The Louisiana Film Trail

Lights. Camera. Louisiana.

With her exotic swamps and bayous, imposing plantation locations, and unrivaled cityscapes, Hollywood has been casting Louisiana as a leading lady for over a century. 

Louisiana has long been a frontrunner in the film industry. New Orleans opened the first indoor seated theater in 1896 and when Tarzan of the Apes appeared on film (1918), Morgan City served as the jungle. The movie premiered at the Broadway Theatre in New York and became an instant box office hit. It was one of the first six films to earn over $1,000,000, a significant amount in 1918.

More than 2,500 films have been shot in Louisiana and although you may not be familiar with Creature, Red River Ode, or The Ninth, you’ve probably heard of Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Pelican Brief, and Monster’s Ball.

Explore some of the most iconic movies in history and imagine Tom Cruise, Elvis Presley, Sean Penn, John Wayne, Dolly Parton, Brad Pitt, Charlton Heston, Jack Nicholson, and Julia Roberts in those same spaces.

Whenever you find yourself in Louisiana, explore these unique sites and dig into all the other adventurous experiences Louisiana has to offer.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Belizaire the Cajun (1986)

Belizaire the Cajun tells the story of a traiteur, or a Cajun healer, who goes on a series of adventures to save his community in Louisiana in 1859. Belizaire the Cajun was filmed by Louisiana native Glen Pitre on location in the heart of Cajun country in 1986.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert liked the approach of the main character, saying he “doesn’t play the Cajun like an action hero. He plays him sort of like a bayou version of Ghandi, restraining his anger, always able to see the comic side of his predicament, trying to talk his people out of a situation they clearly cannot win by force.”  The Acadian House at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site served as Perry Plantation in the film.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site honors the story of Evangeline and the author (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) who made her famous. The main attraction here is Maison Olivier, a Creole plantation built around 1815 that once grew indigo, cotton, and sugar. Sitting on the banks of Bayou Teche in the town of St. Martinville, Maison Olivier features a mix of French, Creole, and Caribbean architectural influences that were typical of the early 1800s.

Mural depicting arrival of the Cajuns in St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Christmas In Louisiana (2019)

Christmas in Louisiana is a Lifetime Original Movie, filmed in New Iberia. This family Christmas movie stars country singer Jana Kramer; Percy Daggs III, Moira Kelly, Barry Bostwick, and Dee Wallace. Numerous locations in New Iberia star as the backdrop; The Evangeline Theater, Shadows on the Teche, Bayou Teche Museum, and more. 

A drive down Main Street during filming in September 2019 felt like traveling from the Queen City of the Teche to a Christmas village, albeit one with 90-degree weather. Experience your own Christmas in Louisiana by visiting all the locations from the film and while you’re there you can even visit the other filming locations on their complete movie trail. 

Evangeline Oak Park in St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Evangeline (2013)

Although not the original film adaptation of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic about the journey of the Acadians, the film’s most popular screen version was released in 1929 by United Artists. Legendary actress Dolores Del Rio starred as the namesake character Evangeline and Roland Drew as her love Gabriel.

Del Rio was so enamored of the state and its people that she contributed to a fund to restore the supposed burial place of the real Evangeline. A statue of Evangeline—posed for by Ms. Del Rio—was donated to the town of St. Martinville by the film’s cast and crew and is still on display just outside St. Martin de Tours chapel, the Acadians’ Mother Church. Visitors can also complete a walking tour of St. Martin Square or Evangeline Oak Park.

Swamp people © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swamp People (2010–present)

Currently, in its 13th season on the History Channel, Swamp People gets the viewer practically nose-to-snout with the month-long alligator season in Louisiana. Probably the most unique tale of living off the land, Troy Landry and his crews cull alligators for a living while maintaining their proudly Cajun way of life.

Take a swamp tour with the show’s own R.J. Molinere’s Rising Sun Swamp Tours, and get your own personal “behind the scenes tour” of the biggest, swampiest filming location ever!

