Mount Rushmore in popular culture

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Mount Rushmore as depicted on the South Dakota state quarter.

Because of its fame as a monument, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota has appeared frequently in works of fiction, and has been discussed or depicted in other popular works.

As a cover for a secret location[edit]

Several films and other media depict Mount Rushmore as a secret base of operations for the government or another clandestine group, or as having some comparable significance other than as a monument. In the early 1980s television series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, a flashback sequence in the episode, "Testimony of a Traitor", shows Rogers meeting with the President of the United States in a secret base inside Mount Rushmore. In Team America: World Police, it is the secret base of operations for the protagonists. In the film, the base, along with the sculptures on the surface, are severely damaged in a suicide bombing by Michael Moore.

In the universe of the Ben 10 franchise, Mount Rushmore is the location of the main Plumbers (a sort of intergalactic police force) complex, and plays a key role in multiple episodes of the series, including "Secrets," "Truth", the "Ben 10,000" episodes, and "Ben 10 vs. The Negative 10." The monument is inadvertently destroyed by Upchuck in the latter episode, during the final battle with the Forever King. Another group shown as having a secret base inside the mountain is the "All Purpose Enforcement Squad" of Young Justice, in the DC Universe series, with the team accidentally damaging Washington's head when they break into the facility to rescue their teammate Secret. The comic book superhero Mister Majestic, a character in the Wildstorm Productions universe, also had a secret base of operations inside Mount Rushmore, analogous to Superman's "Fortress of Solitude". In Ultraman: The Adventure Begins, a 1981 animated movie jointly produced by Hanna-Barbera and Tsuburaya Productions, the heroic Ultra Force is headquartered within Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore was a primary location of interest in the plot of the 2007 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets starring Nicolas Cage.[1] In the film, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage) discovers in the titular Book Of Secrets that the location of the monument was chosen to erase landmarks in a map that leads to the golden city of Cíbola, hidden deep underground behind the mountain. In the film, the golden city appears to be beneath a lake to the north of the monument - this would likely be Horse Thief Lake, about 1.5 miles to the northwest of the monument, but the lake actually used in the film is the nearby Sylvan Lake, five miles southwest of the monument.

Alterations and additions to the faces[edit]

Mount Rushmore with a fifth President in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Mountain overlooking the fictional town of Konohagakure, from Naruto

The large carved faces of the monument have made it a target for parodies and other symbolic alterations of its appearance in media:

Replacement or destruction of the existing faces[edit]

Alterations in media have frequently included replacement of one or more of the four presidents' faces with other people or characters, or the addition of another face:

  • In the 2000 Courage The Cowardly Dog episode "Family Business", Muriel asked what a thief did with the rest of Mount Rushmore (since he stole the heads of Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt). The camera zooms out with the president's heads underneath the house.
  • In the 1980 film Superman II, General Zod and his criminal partners Ursa and Non (the three escaped supervillains from the Phantom Zone) use their superpowers to replace the faces of Washington, Jefferson and Roosevelt with their own, while destroying Lincoln's. This scene is removed in the 2006 director's cut of the film, replaced instead with a scene showing them destroying the Washington Monument.[3] The October 1981 issue of MAD Magazine parodies the film and depicts this scene, except that in addition to putting their own faces on the monument, the villains have replaced Lincoln with Richard Nixon.
  • In the 1992 film Buried on Sunday, an unarmed nuclear missile is accidentally launched and it breaks the nose of Theodore Roosevelt off before landing next to a group of bikers in Sturgis, who decide to trade it for speed.
  • In the 1996 film Mars Attacks!, the Martians in a UFO carve their leaders' faces into Mount Rushmore, replacing the Presidents' heads.
  • The cover of the Chipmunks' 1982 album, Chipmunk Rock, depicts Roosevelt replaced by Alvin the Chipmunk.
  • The Nintendo 64 video game Pilotwings 64 (which features a level based on United States geography and landmarks) shows the monument in the approximate location of South Dakota, but replaces Washington's head with that of Nintendo's mascot Mario.[4] The player can change Mario into his rival, Wario by crashing into his face or by shooting him from the Gyrocopter.
  • In a viral video teaser for the Watchmen film, "The Keene Act and You", a brief scene depicts Richard Nixon in place of Abraham Lincoln.[5]
  • In the 2005 miniseries Category 7: The End of the World, global warming causes the moisture inside the mountain to expand, which causes the head of George Washington to break off.
  • In the 2006 miniseries 10.5 Apocalypse, an earthquake hits the site as a fault-line begins to recreate the Western Interior Seaway, destroying the faces of the presidents, which eventually fall.
  • In an episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned Bigby and his friend, Jennifer "Moze" Mosely, collaborate on a project involving Mount Rushmore with Ned in place of Thomas Jefferson. By the end of the episode, the project gets ruined after Ned frees himself after getting stuck and the project falls over.
  • In Robert Ferrigno's Assassin trilogy, fundamentalist Islamic clerics dynamite Mount Rushmore in a failed attempt to destroy it.
  • In the Roger Rabbit short Trail Mix-Up, Roger and some other characters are sent flying by an erupting geyser, and crash into Mount Rushmore, destroying it (the faces comically screaming before the crash).
  • In Poul Anderson's dystopian novelette The Pugilist, the United States is defeated and conquered by the Soviet Union. The puppet American government installed by the Soviets orders what is left of the US Army to turn its artillery at the Heads on Mount Rushmore and destroy them.
  • In the beginning of the "Boom Boom" trailer for the 2014 video game Wolfenstein: The New Order, Mount Rushmore is seen being destroyed by Nazi soldiers after their victory in World War II, with a general observing the destruction of the landmark.[6]

