Ahh, Louisiana. The land of Spanish moss, high humidity and Sportsman’s Paradise is a favorite setting for Hollywood screenwriters. The many movies that have been set in the state range from hackneyed stereotypical tripe to authentic character pieces that illuminate the vast range of characters you’re sure to find on a trip to the Deep South state.
Here are 5 movies to watch to get you in the Louisiana state of mind before you venture South—and 1 movie you can definitely skip.
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood(2002)
I know, I know. It’s clichéd, saccharine and schmaltzy. I still love it. I read the books before the 2002 movie came out and fell in love with this group of women (strong female friendships get me every time, as you’ll see below). Don’t watch it expecting to get an accurate picture of life in Louisiana. Do watch it for the gorgeous shots of non-New Orleans (you know, the majority of the state?), as well as for a depiction of a rowdy group of friends that even though they change as the years go on, they remain committed to each other. Ya-ya!
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Again, this is definitely not a realistic depiction of New Orleans or any other part of the state, for that matter. Remember, it’s about vampires. You will see scenes filmed in the French Quarter, which you can try to spot during your visit. Can’t tell one historic building with ironwork balconies from the next? Try one of the walking tours to learn about the darker side of the Vieux Carre. Depending on which tour you select, your tour guide will tell you all about the notorious residents of the Quarter like Madame LaLaurie, as well as the tale of a vampire sect that once tried to invade the city. For real. (I’m not in any way associated with Haunted History Tours; I’ve just taken many of the tours and really loved them.)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
The Bayou. And voodoo. That’s what everybody thinks of when they think of Louisiana, right? This supernatural horror movie starring Kate Hudson is down-right creepy, but in a good way. Most of the movie takes pace in an old mansion, but you do see a few of the characters take a little trip to Algiers Point, just across the river from the Quarter. Watch this movie, and if you drive River Road to tour the plantations, I dare you to stop in one of the country stores along the way. Don’t be surprised if you jump a little every time someone walks through the door, triggering the jangly bell.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Talk about a powerhouse cast: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine. I can’t count the times I’ve watched this movie about the love—and strength—a group of Southern women feel for each other. About half of those viewings occurred in my sorority’s chapter room. You see, the real woman the main character is based on was also a member of our sorority (Phi Mu). It was originally a play that Robert Harling wrote about his sister’s life.
A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)
I saved the best for last. Set in contemporary New Orleans, this small movie that was largely ignored at the box office tells the story of Pursy (Scarlett Johansson) and her momma’s “friends,” Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht) and Bobby Long (John Travolta), two literary-minded alcoholics determined to go through life with zero ambition. Family secrets are unearthed in between gorgeous shots of the real New Orleans, in all of its entropied beauty.
Not every movie is a winner. Anyone who had the misfortune of seeing From Justin to Kelly can tell you that. While The Big Easy (1986) isn’t the worst movie ever, I’ll admit to getting swept up in Dennis Quaid’s swagger, if not his sad attempt at a Cajun accent, it does play up the worst Louisiana stereotypes in the worst way, like when Remy calls everyone cher. If you love this movie, that’s great, but do yourself a favor and don’t mention it to locals while visiting unless you want to see exaggerated eye rolls followed by dramatic sighs.
Did your movie make the list? Let me know in the comments if I overlooked your favorite Louisiana-set movie, or if you disagree with my list.