In honor of NBC’s upcoming series “Bluff City Law” being shot in Memphis, (ahem, looking at you “Memphis Beat”) we thought it’d be fun to look back at some of our favorite times that Memphis was featured onscreen. We’ll tell you what scene was shot where, and even how to grab some of the shots yourself for your Instagram—same thing, right?
The Firm (1993)
We all know local treasure John Grisham and in turn, we all know his hit novel “The Firm” that became a hit film, as well. “The Firm” is shot almost entirely in Memphis. It’s not hard to find familiar scenery throughout the movie, but there’s something about those gold elevators inside of the Cotton Exchange Building that catch everyone’s attention. Feel free to walk into the lobby to check it out during museum hours and snap a couple pics.
Walk the Line (2005)
“Walk the Line” hits home for the locals for a lot of reasons. Not only were several scenes filmed throughout Memphis, but the story itself follows Johnny Cash’s life and trials. Cash recorded a lot of music at Sun Studio between 1954 and 1958, ensuring his spot in Memphis’ rich music history. There were a lot of great scenes to pick from, but in the end, I had to highlight my personal favorite – “June Says Yes” – which was filmed in our very own Orpheum Theatre.
Mystery Train (1989)
One night in Memphis, three different stories, linked together through one hotel— the Arcade Hotel. The hotel itself has long since been demolished. In fact, it had even been closed for several years before the filming of “Mystery Train.” However, the Arcade Restaurant is definitely still standing. This shot is probably my favorite one in this article, and it’s also probably one of the easiest to recreate. Grab a partner and a suitcase, and suddenly “Mystery Train” has four narratives instead of three.
Hustle & Flow (2005)
“Hustle & Flow” is one of those movies that really embodied Memphis. It was written, set, and filmed right here in the Bluff City. The film’s writer and director, Craig Brewer, is also a Memphis native. About a pimp struggling with his life while wishing for something greater, “Hustle & Flow” is the story of DJay who, in turn, uses those hardships to inspire his rap music. Some of the iconic sets around town include Rock House Live, St. Paul Avenue, Galloway Church, and Crystal Palace Skating rink, which is now closed.
Great Balls of Fire (1989)
“Great Balls of Fire” follows the story of Jerry Lee Lewis, who built his name in Memphis after a deal with Sun Studio, and the story that follows the rock ‘n’ roll singer and the unexpected relationship he had with his cousin, Myra. “Great Balls of Fire” was shot mostly in Marion, AK, however, a few key scenes were filmed in Memphis as well. The scene pictured was shot outside of Bruce Elementary school. The old Shelby County Courthouse and Jerry’s Sno Cones can also be seen in some of the background shots.
Black Snake Moan (2006)
Memphian Craig Brewer makes our list for a second time with “Black Snake Moan.” After the success he received from “Hustle and Flow,” Brewer put this film into works starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci. Worn down bluesman, Lazarus finds alcoholic nymphomaniac, Rae, beaten and left for dead. He decides to cure her of her affliction the best way he knows how—by chaining her to his radiator. Now, if you’ve seen the movie you know there’s a lot more to it than that, but we’re anti-spoiler around here. Several of the scenes were shot around town, but my favorite one is the “Stack-O-Lee” club scene, shot in our very own beloved Earnestine and Hazel’s.
A lot of the things that have been filmed in Memphis are no brainers, like basically any John Grisham film, for example, but others might surprise you, like Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown.” Kirsten Dunst sends Orlando Bloom on a road trip that leads him to some of Memphis’s finest stops like the National Civil Rights Museum, Earnestine and Hazel’s and to eat chili at the Arcade Restaurant.
A few more honorable mentions include “Nothing But The Truth,” which was shot at the Commercial Appeal and on South Main, and 21 Grams, which had several scenes filmed on South Main as well.
Memphis also made appearances in films like “Castaway,” featuring the FedEx World Hub, and “The Silence of The Lambs,” that filmed one of the court scenes at the old Shelby County Courthouse.
There’s also, of course, the Hallmark Channel movie “Christmas at Graceland” where they notoriously created “snow” during the dead of summer in Memphis and are at it again, filming for the sequel right now.
Shout out to the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission for their role in bringing these productions to town. Keep up with what’s on the way and their impact by following them on Facebook, and see more projects that were filmed in Memphis on their website’s filmography.