Film-making is booming in Birmingham and across the state since Alabama began its film incentive program. The movies are as varied as the locations where they were shot. One is a real-time suspense film with chase scenes filmed on Morris Avenue; another is the story of brothers who created Mr. Universe and a fitness empire, filmed in several locations across the city. Then there are family dramas and stories about dirt track racing, football, ultimate fighting and music.
The following are films made in Birmingham in recent years:
EMBATTLED: A high school wrestling prodigy must face his fiercest opponent, his UFC champion father. Starring Elizabeth Reaser, Stephn Dorff and Darren Mann. Filmed in November 2018. Local filming locations include the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex as a Las Vegas fight venue with 500 mostly local extras, Nikki’s East and local homes.
LIVE!: Shot in real time, the story follows a disgraced cop on his hunt to rescue the police commissioner’s kidnapped daughter, trapped somewhere in the city with only 80 minutes to live. With a deranged killer on his heels, the cop’s only hope is teaming with an ambitious young online reporter who films the wild chase live. Starring Aaron Eckhart. Filmed from mid-May to June 2018. Local film locations include Morris Avenue and other downtown streets for car chase scenes.
BIGGER: The story of the Weider brothers, two poor immigrant boys who grew up in a Montreal ghetto and go on to found the International Federation of Body Builders and the Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe competitions, not to mention grooming a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Starring Tyler Hoechlin, Aneurin Barnard and Mr. Universe 2015, Calum Von Moger of Australia, as Schwarzenegger. Filmed in 2017 with Birmingham locations including the Alabama Theatre, The Lyric Theatre and Temple Emanu-El. Released in October 2018.
TRADING PAINT: A veteran dirt track race driver and his son, a fellow driver, overcome family and professional conflicts, balancing ego, resentment and a racing nemesis to come out stronger on the other side. Starring John Travolta, Michael Madsen and Shania Twain. Filmed in August 2017, local film locations include the Talladega short track in Eastaboga, Hueytown (home of Nascar’s Alabama Gang), Harry and Billie’s Bar in Bessemer, Golden Rule barbecue in Hoover and Medical Center West.
MOOSE: A rabid film fan stalks his favorite celebrity action hero and destroys the star’s life. Starring John Travolta and Devon Sawa. It was written and directed by Fred Durst, former front man for the rock group Limp Bizkit who based the story on a real-life fan who had stalked him years ago. This is the second Birmingham-based film starring Travolta.
LIFTED: A middle school student in Alabama finds refuge in music after he is stuck living with his drug-addicted mother and strict grandfather when his father is deployed to Afghanistan. With the help of a local pastor, the boy decides to take part in a local singing contest. Starring Nicki Aycox, Uriah Shelton, Dash Mihok. Filming locations include sites in Irondale, Montevallo, Birmingham and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
CLUBHOUSE: Sinister characters seize control of a century-old mansion from the humble owner, a paralyzed Iraq war veteran. Starring Tim Abell, Leslie Easterbrook and Christopher Murray. Filmed in the spring 2018 at Birmingham’s historic Clubhouse on Highland Avenue.
INTO THE ASHES: An ex-convict tries to adjust to a normal life in rural Alabama when his past comes back to haunt him. Starring Frank Grillo, Luke Grimes and Robert Taylor. Filmed in January 2018 at local locations including the Bessemer Police Department, Bessemer Courthouse and Farr Hardware in Bessemer.
INHERIT THE VIPER: After their father dies, three siblings in Appalachia get by as local opioid dealers and try not to get caught in the spiral of violence that comes with the territory. Starring Josh Harnett, Margarita Levieva, Chandler Riggs and Bruce Dern. Filmed in December 2017.
RUN THE RACE: Two young brothers in a small Southern town look to sports – high school football and track — to help them face unbelievable odds after their mother’s death and father’s abandonment. Produced by Tim Tebow and his brother Robby. Starring Mykelti Williamson, who played Bubba in Forrest Gump; Tanner Stine; and Frances Fisher. Filmed in October 2016 at locations including Birmingham-Southern College and Bessemer Academy.
SWORD OF TRUST: An improvised American comedy film with an ensemble cast directed by Lynn Shelton. Filmed in 2018 at local locations including in the Argo community.
OFFICE UPRISING: An employee at a weapon’s factory discovers that an energy drink turns his coworkers into zombies. Starring Brenton Thwaites, Jane Levy and Karan Soni. Filmed in Birmingham in December 2016. Released July 2018 on Sony Crackle.
LET THERE BE LIGHT: A famous atheist goes through a near-death experience in a car accident before converting to Christianity. Starring and directed by Kevin Sorbo, who played television’s Hercules, Sam Sorbo and Daniel Roebuck. Sorbo’s wife, Sam, who is co-writer, and their sons play his wife and sons in the movie. It was filmed in early 2017 and released in October 2017. Local film locations include the Lyric Theatre, Avondale Park, Cooper Green Mercy Center and Altadena Valley Presbyterian Church.
