Movies by State: The South Atlantic

Photo Courtesy National Park Service

This will be a short but manageable post. We’re only covering four states today: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.


Like its neighbor, Maryland, most movies set in Virginia are really movies set in the District of Columbia.  Granted large chunks of movies set at the CIA and Pentagon are set in Virginia, so Spy (2015), Mission Impossible (1996), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) count.

Virginia is for lovers, but it’s also for poorly received historical epics. Mel Gibson’s The Patriot (2000) is so bloated and pompous that it has no problem impaling a British general on an American flag.  Gods and Generals (2003) plays like your uncle’s drunken Civil War re-enactment – and it’s just as long too.  And there’s Pocahontas (1995), which ended Disney’s early 1990’s winning streak, cheesy song and all.

The most notable film set in Virginia?  I’m going to go out on a limb.  2000’s Remember the Titans is one of the ten or twenty best sports movies, and maybe the best movie ever made about American football.  It holds up surprisingly well as it ages, especially for a Disney movie based on a true story.

North Carolina

North Carolina is well represented in the American movie canon.  Cold Mountain (2003), This is Spinal Tap (1984), Tin Cup (1996), Carrie (1976), Pitch Perfect (2012) and both versions of Cape Fear (1962 and 1991) are solid to excellent films.

For better or worse, North Carolina also has a genre that I’ll call “Outer Banks Fluff.”  Films like Safe Haven (2013) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) paint the Outer Banks as the place to set your disposable horror film or cheesy romance.  My kingdom for a Wright Brothers biopic.

Like its northern neighbor, I’ll go with a sports movie for North Carolina.  Many of the best sports movies are baseball films, but Bull Durham (1988) particularly stands out.  It’s at once funny and poignant, a masterpiece of quintessentially American storytelling.

South Carolina

The Palmetto State doesn’t get a ton of love from Hollywood.  The Notebook (2004) is probably the most notable recent movie set there.  Well, except for Magic Mike XXL (2015) – that’s set in South Carolina too.  Other quality South Carolina movies include Doc Hollywood (1991), and the first half of Full Metal Jacket (1987).

The most pivotal scene in Glory (1989) is of course the Battle of Charleston Harbor.  I would call Glory the best movie about the American Civil War, at least in my opinion.  Other films about the Civil War are often incredibly boring or problematic in other ways.  It’s my pick for the most notable South Carolina movie.

The first feature-length film of any type is set in South Carolina.  Unfortunately this film is The Birth of a Nation (1915), which can be charitably be described as an abomination before all things reasonable, holy, and/or just.  D.W. Griffith was a piece of work too – but that’s an article for another day.


The final state for today is the home of peaches and bulldogs – the great state of Georgia.  There are actually a lot of movies set here, and they aren’t all Deliverance (1972) either.

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), and Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) are set here.  So are most of Tyler Perry’s movies.

The most notable film set in Georgia?  It’s by far 1939’s Gone with the Wind.  There are few films that have been studied and debated as much as the David O. Selznick produced Civil War epic, and with good reason.  It remains both incredibly popular, and incredibly controversial.


Next time – sunny Florida!

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe