To quote Forrest Gump, these movies are "like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." Sure, all of these films are set in the South, but they run the gamut from thrillers to rom-coms, dramas to period pieces and everything in between. Some show us the South in all its antebellum glory; others provide a terrifying and tear-jerking look at the Civil War; some focus on the horrors of slavery, while others showcase its after-effects and the struggles to achieve Civil Rights for all people. They show the double-edged sword of living in a small town where everybody knows your name, but many of them are set in Southern cities with all the grit of their northern counterparts.
Above all, despite the subject matter, period or place, there is that certain something that only a Southern setting can provide. It's a sense of charm and beauty, the wafting scent of magnolias, rugged natural sites, quiet tree-lined streets, the stubborn determination of Scarlet O'Hara mixed with the rakish daring of Rhett Butler.
Think you can name all of these Southern flicks from only a single image? Prove your southern movie IQ with this quiz!
"Fried Green Tomatoes" is a hearty serving of small-town southern charm. It tells the story of Ruth and Idgie, who run the Whistle Stop Cafe during the 1930s, told through the lens of Evelyn and Ninny. This beloved classic stars Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker.
The 1939 film "Gone with the Wind" opens with the line "There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South," and that's exactly how this film starts off ... until the Civil War brings the Confederacy to its knees, and leaves even Scarlett O'Hara wearing drapes as a dress. Tune in to this movie to watch as "gallantry" takes "its last bow."
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" starts off as a story about Savannah society, and ends in a tale of intrigue and murder. Watching this flick takes you straight to one of Savannah's many public squares, and makes you feel like you could meet Jim Williams around any corner.
Think lawyers have a tough job? Imagine trying to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama ... with an all-white jury. This is the task facing Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," in which the young Scout serves as the narrator and key character.
In "Steel Magnolias," women in small-town Louisiana show they can be tough as steel while remaining as delicate as a flower. The film stars Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLane.
"The Notebook" stars Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as young lovers who meet on the South Carolina boardwalk one summer, then spend their lives just missing each other. By the end of the film, the pair end up reunited in a nursing home, with only a notebook to help them recapture the past.
It's hard not to feel good after watching "Forrest Gump," a 1994 film about a special man from Greenbow, Alabama who ends up accomplishing extraordinary things. If you liked watching Forrest become a football star, war hero and business tycoon in the film, you wouldn't believe what other great things happen in the original book by Winston Groom, which inspired the movie.
In "Sling Blade," Billy Bob Thornton plays a disabled man named Karl Childers who ends up in an institution after killing his mom and her lover. The film details his life after his release, including a poignant look at small-town life.
"The Long Hot Summer" stars Paul Newman as a drifter named Ben Quick, who shows up unexpectedly in a tiny Southern town and ends up crossing the powerful Varner family. The movie was filmed in Clinton, Louisiana and co-stars Orson Welles as Will Varner.
In the 1972 film "Deliverance," four men go camping in the Georgia wilderness, only to run afoul of local mountain men. After being forced to squeal like a pig, the men are forced to fight for their survival and make difficult choices. This critically-acclaimed movie stars Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds.
"Driving Miss Daisy" is one of the most-beloved Southern films ever made. Released in 1989, it stars Morgan Freeman as a driver for a wealthy white woman in Atlanta, Georgia. The movie explores issues of race, faith and friendship.
A young Quvenzhane Wallis steals the show as young Hushpuppy in the 2012 film "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Forced to deal with an angry, ailing father and the constant threat of flooding in her small Louisiana town, Hushpuppy manages to appear both vulnerable and wise beyond her years.
It's up to newly-minted lawyer Vinny to save the day when his young family members are accused of murder. Starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, "My Cousin Vinny" is not only a great look at stereotypical New Yorkers trying to function in a small Southern town, but is also celebrated for its portrayal of courtroom procedures.
In the 1958 film "The Defiant Ones," Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis play a black and a white convict who escape from a chain gang but are still locked together. As they attempt to survive in the '50s deep South, they are forced to face issues of deep-seated racism and hatred.
In "Sweet Home Alabama," Reese Witherspoon plays a New York fashion designer named Melanie who must return to her Southern roots before she can marry her high-flying fiance. Of course, once she's back home again, she realizes why she'll always be a Southern girl through and through.
"A Streetcar Named Desire" tells the story of former Southern belle Blanche DuBois, who returns to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and her brother-in-law Stanley. As she watches Stella and Stanley's relationship fall apart, Blanche begins to fall to pieces herself. This movie, which was based on a Tennessee Williams play, helped make Marlon Brando a star.
"Wild River" is a 1960 film featuring Montgomery Clift as a man trying to force local Tennessee families to leave their homes to make way for a new hydroelectric dam. Set in the '30s in small-town Tennessee, the film shows Clift's character changing from an authority figure to a friend of the locals.
