Ask Hamilton – Movies Filmed in Chattanooga

Movies Filmed in Chattanooga


Trains such as this one (above) from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum have appeared in many films, most notably Water for Elephants (2011). 


Photos Courtesy of the Chattanooga Public Library and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum




Dear Hamilton,

I’m a huge movie addict and watch several films a week, but I’d really like to find some movies that were filmed in or around Chattanooga. Can you help point me in the right direction? I’m getting my popcorn ready and looking forward to your response.


Movie Buff on the Bluff


Engel Stadium in Chattanooga

Engel Stadium (above) appeared in 42 (2012), a film about Jackie Robinson. 


Dear Movie Buff,

Although it has been a while since film crews have come to town, Chattanooga has indeed had some time in the spotlight. Back in 2012, our city was the site of the filming of 42, the story of the struggles and rise to fame of world-renowned Black baseball great Jackie Robinson. This movie was filmed at our very own Engel Stadium.

Around that same time, the Chattanooga skyline was used as a stand-in for the St. Louis cityscape in the Hollywood flick Identity Thief. This blockbuster, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, follows a man as he goes after the woman who stole his identity. Although the skyline scene was filmed locally from helicopters whizzing over the Tennessee River downtown, the footage is superimposed with the famous St. Louis Arch and used to represent that city, not ours. However, if you’re particularly attentive, you can just make out the Market Street Bridge before it morphs into the St. Louis horizon.

Perhaps the most renowned movie filmed here in Chattanooga -– both due to the film’s success and its positive impact on the city -– is 2011’s Water for Elephants, about an ex-veterinary student (Robert Pattinson) who joins the circus and becomes romantically involved with the ringmaster’s wife (Reese Witherspoon). Production crews worked diligently in town for two weeks, pouring $1 million into the local economy by supporting Chattanooga businesses and hiring residents to help with behind-the-scenes tasks, such as building sets. In fact, two local boys even landed a role in the film. One of the trains that appeared in the movie, along with three miles of railroad track, came from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. In addition, multiple sightings of the film’s lead, Pattinson, were rumored at several local hot spots. 


The Market Street Bridge

 The Market Street Bridge (right) and the Chattanooga skyline were used to portray the St. Louis cityscape in the movie Identity Thief (2013).


Speaking of the railroad museum, it has been in numerous films over the years, including October Sky (1999), The Adventures of Ociee Nash (2003), Heavens Fall (2004), and the 1971 Fools’ Parade with Jimmy Stewart, among many others.

Forces of Nature (1999), starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, was also filmed, in part, in Chattanooga, as was the football flick Leatherheads (2008) with George Clooney and Renée Zellweger.

Tennessee has a starring role in the film Starman (1984), with many scenes shot in our great state. In this film, Jeff Bridges portrays an alien who personifies a woman’s deceased husband come back to life, and he and the man’s widow set off on a dramatic cross-country drive. The scene in the beginning of the movie, when the alien spaceship crashes, was shot at Prentice Cooper State Forest, just outside Chattanooga. Shortly after that in the movie, the duo stop to fill up at an old Amoco gas station, which has since been torn down but was originally located at exit 105 off of I-24 in nearby Manchester. The motel you see in a later scene is allegedly an old Holiday Inn out on Highway 41 in Lookout Valley. And you know that big Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks store out in South Pittsburg, on US-72, about 30 minutes from the city? Well, that’s where the movie’s big deer-resurrection scene was filmed.

With Chattanooga appearing in that many movie scenes, they don’t call us the Scenic City for nothing! 

Happy watching, Movie Buff!

Hamilton Bush

Resident History Hound

Chattanooga, Tennessee 

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