Whatever kind of movie you like, Texas has one for you. From teen comedies to horror movies to westerns, of course, Texas will provide. Not only do many of our favorite stars hail from Texas, but dozens of movies have been filmed in, or at least set in, the Lone Star State and its many landscapes. Here is a list of our favorites.
Dazed And Confused
When it comes to teen comedies, Dazed and Confused ranks near the top of the list of the best ones. The hilarious movie was filmed in Austin and takes place there in the 1970s. Not only is high school football one of the most important activities in the movie, but the famous Moon Tower location is a real place, too.
Friday Night Lights
Texas’ passion for high school football is second to none in the United States and there is no better high school football move than Friday Night Lights. Based on a true story, the movie follows the 1988 Permian High School Panthers season, in Odessa, TX.
The Last Picture Show
Director Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show is one of quite a few movies set in Texas to receive a Best Picture nomination. The coming-of-age movie is set in the small town of Anarene, TX. While the town is fictional, its name is taken from the name of a ghost town in northern Texas. It’s based on a book by one of Texas’ favorite sons, writer Larry McMurtry.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Who would’ve guessed in 1974 that the low-budget slasher flick, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre would become one of the most successful and influential movies of all time? It has spawned a franchise with nine entries, inspired countless young filmmakers, and invented tropes that are still leaned on today. As the name implies, it does, of course, take place in Texas.
No Country For Old Men
One of the finest modern-day westerns is the Coen Brothers‘ No Country For Old Men. Set in dusty West Texas, the movie oozes Texas, just like Fargo oozes Minnesota. It helps that a West Texas native, Tommy Lee Jones, plays the perfect role for him, a Texas sheriff on the hunt for all the bad guys running around his county.
For A Few Dollars More
It’s no surprise that some of the best Westerns of all time have been set in Texas, even the ones that are filmed in Spain, like For a Few Dollars More starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. Set in and around the El Paso area, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t shot in the Lone Star state.
The Iron Claw
The Von Erich family was the first family of professional wrestling, and the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) was the alliance the family is most associated with. Patriarch Fritz was born in Texas, and while his five wrestling sons, Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris (who wasn’t included in The Iron Claw ) weren’t all born in the great state, they were all raised there and it’s where most of The Iron Claw takes place.
Office Space feels like it takes place anywhere, or nowhere in particular. The movie is universal, but it actually takes place in Texas, where it was also filmed, mostly in and around Austin.
Joel and Ethan Coen were raised in Minnesota, but they’ve often looked to the southern U.S. for inspiration, including for their first movie, Blood Simple, in 1984. Like others on this list, it was filmed in and around Austin, TX.
Bonnie And Clyde
Only a state like Texas could birth a legend like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The real-life Parker was born in the tiny town of Rowena, TX, while Barrow in the country outside Dallas. The movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, takes place kind of all over the south, but Texas is a big part of it.
With the ongoing global pandemic at its height in the summer of 2020, The 24th flew under the radar and that’s too bad. It tells the true story of Black World War I veterans returning from Europe only to face the racism and bigotry of the Jim Crow south in Houston. The soldiers hit their breaking point and the result is an armed conflict against the Houston police that eventually leads to the execution of some of the soldiers for mutiny. It’s an underrated film that more people should see.
Technically only part of Sicario takes place in Texas, more specifically the Texas-Mexico border in El Paso, but it’s such an intense scene, and so crucial to the movie, that it belongs on this list. The shootout at the border is the best part of Denis Villeneuve‘s film.
Houston, TX is home to the groundbreaking Richard Linklater film Boyhood. Filmed over 12 years, it’s a movie like no other as audiences watch Mason grow up, in real time. It’s no surprise that Texas native Linklater set another of his films in the great state.
Reality Bites may not feel like a Texas movie, but it is. It takes place in Houston, though the city and the state take a backseat to the story. The Ben Stiller-directed flick is a Gen X touchstone that really could have taken place anywhere, but Houston is home.
Set in Texas, starring Texans, and directed by a Texan, can anything get more Texas? Wes Anderson‘s debut film is much more straight forward than his later films, after he nailed down his particular style, and plays out more or less like a traditional heist movie, but it’s worth watching, especially for Luke and Owen Wilson’s film debuts, which they kill.
It’s no surprise that Talking Heads frontman David Byrne would make a strange and, frankly, cool movie, even if at times it just feels like a set of weird music videos. True Stories is, however, set in the fictional town of Virgil, TX, not New York City, as you might expect from Byrne.
