In Film, West Texas is Often Violent and Lawless

And it’s been that way since 1956.

By Alexandra HartDecember 27, 2016 7:32 pm

Two new movies set in west Texas are out this season, both thrillers. “Nocturnal Animals” stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. “Hell or High Water” stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster. In both movies west Texas is a backdrop for stories about economic hardship, isolation and lawlessness. But it’s not the first time films have portrayed this part of the Lone Star State as something rough and tumble.

Lewis Beale wrote about the trend for the Los Angeles Times. He says west Texas has had a certain feel in movies since 1956’s “Giant”. Movies portray it as a place of economic dislocation, violence, heavy drinking, abandoned towns, flat land and miles of nothing, Beale says.

“I think the landscape has an awful lot to do with it,” he says. “You can drive for miles and miles and pretty much see nothing. It’s really kind of the edge of the country.”

Beale looked at films like “Friday Night Lights”, “Hud”, “No Country for Old Men”, and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”. All had similar threads.

“There’s been this 50- or 60-year history of films that are set in west Texas that have had a pretty negative looking image of west Texas,” he says. “Part of it, also I should mention, is the relationship between Anglos and Mexicans. I think that’s a key element.”