Filming Locations: Where was The Ballad of Buster Scruggs filmed?

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The anthology western film was a project of Joel and Ethan Coen for Netflix, released in 2018. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was filmed in New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska.

The production required from classic desert landscapes to evergreen mountain scenery. The movie is composed of six separate stories oscillating between comedy and drama.

Ballad of Buster Scruggs location

All the tales have in common to be set in the 19th-century American West, and somehow death is always present in each episode.

Here is a selection of the most relevant filming locations of the movie:

Ballad of Buster Scruggs filming locations
The first act, also called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, is the hilarious short story of singing-cowboy. After the initial establishing shots showing Monument Valley (also featured as a Westworld filming location), our hero goes through the dramatic landscapes of New Mexico playing guitar.

We can recognize the basalt cliffs of Diablo Canyon near Albuquerque (picture below) and the chimney rocks in Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, a perfect setting for the cantina in the middle of nowhere.
(You can open all the locations on Google Maps by clicking on the links below in the captions ↴)
Image courtesy of Netflix - Map

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs town location
The town of Frenchman's Gulch was filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe in New Mexico.

This is a veteran western movie town location built in 1955. This is the same spot that served as the city where News of the World was filmed.

The ranch has hosted many productions including Walker, Texas Ranger, John Carpenter's Vampires, the Netflix series Godless, and the 2020 Disney movie Stargirl set in Mica, Arizona. It happens to be that The CW superhero series Stargirl is set in Blue Valley, Nebraska.
Image courtesy of Netflix - Google Maps

San Cristobal Ranch in New Mexico
Near Algodones is the tale of a bank robber (James Franco) with intermittent good luck.

According to The Location Guide, the western towns of Eaves Ranch and San Cristobal Ranch in New Mexico and surroundings were used to film some sections of the movie.

Carriage going through the snowed mountains
The third episode Meal Ticket with Liam Neeson and Harry Melling is about a limbless performer and his manager.

They travel remote towns in a wagon convertible into a small theatre stage. The mountainous scenery was filmed in Colorado.

All Gold Canyon location
All Gold Canyon is based on a Jack London story. Tom Waits plays a prospector arriving in a pristine valley looking for a vein of gold, Mr. Pocket.

This extraordinary landscape is also in Colorado. The Coen brothers filmed this chapter of the movie in Piney river, a hundred miles west of Denver.

There is a hiking trail starting at Piney Lake, you can find more information about the Upper Piney River area following this link.
Image courtesy of Netflix - Google Maps

Ballad of Buster Scruggs drehort
The Gal Who Got Rattled starring Jefferson Mays as Gilbert and Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh, is the story of a woman on the Oregon Trail who needs help after his brother passed away during the journey.

The Credits reports that to film this section of the movie the team constructed 15 period covered wagons from scratch in New Mexico.

Then they were transported to the filming location west of Scottsbluff on the North Platte River, Nebraska. The episode was filmed in several locations including FX Bar Ranch and the Hughson Ranch in Sioux County.

Did you like this dark comedy from the Coen Brothers? What is your favorite episode?

Can you help to improve this article about the filming locations of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs? To complete and correct this report, any feedback, info, or images that you may have are more than welcome, thank you!

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  1. Wonderful work, thank you RA Moon.

  2. I loved the movie, locations were beautiful

  3. Very good work, thanks!

  4. Fabulous. New, refreshing, and a fun watch! Thank you Cohen brothers & Netflix.

  5. Amazing movie, a true gem, they don't make 'em like that anymore

  6. It's very possible that the Coen's shot some shots in Piney River, but the wide shots during the "All Gold Canyon" piece were shot in a valley below Telluride. After watching and being struck by the beauty of it I started investigating with Google Maps. I'm pretty sure these GPS coordinates 37.809823,-107.870253 is the location where Tom Waites character looks out over the valley (looking south east). It appears that the production painted out a large house that would have been in the shot. If you notice, there's a public road VERY close to that very spot, which would have made packing equipment in quite easy.

    1. Thanks for clearing this up. Everything you said checks out. The Tom Waits sequence would have been shot entirely, or almost entirely, in the valley you describe, a short distance SE of Trout Lake, in the Telluride area. Even though the Piney River area has some visual similarities to the valley near Trout Lake, the two sites are something like 278 miles apart and it's unlikely Piney River was a part of this sequence. It's still possible other shots in the movie were taken there, as has been cited elsewhere. Good work!

  7. I thought that "All Gold Canyon" was shot above Trout Lake (GPS coordinates 37.809823,-107.870253) near Lizard Head Pass as well. This is about 15 miles from Telluride. I believe I can recognize Vermilion Peak over Tom Waites head. The bridge that Liam Neeson in "Meal Ticket" drops the rock from looks to me like the abandoned narrow-gauge railroad bridge off of 626 Road (37.811498, -107.870837) about 0.1 mile from the spot identified above from "All Gold Canyon".

  8. One further connection with the Trout Lake/Telluride area: I think the last scene in “Meal Ticket” shows the wagon on the frozen surface of Trout Lake looking SE toward San Miguel Peak. Compare the scene at the end of the "Meal Ticket" episode with the image below (taken when the lake wasn't frozen).

    1. Thank you, that's very cool! We'll update de post soon.

  9. After a long time I saw a good movie, thanks to Netflix

  10. The pic with Tim Blake Nelson (Buster Scruggs) is at Eaves Ranch. I was an extra and can be seen in the 1st 2 chapters of the movie. For the second chapter (Franco), me and another extra walked out of the saloon on the left, and walked down the road to the left, behind Franco as he stood in front of the sheriff.

    1. The photo above in which Buster Scruggs appears to be reaching for his gun is definitely taken at Bonanza Creek Ranch. The buildings can still be matched up on Google Maps, and other shots from the same sequence, some taken in other directions, can be matched against the surrounding hills. The many similar movie ranches in the Santa Fe and Galisteo, N.M., area are often mixed up, and I'm sure the movie filmed at more than one of them. I believe it would be fairly easy for someone who worked on the movie to confuse which shots were taken at which movie ranch, just as it turns out to be challenging for people who come along later and try to break down the various shots to match them up accurately with the various movie towns. But in this case the evidence suggests that this website got it right.

  11. Sitting here watching this anthology again for the second time. The miner just walked away with his gold to go live out his days. I enjoyed this movie the first time and even more this the second time. It makes me wonder about the real people of the American frontier and how they all lived and managed to survive on the Oregon trail in the 1850s with nowhere near what we have today. They all walked on the trail, fought on the trail, loved on the trail, and also died on the trail. Thank god for all of those brave souls, men, and women alike that made the trek in hopes of a new and better life.


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