Addition of extra faces[edit]

Depictions of a fifth (and occasionally, sixth) face usually place it to the left of George Washington or to the right of Abraham Lincoln, at about the same height as other presidents:

  • The cover of the February 1957 issue of MAD Magazine Issue #31, depicts Mount Rushmore with a fifth face: that of Alfred E. Neuman. In MAD Magazine, the fifth face is closer to the base of the mountain, and is below Thomas Jefferson.
  • In the 1964 film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Don Knott’s title character is transformed into a fish resembling a tilefish. He helps the Allies win the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. For these exploits, his tilefish image is added (during a fantasy sequence) to Mount Rushmore, to Lincoln’s right (viewer's perspective).
  • In the 1978 Judge Dredd comic "The Cursed Earth" two faces are added: President Jimmy Carter to the left of Washington, and the leader of a group of mutants to the right of Lincoln.
  • In the final scene of the 2003 film Head of State, fictional president Mays Gilliam's face has been added into Mount Rushmore next to Abraham Lincoln.
  • In the opening titles of the 2001 British satirical animated series 2DTV, George W. Bush erects his face in the gap between Roosevelt and Lincoln. A nuclear warhead is then deployed from the top of Bush's sculpture, much to the shock of the other presidents.
  • In a deleted scene from the 1989 film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a fifth face carved into the mountain is that of an African-American woman (named in the novelization as Sarah Susan Eckert).
  • President Barack Obama has been added as a fifth head to Mount Rushmore on internet depictions of the mountain. On July 8, 2009, climate change activists unfurled a banner with the purpose of portraying a fifth face on Mount Rushmore of Obama as a President who could make Presidential changes in leading effective climate legislation as opposed to being a politician.[7][8][9]
  • Prior to the retirement of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in 1982, fans of the University of Alabama football team generated an image with Bryant's face added to the left of Lincoln.

Imitation of the style[edit]

Deep Purple's 1970 album Deep Purple in Rock has a cover inspired by Mount Rushmore depicting the five members' faces instead of the four presidents. The title is an obvious pun, the music genre of the album being rock music, while the monument is carved from what is essentially a very large rock. In turn, the English cover of the volume 4 DVD release of the anime series Cromartie High School (entitled "Mount Rockmore") is a parody of the Deep Purple album. Here, the anime characters' faces replace those of the band members.

In the Japanese manga, Naruto, four of the main leaders (Hokage) of Konohagakure (Hidden Leaf Village) have had their faces carved into a mountain overlooking the village of Konohagakure, in a style similar to that of Mount Rushmore (with Tsunade's face added later, in Shippuuden. (Hatake Kakashi) and (Uzumaki Naruto) were the 6th and 7th face to be added to the mountain in the last chapter). The village was designed by Japanese manga artist Masashi Kishimoto. The fictional nuclear-equipped warship Outer Haven, in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, features a Mount Rushmore-esque sculpture of the four "Snake" characters that have appeared thorough the Metal Gear series (Solidus Snake, Old Snake, Liquid Snake and Big Boss).

