When you think of movies and films, you tend to think of LA or NYC as being the hubs of cinema. But what about Houston? Regardless of what Hollywood may predispose you to believe, Houston does have a lure that famous filmmakers have been attracted to for the past 60 years. So, let’s take a look at some of the movies filmed in Houston over the years.
Read also: Best Movie Theaters in Houston, TX
MOVIES FILMED IN HOUSTON: FEATURE ROLES
These movies are all set in Houston! What?! You mean that there are actual movies that acknowledge there are more cities in the US than NYC and LA? Houston in cinema happens more than you think, and these are all movies where Houston plays a feature role.
1. Urban Cowboy (1980)
Oh, right. If it’s set in Houston, there has to be a cowboy. This movie is filmed in Houston where countryman Bud, played by John Travolta, falls for Sissy, played by Debra Winger. (You’ll be seeing her name some more.) While the Gilley’s Club in Pasadena burned down in a fire, you can still visit 1885 St. James Place, Houston, Texas, another filming location for the movie.
2. Boyhood (2014)
Written and directed by a Houston-born filmmaker, Richard Linklater, Boyhood is the intensely ambitious twelve-year project that was nominated for six Academy Awards. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, the film follows Mason Evans Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, through his well, boyhood in Houston, San Marcos, Austin, Alpine, and other Texas cities. Some notable Houston spots included in the movie are the University of Houston, the Museum of Natural Science, and Minute Maid Park.
3. Reality Bites (1994)
Directed by Ben Stiller and written by Houstonian Helen Childress, Lelaina, played by Winona Ryder, films a documentary of her post-grad friends as they try to establish themselves in the “reality” whether that be with their relationships or jobs in Houston.
Ethan Hawke shows up again in a Houston-based film. The movie has scenes filmed mostly in Houston-The Heights, Tranquility Park, and even Lelaina and Vickie’s apartment (409 West Clay Street, Houston, Texas).
4 & 5. Terms of Endearment (1982) and The Evening Star (1996) (Sequel)
Terms of Endearment has it all: An Academy Award for Best Picture, Shirley MacLaine, and Houston! You can see some of the Heights, River Oaks, and the old Brennan’s Restaurant in one sitting. Also, Debra Winger is in another movie filmed in Houston! Good for Debra!
In the film’s sequel, The Evening Star, the filming takes place at Rice University and elsewhere in Houston.
6. Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)
This drama based on the true story of Chinese foreign exchange dancer, Li Cunxin, takes place in Houston as he progresses in his dance career and love. Some notable Houston spots you’ll be sure to recognize are the Galleria, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Wortham, and the China Garden Restaurant.
Check out: Houston Rooftop Cinema for A Great Movie Time
7. Paris, Texas (1984)
A beloved Criterion film, there are several scenes in this movie filmed in Houston, featuring the Doubletree Hotel Downtown, JP Morgan Chase Bank, and many Houston interstates.
8. Brewster McCloud (1970)
Sure to provoke massive doses of nostalgia, Brewster McCloud is the first feature film to have been filmed in the Astrodome. The premiere also took place in the Astrodome. This movie is so substantial to Texas film that after its release, the Texas Film Commission was created.
9. Sidekicks (1992)
Barry Gabrewski, a Houstonian boy, dreams of being Chuck Norris’ partner in crime (relatable) and ultimately meets Chuck Norris (not so relatable). You’ll be sure to recognize these Houston sites (relatable!) that are featured in the movie: Lamar High school, Tranquility Park, Allen’s Landing, and the Wortham Theater Center.
10. The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)
Ryan O’Neal plays a computer programmer turned jewel thief right here in Houston, Texas! Bud Yorkin directed the 1973 comedy film The Thief Who Came to Dinner.
The film is based on Terrence Lore Smith’s novel, which stars Ryan O’Neal, Jacqueline Bisset, Charles Cioffi, Warren Oates, and Jill Clayburgh. A computer analyst and a wealthy socialite join forces to become jewel thieves and take on Houston’s high society. This movie is filmed in Houston, Texas.
11. Rushmore (1998)
Another Criterion film, Houstonian Wes Anderson directs and Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray stars. You can see Anderson’s alma mater, St. John’s and Lamar High School. The party scene takes place at the Forest Club. Houston native Alexis Bledel is even an extra in this film.
All the Astronaut Movies:
12. Apollo 13 (1995) – Watch Trailer
13. Armageddon (1998) – Watch Trailer
14. Space Cowboys (2000) – Watch Trailer
15. The Martian (2015) – Watch Trailer
If these space movies didn’t mention Houston, then we’d have a problem. All of these films have scenes that were filmed in Houston at the Johnson Space Center.
16. The Houston Story (1956)
After years of toiling in Galveston, Texas‘ oil fields, Frank Duncan, a cunning and ambitious oil driller, devises a scheme to steal millions of dollars in crude oil.
Houston, Texas, was a thriving city in the 1950s, and those who are familiar with the area will appreciate The Houston Story and its gorgeous location shots made on downtown streets and in Hermann Park.
The film also captures such then-new improvements to the landscape as the Houston International Airport and the Gulf Freeway, which connects Houston and Galveston.
17. Independence Day (1996)
Almost everyone has seen this movie, which stars Will Smith and Bill Pullman as they fight to save Earth from an alien invasion. Even more notable is the scene in which a nuclear missile largely destroys Houston.
If you haven’t watched this film yet, add it to your list of must-sees. You’ll be holding your seat as you watch Will Smith pull off the ideal blend of heroics and sass.
18. The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training
The Bears are given the opportunity to participate in a Junior League match at the Houston Astrodome, but Kelly must first persuade his estranged father to become their new coach. Timmy, on the other hand, is dealing with a fractured leg.
Several scenes in this sequel to the classic Bad News Bears were shot in and around town, particularly at the Lancaster Hotel. Astros pitcher Bob Watson also made an appearance in the film.
19. Together Brothers (1974)
This film will transport you back to Galveston in the 1970s. It tells the story of a young boy who witnesses the murder of a Black police officer.
The boy’s older brother, the head of a gang of Black and Latino youngsters, is then tasked with protecting him from the killers. If that isn’t enough to grab your curiosity, the film’s score was composed by none other than Barry White
20. Powder (1995)
This stunning movie, filmed in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, was regarded as “one of the best films of the year” in 1995. One of the film’s main components depicts society’s ability for cruelty, as evidenced by a young man’s extraordinary talents.
Other notable filming locations include Prairie View A&M University and the White House in Montgomery, Texas.
21. Night Game (1989)
In this crime thriller, Roy Scheider plays a former minor league baseball player turned Galveston homicide investigator tasked with solving a string of killings involving the Houston Astros.
Most of the film was shot in Houston and Galveston.
22. Jason’s Lyric (1994)
This urban love story takes place in Houston’s Third Ward. Allen Payne, the star of House of Payne, plays a young man who falls in love with a young lady (Jada Pinkett Smith).
But his traumatic past and his self-destructive brother (Bokeem Woodbine) prohibit him from fully immersing himself in happy love.
23. Selena (1997)
We are still mourning the death of Tejano music superstar Selena. The biographical film follows the Texas-born singer, with Jennifer Lopez as Selena performing to a sold-out crowd of 65,000 at the Houston Astrodome in the opening scene.
Selena is a real tragedy, having died at the hands of her fan club president aged 23yrs. Nevertheless, she will be honored in film and Texas music history
Can’t get enough of Houston-based films?
(24) Try I Come in Peace (1990) (trailer)
(25) Dance With Me (1998) (trailer)
(26) 6 Years (2015) (trailer) to get your fill
MOVIES FILMED IN HOUSTON: SUPPORTING ROLES
These movies only have brief scenes featuring Houston. Fame is such a fleeting concept.
27. Pearl Harbor (2001)
Ben Affleck and Michael Bays can’t seem to get enough of Houston, as this movie features the San Jacinto Battlefield State Memorial Site.
“Pearl Harbor” is a two-hour film crammed into three hours about how the Japanese mounted a surprise attack on an American love triangle on December 7, 1941. Its focus is 40 minutes of repetitive special effects, surrounded by a stunningly dull love story. The picture was directed with little grace, vision, or creativity, and while you may leave quoting pieces of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them.
28. Transformers: Dark of The Moon (2011)
This Michael Bay flick, while filmed in Houston did have scenes shot at the Johnson Space Center.
This is an American science fiction action film based on Hasbro’s Transformers toy brand. The film is the third episode in the Transformers film series and the sequel to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). When Optimus Prime discovers a downed Transformers ship on the moon, he launches a rescue attempt to save the pilot who was left behind: his mentor, Sentinel Prime.
Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Josh Duhamel star in the film. Though not set in Houston, it did have scenes shot at the Johnson Space Center.
