What Are The Best Movies Shot In North Carolina?

Believe it or not, North Carolina has a surprisingly rich and diverse film history. Though the volume of pictures produced in the state may not be comparable to California or New York, there is no shortage of great films shot in Tar Heel country. To highlight the very best of them, BetCarolina.com took a break from the momentum behind North Carolina sports betting to rank the top movies filmed in the state.

But of course, deciding which movies are considered “the best” is highly subjective, so we’ve identified some key data points to help us land on a top 10.

We created a scoring system that incorporates IMDB rating, Rotten Tomatoes Audience score, Rotten Tomatoes Critic score, and Oscar recognition.

Here are the results:

Best Films Shot In North Carolina

Overall Rank Movie Total Points
1 Forrest Gump (1994) 103.6
2 The Color Purple (1985) 93.6
3The Green Mile (1999) 90.3
4The Last of the Mohicans (1992) 88
5 The Hunger Games (2012) 83.6
6 The Conjuring (2013) 81
7 Super Size Me (2004) 79.6
8 Dirty Dancing (1987) 79.3
9 Iron Man 3 (2013) 77
10Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) 72.6

Hanks, Spielberg Make Their Mark

No. 1 on the list is “Forrest Gump.” While filming took place across the United States — the movie is about the vast cultural landscape of America, after all — Forrest’s home state of Alabama was actually represented by the trifecta of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in the film. And “Forrest Gump” is so beloved, it’s likely that it’d be the most popular film in those other two states, as well.

The beauty of North Carolina is on full display throughout the film, but especially during the Oscar winner’s most iconic montage, when Forrest begins running and doesn’t stop. Set to thematically appropriate classic rock anthems like “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” Forrest jogs across several backdrops North Carolina residents are sure to recognize — including Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

No. 2 on the list is the Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Color Purple.” Largely seen as Spielberg’s pivot away from popcorn movies into more serious filmmaking, “The Color Purple” has a prickly reputation that’s endured to this day. Some view Spielberg’s visceral depictions of the hardships faced by African American women in the film — which include rape, incest and physical abuse — to be exploitative and gratuitous. Nevertheless, it will always be remembered for launching the career of Whoopi Goldberg.

Although the novel and film are both set in Georgia during the first half of the 20th century, the film adaptation was shot in North Carolina — primarily in Anson and Union Counties.

One of the main locations in the film, the home of the abusive Mister, portrayed by Danny Glover, is actually the historic Bennett Place, which you can still visit today. The former farm and homestead of James C. Bennett was the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War on April 26, 1865 — effectively ending the war.

Hello Stephen King, Jennifer Lawrence and "Iron Man"

Unfortunately, for the most part the No. 3 film on our list, “The Green Mile,” was not filmed in North Carolina. The majority of the film takes place within the gothic-facade of the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville, but the scenes that bookend the Stephen King-adapted death-row drama were filmed at one of North Carolina’s most historic hotels.

The Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock opened in 1891, and has been taking visitors ever since. For just $109, you too can join the ranks of the prestigious clientele which boasts J.D. Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt and Morrissey as past guests.

North Carolina has never looked better on screen than in the No. 4 film on our list. “The Last of the Mohicans” is a historical epic starring Daniel Day Lewis as Hawkeye, a white man raised by Native Americans, caught up in a conflict between the French and British in 18th century colonial America.

Based on a 1826 novel by James Fenimore Cooper, the story is set in upstate New York, but director Michael Mann chose to shoot in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in large part because of the location’s natural, untouched beauty.

The next two films on the list, “The Hunger Games” and “The Conjuring,” as well as “Iron Man 3" at No. 9, were filmed in-state not so much because of the gorgeous locations — but rather some attractive film incentives. From 2010-2014, North Carolina boasted a generous 25% tax fund known as The Film Industry Investment Tax Credit.

But when the state government capped the total refund available per year, Hollywood went looking for a better deal and film production took a serious hit.

Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner

Coming in at No. 8 on our list is the beloved Patrick Swayze film “Dirty Dancing.” Now, much of that movie was shot at The Mountain Lake Lodge in the neighboring state of Virginia. But several scenes, including the iconic “Time of My Life” dance climax, were filmed in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the gymnasium where that was shot burned down in the 1980s.

Of course this list only begins to scratch the surface of great movies filmed in North Carolina. 

Other standouts include recent Oscar-winner “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri;” the latter-day Peter Sellers flick “Being There,” filmed at NC’s Biltmore Estate; Kevin Costner’s iconic baseball drama “Bull Durham;” and a trio of films set in the world of NASCAR — “Days of Thunder,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Logan Lucky” — each of which is worth checking out, albeit for very different reasons.

BetCarolina.com will keep you entertained with several research items such as this, including our recent Famous North Carolina Celebrities piece. As we wait for mobile and online sportsbooks to launch, we will provide several other similar articles.

Hopefully in the near future, this site will be home to reviews on North Carolina sports betting apps and more. 


Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker is a writer for BetCarolina.com. A writer for film, television and the internet, Jeff is a life long movie buff, with an actual Masters Degree in Popular Culture. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works full time as documentary filmmaker and producer.

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