A Cinephile’s Guide to Chattanooga

The stunning views and overall atmosphere of the Scenic City draw all kinds of visitors, so it comes as no surprise that Chattanooga has also been the backdrop for several films, TV shows, and music videos. We decided to showcase some of them here, in no particular order, along with some interesting tidbits about each. Since it is not an exhaustive list, we want to focus on cinema that features locations around the city. So, if you’re a film junkie or just find it cool to see our great city on the silver screen, continue reading to find out all the ways Chattanooga has been represented.

The Read House hotel lobby Image Source from Read House

Movies

Many movies have chosen the Scenic City as a backdrop for scenes in all types of genres. From biopics to sci-fi, the different scenery of the area has brought silver screen and indie film productions to life. In 2012, the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson’s historic Major League Baseball debut was shot at Engel Stadium and brought big-name actors like the late Chadwick Boseman and the great Harrison Ford to the city. The skyline of Chattanooga got a shoutout shot at the end of Identity Thief (2013) starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman when they transposed the St. Louis skyline over Chattanooga’s.

The 1984 sci-fi film Starman, featuring Jeff Bridges, brought the actor and his co-star Karen Allen all over the city, as several exterior shots were made there. This website provides a good side-by-side of the movie shots and what it looks like now so that cinephiles can see the present-day place. The Last Thanksgiving, a horror comedy about a group of cannibals, and Dutch (1991), starring Ed O’Neill, also used several exterior shots. James Caan, Shirley Knight, and Robert Duvall shot scenes at Ruby Falls and in downtown Chattanooga during the Veterans Day Parade for their movie The Rain People (1969). Apparently, there’s a shot in the movie where you can see one of the members in the marching band mouth, “Who is that guy?” because they didn’t know the movie was being filmed. The Radisson Read House was showcased in Love Potion #9 (1992) and brought Tate Donovan, Sandra Bullock, and Mary Mara to the city. Another Sandra Bullock movie, Forces of Nature (1999), used Chattanooga as the backdrop during the final scene where Ben Affleck’s character is driving on his motorbike.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum gets its own section because of just how many films have used it as a filming location and as a resource for train shots. It has several trains that were used in different movies that you can go and see today! If you want to know about more movies than the ones mentioned here, the museum has a page about it here. October Sky (1999), Heavens Fall (2006), and Water for Elephants (2011) used locomotives from the museum to help provide more period-appropriate scenes. On March 12, 2007, Clooney himself visited to film a scene for Leatherheads (2008), a movie about a 1925 pro-football player that also starred John Krasinski and Renée Zellweger. The television movie The Lost Valentine (2011) featuring Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt also used rail cars, a locomotive, and the East Chattanooga Depot to set the stage.

Ruby Falls
Arial View of TN Aquarium courtesy of TN Aquarium

TV Shows

While the big screen displays many places in and around the city, the small screen also shows off Chattanooga’s sites. Wild Kratts, the popular live-action kids show hosted by the Kratt brothers, a series that spun off from Zoboomafoo, shows off the Tennessee Aquarium’s penguins in Season 5 Episode 1. The Tennessee Aquarium also gets showcased in Good Eats Season 1 Episode 10 “Hook, Line, and Dinner” with the focus on the Gulf of Mexico tank. Speaking of good eats, Food Paradise did an episode called “Dipped” that included Chattanooga’s own Chatter Box Cafe. Larry the Cable Guy takes a visit to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway on his show Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy during the “Larry Gets the Horns” episode. Locals Shederyl Mastin and The Sharrock Family got to be featured on reality TV in Bridezillas and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, respectively.

Music Videos

Going beyond the typical mediums, the Scenic City has also been chosen for music videos. Engel Stadium wasn’t just featured in 42, but also in Alabama’s “The Cheap Seats” video. Tim McGraw decided to feature the former U.S. Pipe and Foundry location for his song “Truck Yeah.” Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know” featured the historic Tivoli Theatre. For King & Country filmed their songs’ “God Only Knows” and “Shoulders” official videos in Chattanooga as well, with “God Only Knows” using the pedestrian-friendly Walnut Street Bridge as the main backdrop for the music video.

Chattanooga and Marvel

We can’t talk about Chattanooga and film without mentioning the city’s checkered history with Marvel. In the movie Iron Man 3, production chose to use a set to represent Chattanooga instead of actually filming in the city. While that might have been their first mistake, many natives feel that the movie negatively portrayed the Scenic City as a backwater town with slow internet and bad cell reception. Of course, any local can proudly state that Chattanooga was the first city in the nation to have gigabit internet, which is about 200 times faster than the average nationwide. The city did get a nice shoutout in Daredevil Season 1 Episode 3, when Jennifer Fisher decides to move out of New York with her two sons and start over in a new place. We agree with Jennifer that Chattanooga is a great place for a fresh start.

View of mountains and TN river.

So, whether you’re into movies, television, or music videos, Chattanooga is a great place to be. If you’re thinking about filming here, we would love to have you! We may be biased, but we think this is the perfect backdrop for any film you may want to make. After all, we don’t call it the Scenic City for nothing!