As a kid who didn’t get out too often, I always asked myself, “Why aren’t there more movies about Missouri out there?” Okay, I get it; it’s not exactly the most exciting of places, but hey, it’s home. Here’s a short list of seven very different movies about life in the most underrated state in the Union.
1. Meet Me in St. Louis
A great musical starring the iconic Judy Garland, this picture is set around the 1904 World’s Fair (held in St. Louis) and depicts both the time period and the city itself in beautiful Technicolor splendor. Many of the songs are easily recognizable even today; in fact, the now famous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was first performed here by Garland and the film was later made into a Broadway musical. This one is a classic must see, and the DVD makes a great addition to the collection of any film fans out there.
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
There have been dozens of films telling the Jesse James story, but only one starring Brad Pitt. This film used locations in Canada to stand in for the prairies, forests, and towns of 1881 Missouri. Featuring some fantastic cinematography,"> this is a thinking man’s Western. It goes beyond the run of the mill shoot-em-up to focus on the outlaw’s decline and accompanying descent into paranoia. The relationship between James and his eventual killer was a tumultuous, tenuous one, and is thoroughly explored in the film.
3. Winter's Bone (2010)
This critically acclaimed independent film is an unflinchingly harsh tale of family drama set in the Ozark region of Missouri. The heroine, Ree, must search out her drug dealing father after he fails to show for a court date in order to save the family home. Her hunt takes her through the violent, often shocking world of meth cooking in a poverty-stricken community. Not exactly MO at its finest, but the determined main character certainly gives the audience someone to root for, the writing is strong, and the performances are excellent across the board.
4. Tom and Huck (1995)
Like Jesse James, these two characters have been immortalized in dozens of films, both good and bad, inspired by the classic novels of Mark Twain. I chose this Disney version, starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, because I probably watched it 30 times on VHS as a kid, surely annoying my parents to no end. Is it true to Twain’s original novels? Not exactly, but it does capture the fun of two boys getting into trouble together in all of its clichéd Disney glory.
5. Jesus Camp (2006)
This controversial documentary debuted at the Tribeca film festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. It attempts to objectively display life inside of a very fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical Christian movement. Regardless of your political or religious beliefs, this film is certain to stir up strong feelings in viewers. It also features some “unique” interpretations of science and law, and a very unfortunate appearance by celebrity preacher Ted Haggard.
6. Living in Missouri (2001)
This dark comedy, largely shot on location, focuses on life in modern Midwestern suburbia and the potential tensions under its shiny, happy surface. Three characters whose monotonous Missouri lives are ripping apart show us that life in the ‘burbs might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
7. Roadhouse (1989)
“About” Missouri…okay, not really. But I couldn’t resist including this cheesy 80’s classic on this list. Dalton is a professional “cooler” (head bouncer) tasked with cleaning up the Double Deuce, a hillbilly bar/nightclub outside of Kansas City. Great Swayze one-liners, poorly executed but entertaining fight scenes, and the presence of the legendary Sam Elliot turn this into a good bad movie instead of a merely bad one. Despite the corny 80’s vibe, many of the minor characters do resemble folks easily found in the Show Me State. To fully appreciate the film, I would recommended that you watch it on repeat until every line is memorized.
Any important Missouri films I missed? I’m sure there are dozens. Feel free to point out my omissions in the comments section, and as usual, thanks for reading!