Posted by: greatfallsgirl | October 17, 2009

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

thunderbolt2This was a pretty good movie filmed in Great Falls and area during the summer of 1973.  I lived outside of Fort Benton on the ranch then and used to drive to Great Falls all the time with my friends (I just got my driver’s license that summer).  They filmed a short segment in Fort Benton on the riverfront…one of my friends got Jeff Bridges to autograph her white pants.  Clint Eastwood is so tall!  At the end of the movie, George Kennedy crashes his car through the windows at the Paris downtown…I hung around there quite a bit with my aunt Betty when I was a kid.

You can watch the movie on the internet here.

Here is a synopsis:

As much an eccentric character study as a road movie, Michael Cimino‘s directorial debut follows the adventures of a quartet of misfits in their life of crime. Retired thief Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) and sweet drifter Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) meet cute when Thunderbolt jumps into Lightfoot’s stolen car to escape a gunman. The pair embarks on an oddball journey to get Thunderbolt’s loot from an old robbery before his former associates, the sadistic Red (George Kennedy) and cretinous Goody (Geoffrey Lewis), get to it first, but all four are too late; the one-room schoolhouse hiding place has apparently vanished. So instead, the four play house and work legit jobs while they plot to rob the same place Thunderbolt and Red hit before. Although the plan goes awry, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot discover that they may still have succeeded-or so they think. As the easy-going mediator between the two, Eastwood‘s Thunderbolt was a move away from his tough cop-westerner image; his audience accepted this then-atypical performance enough to turn Thunderbolt and Lightfoot into a moderate hit. Bridges received his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, but Cimino turned down a subsequent deal with Eastwood, moving instead to his artistic peak with The Deer Hunter (1978) and career nadir with Heaven’s Gate (1980).



  1. Hello,

    I have been searching and searching for filming locations of this film… I have found the Fort Benton locations, the Used Car lot location, Lightfoot’s death(ending) location, and a couple of others that are still around. I need help finding where the opening Church scene was. The Montana Film office says it was filmed near Cascade Montana, but that is very, very vague. I am looking for an exact spot. They also say the church was torn down after filming. The DVD liner notes say the church was in Hobson, Montana… if you can help with this it would be greatly appreciated. e-mail me at thanks!

    • I seem to remember the church being built and later disappearing along the interstate to Helena. It would have been near the Dearborn exit after Cascade. It was visible from the highway. The exit road crossed the river and it sat on the north/west side of the river. It was a long time ago, so I could be wrong.

  2. […] of the characters in the movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot had a job driving a cart as a cover, so I got these shots from the movie.  In this scene, George […]

  3. My only complaint about the movie is that they portrayed people from Montana more like southern redneck hicks than what true Montanans are really like.

  4. I do believe the church may have been located in Danvers, Montana.

  5. The church was the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hobson, Montana. It was bought and dismantled in 1981 and was to be relocated all the way across the state to Troy, Montana. This however did not happen. The job proved to be too big and the church unfortunately was scrapped. This was confirmed to me by the Montana Lutheran Synod.

    The Danver’s church looks similar but is not the church.

    It was the school house that was built specially for the movie on a rest stop off of I-15. A newer building with restrooms and such sits where it was now.

  6. Magnificent web site. Lots of helpful information here. I
    am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing
    in delicious. And certainly, thank you for your sweat!

  7. I have been trying to find the Warsaw School, from the movie, only clue i can find is that it is near the Dearborn Fire Department.

  8. The one room school house was built for the film and then taken down at the rest stop on I15 south, just after exit 240. Here’s a great video that shows many of the film’s locations. The school house comes up at the 12 minute mark.

  9. The Church was moved to the Rest Area Near Exit 240 at Dearborn, Montana. It was then moved to exit 240 and was turned into a bar that my grandma worked at.

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