Texas boasts a rich film heritage, starring in hundreds of movies and TV series in the past hundred years. Austin, the Lone Star Capital, has a particularly illustrious history too. In 2021, it was named one of MovieMaker’s Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker, ranking 3rd out of 25 cities nationally and the top Texas city for moviemakers. As well as being a creative and film-friendly city, it’s also home to diverse landscapes. Less than a half-hour drive away will find you in green prairies, scenic ranchland, dramatic forest or bygone era towns – perfect for a range of movies, from quaint romcoms to terrifying horror. We’ve rounded up seven famous movies filmed in Austin – and some of them will surprise you.
Famous movies filmed in Austin
1. Spy Kids (2001)
Locations: Omni Austin, West Fourth Street, the Trois Estate
Every nineties kid dreamed of skipping school to romp around the big city with a load of high-tech gadgets and gizmos. Turns out, they were in Austin the whole time. Well, part of it at least. The movie follows the adventures of Carmen and Juni Cortez as they hunt down their missing secret-agent parents when they’re taken by an evil, high-tech enemy.
Most of the movie was filmed in Austin. The stone-walled family home is a real location, called the Trois Estate on Pearce Road. The ‘Hotel Belen’, with its chrome elevators, is the Omni Austin, and the wedding takes place at Villa del Sol, the private home of Beau Theriot. Those spy shops are all on West Fourth Street too (though they don’t stock any gizmos, sadly).
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Locations: The Antlers Hotel
This creepy cult classic tells the story of a sister and brother who set out to investigate the vandal of their grandfather’s grave, only to discover a murderous group of next-door neighbours. And a chainsaw. The terrifying farmhouse was located on Quick Hill Road, north of Austin, then re-located to The Antlers Hotel. It’s been restored as a restaurant too.
3. Miss Congeniality (2000)
Locations: The Driskell Hotel, Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas, Omni Austin
Miss Congeniality is a feel-good rom-com starring Sandra Bullock that tells the story of an FBI Agent forced to go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to stop a terrorist attack. It might be set in New York City and San Antonio, but most of the movie was filmed in Austin. The Driskill Hotel stands in for the St. Regis Hotel and the Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas forms the backdrop for those famous pageant scenes. The hotel rooms scenes also took place at the Omni Austin at South Park.
4. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – (1993)
Locations: Manor (all over) and Hodde Lane (Pflugerville)
Starring a young Johnny Depp as the lead, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape follows the story of a young man in a small town, tasked with taking care of his immobile mother and disabled brother. When the free-spirited Becky (Juliette Lewis) turns up, all becomes topsy-turvey. While the movie is set in the fictional town of Endora, Iowa, most of the filming took place in Manor. The iconic water tower is actually ten miles from the Carver House, on W Parsons, Manor. If you’re looking to visit the family home, head to Hodde Lane outside of Pflugerville.
5. Boyhood (2014)
Locations: Dart Bowl and Cafe, Continental Club, Magnolia Cafe South
Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood tells the story of growing up through the eyes of a child called Mason. The movie stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents, and Ellar Coltrane as Mason. Richard Linklater, the director, is actually from Texas too. Dart Bowl and Cafe, a beloved local institution, plays an important role in the film, featuring throughout. It’s where Mason Evans Sr. bowls with his kids, picks up burgers and see the First Battle of Fallujah. Other filming locations include the Continental Club (as the music venue), as well as the Magnolia Cafe South.
6. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Locations: Top Notch Burgers, the Moontower, Bedichek Middle School, West Enfield Park
Another coming-of-age cult classic from Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused is probably Austin’s biggest movie claim to fame. The movie explores suburban lives of the young middle class and high school kids growing up in the 1970s on their last day of High School. Filming took place throughout Austin but some of the most iconic scenes feature Bedichek Middle School, West Enfield Park, Burger Stadium and the Moontower. Top Notch Burgers is virtually unchanged, still an old-time drive-in that looks much the same as it did in 1971.
7. True Grit (2010)
Locations: Granger, The Austin Club, State Capitol
This classic Coen brothers remake of the gritty 1969 story features Austine throughout. It tells the story of a young girl seeking revenge against the man who killed her father, against the backdrop of the Wild West. The main street of the frontier town is actually the main thoroughfare of Granger, around 40 miles northeast of Austin. The pit of rattlers, which Mattie tumbles into, is actually an old turquoise mine but the interior was a huge set built on a soundstage in Austin. Filming for the epilogue, set 25 years later, took place at the Austin Club on 110 East Ninth Street and the State Capitol Building as the old railway station.