In terms of Hollywood film production, L.A. may reign supreme, but the other “LA”— that is, Louisiana — is no slouch when it comes to producing top-notch cinema.
For decades the Pelican State has been a standout filming location for some of the country's most remarkable movies — highlighted by a diverse range of African-American voices and stories.
To celebrate the state’s film history, LouisianaBets.com took a break from Louisiana sports betting and decided to rank the top movies filmed in the state.
Here Are The Top Movies Shot in Louisiana
We first listed all the movies identified on the “Films Shot in Louisiana” Wikipedia page. Next, we used a scoring system that incorporates IMDB rating, Rotten Tomatoes Audience score, Rotten Tomatoes Critic score, and Oscar recognition to rank the films.
Here are the results:
Top Movie Wasn't Actually Shot in Louisiana?
At number one is the 1994 classic “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks as a simple-minded southerner whose life intertwines with major events in American history. In two hours and twenty minutes, Forrest, amongst other things, manages to meet a young Elvis Presley, fight in the Vietnam War, and even unintentionally expose President Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
However, “Forrest Gump,” although a great film, wasn’t really shot in Louisiana. The crowd-sourced Wikipedia editors were likely duped by a scene in which Forrest visits the family of his Vietnam comrade Bubba in Bayou La Batre. This scene was actually filmed on Lady’s Island in South Carolina. What’s more, despite its Creole-sounding name, Bayou La Batre isn’t actually in Louisiana — it’s across the border in Alabama!
Don’t worry though, the rest of this list is full of great films with a strong Louisiana connection.
Louisiana Plantations Featured in These Films
Number two is “12 Years a Slave,” an adaptation of the 1853 memoir written by Solomon Northup. Born a free man in New York, Northup was drugged and kidnapped while traveling to Washington D.C. and then taken to New Orleans where he was sold as a slave and forced to work on a plantation for twelve years.
The harrowing film won three Academy Awards in 2013, including Best Picture, and was written, directed and produced by Steve McQueen, who became the first black producer to ever win the Oscar’s top prize.
“12 Years a Slave” was shot across four different historic plantations in Louisiana, one of which was the Magnolia Plantation, only a few miles from where Northup was actually held. Additional scenes were shot in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter.
The next film on the list, “Django Unchained,” was also filmed at an antebellum plantation. “Django” is a revisionist-history revenge story from iconoclastic director Quentin Tarantino, and starring Jamie Foxx as a freed slave-turned-bounty hunter determined to rescue his wife from the fictional “Candyland” plantation, and its ruthless proprietor Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Candyland scenes were filmed in St. John the Baptist Parish on the Evergreen Plantation. Featuring 37 antebellum structures, including the slave quarters featured in “Django,” Evergreen is considered to be one of the most intact slave plantations in America. It’s a recognized National Historic Landmark, and one of the inaugural sites of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
The so-called “big house” of Evergreen does appear early in “Django,” but it belongs to another slave owner — Big Daddy Bennett. The Candyland house was built specifically for the shoot, and no longer exists because (spoiler warning) it was blown up in the film's final minutes during one of modern cinema’s most impressive practical explosions.
The Rest of The Bayou State Films
Next up at number four is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Directed by David Fincher and adapted from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, “Benjamin Button” stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. Born an old man in the early 1900s, the film follows Pitt’s character, the titular Benjamin Button, throughout the 20th century, until his death as a newborn baby.
Much of the filming of “Benjamin Button” took place in Louisiana — in particular, within New Orleans. Extensive filming occurred at the Nolan house, at 2707 Coliseum Street. This 7,800 square-foot mansion served as the “retirement home” where Benjamin Button was raised. Originally the production’s filming request was denied, but Fincher, an infamously dogged director, managed to convince the Nolan family that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” would be a boon to New Orleans’ post-Hurricane Katrina recovery.
At number five is another film starring the great Jamie Foxx. In an Academy Award-winning turn, Foxx portrays Ray Charles in a musical biopic about the blind soul musician's life. While most of the movie was shot in Louisiana, and inside its many nightlife hot-spots, the production cleverly used archival footage from cities across the U.S.A. to make it feel like Ray was truly touring the country during his rise to superstardom.
Tied at number six on our list are “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Queen & Slim.”
Premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, “Beasts” was an indie darling upon release. It went on to earn four Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actress nod for its young star Quvenzhané Wallis, who at just 9 years old became the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history.
Set in the fictional “Isle de Charles Doucet” — which the characters in the film refer to as “the Bathtub” — “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a poetic look at life in the isolated and environmentally threatened coastline communities of southern Louisiana.
Meanwhile, “Queen & Slim” is about a young black couple on the run from the law after killing a police officer in self-defence at a traffic stop in Ohio. The pair, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, escape to New Orleans, where they plot an escape to Cuba.
At number 8 and 9 on the best movies shot in Louisiana list are two more powerful African-American stories.
“Eve’s Bayou” is a late-90s indie coming-of-age film set in New Orleans. It was produced by and stars Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Kasi Lemmons.
Released in 2007, the Denzel Washington-directed “The Great Debaters” is inspired by the true story of the historically black Wiley College debate team competing against Harvard University in the 1930s.
Finally, at number 10 is the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum team-up comedy “21 Jump Street.” It is based on the late-80s/early-90s TV series starring Johnny Depp, about a group of cops posing as teenagers to infiltrate a local high school. The 2011 adaptation was filmed in New Orleans, but the filmmakers went to great lengths to disguise the iconic city as a generic metropolitan area.
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Jeff Parker is an entertainment writer for LouisianaBets.com. A writer for film, television and the internet, Jeff is a life long movie buff, with a Masters Degree in Popular Culture. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works full time as documentary filmmaker and producer.