In the 1994 live action version of Richie Rich starring Macaulay Culkin, the Rich family has their own version of Mount Rushmore, named Mount Richmore in the movie, built on their property with their own faces sculpted into it. It becomes the setting for the film's finale, echoing the finale of North by Northwest.

The WWE had their own version of Mount Rushmore consisting of the best wrestlers in the company's history. The ones sculpted into the mountain are The Undertaker, Steve Austin, John Cena, and Hulk Hogan.

In North by Northwest[edit]

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) and Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) dangle precipitously from the sculpture of George Washington in North by Northwest.
Sign near the mountain

The memorial was famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 film North by Northwest. The scene was developed in the course of screenwriting, as Hitchcock and scriptwriter Ernest Lehman were trying to develop an idea. As Lehman would later recall, Hitchcock "murmured wistfully, 'I always wanted to do a chase across the faces of Mount Rushmore.'"[10] While writing the script, Lehman took a trip to Mount Rushmore to scale the faces of the famous monument; he only got halfway to the top, and bought a camera to give to the park ranger to photograph the famous monument for him. However, the scene was not actually filmed at the monument, since permission to shoot an attempted killing on the face of a national monument was refused by the National Park Service. In the film the villain's house is located on a fictitious forested plateau above the monument.

Other scenes, including the view of the Memorial's parking lot, the patio at the Memorial concession, the scene in the dining room of the concession, and the loading of the body into the ambulance, were actually shot at Mount Rushmore. The other scenes involving Mount Rushmore were filmed on Hollywood soundstages. The reference in the movie to the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota is accurate, the hotel still operates as the Hotel Alex Johnson.

The North by Northwest appearance has been parodied in several venues. In "North by North Quahog", a 2005 episode of the animated series Family Guy, Mount Rushmore's forested plateau was the location of the villain's home, and characters Peter and Lois are chased down the monument by Mel Gibson. In Richie Rich, the Rich family's imitation of Mount Rushmore becomes the setting for the film's finale, echoing the finale of North by Northwest.

Other appearances[edit]

Appearances set in the future[edit]

Alan Weisman, in his 2007 book The World Without Us,[11] suggests that the Mount Rushmore memorial could last up to 7.2 million years and thus be one of the longest-lasting human artifacts. Because of this enduring structure, it has appeared in some science fiction set in the distant future:

  • In the 1991 Red Dwarf novel Better Than Life, Dave Lister finds Mount Rushmore half-buried underneath garbage, which causes him to realize he is back on Earth (a usage reminiscent of the scene from the original Planet of the Apes film).
  • A 1980 episode of the post-apocalyptic cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, "Attack of the Amazon Women", uses Mount Rushmore as its setting.
  • The altered appearance in Star Trek V is also a future setting, specifically the late 23rd century.
  • In Nelson S. Bond's "Meg the Priestess" series, the short story "Pilgrimage" involves a journey to the "Place of the Gods": Jarg, Ibrim, Taamuz and Tedhi, revealed to be Mount Rushmore.
  • The speculative documentary series Life After People predicts that, while the faces of Mount Rushmore are expected to still be recognizable in 10,000 years, in five million years the sculpture will no longer exist due to erosion.

In literature[edit]

  • In Donald E. Westlake's 1990 crime novel Drowned Hopes, protagonist John Dortmunder climbs the mountain and into Abraham Lincoln's nose to retrieve a stash of stolen money hidden there years earlier.[12]

In theme parks[edit]

In video games[edit]

In addition to in Pilotwings 64, Mount Rushmore also appears:

