From left, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean were the stars of the movie “Giant,” one that many consider the most iconic ever shot in Texas. 


When we asked our readers, via a Facebook post, what they thought were the defining movies about Texas, we expected a wide range of answers, and did we get them. 

There were some strange omissions — like no one considered “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” — but we think what they came up with is pretty strong. 

If you really consider the Texas movie legacy, there are a lot of fine choices. Some of the works that didn’t make it include “No Country For Old Men,” “The Rookie” and “Lone Star.” While we included a television miniseries, we didn’t include any Texas-set television shows — we’re thinking “Dallas” would probably win here. 

However, here’s a look at the 10 movies that are Texas legendary. 

10.  “FRIDAY  NIGHT  LIGHTS,” 2004

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: Based on the 1990 nonfiction book by H.G. Bissinger, the movie focuses on the high school football prowess of Odessa’s Permian High School. The story was later adapted into a critically acclaimed television series. 


WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: It made University of Texas graduate Matthew McConaughey a star, and the movie is a cult classic. McConaughey uttered his iconic “alright, alright, alright” in the movie for the first time. 

Set in the waning days of the 1976 school year at Lee High School in Austin, the movie follows teenagers for a night of drunken, or stoned, stupidity. The movie was directed by Richard Linklater, who grew up in Houston and calls Austin home, and also featured Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich.


8. “LONESOME DOVE,”  1989

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY:  It’s our lone television show on the list, but it’s also an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize novel by Texas author Larry McMurtry. 

Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall, the story follows the Hat Creek Cattle Company as former Texas Rangers Capt. Gus McCrae (Duvall) and Capt. Woodrow McCall (Jones) drive a herd from Lonesome Dove, Texas, to Montana. The four-part miniseries was a huge hit for CBS and had more than 26 million people watch the series. It also was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards. 

7.  “THE ALAMO,” 1960 

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: John Wayne. Even though it’s creative in its use of facts, this was Wayne’s first time directing a movie. He also was the producer, investing $1.5 million of his own money in the project. 

The movie has been criticized for its lack of historical accuracy and for Wayne inserting his anti-communist beliefs into the movie, but it still remains a popular depiction of the 1836 battle that defined Texas independence.  

6. “OFFICE SPACE,” 1999

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: Written and directed by “Beavis and Butthead” creator MIke Judge, the movie follows Texas office workers busying themselves to avoid their boss. 

While the movie was a failure at the box office, it has become a cult classic about the trials and tribulations of white-collar workers, especially those in the information technology sector. The movie was shot in Dallas and Austin.

5. “BERNIE,” 2011

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: The second film from director Richard Linklater to make the list, this based-on story follows popular mortician Bernie Tiede, who is accused in the murder of a wealthy widowed woman. 

The comedic movie stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthey McConaughey and generated significant controversy in the town of Carthage, where the actual murder took place. Tiede was released from prison in 2014 on the condition that he live with Linklater. The district attorney in the case, who was played by McConaughey, objected to the depiction of a murder as a “dark comedy.” 

4. “SELENA,” 1997

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: When it comes to Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez helped redefine the genre of Latin music and was an emerging crossover star before she was murdered in 1995 by the woman charged with managing her fan club. 

The movie version cast Jennifer Lopez as Selena and proved to be a success at the box office. Set in Corpus Christi, the movie follows the life of Selena until her death.  

3. “URBAN COWBOY,” 1980

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: The music and the honky-tonk proved to be the biggest stars of this John Travolta-led movie. The soundtrack featured Mickey Gilley, the Charlie Daniels Band, Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs and Linda Ronstadt and was the No. 1 country album at the time. 

The movie, which also stars Debra Winger, is set in Houston and centers around the country music scene at Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas. Of course, there’s also plenty of mechanical bull riding, which set off a trend that still prevails today at bars, clubs and fairs across the country.  


WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: Another adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s literary work, the black-and-white movie is set in the early 1950s in the fading north Texas town of Anarene. The movie focuses on the lives of teenagers living in the town and their complicated love stories. 

The movie features Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn and Eileen Brennan. It was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who was directing a major film for the first time. The movie was shot in McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City. The movie earned Johnson and Leachman Academy Awards — best supporting actors. In 1998, the movie was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. 

1.  “GIANT,” 1956 

WHY IT’S TEXAS LEGENDARY: Oil, land and love. Of course, the movie also starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and was the final movie of James Dean, who was killed in a California car crash before the movie was released. Dean and Hudson were both nominated for Academy Awards for their work.

 The movie was a study of Texas prosperity and racism, especially against those of Mexican descent. Adapted from the novel by Edna Ferber, who wrote three groundbreaking and best-selling books about racism in America, it also portrays the struggle of Texas’ ranching families and the boom of oil production. The movie was partially shot on location in Marfa, Texas. Like “The Last Picture Show,” “Giant” has been named to the National Film Registry. It is ranked as the 82nd best American movie by AFI. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and George Stevens earned the Oscar for best director. 


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