Many of the movies filmed in or featuring Mississippi are based on the works of the state’s famous literary figures. Among others, the works of William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying, Intruder in the Dust, The Sound and the Fury, Sanctuary, The Story of Temple Drake, Tomorrow, Barn Burning, The Reivers, A Rose for Emily), Willie Morris (My Dog Skip, Good Ole Boy: A Delta Boyhood), Eudora Welty (The Wide Net, Why I Live at the P.O., The Ponder Heart), Tennessee Williams (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, Baby Doll, This Property Is Condemned, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond), Stark Young (So Red the Rose), Beth Henley (Miss Firecracker, Crimes of the Heart), John Grisham (A Time to Kill, The Client, The Chamber, The Pelican Brief), Larry Brown (Big Bad Love), and Clifton Taulbert (Once upon a Time . . . When We Were Colored) have all reached the silver screen, with scenes either shot in the state of Mississippi or staged there.
Mississippi has also been the site and/or subject of many documentaries, especially those dealing with the Mississippi Freedom Summer (Murder in Mississippi) and other aspects of the civil rights movement (such as Eyes on the Prize). African American life, particularly dealing with music (Mississippi Blues, Mississippi Delta Blues, You See Me Laughin’) and poverty (LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, Baby Business) is also a popular subject.
The Mississippi Film Office, under the umbrella of the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Division of Tourism, works to promote the movie industry in the state. Established in January 1973 by executive order of Gov. Bill Waller, the organization was one of the first three film commissions in the world. The Mississippi Film Office encourages and supports on-location shooting and the hiring of local businesses, talent, and crew. The Film Office has liaisons in Corinth, Holly Springs, Oxford, Tupelo, Greenville, Yazoo City, Columbus, Meridian, Canton, Metro Jackson, Natchez, Vicksburg, Harrison County, and Hattiesburg. Attributes of Mississippi touted by the Film Office include the state’s beautiful landscapes, historic homes, and town squares.
Promoting Mississippi history casts the state in both a good and bad light. Despite the lushness of the landscape and the beauty of Mississippi towns, many Mississippi-made or Mississippi-based films focus on the state’s negative heritage of race relations. The film Mississippi Burning (1988) was not well received in the state because of both its loose interpretations of the truth and harsh indictment of Mississippi. Even comedies like The Jerk (1979) and Life (1999), neither of which was filmed in Mississippi, drew attention to the race-based poverty and discrimination that are often the most visible part of Mississippi’s heritage.
Only since the 1990s has a kind of independent film scene emerged in and about Mississippi. Films such as Ira Sachs’s The Delta (1996), which looks at gay life in Mississippi, and John Michael McCarthy’s Tupelo Trilogy (Damselvis: Daughter of Helvis; Teenage Tupelo; and The Sore Losers), three exploitation films about poor white life in Tupelo, explore modern problems normally untouched by documentarians and adaptations of the works of Mississippi’s literary masters. In addition, the state currently hosts film festivals in Jackson, Oxford, Tupelo, Biloxi, Clarksdale, and other cities.
Select Mississippi Filmography
A Century of Women (1994); The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993); America’s War on Poverty (1994); Angels of Death: Executioners in America (1999); Arsenal (2017); As I Lay Dying (Canton, 2013); Attack of the Southern Fried Zombies (2017); The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1973); Baby Business (Benoit, 1995); Baby Doll (1956); Ballast (2008); Barn Burning (1978); Battlecreek (2017); Beah: A Black Woman Speaks (2003); The Beast Within (Raymond and Jackson, 1982); Believe It or Not (Holly Springs, 1931); Beyond the Forest (2008); Big Bad Love (Holly Springs and Oxford, 2001); Big Significant Things (2014); Biker Zombies (Livonia, 2001); Blackbird (2014); Black Snake Moan (2006); Blind Vengeance (DeSoto County, 1990); Blossom Time (Columbus, 1996); The Blue and the Gray (Vicksburg National Military Park, 1935); The Blues (documentary series, 2001–2); Brain Machine (1977); Cajun Heat (1988); The Chamber (Greenwood, Indianola, Jackson, Parchman, and Parchman Prison, 1996); The Client (Clinton, 1994); Cookie’s Fortune (Holly Springs, 1999); Courtship (1986); Cremains (Biloxi, 2000); Cries of Silence (1993); The Crisis (Vicksburg National Military Park, 1916); Christmas in Mississippi (2017); Crossroads (Delta, 1986); Damselvis: Daughter of Helvis (Tupelo, 1994); The Dark Secret of Black Bayou (1981); The Dawn of Truth (Mound Bayou, 1918); Deep Blues (1990); The Devil’s Dolls (2016); Dixieland (2015); Don’t Look Back: The