Tennessee Films & TV
Discover the wide variety of films and television shows that have been made in and around Tennessee.
The Blind Side
Based on a true story, this heart-warming film will have you cheering! Michael Oher is a homeless teen and Leigh Anne Tuohy an interior designer – neither know the other’s world. But when they meet their lives change. He finds a home and goes on to be a football start and her family gets an addition.
Starring: Tim McGraw, Sandra Bullock, Lily Collins
Walk The Line
Following the life of the legendary 'Man in Black', Johnny Cash. The movie begins in 1955, when a tough, skinny guitar-slinger who called himself J.R. Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) walks into the soon-to-be-famous Sun Studios in Memphis. It was a moment that would have an indelible effect on American culture. With his driving freight-train chords, steel-eyed intensity and a voice as deep and black as night, Cash sang blistering songs of heartache and survival that were gutsy, full of real life and unlike anything heard before. That day kicked off the electrifying early career of Johnny Cash. As he pioneered a fiercely original sound that blazed a trail for rock, country, punk, folk and rap stars to come, Cash began a rough-and-tumble journey of personal transformation. In the most volatile period of his life, he evolved from a self-destructive pop star into the iconic 'Man in Black' - facing down his demons, fighting for the love that would save him time and again, and learning how to walk the razor-thin line between destruction and redemption. Reese Witherspoon won a Best Actress Academy Award for her role as June Carter, Cash's long-suffering wife.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
Starring Jessie Buckley and Academy Award nominee Julie Waters, Wild Rose tells the complicated story of musician Rose-Lynn, a woman from Scotland who is on a quest to become a country music stat while also grappling with the responsibilities of being recently released from prison and a young mother of two children.
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Julie Waters, Sophie Okonedo
An American Haunting
In 1818, a family began to experience disturbances on their property. At first, the hauntings were slight, unexplained noises, but the spirit grew, becoming aggressive and singling out the father, John, and his only daughter Betsy. The family desperately searched for the cause of the spirit in the hope of finding a way of defeating it, but it continued its brutal assault. It developed voices….
Based on true events that took place in Tennessee during the 1800s - the only documented case in US history and validated by the State of Tennessee.
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Matthew Marsh
9 to 5
Frank Hart is a pg. He takes advantage of the women who work with him in the grossest manner. When his three assistants manage to trap him in his own house, they assume control of his department and productivity leaps, but just how long can they keep Hart tied up?
Starring: Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin
Hustle & Flow
Inner-city rap drama starring Ludacris and Terrence Howard. Street hustler and low-grade pimp DJ (Howard) spends his time selling sexy Nola (Taryn Manning) to clients so that he can support pregnant girlfriend Shug (Taraji Henson), but his sleazy lifestyle leaves him feeling hollow and unfulfilled.
Starring: Anthony Anderson, DJ Qualls, Taraji P. Henson
Aloof teenage Japanese tourists, a frazzled Italian widow and a disgruntled British immigrant all converge in the city of dreams – which, in Mystery Train, from Jim Jarmusch, is Memphis. Made with its director’s customary precision and wit, this triptych of stories pays playful tribute to the home of Stax Records, Sun Studio, Graceland, Carl Perkins and, of course, the King.
Starring: Masatoshi Nagese, Youki Kudoh, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
TV Box Sets
Rayna James is the established “Queen of Country” music. However, her latest album is not selling well. Her record label suggests that she open for Juliette Barnes, the young Juliette Barnes, the young and sext bestselling singer of ‘bubble gum country’.
Starring: Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Clare Bowen
Country Music (mini-series by Ken Burns)
Step back in time and journey through the compelling history of a musical art form with Country Music, an eight-part, 16-hour documentary series directed by Ken Burns, and produced by Burns and his long-time collaborators Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey. More than eight years in the making, the film follows the evolution of country music from its humble yet diverse origins to becoming a worldwide phenomenon by the end of the twentieth century.
Bluff City Law
Bluff City Law is an American legal drama television series set in Memphis, Tennessee, the series depicts a law firm led by attorney Elijah Strait (played by Jimmy Smits) and his daughter, Sydney. The firm handles controversial civil rights cases.
If you're interested in reading books set in or about Tennessee, click here.
Some of the books listed below are literary classics, but did you know they are based in Tennessee? Some of these popular reads have also won Pulitzer prize and are a popular read among the public.
The Firm by John Grisham
He thought it was his dream job. It turned into his worst nightmare.
When Mitch McDeere qualified third in his class at Harvard, offers poured in from every law firm in America. Bendini, Lambert and Locke were a small, well-respected firm, but their offer exceeded Mitch's wildest expectations: a fantastic salary, a new home, and the keys to a brand new BMW.
Except for the mysterious deaths of previous lawyers with the firm. And the FBI investigations. And the secret files.
Long before John Grisham’s name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby - writing his first novel.
A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
One of the most celebrated novels of its time, the Pulitzer Prize winner A Summons to Memphis introduces the Carver family, natives of Nashville, residents, with the exception of Phillip, of Memphis, Tennessee.
During the twilight of a Sunday afternoon in March, New York book editor Phillip Carver receives an urgent phone call from each of his older, unmarried sisters. They plead with Phillip to help avert their widower father's impending remarriage to a younger woman. Hesitant to get embroiled in a family drama, he reluctantly agrees to go back south, only to discover the true motivation behing his sisters' concern. While there, Phillip is forced to confront his domineering siblings, a controlling patriarch, and flood of memories from this troubled past.
The Widow of the South
Tennessee, 1864. On a late autumn day, near a little town called Franklin, 10,000 men will soon lie dead or dying in a battle that will change many lives for ever. None will be more changed than Carrie McGavock, who finds her home taken over by the Confederate army and turned into a field hospital. Taking charge, she finds the courage to face up to the horrors around her and, in doing so, finds a cause.
Out on the battlefield, a tired young Southern soldier drops his guns and charges forward into Yankee territory, holding only the flag of his company's colours. He survives and is brought to the hospital. Carrie recognises something in him - a willingness to die - and decides on that day, in her house, she will not let him.
The Sound of Soulsville, USA
Everybody knows Motown. But at the same time another hit factory in the American South brought sweet soul music to the masses. Stax Records from Memphis made its mark on soul and rhythm & blues in the Sixties and Seventies, and gave the world legends like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Isaac Hayes. Listen up, class: this is a history lesson you can dance to.
It all began with Satellite Records, founded in 1957 by country fiddler Jim Stewart – who initially operated the label from his garage. Three years later Stewart moved operations to the Capitol Theatre on 926 East McLemore Avenue in South Memphis, a change of address that would change the world of music forever. And Memphis too, as the location now houses the fun-packed Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a must-visit for every music fan.
Back in the day, Stewart’s sister and Stax co-founder Estelle Axton operated a record store in the old concession stand of the former movie theatre. This unwittingly launched the stellar rise of Stax Records, as the label was called from 1961 on. The shop brought very much needed income to the table and proved to be an excellent listening pool for the new music that came out of the studio next door.
On top of that, a constant queue of new talent lined up at the counter. David Porter, writer of Soul Man and Hold On! I’m Coming!, worked at a nearby supermarket when he decided to give the new folks on the block a try. His writing partner Isaac Hayes lived in the neighbourhood and started his professional career as an in-house session musician for Otis Redding. Who earned his chance in 1962, when a failed session with The Pinetoppers’ guitarist Johnny Jenkins left 40 minutes on the clock for the soon-to-be legendary vocal stylings of Stax’s biggest-selling superstar.
In the meantime an unbeatable house band had formed, backing new songbirds while rapidly getting better with every beat. Together Booker T & The M.G.’s, with pianist/singer Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bass player Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, Jr, were a big part of what was to go into the books as the Stax sound.
The sound of Stax
But what is that famous Stax sound? According to Steve Cropper it has everything to do with the musicians playing without headphones in the big, downward slanting movie theatre that was turned into a studio: ‘When you put headphones on, everybody just sort of tightens up. I played watching Al Jackson’s left hand rather than by going what I heard in my head. I started to anticipate what lay ahead instead of waiting to actually hear the sound.’
Meanwhile the singer, standing behind a big heavy curtain behind the drummer, got the rhythm only after it bounced off the ceiling towards him a fraction of second later. For the layman these might be technical nuances, but that delayed backbeat unmistakably is the engine of the Stax sound.
Check out this Spotify playlist to hear it yourself. You’ll be shaking your tailfeather in no time!
Don’t have Spotify? Here are the tracks you should look for.
Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)
Sam & Dave – Hold On! I’m Coming!