29. LOGAN’S RUN
Michael Anderson directed this 1976 science fiction picture based on the novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov star in the film.
The film depicts a future society in which everyone is young and healthy, no one needs to work, and people look forward to the opportunity for “renewal” (presumably some sort of rebirth or reincarnation) by undergoing the “Carrousel” rite at the age of 30, a privilege granted to those who have faithfully obeyed the rules.
It included scenes shot in Houston, especially at the Hyatt Regency, which opened in 1972.
MOVIES FILMED IN HOUSTON: CAMEO’S
These movies don’t pass the cut of being set in Houston, but they do have scenes shot in Houston. Whether we will forgive them for passing Houston off as Detroit or Virginia, Houstonians are unsure. Here are some movies where Houston plays a cameo role, portraying cities other than itself.
30. Tree of Life (2011)
This Terrence Malick movie with Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and Brad Pitt is set in Waco, Texas- but still filmed in Houston. Some of the cut scenes even included clips at Houston’s Zoo and Museum of Fine Arts.
31. RoboCop 2 (1990)
In RoboCop 2, Houston is the key location for filming, while masquerading as Detroit. You can see The Wortham and many Houston streets in this blockbuster, or should I say “Detroit”?
RoboCop 2 was released in 1990 as a sequel to the 1987 film RoboCop. RoboCop 2 is directed by Irvin Kershner of The Empire Strikes Back, places the cyborg in an even more brutal world as OCP begins its aggressive takeover for the creation of Delta City, and there is a new narcotic designer drug called “Nuke,” marketed by a man named Cain.
32. Arlington Road (1999)
In this Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins movie, Houston shot footage is disguised as Reston, Virginia.
Arlington Road, another film with a story set in a different state, was primarily shot in Houston. This film chronicles the epic confrontation between neighbors Tim Robbins and Jeff Bridges, which takes place across the Pearland suburb of Houston and on site at the University of Houston. In this movie, Houston shot footage is disguised as Reston, Virginia.
33. The Chase (1994)
Charlie Sheen stars as an innocent man on the run who ends up taking Kristy Swanson hostage. The movie mostly takes place inside Swanson’s character’s BMW, but you might recognize the Hardy Toll Road, Highway 290, and Rice Village from all that sitting in Houston traffic.
MOVIES FILMED IN HOUSTON: BIOGRAPHICAL ROLES
These movies take a little bit of Houston with them, as they have characters who are based on Houstonians!
34. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
This musical with Dolly Parton couldn’t get any better until you realize the reporter in the movie played by Dom DeLuise is based on Houston reporter, Marvin Zindler.
35. The Aviator (2004)
There’s a reason you thought Leonardo DiCaprio deserved an Oscar before the Revenant! It’s because he portrayed the eccentric and impressive Houstonian billionaire, Howard Hughes.
36. Puncture (2011)
Chris Evans stars as Michael David Weiss, a native Houston lawyer who battled drug addiction while defending a nurse who succumbed to a contaminated needle.
An unintentional needle puncture is one of the greatest health dangers for medical personnel. If the needle has just been used on a patient with AIDS or another disease, the caregiver risks infection. As an initial ER scene in “Puncture” portrays, such an accident is not unusual if a patient thrashes in a seizure.
“Puncture” dramatizes this problem with its based-on-life narrative about two low-rent Houston lawyers who embark on the personal injury lawsuit of Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a nurse who develops AIDS after an accidental stick.
37. Murder in Texas (1981)
This Made-for-TV movie centers around the real River Oaks murder drama of the Hill family. Farrah Fawcett stars as Joan Robinson Hill, who mysteriously gets sick and then dies in a matter of days. Is her husband to blame? Find out in this twisted story of high society.
38. Jack Frost, 1997
This film combines holiday happiness with gore. It’s about a murderous snowman, and it’s cheesy as hell, but it’s worth seeing if you like schlocky horror movies. Shannon is from Houston. Sure, Elizabeth has been in better films, but with this phrase, “You want me to have pleasure, don’t you? “Do you want me to sit here and get morbid?” If you’re tired of the usual Christmas film, this is far from it.
39. In Search of Santa, 2004
The voices for this straight-to-home-video animated film are provided by Houston-born Duff sisters Haylie and Hilary (only one of several notable pairs of Houston siblings). The CGI hasn’t aged well, but it’s a fun way to entertain small children. The plot revolves around a group of penguin princesses on a quest to find ancient St. Nick.
Did we leave any out?