Satchel Paige Story (1980); Don’t Kill It (2016); Double Jeopardy (Stennis Space Center, 1999); Down by Law (1986); The Duel (2016); The Dynamiter (Glen Allan, 2011); Eyes on the Prize (1985); The Fifties (1997); Finding Graceland (Hollywood and Tunica, 1998); First Nations Removed (2000); 500 Nations (1993); Forgetting Youth (1998); Freedom on My Mind (1993); Freedom Road (1978); From Mound Bayou to Lady Selbourne (1999); The Further Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (1981); Get on Up (2014); Ghosts of Mississippi (Jackson, 1996); A Gift Horse (2015); Good Ole Boy: A Delta Boyhood (Natchez Trace Parkway, 1988); Goofy Golf (Biloxi, 1983); The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (Oxford, 1992); Happy Log (2016); Heart of Dixie (Holly Springs and Oxford, 1989); Heart of Maryland (1920); The Help (Greenwood and Jackson, 2011); Highway 61 Revisited (1995); The Historian (2014); Home from the Hill (Oxford, 1960); The Hollars (2016); The Horse Soldiers (1959); Huckleberry Finn (Natchez, 1974); I Am Potential (2015); I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979); The Insider (Pascagoula, 1999); Intruder in the Dust (Oxford, 1949); Isolation (2015); Issaquena (2001); It’s Time (2018); Jesse James’ Women (1954); John John in the Sky (1999); The Lady Killers (2004); LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (Tallahatchie County, 2001); Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Natchez, 1989); Leopold Bloom (2002); Life at These Speeds (2016); Life on the Mississippi (1978); Lomax: The Hound of Music (2008); The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2009); Lost Junction (2001); Lost in Mississippi (1996); Love’s Savage Fury (1979); Lured Innocence (1997); Lurking Terror (Livonia and Unadilla, 2002); M Is for Mississippi (2008); Midnight Special (2016); The Minstrel Man (1975); Miss Firecracker (Yazoo City, 1989); Mississippi (1994); Mississippi Burning (Bovina, Jackson, Varden, and Vicksburg); Mississippi Grind (2015); Mississippi Masala (Biloxi, Greenwood, Grenada, and Ocean Springs, 1991); Mississippi Murder (2017); Mississippi Queen (2010); Mistress of Paradise (1981); The Musical Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1973); My Dog Skip (Canton, 2000); Natchez Trace (1960); New Nation (Vicksburg 1996); Nightmare in Badham County (1976); North and South: Books 1 and 2 (1985); O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Canton, Jackson, Valley Park, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City, 2000); Ode to Billy Joe (Greenwood and Itta Bena, 1976); Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do You Write? (2006); Old Natchez on the Mississippi (1940); 1 Mile to You (2017); Orbis Romanus (2008); Pale in Your Shadow (1996); Part of the Family (1974); The People vs. Larry Flynt (Oxford, 1996); Porches and Private Eyes (2016); The Ponder Heart (Canton, 2001); Popular Science (1943); Portrait of America (1985); Precious Cargo (2016); The Premonition (Grenada, 1976); Pretty Baby (Hattiesburg, 1978); The Princess of Patches (1917); The Promised Land (1993); A Public Voice (1994); Raintree County (Windsor Ruins and Port Gibson, 1957); Red Dirt (Meridian, 2000); The Reivers (Carrollton and Carroll County, 1969); Return to the River (1989); The Rising Place (Jackson, 2002); Rites of Spring (2011); The Road to Graceland (1997); Roads and Bridges (1998); Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1977); Rumors of Wars (Jackson and Madison County, 2013); Same Kind of Different as Me (2017); The Search for Robert Johnson (1991); Shark (Tupelo, 1997); Shake ’Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell (2016); Shark Lake (2015); Slippy McGee (1921); So Red the Rose (1935); Soul Damage (2017); Southern Justice: America Undercover (1991); Speech and Debate (2017); Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders (1997); Standing in the Shadows of Motown (Grenada, 2002); Strange Weather (2016); Stone Cold (Bay St. Louis, 1991); Stop Breakin’ Down (1998); Southern Writers (1993); Swept off My Feet (1996); Taking Back My Life: The Story of Nancy Ziegenmeyer (1991); Teenage Tupelo (Tupelo, 1995); Texas Heart (2016); Thieves Like Us (Pickens and Canton, 1973); This Is Elvis (Tupelo, 1981); This Property Is Condemned (Bay St. Louis, 1966); A Time to Kill (Canton and Jackson, 1996); Tomorrow (Alcorn and Itawamba Counties and Tupelo, 1972); Transplants (1995); Two Rivers (Clarksdale, 1996); Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Natchez, 1987); Under Cover (Pearlington, 1987); Urban Country (2018); Waking in Mississippi (Canton, 1998); Walk the Line (2005); Warheads (1993); WCW Uncensored ’96 (Tupelo, 1996); Where I Begin (2011); White Light (2001); Why I Live at the P.O. (1997); The Wide Net (1986); Wild at Heart (1989); A Worn Path (1993); You See Me Laughin’ (2002).
- Internet Movie Database website, www.imdb.com
- Mississippi Film Office website, www.filmmississippi.org