While it's not world-famous Hollywood, another longtime favorite movie location among Los Angeles-based directors is Houston, Texas. With a subtropical climate, complete with a Wild West feel, and being home to multiple National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space stations, Houston's a comfortable shooting locale and an interesting set. Add to that its easy accessibility—with an international airport residing just outside city limits—allowing actors and set crews to buzz in and out during a multi-month shoot. And while you may not realize it, a few favorite films have been shot here. Think "Twins," "Robocop 2," and Rutger Hauer's cinematic masterpiece "Blind Fury."
Ask anyone from Pasadena (a prominent Houston suburb and the seventh most populous city in Texas) what their town is most known for and they'll boast about the classic 1980 film "Urban Cowboy" starring Debra Winger and John Travolta. And how could they not? This love story that was filmed in Pasadena creatively chronicles the volatile relationship between the main characters Bud and Sissy (a cowboy and cowgirl, respectively). Arguably, it's one of the most famous iconic Texas films out there.
Though only a portion of the movie "Tin Cup" was shot near Houston, this 1996 movie makes our list based solely on the gut-wrenching golf course meltdown that Roy (Tin Cup) McAvoy—played by Kevin Costner—suffers at the end of the film. Any true golfer can relate to the $2 per bucket driving range portrayed in the film and the diehard way McAvoy pursues the sport (and also his true love, played by Rene Russo).
"Houston, we have a problem ..."
No one can forget that tense phrase from Ron Howard's 1995 movie "Apollo 13," one of the greatest astronaut movies of all time, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon. Not only was part of this movie shot at NASA's Johnson Space Center, one of Houston's most prominent attractions, but it was staged to take place there. Check out this throwback film on IMAX, if you get the chance, for an adventure-based ride through space.
At the complete opposite end of the reality spectrum is the 1998 summer smash "Armageddon," featuring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Billy Bob Thornton. Disney's most expensive film at the time, this space movie is action-packed and introduced the concept of "the end of the world" at a time before anyone even considered it. Catch this classic on television and you'll get misty-eyed when—spoiler alert—Willis swaps places with Affleck at the end of the movie.
Any film that makes mention of the Astrodome in Houston—the first multi-purpose, dome-shaped sports stadium in the world—must show up on this list. And "Friday Night Lights," which came out in 2004 and stars Billy Bob Thornton, Jay Hernandez, and Derek Luke, was a startlingly good movie at that. This film focuses on the football team, the coach, and the adults who define themselves around their relationship to the sport. The scene where Boobie Miles starts screaming in the car when he realizes the bleakness of his own future sheds light on the stress of becoming a sports star.
This 1982 flashback film features Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds in their prime. And, apparently, the Melvin P. Thorpe's character (played by Dom DeLuise) was based on one of Houston's most beloved reporters, Marvin Zindler. Add to that that this movie has inspired countless spin-offs, parodies, and imitations and you've got yourself a bona fide cult classic.
Two men (well actually, one teenager and one man) feud for the love of a woman in the 1998 movie "Rushmore," with actors Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams. Precocious Max Fischer lives for school, where he's not particularly a scholar but enjoys a host of extracurricular activities, including a crush on his teacher. This movie transformed Bill Murray's career from a movie star to an indie-movie star, quite the opposite of most other actors.
You'd be hard pressed to find a character more inherently disagreeable than Ethan Hawke's in this 1994 movie also starring Winona Ryder and Janeane Garofalo. "Reality Bites" follows the trials and tribulations of growing into your twenties. Scenes from this film were shot in several Houston locations, including Houston Heights, a collection of neighborhoods often referred to as "The Heights."
Released in 2011, this movie was filmed in Houston and several other Texas cities and features Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, and Jessica Chastain. This heartwarming film about a family growing up in the country's Midlands gives a glimpse into the lives of boys wanting to grow up too fast. Watching "The Tree of Life" now brings us back to the days when kids called other parents by their proper names, rather than their first names.
"Space Cowboys" with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, and Donald Sutherland combines two things that Houston is best known for: NASA and cowboys. This film from the year 2000 highlights the lives of four men who are destined to live out their heroic dream to travel to space. The opportunity presents itself when a Russian satellite malfunctions and the main character, played by Eastwood, is sent to repair it, alongside his cohorts.