Farming isn’t a profession that attracts the all-seeing and dramatic eye of Hollywood.
Movie goers are constantly barraged with films about soldiers, firefighters, police officers, teachers, super heroes , lawyers, and films about aspiring writers and artists.
Though movies don’t often feature farmers or farms, agriculture has had some nods from Hollywood in the past. Some of the movies that are farm-centric may not be the gigantic and special effects-motivated summer blockbuster like The Dark Knight or Marvel’s: The Avengers, but they’re good entertainment.
The following is a list of some of the best farming movies ever.
Field of Dreams is a movie, based on W.P. Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe, that encompasses two quintessential American themes: farming and baseball. It may be the most American movie ever made ( if your vision of America is the idealistic “amber waves of grain”).
Kevin Costner stars as Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him, “If you build it, he will come.” Luckily, Kinsella doesn’t build a casino in hopes his farm becomes the next Las Vegas, rather, he builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. The ghosts of legendary baseball players then come to the field every night to play.
Tourists still flock to the film’s original baseball diamond which is located in Dyersville, Iowa, where much of the film was shot. The attraction has approximately 65,000 visitors annually.
Based on John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (do you see a pattern here?), Grapes of Wrath takes place during the during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The film stars a young Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, a man who returns home to his family’s farm in Oklahoma after a stay in prison.
Shortly after he arrives, he gets the news that his family has lost the farm. The decision is made to travel to California in search of employment.
The journey to California is wrought with hardships, the grandfather dies and is buried near the road, stops at migrant camps only reveal great economic inequality and Tom inadvertently kills a camp guard while defending his friend, and ex-preacher, Jim Casy.
The ending of the film differs from the novel. It offers a more hopeful outcome for the Joad family.
In 1989, Grapes of Wrath was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United State National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
How about something upbeat? Babe, one of my personal favorites, is another adaptation. The film is based on the 1983 novel, Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith.
Babe is an orphaned piglet who is picked for a “guess the weight” booth at a county fair. A sheep farmer, Arthur Hoggett, played by James Cromwell, wins the contest and takes Babe home. Babe is raised by Fly, a female sheepdog.
Eventually, Babe begins herding sheep, which leads him to participate in a herding contest. Babe wins the herding contest and all is well.
Babe is a charming movie that won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and was also nominated for 6 others including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s a great movie to watch with the kids.
There’s plenty of documentaries about agriculture and the food supply in the world, but many have political leanings that can be off-putting. The Real Dirt on Farmer John, however, is an award-winning documentary about John Peterson, a Midwest farmer who operates Angelic Organics.
Peterson is an outcast in his community who turns his family’s farm around by taking his family traditions and combining them with art and free expression. Filmmaker Taggart Siegel documented Peterson’s story over 25 years through various forms of media.
Peterson’s farm is still in operation today. His farm is one of the largest CSA (community-supported agriculture) operations in the United State. Every year, Angelic Organics feeds more than 1,400 families. Participants in the farm receive a weekly bushel of fresh vegetables.
This movie brings back so many memories of my childhood. I absolutely loved his film. Again, the film is based on a book, of the same name, by E.B. White. E.B. White also wrote other children’s novels including Stuart Little.
Wilbur is a pig and the runt of the litter. The farmer, Mr. Arable, is going to kill him before Arable’s daughter, Fern, interrupts and begs her father to let the little Wilbur live. Fern takes care of Wilbur until he’s old enough to be sold to her uncle. Fern visits, yet over time her visits get less frequent.
Wilbur is lonely and afraid that he’ll be eaten for Christmas until a spider, named Charlotte, hatches a plan to save him.
The film has wonderful musical numbers written by the Sherman Brothers, who had also written music for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic, watch this movie.
Finally! A farm movie that isn’t based on a book! Places in the Heart stars Sally Field as Edna Spalding, a woman who finds herself alone and penniless on a farm during the Great Depression. Her husband dies in an accident and Spalding is left to pick up the pieces.
Moze, played by Danny Glover, comes by her home looking for work, Spalding refuses. Soon after she is faced with a fact, she must make the farm profitable or she’ll have to sell the property.
Spalding eventually has the help of Moze, a blind man named Will, played by John Malkovich, and her children to help turn her old farm into a profitable cotton farm.
Places in the Heart won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Field) and Best Writing. It was also nominated for 5 other awards including Best Director and Best Picture.