WOODLAWN: A gifted high school football player must learn to boldly embrace his talent and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field, based on the true story of Tony Nathan and “how love and unity overcame hate and division in early 1970s Birmingham.” Starring Caleb Castille, Sean Astin and Jon Voight, as Bear Bryant. Filmed in Birmingham in 2015 – including scenes at Legion Field – and released in theaters in October 2015.
42: Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to play in major league baseball when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faces considerable racism in the process. Starring Chadwick Boseman, T.R. Knight, Harrison Ford and Alabama native Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese. Produced by Birmingham natives Andrew and Jon Erwin’s Erwin Brothers Entertainment. Filmed in 2012 at Rickwood Field, “42” was released in 2013.
MOM’S DAY OUT: Three housewives, bored with their suburban life, break away for a night in the city. Starring Sandra Drew, Patricia Heaton, Sean Astin and Trace Adkins. Filmed in Birmingham with locations including Red Cat Coffee and Oak Mountain Bowling. Produced by Erwin Brothers Entertainment. Released Mother’s Day weekend of 2014 and opened among the top 10 debuting films.
GRACE UNPLUGGED: Grace Try is a phenomenal singer. But at the tender age of 18, after she gets the music break of a lifetime and is thrust into the real world, her faith is put to the test. Starring A.J. Michalka and James Denton. Filmed in 2013 in Birmingham and in Ventura and Hollywood, California.
OCTOBER BABY: A college freshman’s world is rocked when she learns she is the adopted survivor of a failed abortion. Produced by the Erwin Brothers of Birmingham and starring Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey and John Schneider. Filmed at Birmingham sites including Samford University and the Alabama Theatre, plus scenes in Pelham, Mobile and Dauphin Island. Released in 2012, opening among the top ten debuting films.
Movies Made elsewhere in Alabama since the state’s incentive program began in 2009.
JUST MERCY: Filmed in 2018 at Alabama locations, including in Montgomery, “Just Mercy” shadows world-renowned civil rights defense attorney Brian Stevenson as he recounts his experiences in the case of a condemned death row prisoner he fought to free. Based on Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy.” Starring Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as death row prisoner Walter McMillan. Slated for a 2020 release.
ZERO: Currently filming in Huntsville, this Hindi-language movie is being called the most expensive India production ever. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, India’s top movie star, “Zero” is about a rich but physically-challenged man who struggles to find his perfect match. His experiences with an amputee and a superstar lead to many adventures that help him complete his imperfection. Alabama film locations include the Hindu Cultural Center in Harvest, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville Botanical Gardens and Grille 29 in Huntsville.
ARKANSAS: A crime drama starring Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn, “Arkansas” is based on a book by Arkansas native and actor Clark Duke. It follows two drug runners in the Dixie Mafia who must eliminate their drug kingpin to survive. Alabama was selected for filming over Arkansas. Filmed in the Mobile area in fall 2018.
BLACKWATER: A deep cover operative awakens to find himself imprisoned in a CIA black site on a submarine. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and filmed in Mobile and Ontario, Canada, in 2017. Released May 2018.
GET OUT: A young African American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point. Jordan Peele stars and directed. Filmed in Mobile and Fairhope, including the Armitage House in Fairhope. Released in 2017.
USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE: The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. Starring Nicholas Cage and Tom Sizemore. Filmed in 2015 at locations including the USS Alabama, Battleship Park and Saenger Theater in Mobile and Orange Beach. Released in 2016.
GERALD’S GAME: While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame, based on a Stephen King novel. Filmed in 2016 at Mobile and Point Clear.
SPACE WARRIORS: A group of kid space cadets must help in the rescue of three astronauts whose ship got stranded in space. Starring Thomas Horn, Josh Lucas and Mira Sorvino. Filmed in Huntsville in 2013.
SMILE AS BIG AS THE MOON: Based on a true story of a football coach and special education teacher determined to take his students to Space Camp. Starring John Corbett and Jessy Schram. The Hallmark television production was filmed in 2012 at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
YELLOW DAY: A year after falling in love then losing contact with a mysterious girl, a young man goes to the one place he thinks he can track her down, a bright and cheery celebration called the Yellow Day. Quickly, he finds that Yellow Day is not as it seems. Filmed in Mobile in 2015 and released on Christmas Day 2015.
SELMA: The true story of how revered leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his brothers and sisters in the voting rights movement prompted change that forever altered history. Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo and Oprah Winfrey. Filmed in 2014 in Selma, including at Edmund Pettus Bridge, and in Montgomery and Georgia. Released in 2015, nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.
Famous Films Made in Alabama
Among the 162 made-in-Alabama films listed in the Alabama Film Index are some well-known and award-winning films, including: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” 1963 in Monroeville; “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” 1967 in Selma; “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” 1977 in Mobile; “Norma Rae,” 1978 in Opelika and Auburn; “Mississippi Burning,” 1988 in LaFayette; “Blue Sky,” 1990 in Selma; “Big Fish” in 2003 in Montgomery, Prattville, Wetumpka and Tallassee.
Sources for film information include IMDb, the International Movie Data Base, Film Birmingham and the Alabama Film Office’s Alabama Film Index.