The South has set the scene for some of your favorite TV shows and movies. Oftentimes, big-wig Hollywood production companies set up in a place to capture the place itself, but sometimes, they’re fooling the viewer. Charlotte, NC, becomes Washington D.C.; Sullivan’s Island, SC, becomes North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Small-town Georgia becomes “Sweet Home Alabama” or anywhere-in-the-world post Zombie apocalypse. We bet you didn’t know all these movies and shows were filmed in your favorite Southern towns — or all that goes into picking these locations.
A close friend of mine, Ross McKinnon, grew up in Charlotte and has worked on movies around the Carolinas and Georgia for more than 10 years in a variety of roles, from location manager and scout to assistant director. He’s worked on Homeland, Mr. Mercedes, Greenleaf, Paper Towns, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Masterminds, and a feature adaptation of the Judy Blume novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
“The biggest centers of production are the big cities. Atlanta, for example, has surpassed N.Y.C. and L.A. as the filming capital of the country in recent years,” Ross says. “These cities have the right combination of film incentives (tax breaks and rebates for bringing projects), infrastructure (both general and film-specific), a wide-ranging pool of locations from which to draw, and size to accommodate the needs of multiple productions on a year-round basis.” Other popular areas for filming may have fewer of those elements, but stand out by offering a specific look for filming.
Below are some of the South’s top filming locations and a few shows or movies filmed there. This list is by no means exhaustive, and many films have multiple locations, so have fun with a little research of your own to go find the sets of your favorite flicks!
- Homeland (2011-2020) — Homeland made a huge imprint on Charlotte for many years. Notable shooting locations include Freedom Park, Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Ritz-Carlton, and South Park Mall. Stars include Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis, and Rupert Friend.
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) — Charlotte Motor Speedway was used to film most of the racing sequences in this hilarious comedy starring Will Ferrell. Ricky’s luxurious mansion was on Lake Norman, and the scene where he crashes Sacha Baron Cohen’s backyard lunch was filmed right next door to my house!
- A FEW MORE: Banshee (2013-2016) | The Hunger Games (2012) | Shallow Hal (2001) | Leatherheads (2008) | The Color Purple (1985)
Wilmington sports the largest production facility east of Hollywood, EUE Screen Gems Studios, giving it the well-deserved nicknames Wilmywood and Hollywood East. While hundreds of movies and series have been filmed in this area, it’s perhaps best known for two hit shows.
- Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003) — Over six seasons, 128 episodes were filmed in Wilmington and its nearby beaches, which doubled as “Capeside,” the show’s fictitious coastal town in Massachusetts. Take a walking locations tour to see the landmarks and locations of this wildly popular show.
- One Tree Hill (2003-2012) — Wilmington’s crown jewel of film and TV, this popular show was filmed all across the Wilmington area for nine consecutive years, attracting lots of fans and local pride. One Tree Hill has its own walking tour, too.
- The Notebook (2004) — Perhaps the most well-known work filmed in Charleston is The Notebook (starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling), based on Nicholas Sparks’s novel. Fans flock to Charleston to see the movie sites, and a tour will take you to landmarks like the American Theater, the Old Village of Mount Pleasant, and Cypress Gardens.
- Outer Banks (2020-) — Despite its name, Netflix’s mega-hit Outer Banks is not filmed in North Carolina, but all over the Charleston area. Notable locations include the Old Village of Mount Pleasant, Lowndes Grove, Kiawah Island, and Shem Creek.
- A FEW MORE: The Righteous Gemstones (2019-) | Vice Principals (2016-2018) | Army Wives (2007-2013)
- Forrest Gump (1994) — While the famous bench scene took place in Savannah, GA, most of the movie is filmed near Beaufort, SC. The fictitious town of Greenbow, AL, is actually Varnville, SC, 35 miles northwest of Beaufort, and the majority of shrimp boat scenes were filmed at Lucy Point Creek (also near Beaufort).
- The Big Chill (1983) — Built in 1853 along the Beaufort River in the town’s historic Old Point, Tidalholm Mansion set the stage for both The Big Chill and The Great Santini. It’s recently been restored and is STILL used as a filming location.
- A FEW MORE: The Great Santini (1979) | Platoon (1986) | The Jungle Book (1994) | Forces of Nature (1999)
- The Walking Dead (2010-) — One of the highest-rated cable television shows of all time, this drama/horror/thriller series was based in Senoia for seasons two and three. Lots of shops in Senoia’s quaint downtown area are still named after or themed for the show.
- Sweet Home Alabama (2002) — Some scenes were filmed at Senoia’s Starr’s Mill and Wynn’s Pond, and others in the town of Rome and other spots in Georgia. Stars include Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, and Mary Kay Place.
- A FEW MORE: Driving Miss Daisy (1989) | Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) | Pet Sematary Two (1992)
Avid film and TV fans might consider booking the Southern Hollywood Film Tour, which travels the backroads to show you the filming locations of all the iconic movies and television shows filmed in Georgia. As I’m sure you can guess, there are too many filmed in Atlanta to list, but here’s a great list to get you started.
- The Client (1994) — The mafia-centered legal thriller based on John Grisham’s novel stars Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. There’s an important scene at the Arcade, the oldest restaurant in Memphis and one that’s been in so many movies, it’s got a historical marker about “Modern Movie Making in Memphis” right out front.
- Walk the Line (2005) — This fabulous Johnny Cash biopic was nominated for five Oscars, including a Best Actress win for Reese Witherspoon. Almost entirely shot in Memphis, the film was also shot in Nashville at the Tennessee State Penitentiary, a location that has appeared in multiple films.
- A FEW MORE: The Firm (1993) | Hustle & Flow (2005)
- The Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) — Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn, and while the majority of the film was shot in Kentucky, all the concert footage was shot at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
- The Green Mile (1999) — The eerie Tennessee State Prison, located in West Nashville, served as the exterior of the famed prison in the movie, but the film was also shot in Shelbyville, Nolensville, and Columbia.
- A FEW MORE: Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Goes To Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid (1987, 1990, 1991) | The Last Castle (2001) | Country Strong (2010) | Nashville (2012-2018) | The Matrix (1999)
Since there are too many towns to list, here’s a group of honorable mentions for productions filmed around the South, organized below by state.
- Big Fish (2003)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
- Selma (2014)
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
- Get Out (2017)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Rain Man (1988)
- The Insider (1999)
- Seabiscuit (2003)
- Elizabethtown (2005)
- Secretariat (2010)
- The Help (2011)
- O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
- Mississippi Burning (1998)
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009)
- Duck Dynasty (2012-2017)
- Django Unchained (2012)
- 12 Years a Slave (2013)
- Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
- The Truman Show (1998)
- The Waterboy (1998)
- Edward Scissorhands (1990)
- Caddyshack (1980)
- Scarface (1983)
Ross leaves us with one more piece of intel: “If you’ve ever had an interest in being part of the filming process, get in touch with your local film commission. Whether it’s to be an extra, work on a crew, or to have your home or business used for filming, they are a great resource to get you connected with the industry,” he says. [Laughing] “I’d also like to apologize on behalf of all productions for any disruptions to normal life we may incidentally cause, but thank everyone out there for helping and supporting this industry. We couldn’t do it without the communities in which we film.”
We hope we’ve sparked some additions to your “to watch” list, as well as your “to visit” list!
For more vacation ideas and travel inspiration, follow us on Instagram @StyleBlueprint!