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Update (April 3): Amazon Prime and SXSW will team to stream films that were to be shown at the SXSW 2020 festival, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SXSW announced Thursday that the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection will give filmmakers the opportunity to opt in to the 10-day, online film festival, which will be available in front of the Prime Video paywall for free. Viewers will need a free Amazon account but will not need to pay for Amazon Prime to stream the one-time event. According to a post on the SXSW website, the companies are targeting ate April for a start date. The SXSW website has more details.
Update (April 2): In addition to the wealth of films old and new now accessible via streaming services, some local independent movie theaters now offer Virtual Cinema, through which viewers pay for a ticket to can stream a set of films for a limited time, with the money going directly to the theaters. Alamo Drafthouse is offering an Alamo at Home service, and local indie theaters Violet Crown Cinema and AFS Cinema are offering different collections of streaming films through the Virtual Cinema program. All offer something different than the films and television shows available through the most common streaming services, which should round out your at-home watch list nicely.
Austin may have a well-deserved reputation as the live music capital of the world, but the city more than holds its own when it comes to the film world as well. So if being cooped up at home has you dazed and/or confused, maybe blow off some steam by hosting your own Austin minifilm festival.
Here are 16 Austin-related films that you can stream or rent online right now.
Office Space (1999)
If being at home has you longing for a return to the daily grind of your office job (or a flair-studded waiting gig at Chotchkie’s), perhaps check out Mike Judge’s irreverent Office Space. The film’s locations were specifically selected for being soul-crushingly nondescript, so you may not have realized that everything from the Initech office complex to the field where the protagonists smash the troublesome printer were shot within Austin city limits. Rent for $3.99 on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
This campy, R-rated vampire flick was the first collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino and was filmed in and around Austin. Rodriguez, who studied at UT, continues to work almost exclusively in Austin when possible, and his Troublemaker Studios production company is located in the Austin’s mini-backlot on the former site of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. Fans of the filmmaker can also revisit the Machete, Sin City, and Spy Kids franchises.
Included with Hulu subscription; rent for $3.99 on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu
The Tree of Life (2011)
Director Terrence Malick is a longtime, if attention-averse, resident of Austin and often shoots his films in and around the city and recruits local residents as extras. The multigenerational family drama The Tree of Life used several Austin-adjacent locations and sourced its namesake 65,000-pound mature oak tree from nearby Smithville. Malick’s 2017 Song to Song is a lyrical, fever-dream meditation about on music and musicians and was filmed over a long period in and around (but mostly in) Austin setting; it’s available to rent from the major streaming services.
Included with Hulu subscription; rent for $3.99 on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
Mr. Roosevelt (2017)
This quirky comedy follows a struggling Los Angeles comedian returning home to Austin to confront her past—all while staying with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend (the house used in the film is located at 5010 Duval Street). Mr. Roosevelt was written by, directed by, and stars UT and SNL alum Noël Wells and debuted to a standing ovation at SXSW in 2017. Included with Netflix subscription; rent on Amazon ($3.99), Vudu ($2.99)
In 1990, hometown director Richard Linklater’s portrait of under-thirty oddballs set the tone, captured the atmosphere, and created an entire vocabulary for the decade to follow—even if Linklater denies any generational influence till his dying day, which he probably will. Slacker captures a bygone slice of Austin subculture and entertains with its bohemian banter, conspiracy theories, and pseudo-intellectualism. Rent for $1.99 on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play
Dazed and Confused (1993)
We keep getting older, but Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age love letter to 1970s Texas (thankfully) stays the same age. The iconic 1993 comedy, which features the antics of a powerful ensemble cast of party-eager teens on the last day of high school, includes scenes shot all across town. Check out our handy map to locate the setting of your favorite D&C scene. Included with Hulu subscription; rent for $3.99 on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
Linklater and Matthew McConaughey reunite in this 2011 dark comedy inspired by true events. Starring Jack Black as the titular funeral home director mixed up in the death of a wealthy widow. Bernie is set in not-so-close Carthage, Texas, but shot a number of its scenes around the Austin area. Free to view YouTube, Tubi, Crackle, Vudu
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)
This masterful doc profiles the late great local art figure Daniel Johnston, whose iconic Hi, How Are You mural became synonymous with Austin’s offbeat cultural brand. Director Jeff Feuerzeig blends interviews and performance footage to present an in-depth look at the singer-songwriter and visual artist, his work, and Johnston’s struggle with bipolar disorder. Rent on Amazon ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99), YouTube ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
Be Here to Love Me (2004)
This is another worthwhile documentary that explores the influential work (and complicated personal life) of a Texas artist—in this case, outlaw country singer Townes Van Zandt. Directed by Austin native Margaret Brown, Be Here to Love Me presents a fascinating portrait of Van Zandt that engages both newcomers and diehard fans of the late musician. Rent on Vudu ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This quintessential slasher flick is considered the seminal American horror film. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has strong ties to Austin—filmmaker Tobe Hooper was teaching at the University of Texas when he developed the concept for the movie, and the film’s iconic farmhouse is located in outlying Kingsland. Though the film spawned a half-dozen sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots, it’s been impossible to replicate the groundbreaking magic of the original. Free on Tubi; rent on YouTube ($2.99), Google Play ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99), Amazon ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99)
Whip It (2009)
Drew Barrymore made in her directorial debut with this roller derby-themed sports comedy set in Austin. Although the city was the epicenter of roller derby’s modern-day revival in the 2000s, and some scenes were filmed in the city, most of the on-rink action sequences were shot in Michigan. Rent for $3.99 on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
Temple Grandin (2010)
This fascinating biographical film tells the story of Temple Grandin (played by Claire Danes), an animal husbandry expert with autism who went on to create devices that led to more humane methods for handling livestock. Crews shot the film out of Austin Studios. HBO on Amazon Prime Video; rent on iTunes ($1.99), YouTube ($2.99) Google Play ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99)
If you’re looking for light-hearted escapism, Tower probably isn’t the best choice. With that being said, this film about the 1966 mass shooting from UT Main Building Tower offers viewers a poignant look back at that dark day, 50 years later. Tower recounts the event with the unlikely medium of animation and uses the words of surviving victims as narration.
Rent on Amazon ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99), YouTube ($3.99), iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
Varsity Blues (1999)
The film Varsity Blues chose Austin—along with Coupland, Elgin, and Georgetown—to serve as the background for the 1999 coming-of-age sports dramedy. Similarly, the high-school football film and television series Friday Night Lights also used the Austin area to stand in for Odessa, Texas, the real-life setting of H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s nonfiction classic and the book that started it all. iTunes ($3.99)
Blood Simple (1984)
Also set in Austin, this murderous crime thriller was the first feature film from renowned filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. Following the twisted tale of a jealous husband who hires a private investigator to follow—and eventually kill—his cheating wife, Blood Simple was shot mostly on location in Austin as well as nearby Hutto. Included in Hulu subscription; rent on YouTube ($2.99), Amazon ($2.99), Google Play ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Director and star Christopher Guest lampoons community theater productions in this 1996 comedy, set in the made-up town of Blaine, Missouri. In reality, the majority of the mockumentary was shot 30 miles south of Austin, in the now very hip town of Lockhart. Scenes of the cast rehearsing the “Red, White, and Blaine” musical production were filmed in the Doris Miller Auditorium in East Austin. Watch for free on Vudu; rent for $3.99 on YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play