"12 Years a Slave" is the onscreen adaptation of a biographical work by Solomon Northrup, a free man sold into slavery in the mid-19th century. The film tells Soloman's tragic tale of being forced to slave away at a Louisiana plantation while his family in New York wonders what became of him.
Set in the small town of Spartan, Mississippi, "In the Heat of the Night" focuses on a black detective from Philadelphia who ends up solving a murder. In addition to dealing with a tough case, Detective Virgil Tibbs is forced to deal with racism, small-town politics and a Southern town struggling with the effects of the Civil Rights Movement.
"Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" begins with four young girls taking a blood oath, and goes on to show how they keep their promise of friendship as they grow. The 2002 film stars Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Maggie Smith and James Garner.
The 2003 film "Big Fish" is a unique blend of fantasy and gothic storytelling. It features Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange and Billy Crudup, and tells the story of a former salesman who uses his gift of storytelling to bond with his son as he lays dying.
"Django Unchained" blends the classic tales of the Wild West with the horrors of slavery in the antebellum South to create a truly unique story. Set in the mid-19th century in Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi, the film stars Jamie Foxx as Django Freeman. The film was as controversial for its high level of violence as it was for its portrayal of slavery.
"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" manages to make a Texas brothel called the Chicken Ranch look sort of wholesome. The feel-good film stars Dolly Parton as proprietor Mona Stangley and Burt Reynolds as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, a man willing to look beyond the law to help his friends.
Before she was signing at the Grand Ol' Opry, Loretta Lynn was just a poor "Coal Miner's Daughter." This 1980 film chronicles her young marriage, rise to stardom, near breakdown, and comeback as a country music queen.
Told in flashbacks, the 1999 film "The Green Mile" is told through the eyes of a former death row prison guard named Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks. Edgecomb reveals that during the Great Depression, he met a doomed man with special powers, including the ability to make a certain prison guard and a seemingly normal pet mouse live much longer than expected.
"Ghosts of Mississippi" is based on the real-life 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist accused of murdering a civil rights leader named Medgar Evers. The tense film stars Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods.
"The Man in the Moon" is a poignant story of a young girl's first love. As Dani Trant, Reese Witherspoon is forced to watch her love interest Court fall for her sister, and then end up dead.
"The Help" explores life among the black housekeepers of wealthy families in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi. It's told through the eyes of a young white reporter, played by Emma Stone.
The 2005 film "The Skeleton Key" is so atmospheric that it's almost like the New Orleans home where the movie is set is a character in itself. Kate Hudson plays Caroline, a nurse who takes a job in a mysterious house with a hoodoo history.
Set in Dewitt, Arkansas, "Mud" is about two teens named Ellis and Neckbone who befriend a vagabond named Mud. Played by Matthew McConaughey, the accused killer Mud is willing to sacrifice his freedom to save his young friends.
The 2007 film "No Country for Old Men" is about a Vietnam vet named Llewelyn Moss who ends up stealing $2 million during a drug deal gone bad. As he tries to survive long enough to spend the money, he is tailed through Texas by a deranged hit man and a tough Sheriff.
"Cold Mountain" is named for a western North Carolina peak located in Pisgah National Forest. Resident W.P. Inman, played by Jude Law, is desperate to make it home to his love Amy after surviving the horrors of the Civil War.
The 1981 film "Southern Comfort" tells the story of a group of Army National Guard members performing training exercises in the bayous of Louisiana. As they become hopelessly lost in the swamp, things get serious as a group of angry Cajun hunters closes in.
"Eve's Bayou" tells the tale of a young girl named Eve Batiste. Eve is forced to grow up too fast in this 1997 film due to her father's infidelity and murder, as well as the effects of her own mysterious gifts.
Based on a pair of Cash biographies, "Walk the Line" follows the legendary singer from his youth on a 1940s southern farm in Arkansas, through his early career in Memphis and his move towards Nashville and stardom. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as his wife June Carter.
The 1991 movie "The Price of Tides" tells the story of southern Tom Wingo, who travels from his home in South Carolina to New York City in an effort to help his mentally-damaged sister. While there, he is forced to face his tragic past and deal with emotions he would rather ignore.
Things are not going well for Jenna in the 2007 film "Waitress." Not only is she pregnant and stuck with an abusive boyfriend, but she also scrapes out a living making pies at Joe's Pie Diner. The story has a happy ending, however, as Jenna ditches the job and the guy and starts her own diner named for her daughter.
Inspired by the difficult life story of Michael Oher, "The Blind Side" stars Sandra Bullock as a Tennessee mom who takes in a child in need. That child, Michael, ends up playing football for Ole Miss before taking a turn in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is a feel-good tale about three convicts on the run in 1930s Mississippi. Set to classic folk music, it's a modern telling of Homer's "The Odyssey," with George Clooney in the role of Ulysses.
Based on the book by John Grisham, "The Firm" stars Tom Cruise as a naive young lawyer who joins a Memphis law firm. Forced to make immoral and even illegal choices, Cruise's character is manipulated by his mentor Avery Tolar, played by Gene Hackman.