  • As a Wonder of the World in the PC game Civilization IV
  • In Capcom's Street Fighter as the background stage of Mike
  • In Pro Pinball: Timeshock!, where climbing on it is one of the tasks
  • In Fatal Fury 2 as Terry Bogard's stage.
  • In the 1993 computer game Sam & Max Hit the Road, one scene features a fictional Dinosaur Tar Pit at Mount Rushmore, where the character Sam can be made to sing "The Name Game" with the names of the Presidents depicted on the mountain. Characters are also seen bungee jumping from each of the Presidents' nostrils using green colored rope.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4, the four computer AIs: GW, AL, TJ and TR are named after the initials of the four presidents and Liquid Ocelot's warship, Outer Haven, is decorated with a "Mount Snakemore" consisting of Solidus Snake, Old Snake, Liquid Snake, and Big Boss.
  • In the 2008 strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, an allied campaign mission is staged around the site, with various weapons located inside the heads.
  • In Crash Tag Team Racing, In the Tyrannosaurus Wrecks Hub, one can see, in a mount, four dinosaur skulls imitating Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.
  • Brütal Legend has a Mt. Rockmore feature. Due to the game being centered around rock, the legendary figures of the real life Mt. Rockmore have been replaced with figures of legendary rockers (the player also has the option of changing these heads).
  • In the 1990 game Fighter Bomber from Activision, one can fly by the monument.
  • In Just Cause 2, one of the settlements features a parody of Mount Rushmore, featuring a three-headed sculpture secret base where the head of the middle represents the current president of Panau, Pandak "Baby" Panay. That settlement takes place for the 6th mission of the game "Into the den".
  • In the game Flip Out! the aliens visited Mount Rushmore for one of the levels where each face was sliced into four pieces that had to be flipped and put back in order.[13]
  • In Skullmonkeys, a level named "Monk Rushmore" features a monument similar to Mount Rushmore in the background, with heads of Skullmonkeys replacing the presidents.

In comics and cartoons[edit]

  • In the Justice League Adventures comics, Superman is shown as going to Mount Rushmore to seek solitude on at least one occasion.
  • A Don Martin cartoon in MAD magazine featured a presidential barber being urgently dispatched from Washington, D.C. The barber - dangling precariously from the rope ladder - reaches out with his scissors and snips the stem of a small tree growing from Abraham Lincoln's left nostril as though it were a nose hair.
  • Another Don Martin cartoon in MAD magazine depicted work crews cleaning the monument. While some workers clean the Presidents’ heads, other workers descend by elevator into a huge cavernous underground chamber into order to clean the Presidents’ shoes and boots.
  • In the manga Naruto, the heads of all Hokage (Leader of the Hidden Leaf Village) are carved into a mountain in the background of the main village.
  • Danger Rangers is a cartoon superheroes, and lived on secret headquarters.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "The Big Blowout" shows Mount Rushmore and depicts one scene showing Krang replacing George Washington.
  • In the Family Guy episode, "North by North Quahog", Mount Rushmore is featured as being the location of Mel Gibson's home where Peter Griffin and his wife Lois are chased by him. After he falls to his apparent death, Peter and Lois make out on top of Washington's head (to which Washington mentions this to Jefferson and Roosevelt, who both then taunt Lincoln).
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Rushmore Rumble", Dexter and Mandark bring the Abraham Lincoln and George Washington faces respectively on Mount Rushmore to life and make them fight each other to determine who is the best.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Honey, I'm Homeland", a leftist terrorist cell attempts to blow up the faces to re-sculpt Washington, Roosevelt and Lincoln into those of leftist heroes including Sean Penn, Michael Moore and Captain Planet.
  • Mount Rushmore also appears on the Cartoon Network media franchise Ben 10 as a Plumbers base. It was destroyed by Ben as Upchuck two times,
  • In an episode of The Berenstain Bears, the Bear family visited a monument that was obviously a parody of Mount Rushmore, featuring a scene inside a replica of Abraham Lincoln's ear.

In music[edit]

American composer Michael Daugherty's 2010 piece for chorus and orchestra, "Mount Rushmore," depicts each of the four presidents in separate movements. The piece sets texts by George Washington, William Billings, Thomas Jefferson, Maria Cosway, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.[14]

Alice Cooper references Mount Rushmore in his album DaDa on the song "I love America" with the words, "I love that mountain with those four big heads."

Adam Young composed a score in based on the shrine called "Mount Rushmore." It was released November 1, 2016.

