When you think of the state of Kentucky, you might think of bourbon; it’s estimated that there are more barrels of bourbon in the state than there are people. You might also associate horse racing with The Bluegrass State. Or maybe you’d go straight to chicken; the first Kentucky Fried Chicken was, in fact, opened right in Corbin in 1940.
What you might not associate with the 15th state might be its abundance of filming locations. However, for many movies, it’s these very things, like it being home to the largest cave system in the world, that make it attractive to filmmakers. Check out the below list of some of the most famous movies that came to the birthplace of Post-its.
Table of Contents
- Movies Filmed in the State of Kentucky
- Kentucky (1938)
- Next of Kin (1989)
- Fire Down Below (1997)
- Mom and Dad (2017)
- Seabiscuit (2003)
- The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
- 100 Proof (1997)
- Elizabethtown (2005)
- The Stand-In (2020)
- The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)
- Harlan County, USA (1976)
- Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
- Secretariat (2010)
- The Insider (1999)
- Fresh Horses (1988)
- Stripes (1981)
- In Country (1989)
Movies Filmed in the State of Kentucky
Jack and Sally (played by Richard Greene and Loretta Young) are a much more modern (and American) version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This Technicolor tale of star-crossed lovers took place in Kentucky and also had some scenes filmed in both Lexington and Louisville. Walter Brennan took home an Oscar that year for Best Supporting Actor.
Next of Kin (1989)
Starring Liam Neeson, Patrick Swayze, Helen Hunt, and Bill Paxton, this action thriller involved a man out to exact revenge for the death of one of his family members by dangerous Chicago mobsters. The movie’s setting goes back and forth from Kentucky to Chicago and so does the filming, which used areas of Perry County and Letcher County.
Fire Down Below (1997)
Action star Steven Seagal’s 10th movie, this one had him as an EPA agent working undercover to help locals combat the red tape of trying to stop toxic waste from being dumped into mines. The movie was shot all over Kentucky, including Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, and Great Salpetre Cave Preserve.
Mom and Dad (2017)
This comedy horror film about parents being overcome with the urge to murder their own children once they are exposed to a static starred Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair. Their victims AKA children were played by Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur. The movie was shot in Louisville, with no children harmed by their parents during its filming.
This movie was based upon Laura Hillenbrand’s 1999 best-selling book about the racehorse Seabiscuit, who despite a great deal of adversity and naysayers found huge success and notoriety in the 1930s, beating War Admiral at Pimlico. Shots were made at some of the most famous racing parks, including the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.
The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
Although Clarksville is not a real place in the state, this thriller was not only set in Kentucky, but it was also filmed there. Starring Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, and Samantha Mathis, the movie centers around a series of unsolved brutal murders ten years past; murders that a teenager suspects might have been committed by his father.
100 Proof (1997)
This independent film is based upon a true story about two drug-addicted prostitutes who murdered five people in Lexington in 1986. Among its cast was Jim Varney, best known for portraying Ernest in the movie franchise. The movie was shot locally in Kentucky in order to help keep it as authentic as possible and received much praise.
Cameron Crowe’s 8th film, this one starred Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Alec Baldwin, and Susan Sarandon. It is the story of a young man who faces a huge blunder at work, in his love life, and then his father dies and he must head back to his hometown. Oddly enough, while Elizabethtown does actually exist, the movie only did two scenes there.
The Stand-In (2020)
A common theme that runs rampant throughout the movie industry is two actors playing more than one role in a movie (Eddie Murphy is famous for this). In this comedy, Drew Barrymore plays Candy Black, a comedian that hires her stand-in to impersonate her (also Barrymore). The movie was filmed in Lexington and Versailles.
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)
A sequel to the very successful 2008 movie, this story takes the action from a couple’s home invasion to a family at a mobile park in Ohio. The three strangers reprised their roles as Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, and the Man in the Mask, with Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, and Bailee Madison added. The movie was filmed in Covington.
Harlan County, USA (1976)
It would be easy to guess from the title that this movie is set in Kentucky, but that doesn’t always mean that that is where a film is actually made. Except in this case. This documentary by Barbara Kopple detailed the 1973 Brookside Strike of coal miners for employee rights. It won an Oscar for Best Documentary.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
This musical biopic detailed the life of Loretta Lynn (played by Sissy Spacek), a famous country music singer who rose all the way to stardom from very poor roots. The film is based on the singer’s biography written by George Vecsey. The movie was set in Lynn’s hometown of Butcher Hollow and filmed all over the state.
Another movie with a horse in the lead role, this film detailed the life of Secretariat, the Thoroughbred who took the 1973 Triple Crown, for the first time in 25 years, and his owner Penny Chenery. It was based on a 1975 book by William Nack. The story was set in and had shots done in both Lexington and Louisville.
The Insider (1999)
Based on a 1996 60 Minutes segment, this drama about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand starred Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, and Christopher Plummer. It was nominated for seven academy awards, although won zero. Shots were done in Louisville. Although many parts of it were fictionalized for the screen, it is a true story.
Fresh Horses (1988)
It wasn’t just Pretty in Pink. Just two years later, Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald reunited as love interests from different sides of the tracks for this movie. The filming utilized both Cincinnati, Ohio and several locations in Kentucky counties, like Campbell, Boone, and Kenton. Other actors included Ben Stiller and Viggo Mortenson.
Bill Murray’s eighth movie, this war comedy about the ups and downs of basic training and the antics of combat for a platoon full of misfits was partly set in Louisville. Filmmakers used Fort Knox to create Fort Arnold. Other notable actors included Harold Ramis, John Candy, Sean Young, Judge Reinhold, and John Larroquette.
In Country (1989)
This Bruce Willis-led drama was set in Kentucky; however, for filming, “Hopewell” was actually Jackson Purchase. This drama about a young woman working with her uncle to discover information about her father and his mysterious past was based on a 1985 novel by Bobbie Ann Mason, who herself grew up right in Jackson Purchase.
Just some other interesting facts about Kentucky include the Kentucky Derby of course; it is the oldest continuously-running horse race (since 1875). It is also the birthplace of boxer Muhammad Ali and even President Lincoln. And we know about KFC, but it is also believed that the first-ever cheeseburger was served right in Louisville.
Not only does the 26th most-populated state hold the most gold in the world at Fort Knox (hence the “locked up like Fort Knox” phrase), but it has also had its fair share of famous movie scenes. Now whether or not that has a lot or only a little to do with it being the Horse Capital of the World is your guess.