From baseball to tornadoes: movies filmed in Iowa
These five movies captured our great state in many different ways
I mentioned in my introductory article that I'm a huge movie fan. So much so that I've been writing movie reviews personally and professionally for almost 13 years! The empathy and entertainment afforded by movies is priceless. Sometimes, it's nice to peel back the metaphorical curtain and look into how/where a movie was made.
Moving to Dubuque got me curious: what movies were filmed in Iowa? Trusty Wikipedia has indexed 34 movies that were shot on location in our great state. I thought it'd be fun to look into five of the ones listed. Some of these you almost certainly know; some might be new ones to check out.
I'll also include where you can find these movies streaming, should the spirit move you to watch them again or first the first time!
#1: Field of Dreams (1989):
No list of Iowa movies even gets off the ground without mentioning Field of Dreams. Filmed in Dyersville, roughly 25 miles outside of Dubuque, the film is on the shortlist of elite baseball movies, and has gone on to be one of Kevin Costner's most memorable roles. Beyond the famous "Field of Dreams" field, a farm near Dyersville was also used as the Kinsella home; an empty Dubuque warehouse did the job for a lot of interior sets, and Galena, IL makes an appearance too.
Field of Dreams not only ranks highly as one of the most memorable movies to be shot in Iowa, but also one that showed the versatility of the Tri-States area as the setting for a major motion picture.
Where to watch: Tubi (free), available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and various other platforms.
#2: Twister (1996):
If you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s and lived in the Midwest, there's a good chance Twister helped make you paranoid when it came to severe weather. This weather-based thriller still holds up 26 years later thanks to its strong special effects and equally capable performances from Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.
You might not know that Twister had quite the troubled production history, however. The film was originally supposed to be filmed in Oklahoma. After experiencing delays so the cast and crew could assist with aid in lieu of the Oklahoma City bombing, the crew also realized that Oklahoma's topography was drastically changed by the seasons. Filming was hastily moved to Iowa, where the climactic scene with the F5 tornado was shot pretty much exclusively in the town of Eldora. The cornfields the characters sprint through was located in Ames. Finally, the "twister hill" scene was shot in Boone County, IA (Pilot Mound, specifically). The site is so noteworthy, it's actually its own map dot on various websites!
Where to watch: Tubi (free), HBO Max
#3: Children of the Corn (1984):
Maybe it's just me, but Children of the Corn always seems to be one of those 1980s horror films that doesn't get a lot of love in the modern day. I'm too new here to know if it gets more buzz in Iowa, for it was shot in several towns: Hornick, Whiting, and Salix to name a few.
It's also worth noting that the 2009 remake was filmed in Iowa as well, specifically the Quad Cities area. Donald Borchers, the writer/director/producer of the remake (also a producer on the 1984 film), said he set his sights on filming in the QC area after receiving a recommendation from the Iowa Film Office.
Where to watch: Tubi (free), Amazon Prime Video
#4: F.I.S.T. (1978):
If you've never heard of it, F.I.S.T. is a film you should add to your watchlist! A late-70s Sylvester Stallone vehicle, that was overshadowed then and now by Rocky, it's a gritty, blue-collar drama that deals with the Teamsters Union and the rise of Jimmy Hoffa. The title comes from the Federation of Inter State Truckers (F.I.S.T.), a trucking union which forms in lieu of a union takeover. It's a Midwestern movie to its core, and was written by Joe Eszterhas — who became Hollywood's most sought after screenwriter sometime after with one of his scripts selling for $3 million. It was also directed by Norman Jewison, famous for Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar.
F.I.S.T. was shot in Dubuque and was reportedly chosen because the older sections of the town resembled 1930s-era Cleveland more than Cleveland itself did.
Where to watch: Sadly, F.I.S.T. isn't streaming anywhere at the moment. The DVD can be expensive, but I have seen the movie air on cable networks every now and then. It's worth a watch, if you can track it down (perhaps at your local library).
#5: 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010):
This pick is totally off the wall. Props to you if you remember the original 2001 Maniacs movie from, you guessed it, 2001. It was a wacky, low-budget horror film starring Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and even featured a cameo from Eli Roth (pre-Cabin Fever days).
Not only making its title a pun on the aforementioned Field of Dreams, this sequel, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, was shot in Iowa. The concept revolves around a deranged group of residents in Pleasant Valley uprooting their carnival to Iowa, where they encounter their next victims: the cast and crew of a traveling reality show.
Both Field of Screams and its predecessor were directed by Tim Sullivan, a popular name in cult horror circles. He's made contributions to such works as Chillerama and Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror. If you're planning a Friday night movie party with some buddies and some beers, you can't go wrong with any of these horror flicks, in my opinion.
Where to watch: Tubi (free). Worth noting: the movie is sometimes billed as 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillys.
Let me know how you like this piece. I might wind up profiling a few more Iowa movies down the road!