With many high-profile actors and actresses who already claim Tennessee as their home, it might be difficult for any film industry guru to bypass the state as being a good place for their next film.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that cities like Nashville and Memphis have long been a hub for opening doors for starving musicians and rising rock stars alike, Tennessee is also a place where the film industry has flourished.
Not to mention, the state has a rich culture and several historic buildings that make for great background. Its generous landscape, including the Smokey Mountain tops and rolling hills, offers beautiful scenery for Hollywood films and anyone who wishes to fire up their camera lens. So it may not be as surprising that there are indeed some great movies that were shot in the Volunteer State.
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
It’s said that once Levon Helm walked out in full costume as Loretta Lynn’s father, she fainted because he looked like a spitting image of him. Adding to that, Sissy Spacek was hand-picked by Lynn to play her in the biographical film called “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Taken from a book she wrote with George Vecsey, the movie showcases the life of Lynn along with her husband, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Showcasing some of Tennessee’s legendary singers, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl make cameo appearances as well.
It seems that film makers love to showcase Nashville’s culture and before the ABC drama Nashville came about, there was a movie with the same title. In 1974, the film, directed by Robert Altman, highlighted the lives of 24 individuals involved in the music industry and mixed it with a political spin, involving a political rally. The storylines for these characters runs over the course of five days and scene footage takes place at locations still standing today, such as The Exit/In. Additionally, the movie was hand-picked for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1992. Talk about a true Tennessee classic.
Walk the Line (2005)
Perhaps it’s “Walk the Line” that paints a real-life picture of Tennessee, in the ’60s at least. Based on the relationship between the legendary Johnny Cash and the famous June Carter, the film highlights cities like Nashville, Memphis, Jackson and Hendersonville, and stars Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin and Joaquin Phoenix. Showcasing what the music industry was like in that era, actors playing stars like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis can be seen in the film as well. The first part of the movie starts with Cash forming the Tennessee Two band and his audition at the iconic Sun Records in Memphis.
The Green Mile (1999)
Although The Green Mile is based in Louisiana, several film segments were shot in Shelbyville, Tenn. Playing the character of Paul Edgecomb, a death row corrections officer, Tom Hanks channels his role in present day and flashback scenes. Although Hanks did a superb acting job, the choice for each character’s role in this movie didn’t come easy. John Travolta supposedly turned down the role of Edgecomb and Hanks was originally set to play the older version, which was given to Dabbs Greer.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Filmed in Morristown, Tennessee The Evil Dead garnered much success at the box office, and sparked the dawning of other creations including a sequel, video games and other merchandise. The film follows five college students who choose to forgo their spring break vacation in an eerie and remote cabin in the hills. A series of horrific and mysterious events take place during their stay, and one by one each of the friends becomes possessed after finding an audiotape that contains evil spirits and demons. Not only did the story take place in the cabin, the film crew actually stayed overnight in the woods, and reportedly experienced difficult conditions during the filming process.
Walking Tall (1973)
Don’t be confused by the remake, sequel or TV series, we’re talking about the original 1973 “Walking Tall”. This biopic film set in McNairy County tells the riveting story of Buford Hayse Pusser, played by Joe Don Baker. Pusser, who leaves his wrestling life to work with his father, gets tangled up in a bar fight which leads to him eventually running for sheriff in order to change a crooked system in the community. It can be quite a controversy for people who may not know whether to believe Pusser was an American hero or a daring club-swinger. Either way, Tennessee has their opinion.
Mystery Train — (1989)
For anyone planning to venture off to Memphis for the first time, 1989’s Mystery Train gives likely hints as to what tourists can expect from the day to day events that occur and attractions in the city. Adding in tidbits of humor and purposely placed photos of Elvis Presley throughout the movie, the film follows three series of stories that unfold over the course of one day and are linked to a specific rundown motel. The three stories featured are “Far From Yokohama,” “A Ghost” and “Lost in Space.”
The Blind Side (2009)
For anybody who likes sports and the state of Tennessee, it doesn’t get any better than “The Blind Side”. Based on the life of Michael Oher and the book, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” written by Michael Lewis, the story carries out the theme of a young boy who struggles with his grades and comes from a poor upbringing. The story background, shot in Memphis, sheds light on Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), whose family helps to get Oher’s feet on the ground as a star football player who eventually plays for NFL teams, the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.
The Firm (1993)
Shot on location in Memphis, “The Firm” filmed in spots like the iconic Beale Street strip, Mud Island and the Peabody Hotel. Tom Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, a Harvard Law School graduate, who accepts a job at the Bendini, Lambert & Locke firm in Memphis only to find himself in the worst possible scenario, which could possibly land him a jail sentence. It’s said that although Cruise played the role of McDeere, Charlie Sheen was also considered to play the character. Taken from John Grisham’s novel with the same title, “The Firm” is one of two Hollywood movies based off the book.
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Yet another Memphis smash hit for the box office, Hustle & Flow, dedicated to Sam Phillips, who owned Sun Records, captures the life of a starving artist who wishes to become a well-known rapper and tries to get out of his current hustler and pimp lifestyle. Starring Terrence Howard, Taryn Manning and Ludacris, the main role was turned down first by Howard in fear that he would be type-casted. Eventually, he liked the role enough to stick with it.