There’s a lot to love about Alabama: Southern hospitality, an incredible outdoor culture, and scenery to spare all come to mind.
It’s no wonder, then, that several hit Hollywood films have bee filmed throughout the Yellowhammer State over the years. Scenes from family-friendly hits, big-budget films, and lighthearted comedies have long been filmed and set throughout the state, often showcasing Alabama’s unique scenery and rugged wilderness.
Itching to get out and experience some of these views for yourself? You’re in luck. Here are seven movies filmed in the Alabama outdoors—and how to enjoy the silver-screen views while working off some of that popcorn.
Tom and Huck, Cathedral Caverns State Park
Tom and Huck, released in 1995, starred Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom Sawyer and Brad Renfro as Huck Finn. Based on Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the film was mostly filmed in the historic town of Mooresville, near the banks of the Tennessee River.
Outdoor lovers looking to follow in Tom Sawyer’s famous footsteps can do so inside Cathedral Caverns State Park, where several underground cave scenes were filmed. There, explorers can take in an underground river, stalagmite forest, stunning rock formations, and more.
Under Siege, Mobile Bay
Steven Seagal starred in the 1992 thriller, which takes place aboard the USS Missouri. Standing in for the famous ship, however? The USS Alabama, currently docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama.
Looking to get a glimpse of the famous ship while enjoying the outdoors? Cyclists and hikers can enjoy the Eastern Shore Trail, which runs through USS Alabama Battleship Park. The difficult trail, mostly made up of asphalt and concrete, introduces visitors to the Gulf Coast’s bogs, marshes, streams, and other outdoor attractions. Borat, Birmingham and Helena
Big Fish, Wetumpka
Big Fish, a 2003 drama directed by Tim Burton and starring Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, and Albert Finney, followed a father and son trying to mend fences after years of estrangement. The film earned acclaim for its fantastical story and heart-tugging examination of the father-son dynamic; in some scenes, however, the surroundings stole the show.
Wetumpka, just north of Montgomery, stood in for the fictitious town of Ashton, where the film was set. In addition to silver-screen sight-seeing, the town offers several opportunities for outdoor recreation, including cycling, hiking, canoeing, paddling, and more.
Failure to Launch, Cherokee Rock Village
This 2006 comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, followed the story of a 35-year-old happily living at home—even as adulthood beckoned.
Even with high-profile stars, a scenic slice of the Alabama outdoors made a memorable cameo. In one scene, McConaughey’s character went rock-climbing at the popular Cherokee Rock Village (also known as Sand Rock). Climbers hoping for a more fruitful outing than his character (who falls after being bitten by a lizard), will encounter pitches ranging from 30 to 80 feet and grades ranging from 5.6 to 5.13.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Talladega
Predictably, several racing scenes from the 2006 comedy were filmed at Talladega Superspeedway. The film, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, told the story of a clueless NASCAR driver who navigated several comedic obstacles on and off the track.
The film paid little attention to Alabama’s outdoors, and crews missed out: The racing scenes were shot just a few miles from Talladega National Forest and the Pinhoti Trail.
The 335-mile Pinhoti Trail, which starts in Cheaha State Park and ultimately ends in Georgia, offers roughly 170 miles in Alabama for rugged backpacking and hiking. The solitary trail delivers a mix of panoramic views, rocky outcrops, wildlife, challenging terrain, and more for experienced backpackers and novice hikers alike.
Borat, Birmingham and Helena
The 2006 mockumentary (whose full name is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakstan) from comedy mastermind Sacha Baron Cohen took filmgoers by storm for its gross-out humor and playful look at life in the country, with several scenes filmed in and around Birmingham and Helena.
Cohen, playing the movie’s title character, visited Alabama ostensibly to learn about Southern culture; in doing so, he learned about etiquette and joined a formal dinner party. (The movie earned a hard “R” rating, and these outrageous scenes demonstrate why.)
And while these specific scenes don’t offer a glimpse at Birmingham’s amazing outdoor scene per se, you’re in luck if you’re looking to enjoy some of the views Cohen left on the cutting-room floor. Avid hikers and trail runners have long made Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve one of the region’s premier outdoor destinations. Fourteen miles of hiker- and cyclist-only trails criss-cross the mountain, which was the site of mining operations between the 1800s and 1950s. The park also offers clear, impressive views of downtown Birmingham.
Devoted cyclists should hit up Railroad Park, which offers 19 acres of urban trails in what was once an industrial wasteland. Today, the meandering trails pass by gorgeous grass fields, bubbling streams, and other natural wonders—all in the middle of downtown Birmingham.
The 2013 film followed Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) as he became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. Several scenes from the hard-hitting film were shot at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, the oldest baseball park in the United States.
The field still hosts games today; if you’re around and hoping to see the historic spot, extend your day trip or make it a weekend outing with several nearby outdoor activities. Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is one notable highlight. The park’s five-mile network of trails offers numerous creekside and waterfall views, and it doubles as one of the state’s best and most popular swimming holes. Cool off after a hike or bike ride with a dip at the park’s waterfalls or in the calmer waters just beyond the falls.
Hikers have long flocked to Oak Mountain State Park, and it’s easy to see why: Oak Mountain promises more than 50 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to thigh-busting workouts. Along the way, hikers may enjoy well-earned views of creeks, waterfalls, thick forests, sweeping ridges, and more.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.