Bob Leonard's



There is no way a list of The Best Florida Moviesis not going to cause debate and discussion. I do not expect people to agree with all of my selections, but it is essential that people recognize my criteria for selecting films. As a historian I place great weight on whether the film contributed to an image of Florida and was filmed in at least partly in Florida.


Using those marks, some films of great statue get placed outside these pages. MIDNIGHT COWBOY was written by a man who winters in Key West, but only the last scene where Ratso's dream of going to Miami is completed (while he dies) was filmed in Miami. BODY HEAT was written for another location and moved to Florida due to production delays. If you�d like to nominate other Florida films, please email me at



My selections are NOT rankings:


THE YEARLING (1946) and CROSS CREEK (1983) these two films based upon the classic writings of author Marjorie Rawlings are a reasonable capture of life in rural Florida and were filmed in Silver Springs and Hawthorne. Gregory Peck was nominated in the former for his role of Jody's father. The movies did fair justice to two beloved Florida novels.


KEY LARGO (1948) Director John Huston and Humphrey Bogart show Americans what it is liked to be trapped on an isolated island with a gangster and a hurricane. While only exteriors were filmed in the Florida Keys, Key Largo today has one Bogart souvenir the boat from The African Queen. Claire Trevor won Best Supporting Actress for Key Largo.


SCARFACE (1983) Director Brian De Palma's bloody masterpiece isn't very historical, but Cuban drug lord Al Pacino certainly cut up the Miami scene in this flick.


MONSTER (2001) Charleize Theron, one of Hollywood's best looking woman, terrorizes the Orlando and Daytona scene as Aileen Wuornos, Florida's worst female serial killer.

A Best Actress Oscar went with this Florida film.


WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960) This Fort Lauderdale flick captured the naive early days of Florida Spring Break, with George Hamilton, Connie Francis, and my favorite nun Dolores Hart.


COCOON (1985) - downtown Saint Petersburg's aging population never looked better in Ron Howard's film with Don Ameche (dancing to an Oscar), Jessica Tandy, and Hume Cronyn.


ROSEWOOD (1997) - With scenes shot in Cedar Key and Eustis, this film captured the horror and fear of Florida's worst racial conflict even if plot has inaccuracies.


ULEE'S GOLD (1997) Florida beekeeper Ulee Jackson (Peter Fonda) tries to save his incarcerated son's wife from thugs in the forests of Wewahitchka. You will smell the forests of the Florida Panhandle in this sleeper of a flick.


CADDYSHACK (1980) In a classic comedy farce, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield destroy some Florida golf courses in Davie and Boca Raton. Chase later started a chain of Florida clubhouse restaurants called Caddyshack.


DOC HOLLYWOOD (1990) Waylaid urban doctor Michael J. Fox learns what small town life is like in historic and delightful Micanopy, Florida.


CAPE FEAR (1991) Martin Scorsese takes John D. MacDonald's novel of a revengeful convicted rapist to new heights as Robert DeNiro and Juliette Lewin get Oscar nominations and Fort Lauderdale looks fearful.


THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998) - Jim Carey is dramatically good as he is trapped in a domed Seaside, a town that resembles a movie set but is a real planned Florida Panhandle resort.


EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990) Classic Johnny Depp slicing the bushes of Dade City and Land O Lakes while Winona Ryder gets an Oscar nomination.


BOYNTON BEACH CLUB (2006) Sally Kellerman and Dyan Cannon try not to act their age as two elderly widowed retirees. For young women this film is an eye-opener.


GOLDFINGER (1964) Miami was glamorized in the early James Bond movies but never as well as in this colorful Sean Connery visit to the Fontainebleau.


APOLLO 13 (1995) Ron Howard captures a piece of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach in this somewhat realistic and heroic voyage for Tom Hanks and company.


DISTANT DRUMS (1951) Gary Cooper survives the Everglades and the Second Seminole War in a film directed by the great Raoul Walsh.


CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) in this horror classic Hollywood discovers that Wakulla and Silver Springs are great for underwater filming and a new genre develops for Lloyd Bridges and Ester Williams.


THE BULL DOGGER (1921) In the late 1910's Jacksonville, Florida, was the first center of motion picture production and no one made more films than Bill Pickett, an African-American cowboy from Boley, Oklahoma. Pickett of Norman Studios was the first black superstar.


WILD THINGS (1998) Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon try a con game on the rich of Miami's Ransom School, but discover that life can be filled with twists and feminine curves.


BLACK SUNDAY (1977) The Super Bowl is at the Miami Orange Bowl, but so his Bruce Dern in a bomb-filled blimp a film that still scares the crude out of Super Bowl host cities.