How many of these Florida-based films and TV shows have you seen?

Florida Memory Project

You can't call yourself a true Floridian until you have seen some of the cinema set on our swampy soil over the years.

It's not all great, and some of it is downright awful. But for the most part it's entertaining.

Whether they were actually filmed in Florida or not, all of these movies borrowed from the ambiance and character of the Sunshine State. From gators and scenic springs to seas of gray heads and a prevailing history of strange crimes, Florida has a lot to offer the big screen.

Here is a list of essential viewing for the Florida film fanatic. Each listing includes the film's current score on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, but you should decide for yourself which ones are keepers.

After all, seeing bad movies makes you appreciate the good ones.


"42" (2013)

This Jackie Robinson biopic starts off with scenes of the baseball legend at spring training in Sanford, Fla. It was the true beginning of the trials and tribulations he would face as he broke baseball's "color line." Rated PG-13.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79 percent (certified fresh)

"Adaptation" (2002)

This is a movie about the movie-making process. It's hard to beat the weird antics of Nicholas Cage, and in this movie they are two-fold as Cage plays Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald via split screen. The movie documents Kaufman's attempt to turn the novel "The Orchid Thief" into a movie script while battling with writer's block and depression. Things get strange quickly, and it ends with a swamp chase and an alligator encounter. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91 percent (certified fresh)

"Apollo 13" (1995)

This film details the real-life story of ill-fated launch from Kennedy Space Center that put three astronaut's lives in jeopardy. It can be cheesy at times, but the near-death scenes in outer space are still nail-biters. Plus, it gave us the erroneous but memorable quote: "Houston, we have a problem." Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent (certified fresh)

"Because of Winn-Dixie" (2005)

This film, based on the 2005 book of the same name, is the story of a girl and widowed father whose lives are changed by a stray dog in the fictional town of Naomi, Fla. To put it kindly, the film drowns in sentimental goop. However, it remains a very sweet children's story that accurately captures some of the strangeness that is Florida. As is usually the case, the book is better. Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 54 percent (rotten)

"The Birdcage" (1996)

"The Birdcage" tells the story of a gay drag club owner (Robin Williams) and his partner (Nathan Lane) who attempt to "play straight" for their son's fiancee's conservative parents (a Republican senator and his wife). It doesn't go according to plan, and it all happens in South Beach. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79 percent (certified fresh)

"Citizen Kane" (1941)

Considered by several prominent critics to be "the best film ever made," Orson Welle's "Citizen Kane" stands the test of time as a cautionary tale about the downsides of the American dream. The movie follows the mysterious and tragic life of Charles Foster Kane, a character partially based on newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst and other real-life business tycoons. The movie was filmed in California and New York, but Xanadu, Kane's astronomical estate, is set on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100 percent (certified fresh)

"Cocoon" (1985)

This kitschy flick about Florida retirees who discover immortality via a visiting group of aliens is oozing with cheese factor, but it still has its merits. It manages to dispel some stereotypes about senior citizens (and aliens) in the process of telling its tale. Rated PG-13.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77 percent (fresh)

"Cool Hand Luke" (1967)

A war veteran named Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) is sentenced to two years on a Florida chain-gang for one drunken night of vandalizing parking meters. Attempts at escape and clashes with the guards ensue. There's a lot to read into here, whether you are looking for religious themes or cultural commentary. Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100 percent (certified fresh)

"Dolphin Tale" (2011)

"Dolphin Tale" is a family drama about the real-life rescue dolphin Winter and her rehabilitation at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The movie does a decent job of adding a dramatic arc to an otherwise straightforward story. Followed by "Dolphin Tale 2." Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81 percent (certified fresh)

"The Florida Project" (2017)

"The Florida Project" is a startling snapshot of the lives of people living in motels in the Disney World area. Unsupervised kids frequently get into trouble, and their parents struggle to make enough money to survive. Despite enduring terrible events, the kids are somehow able to maintain their childlike optimism. The final scenes of the film were shot on an iPhone in the Magic Kingdom without theme park staff's knowledge. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96 percent (certified fresh)

"The Godfather Part II" (1974)

This classic movie only visits Florida for a brief stop at the suburban Miami hideout of a crime boss, but that counts for something, right? Bada-bing! Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent (certified fresh)

"Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus" (2010)

"Croc" is right. "Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus" is the movie that nobody asked for nor wanted. Despite this, it was made on a budget of $100,000, and there are multiple sequels. All of them entail various monstrous and hungry creatures facing off against each other. It seems like money that would be better spent fighting some real monsters, like the pythons invading the Florida Everglades.

Rotten Tomatoes: 19 percent (rotten) audience score

"Moonlight" (2016)

In "Moonlight," three actors portray the same character, Chiron, in different stages of life as he explores his identity and comes of age. Each of the three chapters has its own visual character thanks to cinematographer James Laxton and colorist Alex Bickel, who emulated different film stocks for each segment. Much of the movie was filmed in the Liberty Square neighborhood of Miami where screenwriter and director Barry Jenkins grew up. The film won Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent (certified fresh)

"Key Largo" (1948)

This film noir features Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their element: drinks in hand and facing off against gangsters. Oh, and there's a raging hurricane in the mix. Not rated.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent (fresh)

"Revenge of the Creature" (1995)

"Revenge of the Creature" and follow-up film "The Creature Walks Among Us" are sequels to the Universal monster classic, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." All three films were shot at multiple locations in Florida, including Wakulla Springs and Silver Springs. However, only the sequels take place in Florida. The sequels detail Gill Man's escape from a scientific compound and an ensuing chase through the Everglades. See the entry for "The Creature of the Black Lagoon." Not rated.

