With its storied history and colorful characters, Texas is a filmmaker’s dream. There are so many movies about Texas or set in Texas that it’s almost impossible to choose which ones are the most iconic. This list is a compilation of the movies that make audiences think of Texas. Whether they’re cheesy or authentic, these 10 iconic Texas movies typify the Lone Star State in the minds of moviegoers everywhere. Learn more about these iconic Texas movies in the section below.
John Wayne plays Davy Crockett in this 1960 western. The Alamo is a loose retelling of the fated battle where about 300 Texan men took on over a thousand of Santa Anna’s troops. Though wildly historically inaccurate, The Alamo has all the cinematic elements of an instant hit, and remains today one of the most Texan movies of all time.
Despite the questionable casting decision of John Travolta as a southerner, Urban Cowboy was immensely popular when it was released in 1980. The movie was set and filmed at Gilley’s, a popular Houston honky-tonk. The film set the stage for an explosion of Texan culture appropriation nationwide. Widely scorned by Texans, Urban Cowboy is considered to portray “fake Texas”, full of stereotypes that persisted for years after its popularity had waned.
Filmed in central Texas in 1974, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is responsible for inspiring many other classic horror films. Its violent content pushed the envelope with movies of the day, and caused it to be banned upon release in many places. At the time, the movie was advertised as being based on true events, and though the character of Leatherface is considered to have been derived from serial killer Ed Gein, no such chainsaw massacre ever really took place in Texas.
Filmed in the Texas panhandle, Hud joins other iconic Texas movies for its portrayal of ranch life. Based on the book “Horseman, Pass By” by controversial Texas author Larry McMurtry, Hud is full of trademark Texan stubbornness, counterbalanced by honesty and integrity, and interspersed with good old fashioned scandal. The main character, Hud, is the son of rancher Homer. When an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease requires the quarantine of their ranch and threatens Hud’s inheritance, his brutal true colors are shown as he tries to wrest control of the ranch from his father, who is far too decent a man for Hud’s taste.
You don’t get much more Texan than John Wayne and cattle drives. Red River is the story of lost loves and, of course, stubbornness. John Wayne’s character, Thomas Dunson, loses his fiancee in an Indian attack, and ends up adopting a boy who was orphaned. The story of Red River takes us through Dunson’s life as he starts up a massive cattle ranch in south Texas, (similar to the King Ranch) and later, after the civil war as he tries to drive his cattle to market. The movie is rife with bravado and bullheadedness that is the trademark of western films, and is pretty much a perfect example of a Texas movie.
Based on the novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men paints a terrifying picture of the drug trade in west Texas. This film’s power is in its realistic depiction of that region of the Lone Star state, without the corny Pecos Bill/cactus/desert references that so often stereotype the region. The brutality of Mexican drug cartel violence is shown in harsh authenticity. This movie is not for the faint of heart.
Tender Mercies is a unique, slice-of-life film starring Robert Duvall, who, though he is not a native Texan, portrays one so well that he can fool native Texans. Set in an unnamed rural Texas setting, the movie was largely filmed in Waxahachie. Duvall portrays an alcoholic former country star who is trying to turn his life around. Duvall stars opposite Tess Harper, herself a native Texan from Fort Worth. The film is achingly tragic without being too predictable.
The 2004 film was based on the nonfiction bestseller Friday Night Lights: A Town a Team and a Dream about the Permian Panthers in Odessa, Texas. The movie is spot-on in its portrayal of small town Texas football and all the drama that goes with it. Much of the game scenes were filmed in Ratliff Stadium, where the real Permian Panthers play, and the rest of the film was shot around Texas in Austin and central Texas. It also has cameo appearances by Roy Williams, a former Permian Panther himself, and some of the real-life coaches. Also, the real James “Boobie” Miles makes an appearance as one of the coaches for the opposing Midland team.
This 1956 epic starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean follows a family for two decades as they prosper and grow. The movie deals with racism and discrimination of hispanics and Mexican immigrants in Texas. Giant’s inclusion of not only horses and ranch life but also oil and oil prospecting makes this an incredibly iconic Texas movie, but more than that, the racial themes it deals with are advanced for the time period in which it was filmed, and makes this movie not only Texan, but deeply introspective as well.
Unquestionably the most iconic Texas film of all time, the 1971 movie based on the Larry McMurtry best-seller of the same name holds up a mirror to small town Texas that has transcended the decades and is still relevant today. Aside from the fact that it is absolutely stacked with incredible Hollywood talent, The Last Picture Show is a perfectly realistic, yet somewhat bitter depiction of Texas. This movie split open the bowels of one small Texas town and exposed its lascivious and violent secrets. There was a rumor that McMurtry was persona non grata in his native Archer