This list started out as a catalog of films I used to create a”History of Film on Appalachia” class. I am building onto the “Southern Mountaineers Filmography,” a list compiled by J.W. Williamson for his book, Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains & What the Mountains Did to the Movies. Because Williamson’s list ends in 1995, I began with that year and worked forward to the present. The only difference between my list and Williamson’s is that the latter concentrated on all movies that had to do with the “hillbilly” ideology, and the former will focus only on films that involve depictions of Appalachia. Although I finished creating the class, I will continue to update the list periodically. If you happen to know of a film, TV show or TV commercial that I have not included; please let me know in the comments section below.
Appalachian Film List: 1995 to present
- (1995) Pharaoh’s Army: A Very Private Civil War – East Kentucky, Civil War cavalry captain moves in to take enemy livestock.
- (1997) Fire Down Below – Hills of Kentucky, Industrialists poisoning the lands, Steven Segal comes to save the day.
- (1999) October Sky – Rocket Boys, set in the coal mining town of West Virginia
- (2000) 28 Days – set at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC.
- (2001) Songcatcher – An “outsider” ventures into Appalachia to record folk tunes
- (2002) The Mothman Prophecies – set in West Virginia, psychological thriller..
- (2003) Cold Mountain – Set in Western N.C. Home life during the Civil War
- (2003) Wrong Turn – Horror film set in West Virginia
- (2003) Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus – musical road trip documentary through Southern Appalachia
- (2006) Country Boys – 6 hour FRONTLINE documentary on Youth in Appalachia
- (2007) Wrong Turn 2: Dead End – horror film set in the West Virginia back country featuring cannibalistic mountain people. This is the sequel to Wrong Turn (2003), and is considered by critics to be the best in the series.
- (2008) 30 Days – Season 3, Episode 1 “Working in a Coal Mine.” Morgan Spurlock spends 30 days working in a coal mine in Bolt, West Virginia.
- (2008) Hillbilly: The Real Story – History Channel Documentary on Appalachia
- (2009) 20/20, A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains – Television, Diane Sawyer special report on the 1/2 million people living in poverty in Central Appalachia. This is a very negative depiction of Appalachia as an impovershed, toothless, drug addicted society.
- (2009) APPALACHIA: A History of Mountains and People – Documentary , environmental history
- (2009) Get Low – Tennessee hermit plans his own funeral party.
- (2009) National Geographic: Appalachian Trail – “National Geographic straps on the boots to explore the splendors of the Appalachian Trail, the longest marked trail in the United States.”
- (2009) Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead – third chapter of the Wrong Turn horror series, set in the West Virginia back country featuring cannibalistic mountain men.
- (2010-present) Justified – TV series set in Lexington, KY and the hills of Eastern Kentucky
- (2011) Coal – TV Reality series that portrays the real life events on a coal mine in Westchester, West Virginia and the inherent dangers involved.
- (2011 – present) Hillbilly Blood: A Hardscrabble Life – This show follows two men that ‘survive’ in Appalachia using primitive inventions.
- (2011 – present) Moonshiners – Drama-documentary on Moonshiners in Appalachia
- (2011) The Last Mountain – documentary, the fight for “the last great mountain” in Appalachia against the mining giant that wants to explode it.
- (2011) Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings – the fourth installment of the Wrong Turn horror series. This films differs from the first three due to its status as a prequel This film shows the origins of the cannibalistic mountain men from the previous films.
- (2011 – present) Rocket City Rednecks – Rocket City Rednecks is led by Travis Taylor and his team of redneck geniuses. In his younger years, Travis started out cleaning chicken coops, but for the past two decades he’s been a research scientist with the Department of Defense and NASA. Sometimes big science moves too slow for Travis, so come the weekends he “gits” together with his father, brother-in-law, nephew and best friend to combine a little hillbilly ingenuity with advanced engineering and physics to tackle real-world scenarios. With their thick accents and distinctive vocabulary, the tight-knit group brings their own unique style of southern charm to science and technology. (Description provided by National Geographic. I’ve yet to see the show)
- (2012) Hatfields & McCoys – History Channel Drama on the Hatfield-McCoy feud
- (2012) The Hunger Games – A science fiction adventure film, based on the novel of the same name, set in the futurastic country of Panem (former United States). The main characters are from “District 12.” (The Appalachian Mountains).
