Great Movies about the South, with Trailers and Videos
I’m a proud Southerner, and I love movies about the South – not just movies set in the South – but actually about the South and Southerners. All the movies mentioned give a glimpse of real-life Southern traditions, customs, and characters. I include Gone with the Wind, even though parts of it totally disregard harsh realities. It does, however, offer viewers the mindset of many antebellum plantation owners and their spoiled wives.
Most of these movies include a quirky character or two. If you don’t believe such folks still exist in the South, come on down! I’ll introduce you to a few!
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Of course, this movie just has to be included! It gives an ideal portrayal of life among the Southern aristocracy before the war shattered the dream. Of course, the brutality of slavery is totally glossed over. On Tara and the surrounding plantations, everyone is happy, well fed, and well treated.
I do think that the horrors of war are portrayed well, along with the South’s downfall. And the cast is stellar! Who can ever forget Clark Gable as the dashing Rhett Butler, or Vivien Leigh as the irrepressible Scarlett, or Hattie McDaniel as the charming Mammy?
This film is such an ingrained part of Americana, everyone needs to see it!
Themes: love, loss, courage, honor, war, and determination.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
About: Alabama and Georgia
This is a frame story – a story within a story. The present-day plot is about a middle-aged woman who is struggling to find herself. When she befriends an elderly lady in a nursing home, the older tale of two best friends and a mysterious murder emerges.
The wonderful, likeable characters are played brilliantly by Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, and Cicely Tyson.
Themes: friendship, racial equality, self discovery, and love.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This is the tale of two motherless children growing up during the depression. When their father, a small town lawyer, defends a black man for a crime he didn’t commit, the ugly underbelly of racism and bigotry is exposed. A realistic portrayal of life in the period is examined.
The cast is excellent and includes Gregory Peck. The movie marks the screen debuts of Robert Duvall, Alice Ghostley, and William Windom.
Themes: Rape, incest, integrity, racism, acceptance, and tolerance.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
This film examines life in a small Southern town. It provides a roller coaster ride of emotions, ranging from laughter to tears. The characters are quirky yet believable, and they’re all very likeable.
The all star cast includes Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepard, and Dylan McDermott.
Themes: death, friendship, love, and the circle of life.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
This is a great movie about a well-to-do Jewish widow living in an Atlanta suburb. When she can no longer drive safely, her son hires a driver for her – a black man. The old lady gradually learns to accept and eventually to care deeply for him as a person and as her best friend.
The film stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone, and Esther Rolle.
Themes: aging, tolerance, racism, and friendship.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
This is one of my all-time favorite movies! Set in Savannah, it has wonderful scenes of the city squares and the historic old homes. The South, in all her wonderful eccentricities, is accurately displayed. The plot is loosely based on a true story. If you ever plan a trip to Savannah, please watch this movie first! You'll want to visit some of the sites from the film.
I’m a big Kevin Spacey fan, and I think this is his best role. Great performances are also made by John Cusack, Jude Law, Irma P. Hall, Jack Thompson, Alison Eastwood, and Lady Chablis.
Themes: murder, homosexuality, the supernatural, friendship, betrayal, and tolerance.
Cross Creek (1983)
This is based on the true story of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who leaves her high-society life to live in rural Florida in an effort to find herself. In the movie, we meet the young girl who was the inspiration for Rawlings’ most famous novel, The Yearling. The scenery in the film is wonderful – a part of Florida many have never witnessed.
The cast includes Mary Steenburgen, Rip Torn, Peter Coyote, Alfre Woodard, Dana Hill, and Joanna Miles.
Themes: self discovery, struggle, determination, friendship, love, and acceptance.
The Great Santini (1979)
About: South Carolina
This movie is based on Pat Conroy’s wonderful novel. It tells the story of the Meechum family, living in coastal South Carolina. The father is a hard-nosed marine who rules his family with an iron fist. When Ben, the teenage son, befriends a mentally-challenged black youth, violence erupts.
The movie stars Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O’ Keefe, Stan Shaw, and David Keith.
Themes: rigidity, bigotry, revenge, friendship, tolerance, and family relationships.
This is based on the Foxfire books. The movie tells the story of a widow living deep in the Georgia mountains. Her son urges her to move to a safer location, and developers want her to sell her land so that they can turn it into a tourist attraction. The scenery is breathtaking!
After I saw this film, I was ready to sell everything I owned and buy a cabin in the mountains. When I got to work the next morning after the movie had been aired on TV, I was surprised to find that many of my colleagues had the same notion!
Great performances by Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, and John Denver.
Themes: love, loss, home, greed, self reliance, and family relationships.
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
This story is about a beloved small-town black doctor and his family, living in the South of the 1960s. this is a great movie, and I’ve always been amazed that it wasn’t a huge hit. It has everything – love, lust, voodoo, passion, great characters, and a fascinating plot.
The cast is also exceptional: Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good, Jake Smollett, and Diahann Carroll. Watch the trailer, then watch the movie. You'll be glad you did!
Themes: Love, infidelity, the supernatural, trust, and family relationships.
This is based on the novel by Larry McMurtry and is basically a sequel to The Last Picture Show. Now the characters are middle aged, and Duane is deeply in debt and facing a mid-life crisis, especially when his high school heart throb returns to town. Although the action is set in Texas, it could just as easily take place in any small Southern town.
Jeff Bridges, Annie Potts, Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Timothy Bottoms, and Cloris Leachman star in this off-the-wall yet realistic movie.
Themes: infidelity, struggle, loss, love, and family relationships.
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