Arkansas boasts a number of unique facts. Did you know the state considers itself the world capital of quartz, spinach, and folk music? Or that the state is the home to the only active diamond mine in the United States? With so many things to be proud of, Arkansas has an even bigger reason to brag: film production.
Arkansas offers a wide variety of scenery, from picturesque rural scenes to bustling metropolises. No wonder it is one of the most chosen locations to film movies. Beginning in 1926 with the filming of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to the iconic blockbuster, “Sling Blade”. The film, featuring and created by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton, received an Academy Award and set Arkansas as one of the top filming destinations in the United States.
With such an impressive filmography, the state has seen filming locations become tourist destinations as movie fans flock to where their favorite films were made. Locations from “Sling Blade”, such as Gary’s Whopper Burger, the family home, and the Arkansas Health Center, have become places remembered for their cinematic cameos.
Not only is the state the site of many major films, but also several television shows and made for TV movies. Most recently, Elizabethtown (2005) took to the state to finish up filming.
The “Natural State” also offers a wide variety of scenery, what with over 600,000 acres of lakes, and picturesque rural areas like the Coastal Plains and Highlands to bustling metropolises like Little Rock and Fayetteville.
Not to mention that the 25th state has some historic significance and connections, being as though it’s the birthplace of such important figures like musician Johnny Cash and former President Bill Clinton. It’s also the home headquarters for the retail giant, Walmart.
With all this and so much more, it’s no wonder that time and again Arkansas is chosen by filmmakers as a perfect location to shoot a variety of different types of movies and scenes.
For some flicks, it makes logical sense that they were shot in Arkansas, either because the storyline is set there at some point or because the story being told actually happened there. For these, you’d actually be more surprised to hear that they weren’t filmed in Arkansas.
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Sling Blade (1996)
1996’s Sling Blade was created by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton. Set in Arkansas and filmed in Benton, many of its locations, such as Gary’s Whopper Burger, the family home, and the Arkansas Health Center, have become tourist destination stops for photos.
Gone With The Wind (1939)
And Sling Blade isn’t the only movie with still-standing remnants from its filming days. Gone with the Wind fans can catch a view of the old mill featured in the film’s intro in North Little Rock. It is actually the only structure from the 1939 film that hasn’t been destroyed in the past 80 or so years.
Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976 & 2014)
It seems pretty logical that, if at all possible, a movie based on a true story was shot where it happened. Both versions of The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976 and 2014), based on the 1946 “Moonlight Murders” in Texarkana, were shot, for the most part, in Arkansas.
Texan-born and bred Matthew McConaughey starred as a fugitive on the run in the 2012 drama Mud, which was set in Arkansas. You’ll find scenes throughout that were shot in Dumas, Lake Village, De Witt, Crocketts Bluff, and Stuttgart.
Walk the Line (2005)
This autobiographical film depicting the music and romance of Johnny Cash and June Carter. The movie received five Oscar nominations with Reese Witherspoon actually taking the much-coveted statue home with her. Cash was raised in Arkansas, and there were scenes filmed in his real hometown of Dyess as well as Helena.
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Based upon a 1953 short story entitled “Your Arkansas Traveler”, Andy Griffith had his first movie role as Lonesome Rhodes in 1957’s A Face in the Crowd. Parts of the movie were set in northeast Arkansas. As for filming, that took place in several places across the United States, such New York, Memphis, and even Piggott.
Although we had our second dose of Borat and his wild antics, don’t forget about one of Sacha Baron Cohen’s other alter egos, Bruno, the homosexual Austrian fashion journalist. The 2009 movie shot a few scenes in Arkansas, the most famously talked about at a bar in Fort Smith where a real-life riot started.
Come Early Morning (2006)
Ashley Judd starred in this film that had scenes filmed in Little Rock, Pulaski Heights, and North Little Rock. Like Billy Bob Thornton, actress-turned-director Joey Lauren Adams, best known for her roles in many of Kevin Smith’s productions, grew up in Arkansas.
The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)
Any movie about the legendary “Fouke Monster” should be filmed in Arkansas, of course. This horror docudrama about the famed creature who has been terrorizing residents in Arkansas all the way back to the 1940s is no exception to this rule. A remastered version of the movie was actually just released in 2019.
And then there are some films that you might be surprised to learn had scenes from Arkansas. Whether they were set somewhere else or the filmmakers did a thorough job masking Arkansas, some of these might be a bit surprising to learn about.
The Firm (1993)
Based upon the 1991 John Grisham book, this movie starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman remains, to date, to be the highest-grossing Grisham book film adaptation. While the film and book are set in Tennessee, some scenes were shot in Marion. Grisham is actually an Arkansan himself, hailing from Jonesboro.
Biloxi Blues (1988)
When this movie hit the box office, Matthew Broderick was still relatively new to Hollywood, as this was only his eighth movie (he’s passed 50 now). The comedy-drama from Neil Simon about coming of age during basic training was set in Biloxi, but the entire movie was actually filmed in Van Buren, Fort Smith, Barling, and Fort Chaffee.
Great Balls of Fire (1989)
Starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder, this movie retells the rise and fall of entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis, who up until his controversial marriage in 1958 was poised to overtake even Elvis Presley’s notoriety. Scenes were shot in both Marion and West Memphis, although the story was set elsewhere in the south.
With such an awesome history and so much to offer filmmakers, Arkansas will continue to be one of the top filming destinations in the United States.