Although the “Heart of Dixie” state is over 2000 miles away from Hollywood, and what feels like one million miles away when it comes to the types of worlds the states exist in, there are quite a few reasons why many movies, whether it’s in part or as a whole, have been shot in the state known for its Southern hospitality.
Alabama was the site for various important moments in history, many of them tying into the Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1968, such the Rosa Parks Museum and Martin Luther King Jr.’s church. The first rocket to go to the moon was built in Huntsville and the first electronic trolley system ran in Montgomery in 1886.
And contrary to what you might think, it was actually Mobile, Alabama that first brought Mardi Gras to the United States, not New Orleans. And the Yellowhammer State only needs its own natural resources to produce iron and steel.
Not only are there beneficial incentives offered for movie studios to come into Alabama, but the twenty-fourth most populous state really has it all, from open beaches to bustling cities; chances are, if you are searching for a certain “look” for a shot, there’s a spot in Alabama that has it!
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Movies Filmed in Alabama
This is why, for some movies, it’s rather obvious or expected that there were scenes filmed there, such as 2014’s historical drama, Selma, which focuses on the voting rights marches along the 54-mile route from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
Into the Ashes (2019)
Or 2019’s, Into the Ashes, the modern-day Western noir revenge drama starring Luke Grimes. The story was set and also shot in the Cotton State.
Big Fish (2003)
The fantasy drama from Tim Burton, 2003’s Big Fish starring Ewan McGregor, was based upon a novel of the same name written in 1998. While the book takes place in a fictional Alabama town (Spectre), the actual filming took place in Millbrook. Visitors can actually even visit the sets, as they were not taken down after filming.
2015’s Woodlawn retells the true story of former NFL player and University of Alabama alum, Tony Nathan, and the 1973 desegregation of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. Several of the filming locations were in and around Birmingham, such as “The Football Capital of the South”, none other than Legion Field in Birmingham.
Titled as a tribute to the player’s retired jersey number, 42 is a biographical film about the first African-American MLB member, Jackie Robinson, who started as first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. It stars the late Chadwick Boseman and had parts that were shot at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham.
Body Snatchers (1996)
Not the 1956 version. Or the 1978 remake. It’s the 1993 version of Body Snatchers, based in part on the 1955 Jack Finney novel that was filmed (and set) in Alabama. However, filming in Alabama does deviate from both movies and the novel, which were all set in California.
Then there are the films that you may have thought were shot elsewhere based on their setting. You would think that a movie whose title is a state name would be filmed there. For example, you’d think that Liam Hemsworth’s 2020 neo-noir crime thriller Arkansas was filmed there but you’d very be wrong. The movie was actually filmed in Alabama!
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Same goes for Steven Spielberg’s 1977 science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind; although it is set mostly in Muncie, Indiana, a great deal of the filming, including Roy Neary’s (played by Richard Dreyfuss) home, was right in Alabama.
The Witches (1983)
Roald Dahl’s 1983 timeless classic, The Witches, was first put brought to the screen in 1990 with Anjelica Huston at the helm. In 2020, it was remade and released on HBO Max, this time with Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch. While a great deal of the movie was filmed across the pond in the UK, there were also locations within Alabama.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, 2017’s horror flick Get Out, while set in Upstate New York, actually filmed in Fairhope and Mobile. Either way, probably not a place that anyone would want to ever find themselves in real life. The movie ranked number 10 in the highest-grossing movies for that year and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Friday The 13th: The New Blood (1988)
And don’t be fooled by 1988’s seventh installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, The New Blood. When the young girl accidentally brings Jason back from his watery grave down in Camp Crystal Lake, you aren’t looking at New Jersey; it’s actually Byrnes Lake in Washington County!
The Flying Nun (1979)
The 1979 inspiring story of Norma Rae Webster trying to unionize workers at her textile factory due to unsafe working conditions was named after her and starred “America’s sweetheart” Sally Field. While the original story took place in North Carolina, almost the entire movie was filmed in Opelika. The Flying Nun actress won her first Oscar for Best Actress for this role.
Then there are other movies whose actual setting remained a mystery, so it didn’t really matter where it was filmed. Oculus, the 2014 horror movie about a possessed antique mirror (the Lasser Glass) believed to have been the cause for the death of a pair of sibling’s parents, came out of Fairhope.
Need for Speed (2014)
Released in 2014, the Aaron Paul-led action thriller Need for Speed, based on the bestselling video games first launched in 1994 by Electronic Arts, was filmed all over the state of Georgia, but some scenes were also shot over in Phenix City.
While the list of films with locations in Alabama is not quite as long as some other states like California, New York, and Georgia, there are probably a lot more movies on this list than you’d imagine and a couple of surprises!