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Best Movies Set in West Virginia

Every state is known for something. As you work your way through the list, don’t miss the best movies set in West Virginia. While you're at it, check out the best book set in West Virginia, too.

Sunset at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia with text: "Best Movies Set in West Virginia"

West Virginia is a state in the eastern United States, located in the Appalachian Mountains. Harpers Ferry, located where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, is the location of a notable Civil War-era raid. A national historical park surrounds the town and looks exactly how it did in the nineteenth century, with many of the buildings available to the public as living-history museums.

What themes are in Movies Set in West Virginia?

Movies set in West Virginia often explore various themes, reflecting the state's unique culture, history, and landscapes. Some common themes that frequently appear in such movies include:

  1. Rural Life: West Virginia is known for its rural landscapes, and many movies set in the state highlight the challenges and beauty of rural life. These films may delve into aspects like family dynamics, community bonds, and the struggles of living in remote areas.
  2. Economic Hardship: Some movies set in West Virginia address the economic difficulties faced by residents, particularly in regions dependent on industries like coal mining. These films often examine the impact on individuals and communities.
  3. Coal Mining: Given West Virginia's historical connection to the coal mining industry, many movies set in the state revolve around the lives of coal miners. These films may explore the dangers of the job, labor disputes, and the resilience of miners and their families.
  4. Family and Community: Family and community are central themes in West Virginian films. These movies may depict the importance of family bonds and the tight-knit communities that often form in rural areas.
  5. Cultural Identity: West Virginia's distinct cultural identity is often celebrated in these films. Themes related to local music, traditions, and folklore are common, showcasing the state's unique cultural heritage.
  6. Social Issues: Movies set in West Virginia may address various social issues, including poverty, addiction, healthcare challenges, and access to education. They shed light on the struggles of people in the state.
  7. Environmental Concerns: Some films set in West Virginia tackle environmental issues, particularly those related to mining practices and their impact on the environment and communities.
  8. Change and Adaptation: As the state undergoes economic and social changes, some movies explore how individuals and communities adapt to these transformations and their challenges.
  9. Love and Relationships: Like any location, movies set in West Virginia often feature themes related to love, relationships, and personal journeys. These stories can be set against the backdrop of the state's natural beauty.
  10. Historical Events: West Virginia has a rich history, and some films focus on significant historical events or periods, such as the Civil War, the state's formation, or important moments in local history.
  11. Education and Aspiration: Education and the pursuit of dreams are recurring themes. Movies may depict the challenges of accessing quality education in rural areas and the determination to achieve one's goals.
  12. Nature and the Outdoors: West Virginia's stunning natural landscapes provide a backdrop for themes related to the beauty of the outdoors, the appreciation of nature, and outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and hunting.
  13. Resilience and Determination: West Virginians are often portrayed as resilient and determined individuals who face challenges head-on. Movies set in the state highlight these qualities.
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Movies set in West Virginia offer a window into the state's culture, history, and the lives of its residents. These films explore a range of themes, from the struggles of rural life to the celebration of cultural traditions, providing both local and universal insights.

How to Create a State Unit Study for West Virginia

Creating a state unit study for West Virginia can be a rewarding educational experience for students. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you create a comprehensive unit study:

1. Define your objectives:
Determine the grade level and learning objectives for your unit study. Consider what you want students to learn and accomplish by the end of the study.

2. Select key topics:
Choose the main topics you want to cover in your unit study. Common topics include:

  • Geography: Explore the state's physical features, regions, and climate.
  • History: Delve into West Virginia's history, including Native American settlements, early explorers, statehood, and significant historical events.
  • Government: Learn about the state's government structure, key officials, and the role of state government.
  • Culture: Discover West Virginia's cultural heritage, including traditions, art, music, and folklore.
  • Economy: Investigate the state's economy, including industries like coal mining, agriculture, and tourism.

3. Gather resources:
Collect books, articles, websites, and other materials related to West Virginia. Local libraries, museums, and historical societies are great places to start.

4. Create lesson plans:
Develop a series of lesson plans that correspond to the chosen topics. Each lesson should have clear objectives, activities, and assessments. Make them engaging and interactive to keep students interested.

5. Hands-On Activities:
Include hands-on activities and projects to reinforce learning. For example, students could create maps, conduct historical reenactments, or explore West Virginian culture through art and music.

