Greatest Feature Films About
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Charles Laughton, considered by many
critics as one of the greatest English actors ever, directed only one
film – this one. It was a disaster when it came out though the novel
it was based on was a best-seller and received critical acclaim. It was
Robert Mitchum’s greatest role, and is very, very influential in the
history of filmmaking. It was partially filmed on the Ohio River though
most of it was made in California. Recently the UCLA film archives
restored the film.
(1987) John Sayles, the single most famous independent feature film
director in this country, came to WV in 1983. For four years he raised
the money, getting most of it from Bruce Springsteen, and finally shot
the film in Thurmond and other locals in the state. It is widely
considered to be the greatest labor history film ever made, and is now
being re-released as part of a nationwide series of showings of films by
Sayles by IFC.
DEER HUNTER (1978) Only small parts of this film were actually made
inside WV, including Weirton, but the people it is about are very
typical northern WV people. It was nominated for nine Oscars and won
five - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Best
Director, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing. It was widely influential
in filmmaking around the world, proving that a story about working-class
people can be dramatic and exciting. Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep were
both nominated for Oscars.
4. OCTOBER SKY (1999) Based on Homer Hickham’s autobiography, Rocket Boys, this film presented a young man who rose to the heights of intellectual greatness despite growing up in a Southern WV coal camp. It won many humanitarian awards, and made the career for its director, Joe Johnston, who went on to direct the next Jurrasic Park.
(1997) Considered to be the best film about a dog since the classic Old
Yeller, this film, about an abused WV beagle even had a sequel – Shiloh
Season. It is based on an award-winning children’s series of books
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) Jonathan Demme filmed this movie mostly
around Pittsburgh. Clarice Sterling, the heroine played by Jodi Foster,
is from WV, and the key scene where a body was found with a moth in its
mouth was filmed on the Elk River in Clay County. The film changed movie
history, using the case of Ed Gein in Wisconsin as its factual basis.
DAVID (1921) This film is about evil West Virginians coming over the
mountain to the paradise of Virginia, killing David’s dog, destroying
his family, and in general making “just tol’able David” stand up
to his Goliath. Henry King, a legendary Hollywood director for more than
60 years, made this film about his own home area in Virginia based on a
popular story. D.W. Griffith was supposed to make the film, but instead
a young fellow from Virginia was given a chance. It influenced
filmmaking all over the world, especially Russia, where it was exported
and highly praised.
PARADE (1981) Filmed entirely in Moundsville, this film like Night
of the Hunter, is based on a Davis Grubb novel. Jimmy Stewart, Kurt
Russell, George Kennedy, and Strother Martin star in one of the best
prison films ever made. It was Stewart’s last Hollywood feature film.
Kennedy and Martin switch their roles from Cool Hand Luke, this
time Martin playing the good guy and Kennedy the evil prison guard. This
film, like Hunter, is based on real events that happened in WV.
FROM SPACE (1995) LA filmmaker Ralph Coon came to WV to film a
documentary about Gray Barker. Barker is famous for inventing the idea
of “men in black” and writing about the collapse of the Silver
Bridge. The world premiere of the film took place in Charleston, and it has
become a cult film. It’s shot in crude black and white, and very
accurately recreates the strange world that Gray Barker created for
himself and others around the planet. His book, They Knew too Much,
has been reissued.
10. CORRECT CHANGE (2002) Directed by Mike Lilly, a native of Charleston, this is the newest film on the list. It took Lilly several years to actually film it, shooting part in Moundsville, and then flashback scenes in Charleston and other WV locations. It has been shown in Charleston, Moundsville, and Beckley.
Additional AppLit Resources:
Films and From the Brothers Grimm
release from September 9, 2002, entitled “World premier screenings at
Flooded Out Film Festival
Winning Festival Films, background information on the first festival, local history, links to sponsors, links to information on film such as The Griffin and the Minor Canon, The Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Space Preachers, etc.
The West Virginia Filmmakers Guild was created in 1985 to provide networking and communication between West Virginia film and video makers and those interested in these crafts in West Virginia. Central to its mission is educating the public and promoting West Virginia filmmakers and their films to the public.