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Rose (1923)

In 1923, legendary film director D. W. Griffith, known as the father of American cinema, came to south Louisiana to shoot the 1923 film White Rose, based on the story by Irene Sinclair. The film starred Mae Marsh, Carol Dempster, Ivor Novello, Neil Hamilton, Lucilla LaVerne, and Porter Strong.

The controversial plot involves a wealthy young Southern aristocrat who graduates from a seminary and, before he takes charge of his assigned parish, decides to go out and sow his oats. He winds up in New Orleans and finds himself attracted to a poor, unsophisticated orphan girl. One thing leads to another, and before long the girl finds that she is pregnant with his child.

The Bayou Teche area served as a background and the majority of the scenes in White Rose were filmed on location at Shadows-on-the-Teche Plantation in New Iberia, Bayou Teche, Franklin, and St. Martinville. The short parade sequence was filmed during Mardi Gras 1923. Located in New Iberia’s Main Street District, set among towering live oak trees draped with Spanish moss on the banks of Bayou Teche, The Shadows-on-the-Teche was built in 1834 for sugar planter David Weeks.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More stops along the Louisiana Film Trail

Louisiana’s antebellum plantations on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge remain a magnet for blockbuster films. In recent years, 12 Years a Slave was filmed at Felicity Plantation. For the classics enthusiast, the tours at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens explain the mansion’s role in making Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

In Baton Rouge, visit Louisiana’s State Capitol to see where All the King’s Men, a story based on Huey P. Long, was filmed. Just a few blocks away sits the USS KIDD, a WWII-era battleship where Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was filmed.

Get in the Christmas spirit and see the settings of Lifetime movies A Christmas Wish in Ponchatoula and Christmas in Louisiana in New Iberia.

Take a look at other famous movies and TV shows filmed in Louisiana.

Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Locations tied to Louisiana-filmed movies and TV shows are numerous

Louisiana’s official state nickname is Sportsman’s Paradise thanks to rich and abundant natural resources and the fish and wild game that call it home. Related nicknames for the state include The Pelican State, about the state bird, and Bayou State, thanks to the slow-moving streams.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s another nickname for Louisiana that is not all about the flora and fauna—Hollywood South. Thanks to its diverse settings for movies (Louisiana has everything including bustling cities, antebellum mansions, and lush wilderness areas), generous state tax incentives for film producers, and numerous production support businesses, Louisiana is a global player in a movie and TV filming location. And, like other visitors to the state, movie and TV stars rave about enjoying the food, music, and joie de vivre away from the sets.

A comprehensive list of major movies and TV shows made in Louisiana in recent years would be too long to list here but here are a few ideas for mixing some of Louisiana’s more notable filming sites with your travels throughout the state.

Gator at Jungle Gardens on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Scene: Filmed in Natchitoches, a good part of the film takes place in M’Lynn Eatenton’s (Sally Field) fictional 1830s home in the fictionally named Chinquapin Parish. It’s the site of memorable quotes such as one during the annual Christmas party when Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacClain) turns to M’Lynn and quips, “M’Lynn, what’s wrong with you these days? You got a reindeer up your butt?”

Crawley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Laugh through tears (Truvy’s [Dolly Parton] “favorite emotion”) as you enjoy a weekend staying in the actual 1830s, six-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath Steel Magnolia House. The bed and breakfast is where much of the movie was filmed.

Related: Cool-As-Hell Louisiana Towns You Need to Visit (Besides New Orleans)

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Scene: Louis (Brad Pitt), an unwilling vampire, decides he’s had enough of his so-called life and takes a torch to his sprawling manor setting the curtains ablaze which ticks off the aristocratic vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) who was rather fond of the place.

Crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Louis’ homeplace was filmed at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Take a tour and see the restored antebellum Greek Revival mansion—sans flames—plus spots where the graveyard scenes were filmed. Decide for yourself if it’s a fitting estate for a vampire.

Frog mural in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Scene: On a break from their iconic, cross-country road trip, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) along with a couple of bleary-eyed prostitutes, drop acid in an ancient cemetery prompting them to get dazed, philosophical, and naked.  

