4 Movies About North Carolina That Actually Get It Right

4 Movies About North Carolina That Actually Get It Right

North Carolina was once home to a thriving film industry, based mostly in Wilmington. While many movies have been set in North Carolina, very few have accurately captured the state’s culture and eccentricities with any accuracy. Thankfully, a few did.

Here are four films that got the people, places and even accents of North Carolina right.

Junebug (2005)

Junebug is quite possibly one of the most accurate films about North Carolina
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic under Fair Use.

The 2005 indie darling Junebug is one of the most beloved movies about North Carolina. In the film, a Chicago art dealer comes to small-town North Carolina to check out a local artist. She stays with the family of her new boyfriend who lives nearby in Pfafftown, near Winston-Salem. One of the first signs this film is dead-on accurate is how they correctly pronounce “Pfafftown.”

The film nails local details and cultural touchpoints. However, this is not surprising, as both director Phil Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan are Winston-Salem natives.

Junebug brilliantly captures the tenuous dynamics between Northern “city folk” and rural North Carolinians. It takes an unflinching look at the assumptions they make about each other’s culture. A true deep cut: one of the main characters of the film even works at Replacements Ltd. Real Tar Heels know.

Where to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

The Campaign (2012)

It might be a comedy but The Campaign is one of the more accurate movies about North Carolina.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment under Fair Use.

Actor, comedian and North Carolina native Zach Galafianakis must have had an absolute ball making 2012’s The Candidate. The film skewers North Carolina electoral politics with pinpoint precision.

Most of the time a character is supposed to be from North Carolina, they’re given a generic “southern” accent. Many end up sounding more Blanche Dubois than Woody Durham.

However, in The Candidate, every character sounds like they could be a Tar Heel. North Carolinians will immediately recognize characters’ sharp, exaggerated “why” (pronounced “waih”). While on the surface, the film is a slapstick Will Ferrell vehicle, it avoids cheap jokes at the expense of southern people. Instead, it gets mileage out surprisingly astute political and cultural observations.

Where to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

Bull Durham (1988)

Image courtesy of Orion Pictures/MGM under Fair Use.

Some of the films on this list nail certain cultural touchstones about the Tar Heel State. Others simply depict its people with honesty. The 1988 comedy Bull Durham does neither of those things. However, it does show Bull City as it was just 32 years ago — a small, sleepy Southern city with nary a trendy restaurant in sight. In fact, that was the point.

The film depicts aging catcher Crash Davis in a down-and-out phase of his career. At the time, Durham was very much a down-and-out city. Director Ron Shelton is quoted as saying he chose Durham because of its old ballpark “among abandoned tobacco warehouses and on the edge of an abandoned downtown and in the middle of a residential neighborhood where people could walk.”

How times have changed.

Bull Durham features a number of Bull City landmarks, such as the Liggett & Myers building, The Green Room and, of course, the old Durham Athletic Park.

Where to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

Loggerheads (2005)

Image courtesy of Strand Releasing under Fair Use.

The independent film Loggerheads takes a deep dive into the different cultural regions of North Carolina. The film, based on a true story, follows three different characters with an interwoven story. One from Asheville, one from Eden and another in Kure Beach.

Characters in Loggerheads are treated with sensitivity and depth. In addition, the film examines adoption, relationships and sexual politics in early 1990s North Carolina with almost uncomfortable accuracy. Loggerheads takes a bold look at what it meant to be part of the LGBTQ+ community at that time in North Carolina history. However, it’s no surprise they got it right, with director Tim Kirkman a Monroe native and North Carolina State graduate.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Looking for more lists and articles about North Carolina culture? Check out our Lifestyle section for more recommendations.

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