Rotten Tomatoes: 22 percent (rotten)

"Scarface" (1983)

Just when people thought that it couldn't get any more violent than "The Godfather" films, enter "Scarface." The film's merits are still debated, but it is No. 10 on the American Film Institute’s list of top ten gangster movies. Many of the events of the film take place in Miami, but it was largely shot on film sets in California. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82 percent (certified fresh)

"Spring Breakers" (2013)

In "Spring Breakers," four young college women go on spring break in St. Petersburg, Fla. and wind up falling in with a local drug dealer. Wild times ensue. The film was shot during the actual spring break of 2012 in and around St. Petersburg. It's one of those movies that leaves people wondering what they just saw. Is it a witty commentary on our society's materialism? Or is it, perhaps, just stupid? It's up to you to decide, but buy a used copy just in case. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 67 percent (fresh)

"Sunshine State" (2002)

"Sunshine State" is set in the fictional Plantation Island and Lincoln Beach communities of Florida. They are loosely based on real-life places Amelia Island and American Beach where the movie was filmed. "Sunshine State" covers a lot of territory, delving into inter-generational issues, race relations and aggressive developers who want to turn the whole community into a beach resort. Rated PG-13.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80 percent (certified fresh)


"American Horror Story: Freak Show" (2014-2015)

FX horror series "American Horror Story" made a stop in Jupiter, Fla. for its fourth season, though the show was actually filmed in New Orleans. The season tells the tale of one of the last freak shows in the U.S. It received 20 Emmy nominations.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79 percent (certified fresh)

"Claws" (2017 - present)

Set in a fictional nail salon in Palmetto, "Claws" is a dark comedy about some nail stylists who get mixed up in crime. What starts a side gig quickly becomes a full-time pursuit. Season one is now streaming on Hulu. Rated TV-MA.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80 percent (fresh)

"Dexter" (2006- 2013)

"Dexter" follows the secret life of Dexter Morgan, a forensic technician who takes justice into his own hands. Using his inside knowledge of crime and law enforcement, he begins to rid the world of bad people who slipped through the justice system. The rub is whether or not he becomes a bad person in the process. Rated TV-MA.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77 percent (fresh)

"Miami Vice" (1984- 1990)

Detectives Ricardo Tubbs and James Crockett take on Florida's drug underworld, and they do it in style. The show made novel use of color, music and fashion to create a memorable Miami atmosphere. Rated TV-14.

Rotten Tomatoes: score not available

Movies filmed in Florida

There are also some films that, although not set in Florida, made use of the state's tropic backdrop. Here are a few of them.

"Caddyshack" (1980)

"Caddyshack" was supposed to look like it took place in the Midwest, but in reality it was mostly shot at a golf club in Florida. Two of the restaurants inspired by the film remain open in Rosemont and St. Augustine. Rated R.

Creature from the Black Lagoon actor Ricou Browning.jpg
Ricou Browning is a Florida-based film maker who got his start in the film industry in an uncredited role as the gill man in "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Florida Memory

"Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954)

"Creature from the Black Lagoon" takes place in the Amazon and California, but it was largely shot at springs near Ocala. The film and its sequels are outdated (read: wildly sexist) and nonsensical, but they can still be fun to watch if you're in the mood for a ridiculous swamp romp. It's also nice to think about the Gill Man lurking out there waiting to eat an unsuspecting tourist or spring polluter, and the movies are Florida's contribution to Universal's monster posse. Someone should do a remake...

Not rated.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84 percent (fresh)

"House on Haunted Hill" (1999)

This remake of the 1959 horror classic follows a group of strangers on a strange dare. They are eligible to win one million dollars each if they can survive one night in an abandoned asylum. The roller coaster in the opening scenes of this film is called "Terror Incognita," but it's actually The Incredible Hulk roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida. Rated R.

Rotten Tomatoes: 28 percent (rotten)

"Jaws 2" (1978)

Production of this sequel had a hard time getting off the ground but once it finally did, much of it was shot in Florida waters. Locations in the film include Navarre Beach, Okaloosa Island, Choctawhatchee Bay and Destin. Rated PG.

Rotten Tomatoes: 57 percent (rotten)

"Tarzan Finds a Son!" (1939)

This film is set in the African jungle but filmed at Florida springs. A common legend attributes the presence of rhesus macaque monkeys in central Florida to the filming of a Tarzan movie. In reality, the monkeys were released by a tour boat operator to enhance his cruise through Silver Springs. The monkeys are sometimes irate and almost always infected with herpes B virus, but don't blame Tarzan! Not rated.

Rotten Tomatoes: score not available

Ryan Ballogg: 941-745-7024, @rballogg