In government media[edit]

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1927-1952 Black Hills, South Dakota
Mount Rushmore commemorative half dollar obverse.
  • The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative 3¢ postage stamp on August 11, 1952. The stamp commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Mount Rushmore National Monument.
  • Mount Rushmore has been depicted on several United States coins. One of the most recent was the South Dakota State Quarter (seen at the very top of this article) issued in 2006. In 1991 the United States Mint issued several commemorative coins, specifically a 50¢,[15] $1,[16] and $5 coin [17] for the anniversary of Mount Rushmore.
  • Mount Rushmore has been featured prominently on South Dakota's automobile license plates since 1952.
  • The flag of South Dakota features the phrase "THE MOUNT RUSHMORE STATE", which was added in 1992, although the image on the flag does not include the monument.

In other media[edit]

  • From the second season on of Pee-wee's Playhouse, Mount Rushmore is seen when Pee-wee is flying out on his scooter.
  • A 1960s rock band bears the same name as the monument.
  • The Washington Nationals baseball club uses large foam rubber depictions of the "Rushmore Four" in both their marketing campaigns and in a series of in-stadium promotions, which include the "Racing Presidents".[18] "George", "Abe", "TJ" and "Teddy" appeared in the fourth inning of home games at RFK Stadium; the tradition continued at the new Nationals Park. For almost six seasons, the Teddy character never won a Racing Presidents event, causing Nationals fans to chant his name in the hope that the race they viewed would be his first win. Teddy finally won his first race on the last day of the 2012 season, the first time the Nationals made it to the playoffs.[19] (Teddy then went on to win the race during all three 2012 postseason games played in Nationals Park.)
  • A 1995 Colgate TV commercial depicted a man at Mount Rushmore cleaning the teeth of the Theodore Roosevelt statue.
  • A 2012 Geico TV commercial showed the Gecko walking toward the opening of a long tunnel, which turned out to be inside the right eye of George Washington at Mount Rushmore.[20]
  • In the 2013 film Nebraska, Woody (Bruce Dern) and David Grant (Will Forte) stop by Mount Rushmore on their road trip to Nebraska. Woody remarks that he thinks the faces of Mount Rushmore look incomplete.
  • In Professional Wrestling, a stable in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla called Mount Rushmore was established by wrestlers Adam Cole, The Young Bucks, and Kevin Steen.[21]
  • In the series The Man in the High Castle, a show on Amazon Prime, the opening crawl depicts the Mount Rushmore statues crying with old war footage.[22]


  1. ^ Real Movie News, National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007) Movie Information.
  2. ^ Thomas S. Owens, Mount Rushmore (1997), p. 21.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "'Mario Series'". NinDB. Retrieved 2008-01-04. External link in |work= (help)
  5. ^ YouTube video, "The Keene Act and You" (at 0:26).
  6. ^ Youtube Video, "Wolfenstein - 'BOOM BOOM' Gameplay Trailer"
  7. ^ Greenpeace Gets Badass, Drapes Pic Of Obama Over Mt. Rushmore Calling For Climate Action
  8. ^ Obama Makes Early, Unflattering Appearance on Mount Rushmore
  9. ^ Greenpeace members charged in Mount Rushmore G-8 protest -
  10. ^ Barbara Straumann, "Rewriting American Foundational Myths in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest", in Martin Heusser and Gudrun Grabher, American Foundational Myths (2002), p. 201.
  11. ^ Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (St. Martin's Press, 2007) ISBN 0-312-34729-4
  12. ^ Donald E. Westlake (1990). Drowned Hopes. Mysterious Press. pp. 313–314. ISBN 978-3-95859-647-4. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  13. ^, Flip Out!.
  14. ^ "Michael Daugherty’s Mount Rushmore Premieres with the Pacific Symphony and Chorale" Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Half Dollar". United States Mint. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  16. ^ "Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Dollar". United States Mint. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  17. ^ "Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Gold $5". United States Mint. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  18. ^ Racing Presidents homepage.
  19. ^ "'Teddy' wins for 1st time in 534 races". ESPN.
  20. ^ GEICO Gecko's Journey to Mount Rushmore, (July 18, 2012).
  21. ^ Pro Wrestling Guerrilla: The Battle of Los Angeles 2013 Night 2
  22. ^ [ Art of the Title