Above-ground cemetery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Don’t drop acid or get naked but do get philosophical while wandering around the famous, above-ground St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans where the scene took place. Specifically, seek out the massive, queen-like sculpture set into the “Italia” gravesite where, like Wyatt, you can imagine yourself talking to dead relatives. Several tour companies offer cemetery tours.

Louisiana sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Scene: Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) wakes up his father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), drives him out to a lake, and then carries him on his shoulders to the pier where he sets him on a chair and they watch the sunrise. During the three-minute scene, a beautiful song, Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain, is playing in the background.

Tabasco factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Start early and park yourself on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans where the song takes its name. Watch a real sunrise while listening to the music and chances are you’ll end up teary-eyed at the beauty of both. Afterward, take a ride by the Nolan House at 2707 Coliseum Street, a spectacular Garden District mansion where the bulk of the film took place.

Related: ‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

Along the Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Duck Dynasty (2012-2017)

Scene: The Robertson boys deck themselves out with camo gear, shotguns, and their famous, handmade duck calls, then cruise on an airboat through the North Louisiana marsh, gather ’round the duck blind, and proceed to gleefully blast down one quacker after another.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: If that sounds like your idea of happiness then order a few of the Robertsons’ custom duck calls from the Duck Commander company website and head to one of the prime duck hunting areas in North America: Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. On the Sabine and Lacassine national wildlife refuges in Cameron Parish, it’s where you can fire away at gadwalls, blue-winged teal, pintails, mottled ducks, and white-fronted geese. 

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tremé (2010-2013)

Scene: This Emmy Award-winning HBO drama (2010-2013) is set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Co-created by David Simon—best known for blockbuster television drama The Wire—Wendell Pierce (a native New Orleanian) and a cast of costars work on rebuilding their lives in the wake of one of the nation’s most significant natural disasters. The series name refers to a New Orleans neighborhood that is the historical heart of the city’s African American community through Tremé was filmed throughout the Crescent City.

Experience: All over New Orleans including numerous bars and restaurants (Vaughn’s Lounge, Liuzza’s By the Track), the French Quarter, and historical shotgun-style homes central to New Orleans’ architectural distinctiveness.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swamp People (2010–present)

Scene: This reality show based in south Louisiana focuses on the lives of alligator hunters in the Atchafalaya Basin swamps and depicts life (and wildlife) in the bayous. At times intense—alligator hunting is not for the squeamish, after all—Swamp People is a testimony to the resilience of the men and women who call the region home. 

Related: Lake Martin: An Accessible Louisiana Swamp and Rookery

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Throughout rural central and south Louisiana. Pierre Part, a village a few miles due south of Baton Rouge, is among the primary filming locations. Others include Houma, Hammond, Bayou Sorrel, Thibodaux, and Zwolle. An airboat swamp tour with RJ Molinere, star of Swamp People, is about as close as you can get to the real thing you see on the show.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NCIS: New Orleans (2014-2021)

Scene: A spinoff of the enormously successful CBS network show, NCIS. NCIS: New Orleans stars Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Pride whose investigations into crimes involving military personnel have made for captivating, edge-of-your-seat viewing since it premiered in 2014. While NCIS: New Orleans shows off the talent of Golden Globe winner Bakula and an extensive roster of actors, the real star may be New Orleans itself with each episode showcasing the city’s unique architecture and unconventional characters.

Experience: Iconic locations throughout New Orleans. Bourbon Street, Louis Armstrong Park, Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, Plaza Tower, and New Orleans Motorsports Park (in Avondale) make appearances.

Denham Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More stops along the Louisiana Film Trail

Louisiana’s antebellum plantations on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge remain a magnet for blockbuster films. In recent years, 12 Years a Slave was filmed at Felicity Plantation. For the classics enthusiast, the tours at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens explain the mansion’s role in making Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Plantations along the Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Baton Rouge, visit Louisiana’s State Capitol to see where All the King’s Men, a story based on Huey P. Long, was filmed. Just a few blocks away sits the USS KIDD, a WWII-era battleship where Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was filmed.

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Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954