The 1970 Western Little Big Man (starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway) features 121-year-old Jack Crabb, the oldest living man in the world, who recounts his life story and his claims to have been a captive of the Cheyenne, a gunslinger, an associate of Wild Bill Hickok, a scout for General George Armstrong Custer, and the sole white survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Little Bighorn battle scenes were filmed on location at Crow Agency, Montana—near the actual battle site—and many of the town scenes were filmed in Nevada City, Virginia City, and Billings.
In 1973, Clint Eastwood, who was already a major star, produced and acted in Michael Cimino’s first film as a director, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. While stealing a car, free-spirited drifter Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) crosses paths with legendary thief Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) in the midst of his own escape. (Additional cast members include George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis.) The film was shot in 47 days from July to September 1973 in Great Falls, Ulm, Hobson, Fort Benton, Augusta, Choteau, and in the surrounding mountainous countryside.
The Missouri Breaks, a 1976 American epic Western film starring Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Harry Dean Stanton, was filmed on location in Billings, Nevada City, Red Lodge, and Virginia City. More than 80 local adults and children were used for area scenes. The title of the movie refers to the area of northcentral Montana where the Missouri River has made countless “breaks” in the land. Although it was not the usual Western of the day and didn’t match up to box office expectations, this quirky romance and revenge drama provides decidedly offbeat entertainment with a very clear vision of the historical accuracy.
The majority of the spy film Telefon (1977), starring Charles Bronson, Lee Remick, and Donald Pleasence, was shot in Great Falls. The exploding building in one scene is actually the controlled demolition of the old Paris Gibson Junior High School annex. The scene was filmed on February 20, 1977.
Scenes for the 1979 American film drama Heartland, starring Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell, were filmed in Wheatland County. The movie, based on Elinore Pruitt Stewart’s memoir, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, is a stark depiction of early homestead life in 1910 Wyoming, where a widow and her seven-year-old daughter travel by train to two great unknowns—a strange land and life on the remote frontier with a man they never met.