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Hardly one of them will make you wanna pack your bags and move here, but that’s not the point. Aside from being important achievements in American film making, each of these movies accurately displays some important aspect of true southern life in the time period in which it takes place. Mostly I’m referring to racism.
10. Gone with the Wind
I’ve actually never seen this movie, but people seem to like it.
9. Steel Magnolias
Everyone’s girlfriend’s or wife’s favorite movie. I like the part where Shelby dies.
8. Monster’s Ball
If you like your movies dark, check out this 2001 charmer from director Marc Forster. Poor uneducated racist white guy (Billy Bob Thornton) finds comfort and sexual gratification in the arms of poor uneducated single black mother (Halle Berry) in rural Louisiana as the two come to terms with the violent deaths of their respective sons.
7. Cape Fear
Martin Scorsese’s 1991 thriller reintroduced the world to Max Cady. A South Carolina swamp rat with a genius IQ and a penchant for rape, Cady, as brought to life by Robert DeNiro, is pure Dixie malevolence.
6. Birth of a Nation
D.W. Griffith’s 1915 masterpiece was the first movie to be shown in the White House. Still shown in most film schools, it was groundbreaking for its large scope and cinematic vision, and influenced most everything that came after it. However, it’s also overtly racist. The protagonists are literally the Klu Klux Klan. According to historical archives, Woodrow Wilson’s favorite part is where Lillian Gish is chased off the edge of a cliff by a guy in blackface.
How could this not be on the list, right? This movie did for the south what Jaws did for sharks. I think tourism revenue in Georgia is still recovering from this John Boorman masterpiece from 1972. Among Deliverance’s lasting effects is that no one can look at Ned Beatty ever again without thinking about pig squealing.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch, is one of American cinema’s greatest heroes, or so say lots of official lists of American cinema’s greatest heroes.
3. All the Real Girls
This indy classic from David Gordon Green (of Pineapple Express fame) introduced the world to Zooey Deschanel and Danny McBride, to the infinite delight of thirty somethings everywhere. Understated, smart, and honest, it portrays young love in a small southern town. And it’s almost as good as Twilight.
2. Cool Hand Luke
One of the most quoted films of all time. Heartbreaking as well. Paul Newman was so damn cool.
1. The Civil War
Is there anything that screams “I’m a person who knows things” like lauding a Ken Burn’s documentary? In this case, I don’t give a damn. It’s too good. Burn’s masterpiece, which included the first star-making documentary performance in movie history (I am of course talking about Shelby Foote), leaves little doubt that whatever the South may be now is born of that war.
Feel free to dispute/agree/argue/rant/applaud our list in the comments.
Josh Gillispie is an attorney at Chad M Green and Associates. He has a Master’s in English and snark.