Grahm's Guide
to Filming Locations

Fandango (1985) Filming Locations

 

The Movie

     Fandango is a quintessential “road movie.”  On their college graduation day in May 1971, five friends set off on what may well be their last road trip together.  But, even as the group, known as “The Groovers,” revels in the freedom of the open roads in West Texas, one of the pals dwells on his broken-off engagement, and the specter of military service in Vietnam hangs over their last hurrah.  Throughout the journey the young men wrestle with those fundamental questions: Do I like the people I’m with? Do I even like the person I am? How will I confront the future that awaits me?

     After I learned about the movie a few years ago, I found the long-running community of Fandango fans built around UltimateFandango.com. The Fandango fan site was first begun in 1997 and continues to serve as a resource for detailed information about all aspects of the film, including filming locations that aren't listed below.  Jeff Brookings, who currently runs the website, has also run several trips to the real-world locations used in the film, and I'm grateful that his devotion to the film has helped me visit the locations listed below.  Thank you, Jeff!

 
 
  Fandango  © 1984 Warner Brothers, Inc.

Fandango © 1984 Warner Brothers, Inc.

 
 

The Locations

     Fandango was filmed primarily in several areas of West Texas.
     If you have any tips on locations that I missed, please contact me on the Grahm's Guide Facebook page.
     SPOILER ALERT: The descriptions below include plot points of the film.  If you haven't seen the movie, you can buy the DVD on Amazon.

     In addition to the UltimateFandango.com site, be sure to check out the Silver Screen Sites page on Facebook for their "'Fandango' Location Photos" album for some great then-and-now comparison shots.

 

Title Sequence Opening Shot (Approximation)
     The title sequence opens with a brief shot of mountains silhouetted against the sunrise.
     While it would be difficult to determine the exact location of the camera, due to the lack of features on-screen, I was able to line up a matching view of the mountains from a spot along Highway 90, Alpine, TX 79830, near approximately 30°23'25.2"N 103°35'10.5"W.
     Reference:  I suspected this view was in the Alpine area, and I just happened to notice this real-world vista matching the view on-screen.

 Approximate view of the first shot of the opening credits  Fandango , as seen in July 2018

Approximate view of the first shot of the opening credits Fandango, as seen in July 2018

 
 The location of the coyote carcass of  Fandango , as seen in July 2017

The location of the coyote carcass of Fandango, as seen in July 2017

Coyote Carcass
     During the opening credits montage of road scenes, a blue Cadillac is seen driving past a coyote carcass alongside the road.
     This scene was shot along Ranch Road 2810, Marfa, TX 79843 at approximately 30°13'10.9"N 104°12'47.7"W.
     Reference: I discovered this location after seeing a prominent mountain formation on-screen, and assuming that the view had to be from along Ranch Road 2810, based upon my research for No Country for Old Men.

 

Starting Off To Dig Up Dom
     After Gardner Barnes (Kevin Costner) convinces Phil Hicks (Judd Nelson) that The Groovers need to continue using Phil’s car to go dig up a mysterious “Dom,” the car is seen racing down an empty stretch of road.
     The stretch of road is along Ranch Road 2810, Marfa, TX 79843 at approximately 30°14'30.27"N 104°10'29.37"W.
     Reference: This is one of those times when I took a picture, and only later realized that it was of a filming location, because I hadn't found anything about the location before my 2015 trip to the area.

 
 The site where Gardner first mentions Chata Ortega's in  Fandango , as seen in July 2018

The site where Gardner first mentions Chata Ortega's in Fandango, as seen in July 2018

"Hey! How ‘Bout Margaritas at Chata Ortega's?"
     As the Caddy cruises along an undulating road, Gardner suggests that they have drinks at some place called Chata Ortega's.
     The view of the car is from Ranch Road 2810, Marfa, TX 79843 at approximately 30°13'10.5"N 104°12'49.2"W.
     Reference: I located this spot based on a suspicion that the view was from near the "coyote carcass" location.

 

Sonic Drive-In
     An incident with a train forces the friends to drop off the car at a garage in Marfa, Texas, so the cash-strapped Groovers scout out a Sonic, where a hungry Dorman (Chuck Bush) grabs some fries from an unattended tray, much to the amusement of local girls Judy (Elizabeth Daily) and Lorna (Robyn Rose).
    The Sonic is the real Sonic Drive-In, 602 E Holland Avenue, Alpine, TX 79830.
     Reference: This is one of the many locations listed on the UltimateFandango.com locations page.