- (2012) Lawless – Franklin County Virginia. Moonshiners during prohibition
- (2012 – present) – Small Town Security – An American “reality” television series produced by Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver from Left/Right Productions for the AMC network. The unscripted show focuses on a small, family-owned, private security company called JJK Security, located in the rural city of Ringgold, Georgia. As a Ringgold native, this show nauseates me and I’ve yet to find a citizen of that town that watches the show.
- (2012) Wrong Turn 5: Bloodliness – The fifth and last (to date) installment of the horror series Wrong Turn, this film is another prequel picking up after Bloody Beginnings but before the original.
- (2013) Buckwild – An American reality television series on MTV. MTV execs used Buckwild to replace the “ever popular” Jersey Shore. Buckwild is set in West Virginia and uses an interesting combination of stereotypical ignorance, poverty, and famine known in Appalachia, and the over the top behaviors of characters in “reality” television. MTV execs. cancelled Season 2 after the untimely death and arrests of several of the show’s stars.
- (2013 – present) Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning – Cashing in on their hit TV drama, Hatfields & McCoys starring Kevin Costner, the “History” Channel brings us the delightful unscripted reality of those two ‘clans’ living in West Virginia today. Only this time, their fighting over moonshine. Nothing screams Appalachia like Family Feuds, Moonshine and hillbillies.
- (2013) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The sequel to the critically acclaimed movie The Hunger Games. I can always get behind a story about Appalachians sticking it to the “man.”
- (2013) Killing Season – An American veteran of the Bosnian War finds peace of mind deep in the Appalachian wilderness, until a mysterious European tourist seeks him out. Appalachia is presented as a rustic setting, perfect for the cat and mouse war games in this movie. The major characters are not depicted as native
- (2013 – present) Mountain Monsters – Another reality show about Appalachia. This time, viewers follow men into the hills looking for scary creatures of the wood (my emphasis).
- (2013) The Mountain People, Direc TV Commercial – This commercial gives a rather insensitive and stereotyped depiction of Appalachian mountain ‘folk.’ Public outrage forced Direc TV to pull the commercial and to issue a formal apology.
- (2013 – present) Snake Salvation – A ‘reality’ show that premiers September 10, 2013 (I can hardly wait), and features two snake handling churches. The Pentecostal Pastor Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Ky are the main characters in the show. This should be an excellent example of religion in Appalachia (smirk).
- (2013 – present) Tickle – A spin-off of the show Mountain Moonshiners. ’nuff said.
There are numerous films, documentaries and shorts which can be found on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting YouTube page.
35 thoughts on “Appalachian Film List”
I happened upon your list when I was searching for the soon to be released Hillbilly: Appalachia in Film and TV. Since moving to southern WV in 1972 and studying with the late Don West, founder of the Southern Appalachian Folklife Center, I have continually learned about the range of depiction of this area and its people in all media. I hope you will continue to update the list. Thanks, Larry
Thanks for the comment. I have not updated this list in quite a while, but I recently began teaching a class on Appalachian identity and stereotypes through film. So I will likely begin updating this list very soon.
Little Accidents was something set in Appalachia that hit me very hard, having grown up there.
American Hollow by Rory Kennedy!!!!!
Thank you! I haven’t updated this list in a while.
After seeing your list I wonder if any film anytime will EVER get it right. As a 64 year old born and raised in the Appalachian coalfield of VA. I have waited all my life to see our culture done true on any screen . Will I ever see that?
Take a look at the movie “Little Accidents” it is no documentary, but it hits home.
I want to see more about the potential of Appalachia, and a lot less about how miserable it is.
