Police, Miscellaneous, Religious, Restaurant, Schools, Theaters, Warehouses

Location Styles

Anywhere America, Bed & Breakfast, Bus, Classic Car, 60s-60s-70s Building, Retro, Desert, Motel Style, Old Hollywood, Racing, Rustic, Station Wagon

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Locations

All the best scenes in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot were filmed in Montana in the United States. The film's premise is in Montana, and the filming locations added value to the movie by being original. While there are a few sets and sound stages that were built solely for the purpose of the shooting, most of the outdoor locations, including the church, the used car lot, the service center, gas station, armory, the Bridge which is Ulm Bridge at Great Falls, the drive-in theater where everything goes wrong, and the school are all real locations with names changed.

Since most filming locations are in Montana, many local viewers could easily connect with the movie. The actual sites (and not sets) are also helpful in maintaining the film's originality while having the areas and places involved within the storyline and plot twists.

Most of the filming locations were in use only for a few days, since the movie finished filming within 2 months.

Teaser: Most Thunderbolt and Lightfoot action scenes are filmed on-site, with the stars doing many of their stunts. While there are stunt doubles, there are some bloopers in the film where you can see the safety rigging.

Fun fact:

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot grossed $9 million in sales on its initial release and then eventually grossed $25 million in global revenue. While the film did well at the Box Office, Clint Eastwood swore never to work with United Artists again, as he felt the film did not do as well as expected because of bad promotions.

Thunderbolt preaching to his flock at the church scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

St. John Lutheran Church, Hobson, Montana

The film's opening scene is of hymns being sung in a whitewashed church. A man drives up to the church and parks his car while reading the sermon information, which proclaims Rev John Doherty will be overlooking the services. Rev John Doherty is actually the infamous thief Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood), masquerading as a preacher while hiding from the man.

Thunderbolt preaches, "Remember that we are all imperfect. We see but in part. We know, but in part. So let each of us study to approve ourselves to God through Jesus Christ. As under the Redeemer's Gentle Reign, the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." As Thunderbolt is preaching to the flock, the man enters the chair and opens fire on Thunderbolt in front of all the churchgoers, causing a stampede.

The filming location of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot's church in the first scene is the St. John Lutheran Church at Hobson, Montana. This church was quite old and is now torn down. Getting to Hobson is quick once you reach MT-239 on Central Avenue. There are several places to stop off for a bite and a quick coffee while you continue your film location journey.

Lightfoot steals swanky second-hand car scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Near 1st Street Southeast, Choteau, Montana

Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) enters Pete's Used Cars and starts looking around the cars. He likes a white-colored expensive-looking car with racing stripes. The owner (Gregory Walcott) walks up to Lightfoot, saying, "That's a repossession. Got less than 1000 miles on the clock. Hell, you kids are just too damn smart this day and time. Go on. Try it on for size." Lightfoot thanks him and gets in the car. He starts the car, and she comes on with a smooth purring engine sound.

Lightfoot asks the owner, "How much?" He responds, "She's practically brand new, boy. $3000 and some change." Lightfoot responds by saying he's just looking. But the owner goads him about being man enough to drive such a car. Lightfoot gets upset, laughs at the owner, and drives off with the vehicle.

This Thunderbolt and Lightfoot filming location is the abandoned lot on 1st Street in Choteau, Montana. The location itself is pretty unremarkable, with many landmarks changing over the years. Getting to this used car lot is relatively straightforward if you take the US-89 S towards Arensmeyer Road and turn left onto 1st street. While many vistas are different, visitors can grab a bite and a coffee while clicking a few selfies.

Gas station attendant rants about how the economy will collapse scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

427 Central Avenue West, Great Falls, Montana

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot enter the gas station and greet the gas station attendant. Lightfoot asks him about business, and he replies, "Business? In this business, you're always one step away from bankruptcy. Funny money, credit speculation, that ain't it. Somewhere in this country, a little old lady with $79.25. The five cents is a Buffalo nickel. That ain't it. She ever cashes in on her investment, the whole thing'll collapse. General Motors, the Pentagon, the two-party system, and the whole shebang."

Hearing the attendant go off his rails talking about the economy, the couple in the car get agitated and impatient. The lady (Virginia Baker) asks her husband, "Arnold, what is he saying to you?" Arnold (Stuart Nisbet) hands the attendant a card while the attendant keeps ranting about how the American economy will collapse. Throughout this diatribe, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot look on at the attendant in utter delight and amusement before they switch cars with the couple.

