What Are The Best Movies Shot In Kentucky?
Traditionally, Kentucky hasn’t been seen as a major hub for film production, but nevertheless, the Bluegrass State has been featured in a number of great films over the years. And because it’s always a treat see your home state on the big screen, we’re shining a spotlight on the best films shot in Kentucky for you to check out.
But ranking the “best” films is no simple task. So, as we like to do here at BetKentucky.com, we’re consulting the numbers to determine our top ten.
Here’s the method behind our madness: first we considered all the movies shot in Kentucky currently listed on Wikipedia. With that as a starting point, we created a formula to rank the movies using a combination of IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes Audience score, Rotten Tomatoes Critic score, and Oscars recognition.
Find out which films made our list as we take a quick break from Kentucky sports betting to bring you the top 10 films shot in Kentucky.
Top-10 Films Shot in Kentucky
The results are a surprisingly eclectic mix of films spanning over 70 years of film history. Less surprisingly, there are more than a few connections to Kentucky’s world-famous horse racing industry amongst these titles.
The Best Film Shot in Kentucky Goes To...
According to our numbers, the best film ever shot in Kentucky is “Rain Man.” Not only did it nab four Oscars, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, “Rain Man” made more money than any other film released in 1988 at the domestic box office.
Tom Cruise stars as a self-centered luxury car salesman who travels from Los Angeles to Cincinnati following his father’s death. But when he arrives, he learns that his dad’s $3 million dollar estate was left to an older brother he never knew existed. That older bother would be Dustin Hoffman, who turns in an Oscar-winning performance as an autistic savant with an extreme fear of flying.
“Rain Man” is ostensibly a road trip movie, where Cruise drives Hoffman from Cincinnati to California in a vain attempt to regain control of their father’s fortune.
However, many Cincinnati scenes were filmed on the other side of the Ohio River, in Newport, Kentucky. There’s even a scene where Hoffman, Cruise, and Valerie Golino, who plays Tom Cruise’s girlfriend in the film, cross the historic John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible.
Russell Crowe & James Bond Made Waves in Kentucky
The second film on the list is a true story straight from Kentucky’s modern history. Directed by Michael Mann, “The Insider” follows whistleblower Jeffrey Wingard's (Russell Crowe) attempts to speak out against the tobacco industry with the help of Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a journalist and “60 Minutes” producer.
In real life, as in the film, Jeffrey Wingard was an employee for tobacco company Brown & Williamson, working as a VP of Research & Development at a Louisville-based facility. When Wingard learns that the tobacco execs knowingly added dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals in their cigarette blend, he decides to go public.
Nominated for seven Oscars, but winning none, “The Insider” follows the tobacco company’s attempts to silence and discredit Wingard and suppress the “60 Minutes” story.
At number three on the list is a film noir classic about a jewelry heist. While “The Asphalt Jungle” is set in an unnamed Midwestern city, and much of the movie was shot on the MGM lot in California, location photography was split between Cincinnati and Lexington, Kentucky.
It too features a shot of the John A. Roebling suspension bridge.
The James Bond movie “Goldfinger” comes in at number four on the list. Starring Sean Connery in his third go-around as 007, “Goldfinger” follows 007’s attempts to thwart the titular villain and his scheme to contaminate the U.S. reserve of gold bullion held at Fort Knox in Kentucky — and thus driving up the value of Goldfinger’s own stash of the precious metal.
The climax of “Goldfinger” may takes place inside the Fort Knox vault. Now, seeing as this is the most heavily guarded military base in the world, the actual filming of these interior scenes occurred on a soundstage across the pond. The production was granted permission to film some exterior scenes in the area, along with a single fly-by to record aerial photography of Fort Knox.
Coal Mining, Horses, & Kingsman, Oh My!
“The Coal Miners Daughter” is our fifth film on the list, and its Kentucky roots likely need little explanation. Released in 1980, the biopic of country music legend Loretta Lynn was filmed throughout Lynn’s home state of Kentucky. Earning Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her portrayal of Lynn, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” with its stark depictions of the coal mining industry, and Loretta’s struggle to breakthrough as a musical artist, is a true celebration of the resilience and spirit of the people of Kentucky.
As mentioned above, two films set in the world of horse racing made our top ten — that would be “Seabiscuit” and “Secretariat” at 7 and T9, respectively. Both films are sports dramas telling the true story of champion horses, albeit set in different eras. “Seabiscuit” is about an undersized underdog of a thoroughbred that captured the hearts and minds of America during the Great Depression, whereas “Secretariat,” tells the story of arguably the greatest racehorse of all time. Secretariat not only won the Triple Crown in 1973, but it also beat the previously held time record in all three races.
Kentucky film fans should be pleased to see four of the bottom five films were released within the last decade — including “Kingsman: The Secret Service;” “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile;” and “Bones and All.”
No doubt the presence of multiple more recent films is due in part because of the state’s effort to court Hollywood with production incentives for the better part of a decade.
Although Kentucky’s film tax credit has been tinkered with a great deal over the past ten years, and even temporarily suspended from 2018 to 2021, it would appear that the state has gone all in on the film and television industry. In fact, in 2023 ground is expected to break on a 40,000-square-foot retrofit of the historic Louisville Gardens building in Kentucky’s largest city.
Let’s hope this leads to even more great films from the Bluegrass state and don't be surprised to find all Kentucky-related sports on the Kentucky sportsbook apps once it becomes live in the state.