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Travel Through Texas' Famed Movie Locations

Traverse the back roads and view these cinematic stops through your own lens

Texas’ landscapes and architecture have a great deal of range, so it’s no surprise that our state has been chosen for numerous scenes on the big screen. If you’ve ever wanted to step into a piece of cinema history, this is for you! Rewatch the classics and then spot the locations in the wild to see how each has evolved.

Poteet - 5 Hours

9199 N. State Highway 16, Poteet | 830.742-8144

The biographical film Selena shares the true story of Selena Quintanilla’s rise to fame as the “Queen of Tejano music,” so it’s only fitting that it was filmed throughout Texas. Concert scenes in the movie were shot on the fairgrounds of Poteet. If you’re checking your calendar for the best dates to visit, we’ve got a suggestion! This small town (dubbed the “Strawberry Capital of Texas”) hosts an annual strawberry festival in the spring!

Kingsland - 4 Hours

1001 King Court, Kingsland | 325.388-4411

While this might not be the original filming location of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (that was Round Rock), the house from the ’70s slasher was later relocated to the grounds of The Antlers Hotel down in Kingsland. Although the house is now far removed from its terrifying debut, its past is still honored. The restaurant and bar is now named Hooper’s, in honor of Tobe Hooper, the writer and director of the original film. This destination triples as a place to stay, dine and check out some cinematic history. (Side note: the gas station from the film is in Bastrop and conveniently named The Gas Station. They now serve barbecue and sell souvenirs related to the film, plus you can rent a cabin on the property.)

Marfa - 8.5 Hours

302 S. Highland Ave., Marfa | 432.729-4772

Two acclaimed thrillers with a range of iconic actors were filmed in this tiny West Texas town that’s managed to make quite the name for itself. No Country for Old Men features a man who comes across the scene of a drug deal gone wrong and pockets the cash, which causes him to be hunted down by a ruthless killer played by Javier Bardem. There Will Be Blood stars Daniel Day-Lewis as an oil prospector who swindles landowners into selling him their properties for cheap, but the tale grows much darker than that. Marfa is home to fewer than 2,000 residents, but its name is known countrywide. Visit it for its sweeping desert views, “ghost lights” that mysteriously shine above the horizon and, of course, the art installation that mimics a tiny Prada store. We’ve included the address of Marfa’s visitor’s center so you can get all of the details.

Austin - 3 Hours & 40 Minutes

7525 Burnet Road, Austin | 512.452-2181

It’d be a lot cooler if you had a burger from Top Notch because you’d be able to say that you visited a classic movie location and had a delicious lunch. Dazed and Confused came out in 1993, but we’re still quoting it as if that were yesterday. The restaurant’s iconic ’70s sign is still on display out front so you can’t miss it. Try a chili burger or a sandwich made out of two hot dogs or go with the classic chicken tender dinner. Hang out on their old-school red benches, and you’ll be feeling alright, alright, alright.

604 Brazos St., Austin | 512.439-1234

But wait, there’s more. Austin has no shortage of cinema credits, and the list grows each year. The famed Western drama Walker, Texas Ranger and its reboot, Walker, both utilize this city to its fullest. The original ’90s series also filmed around DFW, but if you’re seeking out a setting that feels more real-time, try one of the reboot’s locations. Our pick? The Driskill Hotel, which doubles as a two-for-one because you might recognize it from Miss Congeniality as well. The ornately decorated hotel features a grand staircase leading up to a rustic bar decked out in cowhide furniture and a branded carpet. Their cafe and bakery features recipes from the hotel’s past several decades, and every room is a luxe photo op. It’s a truly Texan experience, complete with Southern hospitality. 

Odessa - 5 Hours & 30 Minutes

1862 E. Yukon Road, Odessa | 432.456-9059

The classic film Friday Night Lights premiered nearly two decades ago, but its focus on a high school football-obsessed Texan town keeps it as relevant as ever. The drama was partially filmed in Odessa, with Ratliff Stadium as the centerpiece of the school’s football practices. The stadium is still being utilized by (actual) high school football teams today! Aside from watching a game, be sure to check out the sand dunes in Monahans Sandhills State Park for some sandboarding and stunning views.

Manor - 3.5 Hours

103 S. Caldwell St., Manor

The classic drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape turns 30 this year, and although it’s set in Iowa, it was filmed in Texas. The coming-of-age movie stars Hollywood legends Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, John C. Reilly and Juliette Lewis. The iconic water tower that DiCaprio’s character, Arnie, is obsessed with climbing is located here — but don’t attempt to partake in his favorite activity. You can also check out their little downtown area for the grocery store where Depp’s character, Gilbert, was employed. This town is an easy stop on your next trip to Austin.

Houston - 4 Hours

2101 E. NASA Parkway, Houston | 281.483-0123

Even if you’ve never seen the films, this location is sure to spark your interest — it’s none other than the NASA Johnson Space Center. Dark Side of the Moon, the third film in the Transformers series, was partially shot there because the plot involves a control center in Houston that leads a mission to recover a spacecraft. Sign up for the NASA tram tour and check out their Mission Control Center and Neutral Buoyancy Lab. The lab features an impressive (and slightly terrifying) six million-gallon tank of water, utilized as a part of their astronaut training facilities. Don’t worry, there are no giant robots waiting to push you in.


1500 Marilla St., Dallas

If you’ve ever taken your out-of-state visiting relatives on one of those bus tours around Dallas, then you already know that they love to point out where the 1987 action film RoboCop was filmed. A few of the most recognizable spots are Renaissance Tower, Dallas High School, Plaza of the Americas and, of course, Dallas City Hall. The architecture of our city hall is extraordinarily unique, especially given that it was built in 1972. The slanted, modern design makes it an interesting spot to visit regardless.


Southeast corner of Tennessee St. and Virginia St.

The heartwarming tale of a sweet stray dog was mostly filmed around Collin County’s very own McKinney. Benji premiered in 1972 and has an equally inspiring backstory. It was initially turned down by various Hollywood production companies, but that didn’t stop the film’s writer and director, Joe Camp. He formed his own company to distribute it and grossed $45 million on a budget of $500,000. McKinney recently installed a statue to commemorate the film.

Coyote Drive-In - 1 Hour

223 NE Fourth St., Fort Worth | 817.717-7767

Venturing out to film locations makes for a fun journey, but if you’re searching for a finished product, check out Fort Worth’s own drive-in theater! They remain open rain or shine and run all of the latest films (plus throwback nights) while serving up pizzas, burgers, candies and more. Just be sure to arrive early because spots fill up quickly.

Brazos Drive-In - 1.5 Hours

1800 W. Pearl St., Granbury | 817.573-1311

’Tis the season for watching films outdoors in the warm Texan air. This destination has been family owned and operated since 1952, and they’ve kept their vintage appeal and aesthetics. Their concession stand boasts everything from Texas-sized pickles to ice cream floats, chili dogs, popcorn, “inexpensive refills” and even glow sticks! 

This article was originally published in Local Profile's latest magazine.

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