The gas station was not the most pivotal of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot locations but serves as a critical link in the movie. Once you enter the Great Falls area in Montana, head towards Smelter Avenue onto 3rd St NW, and turn right onto Central Avenue West. The Gas Station is just past the KFC.

Lightfoot tries to convince Thunderbolt to stay scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

326 1st Avenue South, Great Falls, Montana

Once they drive out of the gas station, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot reach Intermountain, where they see some prostitutes plying their trade. As they reach the junction before the entrance, Thunderbolt says, "Busy night." Lightfoot proclaims, "I never paid for it in my life." Thunderbolt replies, "Sometimes you have to pay for pleasure. Well, this is where I get out."

Lightfoot tells him, "You sure don't know a good thing when you see it, do you?" Thinking Lightfoot wants payment, Thunderbolt offers his watch and tells him, "I want you to have it." Lightfoot smiles and replies, "I don't want your watch, man. I want your friendship. God damn it, I like you. That's all. I thought we were getting to be friends. We're good together." Thunderbolt looks at him and says, "Kid. You're ten years too late."

While this is not one of the funny scenes in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, it is emotional since it shows the developing relationship between the two main characters. This scene is shot at the crossroads in front of the Intermountain depot at 326 1st Avenue South at Great Falls. Just stick to 9th St N and turn onto 1st Ave S to reach the Intermountain intersection.

Lightfoot meets Melody outside bar scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

1126 Smelter Avenue Northeast, Black Eagle, Montana

Lightfoot drives past the Cimarron Bar, where a young girl named Melody (Catherine Bach) is being hassled by a few men in a car. He stops and asks her to get in the car so he can whisk her away from the danger. When she's with him in the car, he tries to flirt with her, and she realizes she's been duped. She exclaims, "You son of a b*tch! Stop this car. Let me outta here right now." He interrupts her by saying, "Hey, what's the matter? Don't you like my face? You're the best-looking face I've seen all day. I can tell you that."

Melody asks him where he's taking her, and he responds, "Anywhere you say, sweetness." Melody smiles and replies, "I'm hungry. I didn't get your name." When Lightfoot tells his name, Melody makes fun of it, wondering why anyone's parents name someone Lightfoot. Lightfoot makes fun of Melody's name, calling it dumb.

For the Cimarron Bar scene, the Thunderbolt and Lightfoot production team decided to opt for a regular place at 1126 Smelter Avenue Northeast, Black Eagle, Montana, and just added the name board of Cimarron Bar. To get here, stay on Smelter Avenue NE until you reach the silver and blue building.

Lightfoot returns with Melody and Gloria scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

300 River Drive North, Great Falls, Montana

Lightfoot is in the car with Melody when he realizes he likes her. So he picks up Gloria (June Fairchild) and, with Melody, returns to the motel to meet with Thunderbolt. As Thunderbolt answers the doorbell, Lightfoot says, "Brought back some extra goodies!" Thunderbolt asks Lightfoot if he's out of his mind. But Lightfoot replies, all smiles, "This is Gloria and Melody."

The girls greet Thunderbolt while entering the room. Thunderbolt asks Lightfoot, "You're full of surprises, aren't you?" Lightfoot is too busy objectifying the two women, and Gloria says, "Listen, I just got out of bed to get here, and I don't intend to jump right back into one here." Lightfoot turns to Thunderbolt and says, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. Gloria is yours."

Fans can easily visit this Thunderbolt and Lightfoot location at Great Falls. Since most of the filming locations in Great Falls are within a few miles of each other, traveling from one place to another will be quick. The motel in this scene is located at 300 River Drive North, Great Falls, Montana. To get to the motel, keep driving on N Park Trail towards River Drive N to reach it.

Conclusion

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was a fun watch for many who love Clint Eastwood movies. Considering how young and carefree Jeff Bridges is shown in the film and the constant ups and downs the two friends have, the film was a massive entertainer for fans. The storyline was a bit expected, especially as it starts with Thunderbolt being a preacher and Lightfoot stealing a car from a used car lot.

The locations used in the film are perfect for the movie's fast pace, with prime locations quickly being shifted according to the scene. While the film was slightly long and had a sad ending, the film was not dull, and viewers were entertained with emotional moments, action, adventure, and the tragic loss towards the end. Considering the quick scene shifts, storylines, plot twists, and the excellent acting of Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, audiences were overjoyed to see some wonderful bro-time, guns, bank robberies, and a crime comedy-drama that had a hilarious heist.