Few places have inspired filmmakers as much as Texas. The state’s vast landscape, captivating history and unforgettable characters have given Hollywood – and Texas-born filmmakers – more than a few script ideas. From classic westerns to coming of age tales to quirky character studies, the following films have represented Texas in the eyes of movie-goers across the globe. Here are the most iconic films made in Texas.
A biographical film about the life of rodeo legend Lane Frost, 8 Seconds was filmed in several locations around Texas, including Boerne, Helotes and Del Rio.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Who could’ve guessed that a Tim Burton-directed film about an eccentric dude in search for his stolen bicycle would be forever linked to Texas? Probably no one. But Pee Wee’s Big Adventure left us all cracking jokes about the status of a basement at the Alamo. We’re guessing the folks at the San Antonio Parks and Recreation department are tired of fielding questions about that one.
This John Sayles-directed film follows life on a Texas border town and a decades-old mystery involving the town’s law enforcement. The film, which stars Kris Kristofferson as a corrupt sheriff, was filmed in Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Laredo.
Texas-born director Richard Linklater tackles the macabre story of a funeral home director who murders an elderly millionaire in this 2011 film. The darkly comedic movie is set in the east Texas town of Carthage and is notable for its use of local actors. No one captures Texas comedy quite like Linklater. The film’s “map of Texas” scene is maybe the best description of the state’s vastly different terrain and cultures that we’ve ever seen.
This 1997 bio-pic pays tribute to the Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. The Texas superstar was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, where portions of the movie were filmed.
This Joel and Ethan Cohen crime thriller about a jealous husband who hires a private investigator to track his unfaithful wife was filmed in Pflugerville and Hutto, Texas.
Mike Judge proved his deep and abiding love for Texas with his classic animated series King of the Hill. But the series wasn’t Judge’s only foray into Lone Star State culture. His 1999 workplace comedy Office Space was filmed in Austin and Dallas.
The Three Burials of Melquides Estrada
This 2005 neo-western film directed by Tommy Lee Jones is set on the Texas-Mexico border and was filmed in Big Bend National Park, Lajitas, Midland, Monahans and Van Horn. The movie features appearances by Dwight Yoakam and Levon Helm.
Richard Linklater’s coming of age masterpiece Boyhood was filmed in Texas over the course of 12 years. The movie captured the unique experience of growing up in the Lone Star State, featuring shots of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Pedernales Falls State Park and Austin’s Dart Bowl and Cafe.
Friday Night Lights
Before Eric and Tami Taylor stole our hearts on the television adaptation of Friday Night Lights, the 2004 film brought H.G. Bissinger’s novel about small town Texas football to the big screen. The movie was filmed in Odessa, Abilene, Elgin, Houston and Taylor, Texas.
Places in the Heart
This 1984 Depression-era film follows a Texas widow struggling to save her family farm. The film, which earned Sally Field an Academy Award for Best Actress, was filmed in Waxahachie, Texas.
Bonnie and Clyde
The classic film about one of America’s most notorious criminal couples was filmed in Garland, Waxahachie and Dallas.
No Country for Old Men
One of the eeriest Texas-based films, No Country For Old Men follows a high stakes drug deal gone bad and a hitman out for blood. The chilling movie puts west Texas front and center in its plot, with Big Bend National Park and Marfa serving as the backdrop for some of the most memorable scenes.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas horror fans can be proud that the king of all slasher flicks was filmed right here in the Lone Star State. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed in Round Rock, Bastrop and Leander.
This 1963 western, based on Larry McMurtry’s novel Horseman, Pass By, was filmed in the west Texas town of Marathon.
The 1960 film The Alamo found John Wayne embodying Texas legend Davy Crockett. The movie was filmed near Bracketville, where the film crew constructed Alamo Village, a historically accurate recreation of the Alamo. Alamo Village remained open as a tourist attraction for several years until it was closed in 2010.
Starring Robert Duvall as a down-on-his-luck country singer who settles down in small town Texas, Tender Mercies is a beautiful, intimate look at life in recovery. The slice-of-life movie was filmed in Waxahachie. Duvall won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Mac Sledge in 1984.
It’s the film that asked “Are you a real cowboy?” and made you question if you were lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. It also ushered in a new era of country music and made Gilley’s a household name. Urban Cowboy, which followed the ups and downs (mostly downs) of young lovers Bud and Sissy, came to represent Texas to the rest of the 49 states, for better or worse.
Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s classic tale of growing up in 1970s small town Texas made an icon out of Texas-native Matthew McConaughey and put “alright, alright, alright” in the cultural lexicon.
Okay, so Lonesome Dove may be a mini-series but the television adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s classic western novel is perhaps the most Texas story ever put on film. Lonesome Dove follows two former Texas rangers who embark on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. It’s an enduring tale of Texas grit and lifelong friendship. If you’re not crying by the end, you may have to get your Texan card revoked.
Before artists and hipsters were making the trek to the small west Texas town of Marfa, Hollywood royalty Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson were there filming Giant. The film, which tells the tale of a cattle ranching family and a wildcatter, is one of the most revered films made in Texas.
The Last Picture Show
There’s no better look at life in Texas than The Last Picture Show. Based on the phenomenal Larry McMurtry novel of the same name, the film captures the desperation of growing up in a dying town where your future seems predetermined. The film is set in the north Texas town of Archer City and was filmed in and around the area.