Alabama boasts a vibrant film history, featuring iconic movies that have left an indelible mark in the industry. From timeless classics such as “Forrest Gump” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which made history by winning Oscars, to beloved cult favorites like “Hooper” and “Talladega Nights,” Alabama has played a significant role in shaping the world of cinema.
Every movie has its own charm, but some become classics that stand the test of time. However, not all movies are appreciated equally by everyone. People have different tastes, and sometimes audience scores don’t align with the opinions of movie critics. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference and the eye of the beholder.
As you may have heard of the well-known films associated with Alabama such as “Fried Green Tomatoes”, “Norma Rae” and “Selma”, we would like to take you on a journey to discover more movies that were filmed in or near our beloved state. Let’s explore some of the lesser-known titles that may surprise you.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Borat Sagdiyev, the fictional character played by Sacha Baron Cohen in his mockumentary series, embarked on a quest to learn about the “greatest country in the world,” the United States of America. In his journey, Borat made a stop in Alabama, where he consulted an etiquette coach for advice. The coach recommended that Borat attend a private dinner club gathering to improve his social skills. The movie was a massive success and helped Cohen to become an A-list celebrity. He won a Golden Globe award for the best actor in a comedy and also got an Oscar nomination for co-writing the script. A sequel, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” was released in 2020, which continued to entertain audiences with its outrageous humor.
Cobb’s Study from 1994
Ron Shelton, the writer and director of “Bull Durham,” crafted another gem of a biopic that is often overlooked. The movie follows a reporter played by Robert Wuhl, who is hired to write Ty Cobb’s official biography, portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones. As the reporter delves deeper into Cobb’s life, he discovers the darker side of the baseball legend. The film is a classic example of the adage “you should never meet your heroes.” Jones delivers a wild performance, showcasing his acting prowess and cementing his place as one of the greatest actors of all time, just after his Oscar win for “The Fugitive.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the movie is the recreation of the period baseball sequences, which were filmed at the historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham. Rickwood Field played the role of Philadelphia’s Shibe Park and Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field in the movie. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by the legendary Jimmy Buffett, who appears as a heckler. “Cobb” is a must-watch for anyone who loves baseball or is interested in the lives of sports legends.
Get Out (2017) – A Thrilling Horror Film
Jordan Peele’s award-winning film debut, “Get Out,” continues to be as relevant today as it was when it first hit theaters in 2017. The movie, which tells the story of a weekend getaway that takes a sinister turn when a man visits his white girlfriend’s cursed family estate, was partially filmed in Fairhope. Daniel Kaluuya (“Sicario”) stars in the lead role, and the film earned several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, director, and actor, ultimately winning the award for Best Original Screenplay. Allison Williams, one of the movie’s stars, even fell in love with Fairhope while filming and shared a photo on Instagram during production.
According to a feature in New York Magazine, Jordan Peele, Daniel Kaluuya, and Allison Williams, among others, took time to reflect on their experiences while filming in Alabama. Peele discussed his assumptions about the area and how they quickly proved to be untrue. He admitted to arriving with his own stereotypes and preconceived notions about being chased out of the state. He added, “There’s definitely a feeling that you’re in Trump country. But I have to say, the stereotypes were proved wrong. People were very sweet, and very open, and there were a lot of film lovers there who were very intelligent. Ultimately, I loved Alabama.” During production, some of the cast members stayed at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa, while others spent time in a house rented by Williams. She believed that staying together helped to create a bond within the team that may not have existed had they stayed in Los Angeles.
The Green Berets (1968) – A Retrospective Look
John Wayne may not have physically set foot in Alabama, but the state still felt his presence during the filming of “The Green Berets” in 1968. Although the movie was set at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, it was actually filmed at Fort Benning in Georgia, which is located right on the Alabama border. The film was released during the height of the Vietnam War and coincided with the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam. Wayne not only starred in the film but also co-directed it with Ray Kellogg. The production received full military cooperation from President Lyndon B. Johnson and the U.S. Department of Defense.