Otis Redding – Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
Booker T & The M.G.’s – Green Onions
Bar-Kays – Soul Finger
Rufus Thomas – Walking The Dog
William Bell – You Don’t Miss Your Water
Eddie Floyd – Knock On Wood
The Mar-Keys – Last Night
The Mad Lads – I Want Someone
The Emotions - So I Can Love You
Jean Knight - Mr. Big Stuff
The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself
Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love
Tennessee's Historical Top 10
Tennessee's rich history is abundant; it's in the state's great battle sites, in its architecture, its state parks, and its many museums. For those of you on a tight schedule, here's our round-up of the very best historical things to so and see in Tennessee.
- The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is unmissable for anyone with an interest in social history. This is actually a collection of museums and historical buildings which trace the history of the Civil Rights movement in the US from the 17th century to the present day.
- One of the most popular attractions in Tennessee, perhaps not surprisingly, is Graceland. Whether you're an avid Elvis Presley fan or not, this most spectacular of homes is sure to impress.
- Established in 1894, the Shiloh National Military Park commemorates, and preserves the site of, the 2 day Civil War battle that took place here. The Shiloh National Cemetery is also on the site, as are a number of prehistoric Indian mounds.
- Music fans are well-catered for in Tennessee. Nashville is almost synonymous with country music, so a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame is pretty essential, whether you are a country music enthusiast or not. The vast museum is home to a colossal 200,000 sound recordings, 500,000 photographs, and more than 30,000 moving images. It also houses a collection of iconic cars, including Elvis Presley's 1960 'solid gold' Cadillac limousine.
- Another key draw for music fans is the STAX Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. This charts the rise of American soul music and showcases the many infamous soul artists who recorded with the STAX record label - artists such as Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, etc.
- If you want to combine a love of the outdoors with a love of history, then Cumberland Gap National Park is a great choice. For early settlers, this was the first great gateway to the west. Stunning scenery combines with its prominent historical significance to deliver a first-rate place to visit and explore.
- Tennessee State Capitol draws many visitors with an interest in political history. This is the oldest working Capitol in the US, and it houses some intriguing and informative exhibits - including the 'Tennessee Time Tunnel', 'Forging A Nation', and 'The Civil War & Reconstruction'.
- There are plenty of iconic American historical figures, but perhaps one of the most legendary of all is David 'Davy' Crockett, so a visit to the David Crockett Birthplace State Park is worth adding to your Tennessee itinerary. On site are a replica birthplace cabin, and an 18th century farmstead, as well as over 80 campsites for those wanting to stay longer than a day!
- Another attraction for those with political history leanings is the Abraham Lincoln Library & Museum in Harrogate. This is one of the more immersive political museums, featuring many recreated dramatised scenes from Lincoln's life.
- The Andrew Jackson National Historic Site preserves the former president's two homes, tailor shop, and grave site. It is a commemoration of a most extraordinary ground-breaking president whose presidential policies still impact the modern-day US.
If you have any questions, or just want to find out more, do get in touch with our Tennessee experts; we are always happy to hear from you!
National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on 4th April, 1968.
The Lorraine was one of only a few hotels to which African-American travellers could enjoy overnight accommodations during the segregated eras leading up to the late 1960s in America. Although the museum pays tribute and homage to the legacy of Dr. King, it is devoted to the thousands of people who were part of the entire American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to present.
The museum chronicles key episodes of the Movement, examines today's global civil and human rights issues, provokes thoughtful debate and serves as a catalyst for social positive change providing a focus of national remembrance. The museum's latest renovations saw it transformed to an immersive, interactive experience with 40+ films, touch screens and listening posts.
Visitors are transported back in time to explore galleries detailing the brutal and barbaric slave trade, the pernicious Jim Crow "separate but equal" laws which institutionalised racial segregation across America for more than 100 years, the legal battles to gain equality in employment and education as well as the sacrifice and bravery of so many activists and citizens.
Step aboard a vintage bus to hear the altercation between a public transit worker in Montgomery and Rosa Parks. Sit at a segregated lunch counter and feel the anger of a white mob.
The '1963 March on Washington' exhibit immerses the visitor into a life-like setting while an audio excerpt plays from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Be sure to visit the Legacy Building, a former boarding house across the road from the Lorraine Motel, where James Earl Ray lodged before the assassination and investigates his case and ensuing conspiracy theories of who really killed Dr. King?
Visitors should allow at least three hours for a quality visit and experience.
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