20 MAD AS HELL HICK FLICKS
The many movies made about the American South – hick films if you will – have been some of the most interesting and exciting kinds for audiences. These down home tales are often based around the fact the characters aren’t quite as progressive as the rest of the country. From the earliest days of cinema to modern times, there’s been films set in the South, everything from D.W. Griffith’s racist epic Birth of a Nation to John Boorman’s landmark backwoods thriller Deliverance through to modern indie hits like Jeff Nichols’ MUD. One aspect these movies share is they are experiences that are uniquely American. For our new list we’ve picked out 20 of the most furious hick films we love about folks from the Southern part of this here country.
In The Heat of the Night (1967, Dir: Norman Jewison)
When a local businessman is killed in the small town of Sparta, Mississippi, expert detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is called in from Philly to help solve the case. While investigating the murder he must contend with rampant racism and a rebellious new sheriff (Rod Steiger).
A group of friends (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty) take a weekend canoe trip down a river in Georgia which turns into a desperate fight for survival when they encounter some deranged hillbillies.
Tick…Tick…Tick (1970, Dir: Ralph Nelson)
A small Mississippi town erupts in chaos when a black man named Jim Price (Jim Brown) is elected to be the new sheriff. Co-starring George Kennedy, Dub Taylor, Fredric March.
Ex-wrestler Buford Pusser (Joe Don Baker) runs for sheriff in his Tennessee county and wins. This begins a one man war against corruption and criminal organizations in the state. Co-starring Elizabeth Hartman, Noah Beery and Leif Garrett. A brutal, bloody, action packed classic!
Macon County Line (1974, Dir: Richard Compton)
In the summer of 1954, two brothers Chris (Alan Vint) and Wayne Dixon (Jesse Vint) go on a two week road trip for fun before they enter the Air Force. On their way through the backroads of Louisiana they pick up a hitchhiker (Cheryl Waters) and suspected of a murder they didn’t commit by a sadistic sheriff (Max Baer Jr).
To most residents of rural North Carolina, Preacher Amos Huxley (Albert Viola) is an esteemed servant of God but little do they know he is also a scam artist that swindles money from his followers and law breaking moonshiners to live high on the hog.
Based on a novel by Charles Willeford, Warren Oates stars as Frank Mansfield, a mute cockfighting contestant that loses all his money and must go on the road again to win the esteemed Cockighter of the Year award. Co-starring Harry Dean Stanton, Laurie Bird, Ed Begley Jr and Steve Railsback.
Moonrunners (1975, Dir: Gy Waldron)
Cousins Grady (James Mitchum) and Bobby Lee Hagg (Kiel Martin) run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse (Arthur Hunnicut). The local corrupt Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (Bruce Atkins) and his cohorts harass the pair as they try to sell their wares without getting caught. This film was the basis for the hit TV show The Dukes of Hazzard.
Mississippi Burning (1988, Dir: Alan Parker)
In this emotionally charged drama Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe star as two FBI agents investigating the murder of Civil Rights workers in 1964 Mississippi. Based on true events. Co-starring Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, Michael Rooker.
After serving in the Korean War, Luke Doolin (Robert Mitchum) returns to his Tennessee town and comes up against local racketeers and Feds that are both out to stop his activities running illegal liquor. Co-starring James Mitchum, Gene Barry and Keely Smith.
Arkansas prison convict Bobby “Gator” McClusky (Burt Reynolds) is granted a reprieve if he’ll help the authorities bust up a moonshining racket. While on his mission he also investigates the dissapearance of his younger brother who he suspects died at the hands of a corrupt town sheriff (Ned Beatty). Co-starring Bo Hopkins, Jennifer Billingsley
Professional bouncer Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is hired to clean up The Double Deuce, a small southern town’s favorite watering hole. Upon his arrival he finds himself stuck in a personal war with the local corrupt fatcat (Ben Gazzarra) and his hired goons. Co-starring Kelly Lynch and Sam Elliot.
Some freewheeling Texas teenagers find themselves the victims of a reclusive psychotic hillbilly family that has a strong taste for human flesh. Starring Marilyn Burns, Paul Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen.
A legendary grifter Mordecai Jones (George C Scott) encounters Curly Treadaway (Michael Sarrazzin) a young man thats gone AWOL from the military. The two new friends soon form a partnership and begin staging scams in small South Carolina towns. Co-starring Sue Lyon, Harry Morgan, Jack Albertson, Albert Salmi, Woodrow Parfrey.
Jeff Bridges is Junior Jackson, a good ol boy moonshiner/gearhead who decides to become a racecar driver to help make money for his lower class family while his father is incarcerated. Co-starring Gary Busey, William Smith, Valerie Perrine. Based on the true story of NASCAR star Junior Johnson.
A group of undisciplined Louisiana National Guardsmen on a weekend recon through the bayou must fight for survival when some angry Cajuns target them after a violent altercation. Starring Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Bryon James, Lewis Smith, Fred Ward and Peter Coyote.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977, Dir: Hal Needham)
Good ol boy Bo “Bandit” Darville (Burt Reynolds) is hired by wealthy Texans Big (Pat McCormick) and Little Enos (Paul Williams) Burdett to haul 400 cases of Coors beer (outlawed east of Texas) from Texarkana to the Georgia Classic in 28 hours. Bandit gets his best buddy Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the freight truck as he chaperones him along the trip in his superfast Pontiac Trans Am. Co-starring Sally Field, Jackie Gleason and Mike Henry.
Bloody Mama (1970, Dir: Roger Corman)
Based on a true story, Shelley Winters plays the brash, violent gangster Kate “Ma” Barker an infamous bank robber who leads her hick sons on a Southern interstate crime spree. Co-starring Robert DeNiro, Don Stroud, Clint Kimbrough, Bruce Dern and Diane Varsi.
A group of tourists from the North are lured to a fake festival and terrorized by crazy hillbillies in the small Southern town of Pleasant Valley. This film was shot in 15 days. The second installment in Lewis’ Bloody Trilogy.
White Line Fever (1975, Dir: Jonathan Kaplan)
Vietnam veteran Carol Jo Hummer (Jan Michael Vincent) returns home to start a new life as a truck driver. He soon realizes that the freighter company he is hired by is breaking the law and he angrily refuses to take part causing a string of deadly repercussions. Co-starring Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones.
MUD (2012, Dir: Jeff Nichols)
Two Arkansas teens find a boat stuck up in a tree on a small island near their homes. When a mysterious man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) appears he befriends the boys and seeks help to get the damaged boat running again. This begins an emotional adventure filled with lots of heart. Co-starring Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepherd and Joe Don Baker. This modern gem really stuck out for us because it was a throwback to many of the titles on this list from earlier decades. We highly recommend it!
Conclusion: Hick films rock!
What a lineup! Let us know which one’s YOU would add, I am sure we will return with even more “outtakes”. Hick films are an interesting genre because they can easily play with plot devices and assumptions that would not work in other settings. Some of these have become iconic, such as Walking Tall. Others stand out as rare overlooked gems, such as Southern Comfort. Enjoy watching some hick films you haven’t seen yet, just make sure you have a cold beer on hand and the shotgun within reach, amigos!