Editor's Note: I'm excited to share this guest post from Melanie Griggs. She's the Founder of the Black Film Review of Memphis, and she's got a list of essential Southern movies for you. Enjoy!
When I think about Southern films, there are the usual suspects – the iconic films that make us laugh at our Southern eccentricities or cringe at the violence of our past. I love the Southern story because characters are not destroyed by degradation; rather Southern characters are dynamic – embroiled from the inside. Here are my top five Southern films:
1. "The Color Purple" (1985): Just as iconic as the 1983 novel, "The Color Purple" is set in early 1900s rural Georgia. Two sisters, Celie and Nettie, embark on turbulent paths of self-growth in order to discover the true meaning of love, family, and sisterhood over the span of 40 years. The film launched the acting careers of Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. You need to leave this planet if you have not seen it.
2. "Nothing But a Man" (1964): This gem of a film looks into a southern Black love story corroded by racism, addiction, and irresponsibility in a small Alabama town. It stars the late Ivan Dixon who had roles in Porgy & Bess, Raisin in the Sun, and Hogan’s Heroes. You can easily find this film online in its entirety.
3. "Porgy & Bess" (1959): Set in the South Carolina backwoods, George Gershwin’s opera gains new life in film format where the credits speak for itself: Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Brock Peters, Pearl Bailey, and Diahann Carroll.
4. "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991): "Fried Green Tomatoes" is the “What if…” version of "The Color Purple" – what if Celie and Shug Avery killed Mister? The funny and endearing exploits of two Georgia women make for a timeless story of empowerment (and makes cannibalism an act of justice).
5. "Eve’s Bayou" (1997): Samuel L. Jackson stars as the philandering patriarch in a film that takes the viewer on a swampy Louisiana ride through the troubles of memory and witnessing for the characters.
And the honorable mentions:
- "Rosewood" (1997): Florida folks tend to want to take a pass from being considered Southern. In this film, which is based on the actual accounts of the Rosewood massacre in Florida, esteemed director John Singleton reimagines this event with a lens of vigilante justice.
- "The Dollmaker" (1984): Jane Fonda's portrayal of a Kentucky woman is truly gut wrenching as she tries to keep the ties that bind of her Southern family strong after they're transplanted into a harsh Detroit neighborhood.
- "Interview with the Vampire" (1994): Vampires in New Orleans. It just works.
What are your favorite Southern films?
Melonee Griggs is the founder of Black Film Review of Memphis, a Memphis based film club with a flair for noir provocation. Described as “the mean teacher with a heart of gold”, she is a proud educator in the Memphis charter system. She is the mother to one Noodle and wife to Bubba Charles. To learn more about BFR Memphis, email her at email@example.com.