You might think that trying to put together a list of the top 10 best desert films ever would not be such a difficult task.

The reason is that there are not too many movies that have been made in the desert.

While the desert provides a stunning backdrop to any movie, the conditions there tick just about every box on a filmmaker’s ‘things that you don’t want while trying to film a movie’ list.

Sand and extremes of heat, which not only ruins equipment, but also make living conditions harsh. Often remote locations, which make getting the cast and equipment in and out a nightmare. Even the severe lack of privacy has driven some people mad.

These are just a few of the reasons why most filmmakers will avoid having to shoot a desert movie at all costs.

To honor those dedicated moviemakers who have braved the task to bring us the greatest desert movies of all time, here is’s list of the best.

1. Lawrence Of Arabia

When you think of the sun rising over the morning desert, it is impossible not to think of David Lean’s classic epic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

This 3+ hour masterpiece is without question one of the best movies ever made.

The movie makes a central character of the desert. It captures its immense vastness and hostility to life, while at the same time showing it as a place where one can find the space to journey inside oneself.

The movie’s protagonist is a man of many layers, both likable, but often arrogant and hard to relate too. A loner at heart, he is tasked with uniting a people where tribal loyalty and infighting run deep.

In every way, Lawrence Of Arabia deserves the place as the best ever desert movie.

2. Raiders of The Lost Ark

Raiders of The Lost Ark is the movie that turned hundreds of teenagers into archaeologists.

When it was released back in 1989, the film became an international overnight sensation.

Following the exploits of Doctor Indiana Jones, an action/adventure archaeologist from the United States, the film spends much of its time in the desert of Egypt.

Doctor Jones finds himself in a race against time to recover the Ark of the Continent before the Nazis. What follows is the perfect desert action movie.

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3. Mad Max

Mad Max was the movie franchise that was to propel actor Mel Gibson into an international Hollywood star.

The original movie was a low budget Australian film. It tells the tale of a policemen who ends up in a fight for his life with a motorcycle gang after they begin to kill his fellow officers and family.

The film was such a smash hit that it spawned two sequels, and has recently been remade into a film starring Hollywood A-lister Tom Hardy.

While Mad Max 2 might be a better action-adventure movie, the first is arguably the best in the series.

4. The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Director Sergio Leone defined the Spaghetti Western genre with his movie A Fistful of Dollars. The second movie in this trilogy was to become The Good The Bad And The Ugly.

The film was to become an epic Western that many film critics now regard as the best Western of all time.

The Good The Bad And The Ugly follows three gunslingers as they battle to track down a buried stash of gold.

The film’s climactic scene features a shootout in a desert graveyard to decide which of the gunslingers will get to walk away with the money.

5. The Searchers

For most of his career legendary actor, John Wayne appeared as the definitive Hollywood good guy.

In The Searchers, he takes on the role of a gunslinger who vows to find his kidnapped niece.

Unaware at the time that his journey will take years, Wayne’s character pursues the Native Americans who kidnapped her relentlessly.

His journey and motivations take a dark turn however, as his hatred for Native Americans begins to boil to the surface.

When he discovers that the girl has now bonded with the tribe, Wayne’s character is faced with the decision of whether to kill her or not as she now represents everything he hates.

6. Walkabout

Nicolas Roeg’s movie Walkabout is one of his finest.

After their father attempts to kill them and commits suicide, two children meet a young aborigine man who is undertaking his trial of manhood, otherwise known as a ‘Walkabout’.

The children bond with him as he guides them back towards civilization.

The film’s heart-wrenching ending carries many dark undertones regarding the treatment of Aborigines in Australia.

Walkabout is a wonderful example of a great desert movie.

7. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Feeling and Loathing in Las Vegas was the book that exposed the fallacy at the heart of the American dream.

Terry Gilliam’s movie version is arguably one of the few movie adaptations of a book that is able to come close to the author’s vision.

The film is a riot of bizarreness and subversion. Set in Las Vegas, a desert city that was built on the back of gambling, the film sees the two hero protagonists delve into a world of drugs and mayhem as they try to track down the American dream.

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8. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

In what should have been the last of the Indiana Jones movies, Indy is back, but this time with his father played by Sean Connery. Together they battle Nazis one last time in order to prevent them from obtaining the Holy Grail.

The film was shot partly in Jordan and features the legendary city of Petra as the perfect iconic movie backdrop.

9. Thelma And Louise

Thelma and Louise is a touching desert movie about two ordinary women who get forced into becoming unlikely antiheroes.

After a man tries to rape one of the women, they shoot him in self-defense, and knowing that the law will not believe them, they decide to go on the run.

The film’s climactic scene, where the pair drive the car into a valley to freedom, is one of the best desert movie endings of all time.

10. Flight Of The Phoenix

Imagine the horror of crash landing in the desert and finding yourself marooned.

This story, which was based on true life events, follows a group of soldiers who crashed land their plane in the desert of North Africa.

With no other option, the group of forced to try to fix their plane in order to fly out of the desert to safety.

While in the movie version they succeed, tragically the real life group was not so lucky.