/ The Houston Guide
Houston — By Christina Uticone on July 14, 2010 at 12:07 am
Filed under: films, movies, top-feature, trivia

Houston In Film

I am a lover of movies; old and new, romance and adventure, documentary and historical.¬† I believe that there is a real difference in quality when a production takes the time (and spends the money) to film on location.¬† Location shoots lend an aspect of realism to a movie, and boost local economies at the same time – I appreciate that.¬† Today’s CGI and 3-D blockbusters are great, but I really enjoy when a film puts characters into a physical reality of a location shoot – even within the “alternate” reality of a fictional story – because it can ground a story and allow us to invest our energy in believing in the characters themselves, without having to devote any to their surroundings.¬† I was watching the Jeff Bridges Oscar-winning “Crazy Heart” with my husband last week and part of the movie was set in Houston.¬† This got me wondering – what movies have been shot in Houston, a city rich in history and character all its own?¬† My research revealed some pleasant surprises, as some of my all time favorite movies shot scenes here in Houston.¬† Of course, there are some real duds, too!

(Author’s Note: while Jeff Bridges’ character lives in Houston, and some scenes are set in Houston, the movie was not shot in the city but in New Mexico and California locations – bummer!)

1. Terms of Endearment (1983): The ultimate chick-flick, and I’ve seen it at least 30 times.¬† It’s one of those movies you just have to watch over and over again.¬† “Terms of Endearment” has everything – complicated mother-daughter dynamics courtesy of Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, comedic relief a la Jeff Daniels, and a young(er), rakish Jack Nicholson as a fading NASA astronaut.¬† You laugh, you cry, you see Aurora (MacLaine) and Garrett (Nicholson) share a “lovely lunch” at the Houston institution that is Brennan’s (map).¬† Also in Houston?¬† The apartment shared by Emma and Flap, at 1148 Heights Blvd. (map) as well as Aurora’s grand southern home, located at 3060 Locke Lane (map), which Emma spends the movie running alternately to and from.

2. Armaggedon (1998): Confession time! I went to see this in the theater with a high school buddy who, at the end of the movie, refused to walk out of the theater with me because I cried so hard at the end.¬† HUMILIATING!¬† This Michael Bay adventure/romance about oil drillers-turned-astronauts, the end of the world, and The Power of True Love availed itself of the Johnson Space Center (map) for the NASA scenes; specifically, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and the Flight Control Room from the Apollo Era.¬† Ben Affleck is dreamy, Liv Tyler is dreamy-eyed, and Bruce Willis is squinty … and dirty and heroic, in this two-hour cheese-fest.¬† But the movie makes NASA look sexier than you ever thought possible – I still think it’s watchable, especially with an Aerosmith soundtrack.

3. Tin Cup (1996): If you golf, or if you love a golfer, you probably love the movie “Tin Cup” starring Kevin Costner, Renee Russo, Cheech Marin, and Don Johnson.¬† Kevin Costner plays Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, a golf pro at a beat up old course out in the middle of Nowhere-Special-Really, Texas.¬† When the beautiful psychologist Molly (Russo) shows up for lessons at the urging of her pro-golfer boyfriend (Johnson), Costner is spurred to action on and off the course in pursuit of The Girl and The Game.¬† The final scenes from Tin Cup were shot northwest of the city, in Kingswood, and in the city itself.¬† When our anti-hero Roy faces down his nemesis and his personal demons, he’s on the course at the Deerwood (map), Northgate (map), and Kingwood (map) Country Clubs.

4. Twins (1988): The Ivan Reitman ’80s classic pairs Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger as twins separated at birth who learn about each other in adulthood.¬† Julius (Schwarzenegger) was raised on a tropical island as a Renaissance Man, an intellectual who “has it all” while Vincent (DeVito) was raised in an orphanage and grew up to be a crook and a con man.¬† Once they are reunited they set off on a cross-country road trip to deliver the stolen goods from one of Vincent’s cons; the twin brothers adventure their way from LA to Houston, where The Big, Big Bad Guy lives.¬† Of course, the “heart” of the movie is in Santa Fe, where their long-lost mother lives, but the Good Guy plus one sorta Good Guy vs. Bad Guy action is based in Houston, in a sort of ’80s version of a Wild West showdown.

film, cinema, movies, location, shooting5. Pearl Harbor (2001): Another Michael Bay adventure/romance, another heroic Ben Affleck torn between Glory and The Girl, it might seem strange that scenes from a WWII film about the bombing of Pearl Harbor would be filmed in Houston.¬† The scenes shot here were aboard the U.S.S. Texas at the San Jacinto Battlefield State Memorial Site, 3523 Battleground Rd., LaPorte (map).¬† The U.S.S. Texas is the world’s oldest dreadnought battleship, described as “all big-gun” battleships, and these were the most widely-used ships in the 20th century.¬† The U.S.S. Texas saw battle at Vera Cruz in 1914 and in both World Wars.¬† I know I’m¬† not supposed to be reviewing the movies so much as listing them, but I might suggest that the ship itself is the most interesting part of this movie (it’s a pretty bad one, and I’m not the only one who thinks so).¬† The U.S.S. Texas remains open to tourists at San Jacinto Battlefield State Memorial Site.