I definitely will – I need to update my list, it’s been a while. I’m in a small hiatus right now. Thank you for commenting and for the suggestion. 🙂
I so hope the day comes when your wish comes true.As a 68 year women who has read everything I can get my hands on concerning appalchian and it’s culture and ppl.these psst few years I have realised how mislead and decieved the american ppl have been about the culture and the incredible men and women who for generations have homesteaded and developed the land in the appalchian mountains.I was just telling my husband this morning that back in the 30’s or 20.s our government deceitfully led the american ppl to believe that appalchians were depicted as slow witted and hillbillies to be scorned in comic books and cartoons and movies and the government had to “save them”by removing them from their laND and educating them.And what did the government get out of this? Land rich in resources and the most beautiful mountains in the world where a playground for americans were created in the name of a national park.Well at least that may have been the agenda..one thing we know is a ppl. We’re very wronged and it was totally unconstitional#!How in the world did the american ppl accept such a wrong..to take land from americans?
The Descent – The movie wasn’t filmed in the Appalachian Mountains but it’s location was set there.
Not a bad suggestion – I’ll look into it. Thanks!
“Outsiders” 2016 on wgn America
Does anyone remember a series/documentary called either”Appalachian story’s” or “Story’s of the Appalachians”. It aired in the early ‘ 80’s …..it got into the backwoods and showed the hard lives of people lost in time, still using horses rather than machines and just the honest simple lives they lead. Thank you
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009)
Lord – can’t we just pretend that doesn’t exist?
Thanks for the film list. I grew up in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, so your list might hit close to home. “Snake Salvation” reminds me of Dennis Covington’s book “Salvation on Sand Mountain”, but I assume that there is no direct connection.
The Journey of August King
Does anyone remember a film set in Appalachia where three kids live with their dying father, and then struggle to make it on their own when he dies (while pretending he is still alive to the school authorities). The second girl is a herbalist, and saves her older sister’s suitor with the “onion cure” when he gets pneumonia. I loved that film and can’t find it.
I do. I taught a film class some time ago and one of my students presented on this film in particular. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of that movie.
Where the Lilies Bloom?
I think that’s it!
I don’t think that’s the movie being referenced however Stark Love is an amazing film!
Technically the Coen Brothers O Brother where art thou is not Appalacia . Down from the Mountain -2000 a documentary about the music and the musicians who preformed the songs is . It features early Country music as the film was set in the 30’s as well as traditional Appalacian music. Well worth seeing as it celebrates Appalacian art and culture and is one of the few films I’ve seen that’s neither patronizing or condescending. It’s actually incredibly positive and shows how this music is a fundamental part of American Culture. The movie itself as it is about living musicians , spurred a revial of Appalacian music that went on to inspire Cat Power and the White Stripes among many others.
Yes, I believe I said as much up above.
Thank you for the tip about Down on the Mountain. I will pass it on to an associate of mine who teaches classes on Appalachian Music and Dance.
The Doll maker with Jane Fonda
Coal miners daughter
Trail of the lonesome pine
Thanks – My list picks up a little after those samples and I believe they are all included on previous lists.
Cold Mountain. The special feature is a film unto itself with many outstanding musicians and singers such as Jack White and Allison Krause. If you have never heard of “Bell” singing, here’s your chance!
Definitely agree – it is on the list hyperlinked at the top.
You can add the Wild and wonderful Whites of West Virginia to your list. It was produced in 2009. A documentary on the Whites and how they lived in West Virginia
Aw man, do I really have to?
Further north than most relate but:
The Molly Maguires.
I really enjoyed the film. It showcases the tough labor of the Irish (and Scots-Irish). I really think a lot of the culture can be contributed to early Scots Irish, Welsh, and later the Irish. Celtic culture evolved. Anyway the movie has Sean Connery, C’Mon!
“Set in late 19th century Northeastern Pennsylvania, this social drama tells the story of an undercover detective sent to a coal mining community to expose a secret society of Irish-American miners battling exploitation at the hand of the owners. Partly inspired by a true story, the film portrays the rebellious leader of the Molly Maguires and his will to achieve social justice.”
Also along the same lines are Matewan and Black Fury.
I’ve actually never seen the Molly Maguires but I’m sure it is in the original catalog published by Williamson referenced at the top. Thanks!
Big Stone Gap Movie shot 100^ in Nig Stone Gap VA book by Adriana Trigiani
Starring Ashley Judd and Patrick Wilson.