Over the nearly three decades since the release of the quintessential indie film Slacker, the face of Austin has quite literally transformed. This once mid-sized haven for hippies has metamorphosed into a bustling metropolis, thanks in part to its role in popular film.
Austin filmmakers — and specifically, the canonical works of Richard Linklater — have, in many ways, produced a siren song for the city, while simultaneously becoming the unaware curators of times past. Throughout the years, for better and for worse, Austin’s position in film — it’s splendor and beauty, all it’s quirks and weirdness — have drawn the masses to this strange place we call home.
Here are 10 film locations that helped to put Austin on the map:
Whereas many of the Austin locations in Richard Linklater’s 1992 film Dazed and Confused have since disappeared or simply morphed into something else, Top Notch remains virtually unchanged. This old-timey drive-in has been an Austin mainstay since 1971 and was the scene of Wooderson’s (Matthew McConaughey) famous “alright, alright, alright.” The burger joint was also featured in the 1999 teen football film Varsity Blues, as the part-time employer of Mox’s (James Van Der Beek) love interest.
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brews
The Violet Crown Shopping Center, which now most prominently houses Stiles Switch BBQ & Brews, was once used as the exterior location of the underage pool hall in Dazed and Confused (the interior scenes were filmed at the Poodle Dog Lounge, now The Aristocrat). It was also the site of yet another famous Wooderson line about high school girls: “I get older, they stay the same age.”
Linklater returned to Dart Bowl several times over the course of the 12 years it took to film Boyhood. From inside, Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke) bowls with his children, picks at hamburger plates from the cafe, and even witnesses the First Battle of Fallujah on a nearby television. The latter of which was one of many moments in the film that serves as a time capsule of sorts, an unwitting byproduct of many of Linklater’s Austin-based films.
The Continental Club
Of all the Austin institutions included in Linklater films, The Continental Club is by far the most revered and longest lasting. The director immortalized the venue twice over the years: first in 1992 with Slacker and later in the 2014 epic Boyhood. Whereas Slacker portrayed the club as more of an “anti-artist” hangout, Boyhood showcased the location in its truer form, as a music venue. In the latter, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) takes his girlfriend (Zoe Graham) to see the local band Austin Steamers perform the song “Black Crow.” Another, perhaps lesser known work to showcase the Continental is the 1988 Dennis Quaid/Meg Ryan crime thriller D.O.A., in which the band Timbuk 3 performs.
This 200-foot limestone escarpment overlooks the Colorado River and is the breathtaking backdrop to the two very different final scenes of the 1985 Coen Brothers feature Blood Simple and Linklater’s Slacker, respectively. At the end of Blood Simple, a murder is ordered, whereas in the final scene of Slacker, people just party.
Guero’s Taco Bar
On account of its long-standing position as a South Austin Tex-Mex institution, Guero’s has popped up in at least two films in recent years. The characteristic exterior has made cameo appearances in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof as the meetup location for Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and again as a tour stop in Jon Favreau’s Chef.
Barton Springs Pool
Honestly, it’s surprising Barton Springs hasn’t shown up more in film. The 3-acre spring-fed miracle is the crown jewel of Austin; a baptismal font in which so many residents come to cleanse. Terrence Malick used the poetry of this place in the 2011 epic Tree of Life, in which the O'Brien brothers (actors Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, and Tye Sheridan) swim in the iconic watering hole.
Seaholm Power Plant
Much of the exterior city scenes for Mike Judge’s 2006 political comedy Idiocracy were filmed outside the Seaholm Power Plant. At the time, the grounds were still essentially abandoned by the city and could otherwise serve as a perfect backdrop for Judge’s dumb, dystopian vision of future America.
South First and Stassney Shopping Center
Eric Bogosian’s screen adaptation of Suburbia filmed outside the fictional Circle A gas station on the corner of South First and Stassney. The shopping center, which now houses a staffing agency, insurance office, and a Chinese restaurant, was the site of the bulk of the filming for this Linklater-directed work about aimless twentysomethings.
Baker Street Pub & Grill
In the 1999 film Office Space, Peter (Ron Livingston) patronizes the fictional chain restaurant Chotchkie's to ask waitress Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) out on a date to yet another chain restaurant called Flingers. Director Mike Judge used the Alligator Grill (now Baker Street Pub & Grill) as the setting for both restaurants, simply decorating one half of the establishment in red and the other half in green.