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April 04, 2019 Slideshows » Arts

Films Made in San Antonio That We Can (Or Should) Proudly Claim 

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According to the Internet Movie Database, there are nearly 1,000 films and TV shows shot at least partly in San Antonio over the last 119 years. From a big-picture perspective, that’s a tiny drop in the bucket. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Alamo City doesn’t celebrate the projects it’s had the opportunity to host — from beloved biopics like Selena to lesser-known classics from the first half of the 20th century. Here is a look at 23 of San Antonio’s greatest cinematic hits as well as others we’re happy to introduce you to if you haven’t seen them yet.
OF 23
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Eternal man-child Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) travels across the country, including to the Alamo in San Antonio, to search for his stolen bicycle. The comedy was director Tim Burton’s first feature film of his career. According to Kathy Rhoads, former director of the San Antonio Film Commission in the 1980s, she helped facilitate the trip downtown for Burton, Reubens, producer Bob Shapiro and director of photography Victor Kemper. The scenes actually featuring San Antonio add up to 20 seconds of the final film.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Miss Congeniality
Actress Sandra Bullock stars as Gracie Hart, an FBI agent who goes undercover as a pageant contestant to stop a domestic terrorist from bombing the event. In the scene that features San Antonio the most, Gracie performs in the talent portion of the pageant in front of the Alamo. Dressed in bloomers, she plays “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago on a set of water glasses. The film also stars Benjamin Bratt as FBI agent and Gracie’s love interest Eric Matthews.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Spy Kids
Directed by San Antonio native Robert Rodriguez, this adventure features a family of secret agents (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Peña Vega and Daryl Sabara) who must stop an evil villain from replacing all the world’s children with robots. The original 2001 film has spawned three sequels.
Photo courtesy of Dimension Films
The iconic 1997 biopic Selena is the story of Texas-born Tejano star Selena Quintanilla, from her humble beginnings to her booming career up until her death. Catch her speaking at Central Library, singing in front of the Alamo and driving down Somerset Road in this flick.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Cloak & Dagger
With small snippets of San Antonio’s landscape throughout the film, the Alamo City still proudly claims Cloak & Dagger as a very SA production. You’ll see shots of the Sunken Gardens, River Walk and other random downtown spots – including the Tower Life building – throughout the 1984 film. Davey Osborne, whose mother is dead and father doesn’t spend enough time with him, and his imaginary friend, a secret agent, are on the run when they come into possession of a spy group’s secret plans. Here’s an extra treat: SA native Henry Thomas stars as Davey just two years after his big break in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
8 Seconds
Filmed in parts of San Antonio, Boerne, Helotes and Seguin, 1994’s 8 Seconds is a very SA film. The late Luke Perry stars as bull riding champion Lane Frost with the film chronicling hsi 1987 PRCA Bull Riding World Champion, his marriage and friendships with Tuff Hedeman and Cody Lambert. One of the more recognizable scenes takes place at the bar at John T. Floore Country Store.
Photo via IMDB / 8 Seconds
Viva Max!
Released in 1969, Viva Max! is the comedic story of General Maximillian Rodrigues and his plan to reoccupy the Alamo in order to impress his girlfriend, unbeknownst to the troops who follow him. Scenes from the movie are set in downtown San Antonio outside of the Alamo. The film actually inspired the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, as well as other historical groups, to hold multiple protests in order to prevent filming, claiming the flick was “desecrating the memory” of the Alamo. This caused some scenes with a replicate of the Alamo to be filmed in Bracketville.
Photo via IMDB / Viva Max!
The Sugarland Express
A crime drama directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, The Sugarland Express is the story of a woman who breaks her husband out of prison with the intention of kidnapping their son to bring their family back together. Scenes were shot at Harlandale Stadium and Northside ISD Stadium as well as in Converse and Floresville.The film was Spielberg’s theatrical feature directorial debut and his first collaboration with famed composer John Williams.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
This Jim Carrey sequel follows the titular character as he and his capuchin monkey Spike travel to Africa to find the sacred Great White bat, which has gone missing. The comedy went on to earn a Razzie Award for Worst Remake or Sequel. It’s well documented that Carrey himself wasn’t a fan of the film. Still, he earned $15 million to reprise the role. Alrighty then!
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Blank Check
You’ll recognize Six Flags Fiesta Texas in this 1994 film. A youngster ends up with a check for $1 million and, obviously, goes ahead and spends it as a young boy would. But, there’s a catch – a group of gangsters are chasing him – and the check.
Photo via YouTube / Adan Garcia
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All the Pretty Horses
Billy Bob Thornton’s 2000 film spotlights plenty of Texas – from Big Bend National Park to Boerne and Helotes. Keep an eye out for the Cadillac Bar, which is featured in the film about two Texas cowboys who head to Mexico for work but get in trouble with the law after one of them (Matt Damon’s character) falls in love with a wealthy rancher’s daughter (played by Penelope Cruz). Oh, and it stars Henry Thomas because San Antonio.
Photo via IMDB / All the Pretty Horses
Johnny Be Good
Title character Johnny Walker is a sought-after football prospect despite being short and scrawny, and it’s recruiting time. His dilemma is that he has many offers from college talent scouts, but should he attend a local state college with his girlfriend and give up his football career? Though there’s a memorable scene inside a mansion in Alamo Heights, other scenes in the 1988 film Johnny Be Good, starring Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr., were shot throughout San Antonio as well as Georgetown.
