posted on September 09, 2010 00:00
New Yorkers, Los Angelinos and Chicagoans are so used to seeing their cities on the big screen it probably doesn’t faze them. For the rest of United States, it seems like a big deal. St. Louis is definitely no exception. So deprived is our region for Hollywood recognition that when our city is portrayed on screen and on location, even for a short time, St. Louisans feel proud.
Thankfully, St. Louis has served as a setting, or partial setting, for some great films where the city and its culture are part of the narrative. The following list ranks the 10 best St. Louis films where St. Louis appears on screen as it is. Because of this, classics such as Escape from New York and Meet Me in St. Louis would be excluded because they were either shot here and set elsewhere, or are set here and shot elsewhere.
10. American Flyers
Kevin Costner stars in this sports drama about cycling. The opening credit sequence is a classic 80s-style montage of cycling on the Downtown riverfront. It was written by Steve Tesich who earned a Best Original Screenplay for Breaking Away, another cycling-themed flick.
9. Visiting St. Louis
This documentary short produced by MGM is a cinematic tour of the city circa 1944. There is some really great footage here, most notably of Union Station, when it was one of the major railroad hubs at the time. You can sometimes catch this little-seen delight as interstitial programming on Turner Classic Movies.
8. White Palace
This May-December romance is perhaps best remembered for the steamy sex scenes featuring Susan Sarandon and James Spader. The current White Knight Diner on Olive served as a filming location for the White Palace of the film, and remains a local favorite. Co-starring Jason Alexander and Kathy Bates.
7. The Game of Their Lives
From the team of director David Anspaugh and writer Angelo Pizzo, the guys behind sports classics Hoosiers and Rudy, comes this true underdog story about the 1950 US soccer team who defeated England at that year’s World Cup. Shot on the Hill where some members of the actually team were from, the film unfortunately received an extremely limited run at theaters and was released on DVD as The Miracle Match. Starring Gerard Butler and Sir Patrick Stewart.
6. The St. Louis Bank Robbery
Steve McQueen stars in this gritty film-noir based on an actual 1953 attempted robbery of the Southwest Bank on South Kingshighway. Some of the police officers involved with the robbery actually play themselves on screen. Since the film is in public domain, it can be found streaming for free online.
5. King of the Hill
Director Steven Soderbergh's beautiful adaptation of A. E. Hotchner's memoir is one of his best. Jesse Bradford must fend for himself in Depression-era St. Louis while his father is out of town on business and his mother is in a sanitarium. Features early roles by Katherine Heigl, Adrien Brody and Lauryn Hill.
Director Godfrey Reggio's environmentally-themed experimental documentary features the destruction of the ill-fated Pruitt-Igoe housing project which stood near North Jefferson in a key segment. The ominous score by Philip Glass is one of the best ever. Everything about this film is dazzling. A true work of art that has been preserved by the Library of Congress.
3. National Lampoon's Vacation
Washington University alum Harold Ramis directs the hilarious screenplay by John Hughes about Chevy Chase and family's trek to Wally World. The film is notable for having two American icons, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and the Arch, share the screen together. One of the best comedies ever made.
2. Up in the Air
George Clooney's character gives props to Lambert Airport's significant in the evolution of aviation. The film also earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Every St. Louisan knows someone who was an extra during the production. A really terrific film.
1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
One of the most memorable shots of the film features a bus entering Downtown via the Eads Bridge with the Arch in the backdrop. The exchange of dialogue between Steve Martin's character and Edie McClurg's overly chipper car rental agent at Lambert Airport is one of the funniest in the history of cinema. John Hughes returns to St. Louis for one of his best films. An American classic.