When it comes to weather, well, Kansas can be pretty interesting. The average wind speed in Dodge City is 14mph, making it the actual Windy City, not Chicago. Even its name, said to come from the Kansa tribe means “people of the (South) wind”. Which makes sense, considering the first EF5 tornado occurred in Greensburg in 2007.
Kansas is also an integral part of American history; in fact, more people died in the Wheat State during the Civil War than any other. And Abilene is the birthplace of our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The state’s song is even a homage to the American West: “Home on the Range”, which actually dates all the back to 1872.
For these reasons and more, Kansas is sometimes chosen as the perfect spot to either stand-in as somewhere else or be the central setting in movies. Check out the below list of some of the most famous movies filmed here.
Table of Contents
- Movies Filmed on Location in Kansas
- Terms of Endearment (1983)
- Mars Attacks! (1996)
- The House on Pine Street (2015)
- Friday Night Lights (2004)
- Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991)
- Darkness (1993)
- Picnic (1955)
- In Cold Blood (1967)
- King Kong Fu (1976)
- Americana (1983)
- No Holds Barred (1989)
- Kansas City (1996)
- Dances with Wolves (1990)
- Paper Moon (1973)
- American Flyers (1985)
- The Gypsy Moths (1969)
- Critters (1986)
Movies Filmed on Location in Kansas
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Although a majority of this tearjerker spanning thirty years of a relationship between a mother and daughter was filmed in Texas, there were a few scenes done in Nebraska as well as Junction City, Kansas. The story was based on a 1975 novel by Larry McMurtry, starred Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, and won five Oscars that year.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Tim Burton’s seventh movie, this sci-fi comedy about a Martian invasion starred Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close, amongst many other A-list actors, including Sylvia Sidney in her final film role. Its filming locations included several US states, including Wichita, El Dorado, and Leon in Kansas, as well in South America in Argentina.
The House on Pine Street (2015)
Made possible by a Kickstarter campaign, this indie horror film was both set in Kansas and partially filmed there so that the movie could remain as true as possible. Trying to cope with an unwanted pregnancy, marriage issues, and a bossy mother is enough; add in a haunted house and you’ve really got something going on.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Before it was a five-season TV show hit on the small screen, it was shown on the big screen. This sports drama about the 1988 Permian High School Panthers season was mostly shot in Texas (and also set there), but several scenes were done in Manhattan, Taylor, and Elgin. It starred Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Britton, and Lucas Black.
Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991)
The first movie made from Patricia MacLachlan’s 1986 novel starred Christopher Walken and Glenn Close, and was broadcast on TV as part of Hallmark’s Hall of Fame movie series. While some shots were filmed in Nebraska and Maine (where Sarah hails from), the majority was filmed in Wichita and Melvern, matching the story’s Kansas setting.
Not only was this vampire movie created by Wichita resident Leif Jonker, but it was also set and filmed there. Darkness tells the story of a vampire hunter seeking justice for his friends. While its presence is largely unknown throughout mainstream channels, diehard horror fans hail it, due to its over-the-top special effects and gory scenes.
William Inge’s 1953 play took place on Labor Day in Kansas, so it was only natural for the film to not only take place there but also to be shot there as well. Locations were done in Hutchinson for the most part, with other shots in Nickerson, Salina, and Sterling. The movie starred William Holden and Kim Novak and won two Oscars.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Director (and writer and producer) Richard Brooks remained as true as he could to the real events and murders that took place at the Clutter family farm in 1959 (and Truman Capote’s 1966 novel). The film was shot in Kansas, with several scenes in this neo-noir crime movie done at the actual places that they occurred in Garden City and Holcomb.
King Kong Fu (1976)
You might have guessed this based on the title, but if not, this spoof pokes fun at both the fictional monster King Kong and the real Chinese martial art of Kung Fu. Jungle Jumper, a talking gorilla who also knows karate, is sent from China to the US, where he lands in Wichita, and also some hot water. The entire film was done in Wichita.
This drama about a Vietnam War vet trying to find his new place in the world had David Carradine (of the 70s TV series, Kung Fu) as the star, producer, editor, director, and even main financial backer. The film is loosely based on a 1947 novel, the Perfect Round, by Henry Morton Robinson. The story took place in Drury and was also shot there.
No Holds Barred (1989)
With Hulk Hogan in his first movie role, this action film is owned by the WWE. Rip Thomas (Hogan) is a popular professional wrestling champion who goes up against the owner of the TV network that his matches appear on. The film also starred Tiny Lister, among other big names, and had shots filmed in Topeka, the state’s capital.
Kansas City (1996)
Kansas City can be confusing for anyone, being as though there is one in Kansas, but also one in Missouri. The good news is, for this crime flick, both cities were used as filming locations (although the film was set in Missouri). Directed by Robert Altman, the 1930s-era film starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, and Steve Buscemi.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
With Kevin Costner in front of the screen and also behind it as director and producer, this epic Western about an Army lieutenant and his experiences with a Native American tribe in the mid-1800s was filmed, for the most part, in South Dakota and Wyoming. However, Fort Hays was also used for a few scenes. The film made $424.2 million.
Paper Moon (1973)
Con man Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal) has his life and livelihood forever changed by Addie Loggins (Ryan’s real daughter Tatum), a young orphaned girl who becomes an integral part of his schemes, and a pretty good con-woman herself. The movie was set in Kansas and Missouri with KS locations in Hays, McCracken, Gorham, White Cloud, and Wilson.
American Flyers (1985)
Another Kevin Costner film, though this one he only starred in, this sports movie is about two brothers who, facing potential health scares, embark on Colorado’s grueling and challenging “Hell of the West” bicycle race. Although set in Missouri, both McPherson and Lindsborg were used as filming locations. David Marshall Grant co-starred.
The Gypsy Moths (1969)
This movie about stunt skydivers was based on a 1955 novel by James Drought. It reunited actors Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr who had previously worked together on From Here to Eternity (1953) and Separate Tables (1958). The movie was set in Kansas and had filming done in Benton. Co-stars included Gene Hackman and Scott Wilson.
Fresh off the heels of the success of 1984’s Gremlins, this sci-fi/comedy/horror flick involved another set of furry creatures, these ones from space, bent on taking over the world. Like Gremlins, the film did well, making $13.6 million and spawning several sequels. The film took place in Kansas and had several shots done there as well.
The Sunflower State ranks somewhere in the middle for both population (35th with just under 3 million people), and admission to the Union (34th). But its unique topography (the state is so very flat, it is often referred to as a pancake), weather patterns, and overall geography make it a viable option for filming many unique movies and scenes.