Arts & Culture

Watch list: Recommendations for films with Iowa ties

Surrounded by the constant whir of the corn dryers, actors Jaime Gomez (in wheelchair) and Hallee Hirsh film a scene for
Surrounded by the constant whir of the corn dryers, actors Jaime Gomez (in wheelchair) and Hallee Hirsh film a scene for “16 to Life” on Oct. 23, 2007, in McGregor. (The Gazette/Jim Slosiarek)

The Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival always showcases films with Iowa ties, so we asked festival director Scott Chrisman to weigh in on films featuring Iowa or Iowans that can be found with just a few clicks on various streaming platforms. We’ve also added a few choices of our own.

And a surprising list of Iowa films dating back to 1919 and Iowa stars from John Wayne to Ron Livingston can be found at

It makes sense that the 1933 version of "State Fair" was shot in Des Moines, since it revolves around a visit to the Iowa State Fair. But who knew part of 1984's "Children of the Corn" was filmed in Sioux City and Whiting, and parts of the 1996 film "Michael," starring John Travolta, were filmed in Cedar Rapids, according to the Produce Iowa list on the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs list.

Chrisman’s list

Here are Scott Chrisman's recommendations:

• "A Quiet Place," the 2018 sci-fi thriller based on a story by Bettendorf natives and University of Iowa alums Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, who also wrote the screenplay with director and star John Krasinski; available on Prime Video

• "Haunt," 2019 horror film in a rural haunted house; also from Beck and Woods; rent on Prime Video; for more on the writers’ projects, go to

• "Tag," 2018 comedy starring Ed Helms, Jermey Renner and Jon Hamm, directed by Jeff Tomsic, who grew up in Cedar Rapids

• "Up on the Wooftop," 2015 Christmas adventure from Iowa City filmmaker Joe Clarke; iTunes, usually on Prime Video


• "Spiral," Joe Clarke's 2018 film in which friends unite for a bachelor party that bends into a psychological thriller; available on Prime

• "16 to Life," filmed in McGregor in 2007 by Iowa native Becky Smith, and starring Hallee Hirsch, with Carson Kressley in a supporting role; on Prime Video

• Four Marvel films directed by University of Iowa graduate Joe Russo and his brother, Anthony Russo: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," 2014; "Captain America: Civil War," 2016; "Avengers: Infinity War," 2018; "Avengers: Endgame," 2019. Also: "You Me and Dupree," 2006, and "Welcome to Collinwood," 2002, both on Prime Video

• "Snapshots," 2018 film by writer/producer Jan Miller Corran, born in Des Moines, lived in Sioux City and went to the UI; a found roll of film during a weekend at the lake starts revealing three generations of secrets to Rose’s daughter and granddaughter; available on Prime Video

• "Wine Diamonds," produced by Eastern Iowans Kirk Munson and Jeff Zahrt, screened in the 2019 Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival; available on Amazon Prime

• Fourth Wall Films histories and documentaries by Waterloo native Tammy Rundle and husband Kelly Rundle, available at Fourth Wall Films.

• "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers; executive producer is Jenifer Westphal, born in McGregor; on Prime Video

Our list

• "Field of Dreams," 1989 baseball fantasy filmed around Dyersville, stars Kevin Costner, and gave us the catchphrase, "Is this Heaven?""No, it's Iowa."


• "The Final Season," 2007 film about Norway's winning baseball program, and filmed in Eastern Iowa, including Cedar Rapids

• "Cedar Rapids," the title says it all; even though it was filmed in Ann Arbor, Mich., this 2011 comedy does have some scene-setters filmed in Cedar Rapids

• "Office Space," 1999 cult classic and breakout film for Marion native Ron Livingston

• "Amelia 2.0," inspired by "The Summerland Project" play by Rob Merritt, and directed by Adam Orton, this 2017 sci-fi drama filmed in and around Cedar Rapids begs the question: If you could transfer a human mind from a body at the brink of death into a robotic replica, should you? Where does humanity begin and end?

• "The Monuments Men," wearing director/writer/producer/star hats in this 2014 film, George Clooney plays George Stout, the University of Iowa art student who eventually became the leader of the military special forces unit assigned to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Stout’s story also is told in the new documentary “Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art,” directed by Kevin Kelley of Iowa City, selected for this year’s Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival

• "The Best of Enemies," 2019 drama based on the book by Des Moines native and UI graduate Osha Gray Davidson, it shows the relationship forged out of contentious 1971 desegregation talks in Durham, N.C., led by a civil rights activist and a Ku Klux Klan leader.

• "Road to Perdition," 2002 crime drama starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig; based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins of Muscatine.

• "Star Trek," 2009 film with references to Riverside, Iowa, directed by J.J. Abrams

• "Aquaman" from 2018 — and anything else featuring Jason Momoa, born in Hawaii but raised in Norwalk

• "Superman Returns," 2006 film starring Brandon Routh, who went to high school in Norwalk with Jason Momoa. What are the odds of a small town in Iowa producing two superheroes at the same time?


• "The Bridges of Madison County," 1995 film based on the best-selling book by the late Robert James Waller, who taught and was dean of the College of Business at his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls

• Anything featuring Iowa natives John Wayne and Ashton Kutcher

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