 The Sonic Drive-in from  Fandango , as seen in July 2013

The Sonic Drive-in from Fandango, as seen in July 2013

 

Cruising Around Marfa
     Lorna and Judy take the Groovers cruising around  Marfa, while the hungry guys chow down on burgers.
     The cruising sequence was filmed around Highland Street, Marfa, TX 79843.
     Fandango filmed in Marfa in May 1983.  During my July 2017 talk with Chip Love, of No Country for Old Men, he told me that the town’s 100th anniversary event logo is visible in these scenes.  Once he pointed it out, the logo of the May 1983 Centennial Marfa celebration seems obvious in the background.

 

Cemetery
     The group ends up at a local cemetery, where they engage in a fireworks battle.
     The cemetery gate they enter is on S Tenison Street near Philadelphia Street, Marfa, TX 79843.  The gate looks much different, but the alignment of tombstones here matches the on-screen view.  The gate to the north of this has the same construction as the gate in the movie. 
     Reference: This is one of the many locations listed on the UltimateFandango.com locations page.

 

"Presidio 90" Sign
     An angry Phil yells at Gardner as the Cadillac is seen driving over the crest of a hill and passing a road sign indicating that the town of Presidio is 90 miles away.
     Exclusive: The prop road sign was placed along Ranch Rd 2810, Marfa, TX 79843, near approximately 30°15'6.56"N 104° 9'44.31"W.
     Reference: I located this spot after reviewing personal photos and guessing that this was the same section of RM 2810 as the "Starting off to DOM" site, but shown from the opposite direction. I haven't seen this site listed anywhere else on the Internet.

 

Hiking Towards Dom
     Stops at the Pecos Parachute School and a now-closed Chata Ortega's Bar & Grill slow the Groovers, but they eventually get out of the car to begin hiking towards Dom, starting on a grassy hill near a tall mountain.
     The mountain is known as Santiago Peak, and the closest I’ve gotten to it is at a pull off-spot along State Highway 118 near 29°54'41.38"N 103°34'54.65"W.
     Reference:  I learned of the location on one of the former UltimateFandango.com message boards.

 

Dom Rock
     The Groovers arrive at a large rock with “DOM” carved into its face where they proceed to dig up the Dom that they had buried on a previous visit.
     The Dom Rock stands on what the locals call “The Big Hill,” along FM 170, Redford, TX 79846, near 29°17'45.8"N 103°56'30.5"W.  Fortunately, there is a small parking area to pull off of the road.  A rocky path will practically lead you to the Dom Rock, but please be very cautious, because the terrain is uneven
       Reference: This is one of the many locations listed on the UltimateFandango.com locations page.

 

Truman Drops Off The Girl
     When Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) realizes his mistake in breaking his engagement, the Groovers work with pilot Truman Sparks (Marvin J. McIntyre) to have The Girl (Suzy Amis) flown in from Dallas.  Sparks lands on a road and stops the plane in a shade-covered picnic area
     The roadside picnic area is along Texas Highway 20, Fort Hancock, TX 79839 at approximately 31°23'11.0"N 105°58'55.8"W, but the shade trees are long gone.
     Reference:  I learned of the location on one of the former UltimateFandango.com message boards.

 
 The Gazebo location from  Fandango , as seen in July 2015

The Gazebo location from Fandango, as seen in July 2015

The Gazebo
    The Groovers cajole the locals into throwing a beautiful wedding ceremony at a gazebo in the town square.  Even Lester (Brian Cesak), “the Fifth Groover,” is sober for the lovely nighttime wedding.
     The gazebo used in the wedding is in the San Elizario Plaza, in the 1500-block of San Elizario Road, San Elizario, TX 79849.
     Reference: This is one of the many locations listed on the UltimateFandango.com locations page.

 

Ultimate Fandango 2015
     Fandango fans have gathered together several times over the years to make pilgrimages to the sites where Fandango was filmed.  These Ultimate Fandango trips have included some of the actors from the films, including Chuck Bush, Brian Cesak, Marvin J. McIntyre and Robyn Rose Tatu.  I was able to attend the Ultimate Fandango 2015 and had a fantastic time.  Read the Texas Monthly article, "Let's Go Dig Up Dom" to learn more about that adventure.

 

Ultimate Fandango 2018
     Fandango fans joined together again to visit many of the filming locations from the movie for Ultimate Fandango 2018, from July 19 to 22. The actors along for the ride included Chuck Bush, Brian Cesak, Marvin J. McIntyre and Robyn Rose Tatu, and it was an amazing road trip
     Ultimate Fandango 2018 may have been the last of these treks in that format, but be sure to follow UltimateFandango.com for future updates.  Fandango may be a movie about going separate ways, but Fandango fans keep finding ways to come back together.