Movies about The South have always fascinated me, even though I’m a Brit. I love the accents and the atmosphere and in so many movies about The South, women play really key and strong roles. With themes from the days of slavery to civil rights, from female rights of passage to rednecks and rubes, from fire and brimstone preachers, to just good old storytelling, it’s surprising that movies about The South aren’t a genre all of their own. Here are 8 Marvelous Movies about The South:
Table of contents:
- gone with the wind
- the help
- driving miss daisy
- mississippi burning
- steel magnolias
- to kill a mockingbird
- oh brother, where art thou?
- fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop café
1 Gone with the Wind
Let’s start with the daddy of all movies set in The South. Intertwining war and romance, Gone with the Wind is essentially about the life and loves of proud, spoiled Scarlett O’Hara. In fact, this little madam has such a self-centered ego, there’s really only room for one love in her life – herself. Deluded in her love for drippy Ashley Wilkes, it takes Rhett Butler to temporarily tame her. Magnificently set against the backdrop of the Civil War, this is one of the greatest movies of all time.
2 The Help
This is one migh’tee fyne movie about The South and was one of last year’s big box office hit, including a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for Octavia Spencer. A socialite aspiring novelist captures the Civil Rights Movement from the view of African-American maids, and their thoughts and feelings on and about the white families they work for. With the turmoil of the fight for rights in the background, this is an inspiring story of how unlikely friendships are formed, and how they stand the test of opposition and unconventionality.
3 Driving Miss Daisy
This is such a lovely, gentle film. It’s the story of still-feisty but old Jewish Widow, Ms. Daisy Werthan who has to employ an African-American driver in the 1950s. The story spans 20 years during which their relationship grows to one of grudging reluctance to a friendship that transcends their differences. Jessica Tandy was 81 years old when this role won her the best actress Oscar (her fellow star, Morgan Freeman was 30 years her junior). The film also won Best Picture Oscar in 1990.
4 Mississippi Burning
Many of the plots and stories in movies about The South are highly emotive, especially those concentrating on the Civil Rights Movement. In Mississippi Burning we get the old routine of the battle-torn war horse (Gene Hackman a former small town sheriff) partnered with the new kid on the block (Willem Dafoe as a forward-thinking agent), as FBI detailed to investigate the disappearance of some civil right activists. Loosely based on a true story, the movie tells the story of hate and how it breeds, and how it manifests itself. If you only watch one movie to understand The South during this pivotal period of US history, make it this one.
5 Steel Magnolias
Ok, time to lighten the mood –well nearly almost. This is one of my most favorite movies ever. If you like stories about strong women, like to share their tears and laughter, their triumphs and tribulations, join a stellar ensemble cast in Steel Magnolias as they portray love, illness, money, hardship, failed marriages, new marriages, and death and birth. There’s a mass of different emotions on display in this movie about The South, and you can feel each and every one. It’s little wonder the tagline was ‘the saddest movie ever to make you laugh’.
6 To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee may only ever have written one book, but boy was it a special one! Don’t be put off by the film of Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic being in black and white (so is Schindler’s List and you’ve watched that one, yes?). The film is set in a racially divided Alabama town with the central plot of a trial of an African American accused of raping a white woman. Gregory Peck won Best Actor Oscar for his role as white defense lawyer Atticus Finch. Marvelous stuff!
7 Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
Only the surreally unconfined minds of the Coen Brothers could dream up a movie about The South based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Three escaped chain-gang convicts set off on a journey to recover their buried loot across 1930s Mississippi. En route they meet a weird and wonderful cast of characters that parody those met by Odysseus in the great Greek myth, although I’m not sure he ever came face to face with anything like the Klu Klux Klan.
8 Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
One of the movies set in The South probably most appreciated by us girls rather than our men. You have to concentrate for this one. Fannie Flagg’s novel, excellently reconstructed in the film, wove a complex plot of stories within a story, each integral to how the friendship between the two main protagonists develops and how lessons in assertiveness are delivered and learned. Wonderfully likeable characters make this very watchable.
There are plenty more movies about The South that could have made this list, but time and space are limited! I’m sure you have your favorites.
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