Mar 142014

This is the tenth post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts I’m going to pick my 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why I like them.

In honour of season one of True Detective and it’s absolutely amazing setting (which was a character in its own right), we’re going deep.

After the jump, check out my picks for The Best Films Set In…The Deep South.

Mud (Jeff Nicols, 2012) & The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 201)

I’m cheating a little by putting two films in, but these films (which both feature Matthew McConaughey) some strikingly similar characteristics. What I love about both of these films is how they use the swampy river systems. There’s something incredibly atmospheric and foreboding about the trees which dip into the river and thick, lush vegetation which surrounds its edges. There’s a feeling of escapism, but also the feeling that something sinister is afoot. The Paperboy in particular made me want to take a shower. The sweat which dripped off the character’s bodies, the layer of moisture which seemed to encase everything, and the mud, these elements gave the films a distinctively grimy feel. Bonus third Deep South film starring Matthew McConaughey: Killer Joe


In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)

The 1967 Academy Award winner for best picture, In The Heat of the night tells the story of Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), who is passing through a small Mississippi town and happens upon a murder investigation. Originally considered to be a suspect, Virgil eventually convinces the Southern officers to let him assist in the hunt for the murderer of wealthy local businessman, Mr. Colbert. A damning portrait of small town southern mentality and a snapshot of a shameful piece of American history.


The Long, Hot Summer (Martin Ritt, 1958)

Based in part on three short stories by legendary Southern writer William Faulkner, The Long, Hot Summer stars ‘Blue Eyes’ (Paul Newman) as Ben Quick, a drifter who arrives in a small Mississippi town and soon installs himself in the lives of the town’s most prominent family, the Varners. It’s not just the temperatures which are high, as emotions flare when family patriarch Will Varner (Orson Wells) tries to push his daughter in to marrying Ben, so that he can direct the family’s fortune away from his only son, Jody. Worth watching for Paul Newman at his most handsome – those eyes sure are blue.


Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

Centred around six-year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father, Beasts of the Southern Wild features one of the most fascinating micro-worlds/insular communities I have seen portrayed on film, that of southern Louisiana bayou community called the “Bathtub”. The floating community appears to be born out of both tradition and need, located on the outskirts, away from the city and “regular” society. While the fantasy elements didn’t work for me, I loved being immersed in such a unique world. Beautiful cinematography and fitting music completes the film.


 To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1963)

To Kill a Mockingbird  takes me back to high school, to a stuffy classroom were I (along with 20-30 other girls) studied Harper Lee’s classic  novel and the film adaptation of the same name. I remember being incredibly gripped by the tension in the film and struggling to understand how such an injustice could ever happen. The film perfectly encapsulates the tense atmosphere of a segregated southern state in the 1930s.


Suggested by others: Bernie, Blood Simple, Mississippi Burning, A Time to Kill, The General, A Streetcar Named Desire, Big Fish, Down By Law, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Night of the Hunter, Deliverance, Junebug, Undertow, Cool Hand Luke, Raising Arizona , Twelve Years a Slave

Are there any other films that I or the suggestions have missed?

By Sam McCosh

  2 Responses to “The Best Films Set In…The Deep South”

  1. Really cool idea for a list. That McConaughey really does like hanging in the Deep South. And I love what you said about Beasts… genuinely one of the best depictions of an insular community I’ve ever seen as well.

  2. Good picks. I think you’ve covered the big ones.