football, stadium, astrodome6. Friday Night Lights (2004): Football is a religion here in Texas and the 2004 movie “Friday Night Lights” brought that message home to people across the country, and around the world, who fell in love with the Odessa, Texas team the Permian High Panthers.¬† The movie centers around the small town of Odessa and its residents, whose big dreams center around one thing – the high school football squad.¬† What the film is “about” however, is the way the dreams others have for us can interfere with having dreams of our own.¬† Romance, racial tension, family discord – “Friday Night Lights” delivers a lot of drama, but the crunch of helmets and the thud of protective padding on the field is what really gets the heart racing.¬† With scenes filmed at Houston’s famed Astrodome at 1 Reliant Center (map), this film really gets “deep into the heart of Texas”, to paraphrase.

7. Rushmore (1998): Rushmore is a quirky little film, a dark and twisted comedy that somehow highlights reality by skewing reality.¬† Not only is the entire movie shot in and around Houston (including Lamar High School (map), North Shore School (map), Kincaid School (map) and St. John’s School (map)) but director Wes Anderson is a Houston native and former student at St. John’s School; his writing partner Owen Wilson is also a native Texan and the two were roomates at UT Austin.¬† Jason Schwartzman got his big break in this film, which also stars Bill Murray, Brian Cox, and Luke Wilson.¬† Schwartzman’s Max Fischer plays a student at a ritzy prep school – secretly on scholarship – whose out-of-the-box thinking and charm gets him noticed, and nowhere, all at the same time.

8. Urban Cowboy (1980): Debra Winger makes an appearance on my list for a second time, because I just can’t leave this incredible (or incredibly hilarious, depending on how you feel about it) film off of my “Houston in Film” list.¬† The story of Bud (John Travolta) and Sissy (Winger) has occupied many a rainy Saturday afternoon for me: country-boy Bud falls in love with and marries cowgirl Sissy, but misunderstandings and missed signals cause plot-convenient miscommunication, providing the perfect backdrop for … an ELECTRIC BULLRIDING CONTEST!¬† Much of the action takes place in, and was filmed at, the famous -and former, having closed its doors in within a decade of the film being shot – Pasadena honkey-tonk, Gilley’s.

9. Arlington Road (1999): This compelling thriller is based around college professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) who suspects that his new neighbor, Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins) isn’t who he says he is … and as the movie progresses, Faraday’s suspicious about Lang’s possible ties to terrorism grow.¬† Scenes for this movie were filmed in the Houston suburb of Pearland (that’s pronounced Pear-land like the fruit, not Pearl-land like the gem).¬† Additional scenes were filmed at the University of Houston campus, although the movie plot itself takes place in the Washington DC area.¬† In fact, IMDB lists the visibility of the Houston skyline under the movie’s “Goofs” page.

10. Apollo 13 (1995): If I didn’t include “Apollo 13″ on a list of movies filmed in Houston … we’d have a problem.¬† Sorry, I had to do that.¬† Parts of this 1995 smash hit/instant classic were filmed at the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s Houston base of operations.¬† This film was recently screened at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park, and it was a treat to be able to watch it under the stars.¬† “Houston … we have a problem” is one of the most recognizable movie lines ever, right?¬† Who hasn’t used some version of it themselves at one time or another to describe a sticky situation in their own lives?¬† The zero-gravity scenes in “Apollo 13″ were filmed at Ellington Field in Houston, however director Ron Howard refused NASA’s offer to film in the actual Mission Control Center in Houston and instead had one built on the lot at Universal Studios.¬† Another interesting tidbit: “Houston … we have a problem” was not actually spoken by any astronaut on the mission.¬† In the movie Lovell (Hanks) is the one who reports, “Houston … we have a problem” but actually it was Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) who first reports, “Okay Houston, we’ve had a problem here” and after Houston asks for clarification Lovell utters the line, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”.¬† I’ll stick with the movie version.

Photos courtesy the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Related places:
  1. A
    Brennan's Houston
    3300 Smith Street, Houston, TX
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    1148 Heights Blvd
    1148 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77008
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    3060 Locke Ln
    3060 Locke Ln, Houston, TX 77019
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058
    Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Deerwood Club
    1717 Forest Garden Dr, Humble, TX
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Northgate Country Club
    17110 Northgate Forest Drive, Houston, TX
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Kingwood Country Club
    1700 Lake Kingwood Trail, Kingwood, TX
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    3527 Battleground Rd
    3527 Battleground Rd, La Porte, TX 77571
    View Details and Book
  9. I
    Astrodome, Houston, TX
    Astrodome, Houston, TX
    View Details and Book
  10. J
    Lamar High School Baseball Field
    View Details and Book
  11. K
    North Shore High School
    13501 Hollypark Drive, Houston, TX
    View Details and Book
  12. L
    School Store
    201 Kinkaid School Drive, Houston, TX
    View Details and Book
  13. M
    St. John's School
    2401 Claremont Lane, Houston, TX, 77019, USA
    View Details and Book
Tags: films, movies, top-feature, trivia

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