6. Field Trips and Guest Speakers:
Plan field trips to local museums, historical sites, or government offices to provide real-world experiences. Invite guest speakers, such as local historians or artists, to share their knowledge.

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7. Culminating Project:
Consider a culminating project that allows students to showcase what they've learned. This could be a presentation, a research paper, or a class exhibition.

8. Assessment:
Develop assessments, such as quizzes, essays, or presentations, to gauge students' understanding of the material. Ensure that assessments align with your learning objectives.

9. Reflection:
Encourage students to reflect on what they've learned. Discuss how their perception of West Virginia has changed and what they find most interesting or surprising.

10. Incorporate Technology:
Use technology to enhance the study, such as online resources, interactive maps, or virtual tours of historical sites.

11. Local Experts and Community Involvement:
Involve local experts and the community in your unit study. They can provide valuable insights and create a sense of connection to the state.

12. Respect cultural sensitivity:
Approach cultural topics with sensitivity and respect for the diverse communities within West Virginia. Teach about cultural diversity and inclusivity.

13. Celebrate Achievements:
Showcase students' work and celebrate the completion of the unit study. You can host a presentation day, cultural fair, or exhibition to share what they've learned.

14. Evaluation and Adaptation:
After the unit study, evaluate its effectiveness and gather feedback from students. Use this information to adapt and improve future unit studies.

Remember to adapt the unit study to the age and abilities of your students and make it engaging and informative.

A state unit study can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of West Virginia's geography, history, culture, and more while helping students develop critical thinking and research skills.

Best Movies Set in West Virginia

We Are Marshall
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Ian McShane (Actors)

We Are Marshall

Year: 2006

In the aftermath of a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, “We Are Marshall” tells a poignant tale of resilience and rebirth. Set against the backdrop of a grief-stricken community, the film follows Coach Jack Lengyel and the determined townsfolk as they rally together to rebuild the shattered football program.

Fueled by unwavering hope and camaraderie, they strive to honor the memory of their fallen heroes, ultimately uniting a fractured town through the unbreakable spirit of football.

Sweet Dreams
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Ann Wedgeworth (Actors)

Sweet Dreams

Year: 1985

In this poignant biographical drama from 1985, an inspiring story unfolds against the backdrop of the 1950s and 1960s music scene. Follow the incredible journey of a small-town girl, portrayed by Jessica Lange, as she defies the odds and rises to become a Nashville sensation.

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Her hauntingly beautiful voice and unwavering determination drive her success in the world of country music, despite facing personal challenges. This heartfelt tale explores the triumphs and tribulations of fame, love, and the indomitable spirit of an extraordinary woman.

West Virginia State Capitol

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (10th Anniversary Edition)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jesco White (Actor)

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Year: 2009

Venture deep into the heart of West Virginia in this unfiltered documentary that exposes the tumultuous lives of a notorious family. This raw and unapologetic exploration follows the Whites, a clan known for their outrageous antics, criminal escapades, and unruly behavior.

Through candid interviews and gritty footage, the film sheds light on their struggles, making for a disturbing yet strangely fascinating examination of a family trapped in a cycle of chaos, crime, and camaraderie, set against the rugged backdrop of rural Appalachia.

October Sky
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern (Actors)

October Sky

Year: 1999

In a small coal-mining town in West Virginia, the year is 1957, and young Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, dreams of escaping the life predetermined by his mining community. Inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1, he aspires to build rockets. Against all odds and amid skepticism from his family and friends, Homer forms the Big Creek.

The Dion Brothers

Year: 1974

In this crime drama, we follow the tumultuous journey of the Dion brothers, played by Stacy Keach and Frederic Forrest, as they embark on a daring string of robberies. The siblings, facing economic hardships and personal struggles, turn to a life of crime in an attempt to break free from their mundane existence. With an engaging blend of action and character development, the film explores the complexities of brotherly relationships, loyalty, and the consequences of a life lived on the edge.

Now that you’ve completed the list of best movies set in this state, why not check out some others? Here are the Best Movies Set in All 50 States.


Click here to download this printable. It has a list of movies in all 50 states, including the Best Movies Set in West Virginia.

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Further Reading About the State:

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West Virginia Capitol Building, Charleston, West Virginia with text: "Best Movies Set in West Virginia"

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