Texas has been the setting for so many important films over the years, it was nearly impossible to pick just five. I easily could have added five more and still not have been done -- but then the list would have been too big. Then again, maybe that would have been fitting given the subject.
By Christy Lemire/The Associated Press
"No Country for Old Men" (2007)
Joel and Ethan Coen crafted a contemporary Western in which you can feel the heat of the baking sun and the scratch of scrub brush. The dialogue (based on Cormac McCarthy's novel) is just dead-on in its cadence, color and specificity. And Tommy Lee Jones, who was born and raised in the state, is Texas personified as an aging small-town sheriff on the hunt for a killer. "No Country" won four Oscars including best picture.
"The Last Picture Show" (1971)
Everything about this coming-of-age drama just oozes Texas. Peter Bogdanovich, working from the novel by Larry McMurtry (with whom he co-wrote the script), creates a detailed, lived-in sense of place. High school football, cars, girls, the local movie house - sure, these things mattered elsewhere in the early 1950s. But the sense of lonely, small-town West Texas life depicted here is just so vivid, with its leisurely pace and big skies.
"Friday Night Lights" (2004)
Peter Berg's film completely gets the obsession with high school football in Texas. Literally every store shuts down on Friday nights and the 20,000 people packing into the stadium all have some opinion on how the coach (Billy Bob Thornton) should run the team. This particular team is the Permian High School Panthers in the West Texas city of Odessa.
"Dazed and Confused" (1991)
This movie only could have been made in Austin. It captured a specific kind of youth culture in a specific place and time - when Austin was still weird - and it played a crucial role in the rise of independent cinema in the early 1990s. This early offering from Texas native Richard Linklater, a director who's become synonymous with Austin's filmmaking scene (alongside Robert Rodriguez), is a virtually plotless amble around the state's capital and home of the University of Texas.
"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974)
The original, of course - with chain saw as two words, not one - and not the 2003 remake or the even more needless 2006 origin story. One of the earliest films from Austin native and horror master Tobe Hooper, this became hugely influential on the genre. Shot in Austin and nearby towns, it provides a sense of isolation that feels peculiarly Texan; the state is so vast that you can imagine anything happening in its many remote pockets. And, of course, there's all that delicious barbecue.