Rest of the Best: Top 10 Movies Set in Houston

Our city seems like it's had to fight for its identity on a national scale sometimes. How many movies have you seen set in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago? Happens all the time, yet despite ranking right up there in terms of population, diversity, culture, and history it seems rare that movie characters actually come specifically here.

Oh they shoot movies here all the time, of course. I have a friend who threw popcorn at Robocop in Robocop 2 and I myself was an extra in a VH1 film that put me almost within touching distance of Maureen Flannigan. Still, just because they turn the cameras on here doesn't mean that they admit they did so on screen.

Today we celebrate the ones that did. Just a note, films that were shot at the Johnson Space Center were excluded since pretty much any movie that deals with space travel history sort of has to shoot there.

10. I Come in Peace: Dolph Lundgren IS Jack Caine, and he's here to clean up the drug-strewn streets of Houston! They simply don't make movies like this anymore, and I plan on calling my dad and thanking him for buying Cinemax when I was kid just so I got to see this ridiculous action flick. Did I mention that the drug dealers are from another planet? Not that it matters because Dolph Lundgren IS Jack Caine, and justice has no planetary jurisdiction. He enforces the law his own way, dammit, and that's just what this city needs. Trust me when I say that you will never regret seeing I Come in Peace.

9. Student Bodies: This is honestly one of the oddest movies ever made, and I am so proud to have it set here at the fictional Lamab High School (In reality it's Lamar High School in Richmond, TX). Out of everyone who was in this bizarre send-up of the horror genre only about three people went on to do anything ever again in the film industry. For most of the cast this is their one IMDB credit, including the double-jointed comedian known only as The Stick who plays a janitor named Malvert who pees in the wastebaskets and says things like ""Malvert pee red!"

8. Sugar Hill: Maybe you're thinking that this is some sort of docudrama on our iconic recording studio you've never heard of. That would be cool, but nope. Sugar Hill is an awesome 1970s blacksploitation zombie film that is the sole directing credit of Paul Maslansky, who would go on to produce hits like Police Academy and the awesomely dark Return to Oz. The Heights Branch of the Houston Public Library doubles as a prestigious voodoo institute, which comes in handy when the corpses of slaves from Guinea are resurrected to attack the living by a vengeful voodoo queen. It's honestly a pretty good zombie flick all things told, and one of the few that show us what Houston would look like after a zombie apocalypse.

7. Tarnation: Director Jonathan Caouette never spent a minute of his life in Houston without a camera if at all possible. From thousands of hours of footage he compiled a stunning narrative that shows what it was like living with his mentally unstable mother Renee. The film is a real triumph of composite filmmaking, and much of it takes place right here with perfectly ordinary people.

6. Rushmore: Wes Anderson briefly considered shooting his breakout success indie film Rushmore somewhere in a posh private school in England, but ultimately decided to stick with his home city of Houston where he had gone to school and from which he drew much of the inspiration for the innovative story. St. John's School stood in for the Rushmore Academy while Lamar High School in Houston was used for Grover Cleveland High School. Anderson actually got some flack from us at the time for making Lamar look much more dilapidated than it really was.

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Melanie Clampitt
Melanie Clampitt

Stick from "Student Bodies", used to bowl at the long gone bowling lanes in Galleria area, back in the sixties. We used to bowl there same time. He was just as odd then.


OOOOH, YES. Local Hero is still gorgeous. 

For that matter, Jef ESPECIALLY needs to see it - for me, THIS is the definitive Peter Capaldi work. 

Lisa Lang
Lisa Lang

What about Reality bites? That horrible movie Brewster McCloud made number one?

The Kid
The Kid

We hope our production makes the cut after we release next year :)


Was I the only one who saw Her Cry: La Llorona Investigation?

gossamersixteen topcommenter

No tree of life? That's a beautiful movie.


Yeah, Local Hero deserved a mention, too, even though only a little of it actually takes place in Houston.  And thank you for mentioning Student Bodies, which is undeservedly forgotten.


I'm really jazzed that you named "Brewster" #1, the film that got Altman banned from ever shooting in Houston thereafter. I saw it with my parents at a drive-in when I was 8, and only "2001" left a more lasting imprint on my taste in cinema.

Opinions will vary, but I'd give at least an honorable mention to "Reality Bites" and "Terms of Endearment" for capturing H-Town's good and not-so-good sides.

JefWithOneF topcommenter

@dbcsez  I must admit that to my shame I forgot about Reality Bites. I left Terms off intentionally, though ;)

johnnybench topcommenter

@JefWithOneF Jason's Lyric shows a very real side of Houston that most folks in the world don't see.  It's a cheesy movie, but there's a lot of truth in the setting.  

Was Bad News Bears in Breaking Training an intentional omission as well?

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