There’s something to be said for ‘life in a small town.’ In the case of Napoleon Dynamite, the movie put this little mid-western town on the map. And if you were a geek in high school, you can probably relate to many of the things that happen in this movie. So where was Napoleon Dynamite filmed?

Where Was Napoleon Dynamite Filmed

Where Was Napoleon Dynamite Filmed?

The 2004 cult classic Napoleon Dynamite was filmed entirely in Preston, Idaho. The town of Preston served as the main setting for the film and has since become a popular tourist destination due to its connection to the movie. 

Many of the buildings seen in Napoleon Dynamite still stand today including Preston High School (serving as Napoleon’s high school) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (used as the town’s voting precinct). 

Other locations featured in the movie include The Red Apple Inn, Yost Park, and a variety of farms throughout Franklin County.

Napoleon Dynamite With Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell and Jon Gries

Where Does Napoleon Dynamite Take Place?

Just like the film location, Napoleon Dynamite takes place in the small town of Preston, Idaho. This cult classic film showcases the quirky and mundane life of its socially awkward protagonist, Napoleon Dynamite, as he navigates his way through high school and his dysfunctional family.

What Was Napoleon Dynamite All About?

Where Was Napoleon Dynamite Filmed - The Dojo

Napoleon Dynamite is an iconic comedy film following the story of a socially awkward high schooler, Napoleon (Jon Heder), who lives with his grandmother and older brother in rural Idaho. His life changes when his new friend, Pedro (Efren Ramirez) runs for class president against popular girl, Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff). With the help of his friends, Pedro and Napoleon launch an unlikely campaign that eventually leads to an unexpected victory.

Who Was In The Cast of Napoleon Dynamite?

The Napoleon Dynamite cast includes Jon Heder as the main character, Efren Ramirez as his best friend Pedro, Haylie Duff as Summer Wheatley, Jon Gries as Uncle Rico, Tina Majorino as Deb, Diedrich Bader as Rex Kwon Do, and Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite. The film also features a variety of Preston, Idaho locals in various roles. 

Who Directed Napoleon Dynamite?

The film was written and directed by Jared Hess, who also wrote and directed 2004’s Nacho Libre. Hess is known for his unique style of storytelling that perfectly captures the eccentricities of small-town life. 

Did Napoleon Dynamite Receive Any Awards?

Where Was Napoleon Dynamite Filmed - Vote for Pedro

Since this film was shot all in one town, the budget was pretty small. In fact, it only had a budget of $400,000. Yet it did extremely well at the box office. It grossed over $46 million worldwide. 

The film had of 23 nominations including two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures. Other awards include:

  • Three MTV Movie Awards for Breakthrough Mal Performance, Best Musical Performance, and Best Movie
  • Golden Trailer Awards for Best Comedy
  • Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Score
  • Four Teen Choice Awards, to name just a few

Technical Information

The movie runs for 96 minutes. The camera used was Panavision cameras and lenses.

Napoleon Dynamite Box Office Details

According to the Napoleon Dynamite IMDb page, here are the box office details:

  • Napoleon Dynamite Film Budget: $400,000
  • Opening weekend: $116,666
  • Gross (US & Canada): $44,540,956
  • Gross (World): $46,138,887

Fun Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

Where Was Napoleon Dynamite Filmed - Happy Hands
  • The film was shot over the course of 25 days
  • It only cost $400,000 to make the movie
  • The original script was only 50 pages long
  • One of the main characters, Deb (Tina Majorino), is actually a real person from Idaho
  • Originally, the film was made without opening titles
  • The title of the movie originated with an Elvis Costello song

Can You Visit the Set of Napoleon Dynamite?

There are many places in the movie that you can actually visit. You can go inside the high school and  get your picture taken at the lockers, auditorium, classrooms, and office where some of the scenes took place.

The town of Preston is made to look like it’s quite flat but it’s actually surrounded by mountains. 

What is Idaho Famous For?

C’mon. When you hear the word Idaho, what’s the first thing you think of? POTATOES! IDAHO POTATOES!! Idaho is famous for its potato production. It’s also known as the “Gem State.” Many rare minerals have been found there. 

Unique Places in Idaho 

The longest floating boardwalk in the world is actually located in Idaho. Another fun fact is that Hells Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon. 

Ask anyone in Idaho and chances are they will tell you that the most beautiful place in the state is the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Other places of interest include (yes, you guessed it) the Idaho Potato Museum, Ponderosa State Park, and Sawtooth National Forest.

Things to Do in Idaho 

You may never have considered going to Idaho before and may wonder what you could do there. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary
  • Hike the Tubbs Hill Nature Trails
  • Visit the Silverwood Theme Park
  • World Center for Birds of Prey
  • Go on a scavenger hunt in Boise

Some activities will be dictated by the weather so the time of year you visit will be an important factor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Napoleon Dynamite autistic?

He demonstrates many symptoms of Asperger’s, yet he challenges the notion that children and adolescents with Asperger’s spectrum disorders will not be accepted or understood.

How much did Jon Heder make in Napoleon Dynamite?

Jon Heder was paid only $1,000 to play Napoleon Dynamite. The movie grossed over $40 million in the United States alone.

Other Comedies and Their Film Locations

Final Thoughts

Before you read this article, had you ever heard of Preston, Idaho before? I’m guessing you haven’t. I know I hadn’t heard of it before now. 

Idaho is such a beautiful state that I’m now curious to visit. How about you? Have you ever been to Idaho? If not, would you want to vacation there? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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  1. Absolutely adored the insight into where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed. Being from Idaho myself, it’s always a fun surprise to see our state get some recognition. The filming locations really added to the movie’s quirky charm. Great write-up, Alanna Birmingham!

  2. hey, i was wondering about the cameras used in napoleon dynamite. was there anything in the article about that? always trying to learn more about the tech behind indie films. thanks

  3. Fascinating how Napoleon Dynamite, despite its modest budget, managed to leave such a lasting impact. It serves as a testament to the fact that storytelling and character development often overshadow the need for a lavish budget. The cast choices were spot-on, capturing the essence of each character flawlessly.

  4. Loved reading about the fun facts on Napoleon Dynamite! Didn’t know half of them before. It’s cool to see how much thought was put into a movie that seems so random on the surface. Really makes me appreciate it more.

  5. While the article adeptly illustrates the backdrop and production nuances of Napoleon Dynamite, one must ponder the cultural ramifications of its success. It’s not merely about box office numbers or filming locations; it’s about how this film became a cultural touchstone for a generation. Does the article consider how the film’s peculiar charm and idiosyncratic humor influenced independent cinema? That would make for an intriguing discussion.

    1. interesting point, Michael. do you think the success of films like Napoleon Dynamite has made it easier or harder for indie films to stand out now?

    2. Good query, SaraL1985. In my view, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it shows that indie films can break through. On the other, it sets a high bar for uniqueness and cultural impact.

  6. Reading about the unique places in Idaho makes me want to plan my next trip there! Idaho seems to have a lot more to offer than I initially thought. The article really highlighted some hidden gems. Might even try to visit the Napoleon Dynamite set while I’m there. Thanks for the great travel inspiration, Alanna Birmingham!

  7. Was there any mention of how Napoleon Dynamite leveraged technology in its filming technique? Given its indie status, I’m curious if innovative or unconventional methods were employed during production.