Rest of the Best: Top 10 Movies Set in Houston

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5. Cold in July: Recently out starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Freakin' Johnson, Cold in July mostly takes place East of Houston, but ends up taking a violent road trip into town in order to uncover a strange plot surrounding the self-defense murder of an intruder. Not to reuse a joke, but Don Johnson IS Jim Bob Luke, a Cadillac-riding, pig-farming, not-one-bit-of-guff-taking private investigator who eats every inch of scenery he can find. They don't make action movies like this any more.

4. In a Madman's World: Unfortunately you're going to have to trust me on this one since it isn't out yet, but even in the piecemeal version I saw in director Josh Vargas' living room was a brutally brilliant look at Houston during the reign of our most notorious monster, Dean Corll. There are films that lay bare the heart of the city they're set in, and Madman is definitely one of them. Now if they could just release the damned thing.

3. Urban Cowboy: It's possible that no other film is nationally associated with Houston more than Urban Cowboy, and that's not such a bad thing even though we do have more here than mechanical bulls and beer. It's really a silly film, all things told, but I've lived in Houston too long to deny that the same stereotypes that made it so popular to mainstream audiences actually do exist in fair numbers here. It surprisingly holds the test of time well, and it was fun for many years having people from out of town ask to go to Gilley's.

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2. Rollerball: Speaking of the best of the '70s, Rollerball is Houston's Robocop... except that much of Robocop was filmed in Dallas and Robocop 2 filmed here despite both taking place in Detroit. Actually, Rollerball was filmed in Munich, so maybe I shouldn't throw stones. The point is, Rollerball took the energy industry in Houston and made it Roman-esque emperors of the future. If you ask me when I'm not exactly sober, Gladiator is just a remake of Rollerball without roller-skates or motorcycles (And therefore far inferior). Plus, James Caan, Hero of Houston just sounds badass.

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1. Brewster McCloud: If you have never seen Robert Altman's Brewster McClould then shame on you because it's insane and beautiful. Shot in our very own Astrodome, Bud Cort plays a strange man who dreams of human flight while the city is under siege from a mysterious bird-themed serial killer. Altman's film is a wicked mishmash of religious imagery and heartbreaking humanism that seriously needs to be seen to be believed. I assert with absolute sincerity that if any one film should be held up as representative of the diverse and sometime scattered psyche of H-Town, it's this one.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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14 comments
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.

bibulb1
bibulb1

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 :)

jrayderr
jrayderr

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

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

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

marmer
marmer

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.

dbcsez
dbcsez

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
JefWithOneF topcommenter

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

johnnybench
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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