In the movie, Wayne portrays the character of Col. Mike Kirby, who forms two teams of skilled Green Berets for a critical mission in South Vietnam. The first task is to construct and control a camp that is under threat from the enemy, while the second is to capture a North Vietnamese General. The cast includes talented actors such as Jim Hutton, David Janssen, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, and George Takei. During the filming, Birmingham News staff photographer Tom Self was granted exclusive access to the set at Fort Benning, where he captured several captivating black-and-white photos of Wayne in action.
Mississippi Burning from 1988
In 1964, the disappearance of some civil rights activists prompted two FBI agents (Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe) with contrasting styles to head to Mississippi for an investigation. However, they are met with hostility and resistance from the locals, law enforcement, and the Ku Klux Klan. The movie garnered seven Oscar nominations, including best picture, director, actor, and supporting actress (Frances McDormand). Filmed in various Mississippi towns like Jackson and Vaiden, the production later moved to Lafayette, Alabama, where it stood in for the fictional Jessup County area. Although criticized for its fictionalization of history and the involvement of Black activists in the Civil Rights Movement, the film’s unflinching portrayal of the South’s violent past is a refreshing departure from other more sentimentalized depictions of the era.
Stone Cold Movie (1991)
Brian Bosworth, also known as “the Boz,” shifted his focus from football to acting after his NFL career came to an early end. He made his debut in the film world by playing the role of Joe Huff, a tough police officer from Alabama who is coerced by the FBI into infiltrating a violent biker gang in Mississippi. Most of the movie was shot on the Gulf Coast, with several scenes filmed in Mobile, Jackson, and Little Rock. Despite receiving negative reviews and performing poorly at the box office, “Stone Cold” earned Bosworth a Razzie award for Worst New Star. Nevertheless, he continued to pursue acting for the next 30 years, taking on roles in movies such as “Three Kings,” “The Longest Yard,” and “What Men Want.” Currently, the only platform to stream “Stone Cold” is Pluto TV via Rifftrax.
Sword of Trust: A 2019 Comedy Film
Marc Maron, the renowned stand-up comedian and host of the “WTF Podcast,” starred in an independent film that was set and filmed in Alabama. During an interview with AL.com, the New Jersey native revealed that the 12-day shoot gave him more time to explore the Birmingham area, its people, and an unfamiliar state. The movie, directed by the late Lynn Shelton, who was also Maron’s partner, tells the story of two women who arrive to claim one’s inheritance from her late grandfather. However, all she receives is an antique sword that her grandfather believed was evidence that the South won the Civil War. Maron portrays the owner of a pawn shop. The film was shot in Birmingham and Argo within a tight schedule of only 12 days.
Tom and Huck (1995)
In the movie, two popular tween actors, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro, portray best friends who witness a murder. They embark on a series of adventures to prove the innocence of the man wrongly accused of the crime. This Disney adaptation of Mark Twain’s characters, while not considered a classic, captured the stars at a crucial point in their careers. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was trying to pivot from his successful run on “Home Improvement” to a movie career, and Brad Renfro was riding high on the success of his big debut in “The Client.” The film was shot in various cities in northern Alabama, including Decatur, Huntsville, and Mooresville. You can stream this movie on Disney+.
A Look at Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Before winning an Academy Award for his iconic role as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Gregory Peck starred as General Savage in a Darryl F. Zanuck production directed by Henry King. In this film, General Savage takes over a B-17 bomber unit that is suffering from low morale and whips them into fighting shape. The technical advisor of the film, Col. John De Russy, suggested Ozark Army Air Field near Daleville (now Cairns Army Airfield) in Dale County as the ideal location to film B-17 takeoffs and landings. It is worth noting that this film was made more than a decade before Peck’s Oscar-winning performance in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Under Siege (1992)
The best movie starring Steven Seagal? Casey Ryback, an ex-Navy Seal turned cook, is the only person who can stop a group of terrorists (headed by Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey) from seizing control of a US battleship. It’s from Andrew Davis, the director of “The Fugitive,” so you know it’s good. (We can confirm this.) While the action takes place on the battleship USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, it was actually shot on the USS Alabama in Mobile. The USS Drum, a museum ship in Mobile, served as a stand-in for a North Korean submarine. While Seagal’s lifetime batting average isn’t the best, Alabama may safely claim his best work. (Fun fact: Harrison Ford saw “Under Siege,” which influenced him to choose Davis to direct “The Fugitive.” So no Alabama, no “Fugitive,” you guys.)