Photo courtesy of MGM via IMDB / Johnny Be Good
Set in 1954 Austin, this 1987 film stars Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges. Playing the title character, Basinger goes to a photographer who has risque photos of her, and ends up in the middle of a murder scene when she goes to get the prints back. She grabs an envelope with her name of it – which doesn’t actually have her photos. Instead, she gets stolen plans for a new highway development, prompting Bridges’ character to scheme to get rich. And Bridges’ mistress in the film is a former Pecan Queen who works at the Lone Star Brewing Company. Oh, and Nadine is pregnant and the couple wants a divorce. There’s a lot going on and some scenes were shot in San Antonio, so you might as well watch it.
Photo via IMDB / Nadine
The film stars Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Richard Arlen as two rival combat pilots in love with the same woman (played by actress Clara Bow). Some major aerial scenes from the film were shot at Fort Sam Houston, forever cementing the start of San Antonio’s longstanding relationship with Hollywood productions. The film won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Still Breathing
In addition to some filming in San Marcos, a part of the 1997 rom-com starring Brendan Fraser and Joanna Going was shot here in San Antonio. Fraser stars as a puppeteer in San Antonio who falls in love with a con artist in LA who he sees in a dream. Going’s character is rightfully hesitant, but oddly comes around to the idea after travelling to SA and meeting Fraser’s character’s grandmother. Oh, and there’s a scene where they go tubing down a river in case you were hesitant to believe this film has Texas inspirations.
Photo via IMDB / Still Breathing
The Getaway
Shot throughout Texas, San Antonians can spot Sunset Station and the River Walk while watching this 1972 flick. The film follows a recently-released ex-con and his loyal wife as they go on the run after a heist goes wrong. Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw star as the criminal couple.
Photo via IMDB / The Getaway
A Guy Named Joe
Three years after winning the Academy Award for Best Director for the 1940 classic Gone with the Wind, filmmaker Victor Fleming teamed up with two-time Oscar winner Spencer Tracy in this WWII drama. In the film, Tracy stars as Major Pete Sandidge, a pilot who is killed and learns when he gets to heaven that every pilot has their own guardian angel. In 1989, director Steven Spielberg made Always, a remake of this film.
Photo courtesy of MGM
Loosely based on the board game of the same name, this sci-fi action film directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) stars Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård and Rihanna. It follows a group of Navy officers and seamen who must defend the world from an alien invasion. The film was nominated for seven Razzies. Rihanna won for Worst Supporting Actress.
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
Go Down, Death!
A 1945 indie film by the pioneering African-American star and filmmaker Spencer K. Williams, Go Down, Death! was shot at various locales around our East Side. The film follows a crime boss who is eventually overcome with guilt from his war with a local preacher. Falling into the bygone category of a “race film,” Go Down, Death! features a mainly black cast and was made for black audiences. As such, the film provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate not only the achievement an esteemed black director, but also to consider, in a broad sense, the important contributions made by San Antonio’s African-American community.
Photo courtesy of Sack Amusement Pictures
The Rough Riders
Twelve years prior to directing The Wizard of Oz, director Victor Fleming made this silent war film starring actor Noah Beery. The film tells the fictional story of a military unit organized by future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and the time he spent in Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Fragments of this film are housed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
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The Warrens of Virginia
Legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille (The Greatest Show on Earth) directed this silent Civil War drama starring British actor House Peters as Ned Burton, a soldier who leaves his wife Agatha (Blanche Sweet) to join the Union Army. Prints of the silent film are held at the George Eastman Museum Motion Picture Collection in Rochester, New York.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
I Wanted Wings
Not to be confused with the Academy Award-winning 1927 film Wings, which was also shot in San Antonio, this war drama starring Ray Milland, William Holden and Veronica Lake also won an Oscar for Best Special Effects for the aerial scenes shot at Randolph Field. The film tells the story of three recruits in the Army Air Corps — the son of a wealthy businessman, a college football player and an auto mechanic.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
West Point of the Air
This war drama stars Oscar-winning actor Wallace Beery (The Champ) as Master Sergeant “Big Mike” Stone, who hopes his son “Little Mike” (Robert Young) will follow his footsteps and become an aviator. Despite graduating from West Point and going to pilot training at Randolph Field in Texas, things don’t go as planned when Little Mike blames himself for an accident that causes his friend to lose a leg. The film’s aerial shots were a combination of live action and airplane models.
Photo courtesy of MGM
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Eternal man-child Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) travels across the country, including to the Alamo in San Antonio, to search for his stolen bicycle. The comedy was director Tim Burton’s first feature film of his career. According to Kathy Rhoads, former director of the San Antonio Film Commission in the 1980s, she helped facilitate the trip downtown for Burton, Reubens, producer Bob Shapiro and director of photography Victor Kemper. The scenes actually featuring San Antonio add up to 20 seconds of the final film.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

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