Hell Or High Water
Nothing says Texas like a couple of bank robbers being pursued across the state by a Texas Ranger. Hell or High Water, from the mind of writer Taylor Sheridan, might feel the most like Texas of any movie on this list. Jeff Bridges is brilliant, and while Chris Pine might be a little pretty to sell the idea of his character being desperate enough to rob banks, his performance is perfect.
About a year before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born with the first Iron Man, Marvel Entertainment released Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage. Set in Texas, its fun to think about how history could have been different if the idea for the MCU had come just a little earlier.
This one is easy, it says it right there in the name, Happy, Texas. This surprisingly funny film takes place in the titular town and features some wonderful performances by Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, and Jeremy Northam. It flies under the radar but comes highly recommended.
The Highwaymen, starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner as Texas Rangers, is the other side of the Bonnie and Clyde story, focusing on the two lawmen pursuing the homicidal bank robbers. While it’s a far from perfect movie, the performances are great, and the film oozes “Texas.”
The Positively True Adventures Of The Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom
Football may be king in Texas, but only slightly lower on the list of important things is cheerleading. The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom highlights just how crazy people can get, telling the true story of Wanda Holloway (Holly Hunter), who tries to put out a hit on her daughter’s high school cheerleading rival. Bring it on.
Based on a true story and set in Smith County, TX, Rush is an intriguing movie and a very hard watch. It tells the story of undercover police officers, played by Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh who get in so deep, they become criminals and addicts themselves. Today, the film is most remembered for its soundtrack written by Eric Clapton and featuring his hit “Tears in Heaven.”
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Clint Eastwood starred in, and directed, The Outlaw Josey Wales, which follows a Missouri farmer-turned-outlaw in Texas as he’s pursued by just about everyone, including the Texas Rangers. It’s one of the best Westerns ever made.
The Old Man & The Gun
What could very well be Robert Redford’s final movie, as he’s said in the past, The Old Man & the Gun tells the true story of bank robber and escape artist Forrest Tucker. Tucker was a career criminal whose final arrest, as depicted in the movie, happened in Texas, where he later died in prison.
If you didn’t tear up a little immediately upon reading the name of this film then you likely haven’t seen Old Yeller. It’s a cultural touchstone, ingrained in the minds of movie lovers everywhere, and it all takes place in Texas. It’s almost 70 years old now, but it’s still making kids (and their parents) cry today.
John Wayne, John Ford, and Texas. It’s a trio that defines the Western genre and while there are a few movies that combine the three, the best is probably The Searchers. Set in West Texas about a decade after the end of the Civil War, Wayne defines what it is to be a Western star and John Ford defines what the genre can be at its best. It’s natural that the Texas desert be the backdrop.
Jada Pinkett-Smith was a rising talent when she starred alongside Allen Payne in 1994’s Jason’s Lyric. Set in an impoverished neighborhood in Houston, Lyric (Pinkett-Smith) and Jason (Payne) fall in love and try to escape their violent families with mixed results. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is powerful at times.
Sometimes movies are really more about their setting than anything else, and Paris, Texas is one of those movies. Texas is almost like another character in this Sam Sheppard-penned movie from 1984. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, and Nastassja Kinski, the Palme d’Or winner is set in the panhandle town of Happy.
Who can forget the epic conclusion of Miss Congeniality, when Gracie (Sandra Bullock) almost wins a beauty pageant in San Antonio? The surprise smash, a take on My Fair Lady, has become a beloved film over the years and it’s easy to see why, as it’s charming and fun and full of classic lines.
Cloak & Dagger
It seems over the last 40 years, many have forgotten about Cloak & Dagger, starring Dabney Coleman and E.T. star Henry Thomas, and that’s too bad. It’s a really fun kids movie full of exciting action and intrigue, but with an easy enough story for kids to actually follow. Filmed and set in San Antonio, it’s a movie that is ripe for a remake.
Oliver Stone has made a lot of hard-hitting movies in his career, not the least of which is JFK, which obviously takes place partly in Texas. One of his more underrated movies, though, is Talk Radio starring Eric Bogosian as a radio shock jock who meets with a tragic end. It’s loosely based on the true story of Alan Berg, who was a radio host in Denver, but this film is set in Dallas.
There are a lot of movies about Texas, but only a few are science-fiction, like Rollerball. James Caan, in one of his best roles, stars in this cult classic set in…2018 Houston (the movie came out in 1975). The dystopian future is ruled by corporations and the sport of Rollerball serves as a bread and butter circus for the masses. Actually, maybe it’s not that far off from reality. Yikes.
Everything is bigger in Texas, as they say, and the Lone Star state definitely has an outsized role in American society and that includes the movies that are set in the state, as this list can attest to.