Nashville Local Life

Get to Know Nashville Through These TV Shows and Movies

While Nashville is certainly a hub for the entertainment industry in the United States, its musical offerings have always overshadowed the city’s film and television presence.

That said, in recent years an increasingly bright spotlight has been cast on the city and its music scene through a popular television show and a recent Ken Burns series. Unlike cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Nashville is usually heard and not seen. So it is exciting to experience local spots and neighborhoods featured on the big screen.

While you’re stuck inside, get to know the city by checking out these TV shows and movies filmed in Nashville.

Guitar statue in music row, Nashville
Music Row, Nashville

‘Nashville’ (Television Show 2012-18)

Every resident remembers when “Nashville” came to town and we all watched the first episode with bated breath, eager to see if the show got our city right. The town issued a collective exhale as the ABC series garnered popularity over the course of six seasons, and the consensus was that “Nashville” did the city proud.

It also didn’t hurt that stars like Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Clare Bowen started hanging around town, and locals got to see real live television crews set up in neighborhoods like West Meade, Belmont, and West End.

More than any other film or television project, “Nashville” thrust Music City into a brighter spotlight than it had ever seen, and there’s no denying that it bolstered the city’s reputation across the country and the globe.

The show put neighborhood music venues like The Bluebird Cafe and The Grand Ole Opry on the map for many casual viewers and country music listeners who otherwise weren’t tuned into these Music City institutions.

While many local businesses have “Nashville” to thank for bolstered revenue, the show really did right by the city’s music industry, and that is why so many locals respected and supported the production. The program highlighted local songwriters and made a point to showcase original music from Nashville artists on the show. 

At a time when the music industry was still recovering from a massive decline in the internet age, “Nashville” gave the city a serious opportunity to grow.

‘Ken Burns: Country Music’ (Documentary Series - 2019)

For the past eight years, Nashville has been buzzing about the long-awaited Ken Burns documentary series, “Country Music,” so when the project was released last year, it was all anyone could talk about.

Not only did residents love learning about their favorite artists from Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline to Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton, but they loved spotting neighborhoods like Music Row, South Nashville, and Belle Meade throughout the series. 

Insofar as the 16-hour-long series is an investigation of the genre country music, it is also a history of Nashville in many respects. Burns outlines the division between Nashville’s traditionalist, academic culture of the early 1900s and the freewheelin’ honky-tonk scene that emerged on Broadway as country music took over the city. “Ken Burns: Country Music” is required viewing for natives and newcomers alike.

‘Nashville’ (Film - 1975)

Arguably the first on the scene when it comes to films documenting our great city, Robert Altman’s “Nashville” is a cinematic classic that explores the city’s country and gospel music culture alongside a wild political plot during the early 1970s.

The film stars Lily Tomlin and Jeff Goldblum along with about 22 other cast members in this outrageous story. The film was nominated for a record 11 Golden Globe Awards and garnered an Oscar in the category of, what else, Best Original Song. 

Venues like the Exit/In in the Elliston Place neighborhood feature prominently and the film’s climax was shot on location at The Parthenon on West End. Does the film reflect the city of Nashville as it is in the present day? Probably not—but it does shed light on the city as it was in the 1970s before Nashville became the squeaky clean “it city” we know and love today.

A Note About COVID-19:

While many of us are sheltered in place or practicing social distancing, it is not the best time to explore Nashville physically, but movies and television provide a great resource. Additionally, many working musicians have been forced to cancel tours and live appearances for the next few months, dealing a massive blow to their business.

Luckily, many artists have turned to live streaming their performances, and outlets like Rolling Stone have launched their own Instagram Live series. The Grand Ole Opry and Bubble Up also provide comprehensive guides to upcoming live streams by every artist imaginable.

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