The Best and Worst: West Virginia in Pop Culture (Part 1)

In a recent story we addressed the sad truth that much of the nation doesn’t know that West Virginia exists, and the challenge this poses to those of us who would like to see a more accurate, positive portrayal of the great state.  See: Yes Virginia, There is a West Virginia.  In an effort to better understand this phenomenon, we dive deeper and see when, where and how West Virginia has made an appearance in American popular culture.  In Part 1, we explore the screens, big and small.

These are ordered from “worst” to “best”, not necessarily meaning worst or best made, but worst or best portrayal of West Virginia.

Worst Movie not set in West Virginia but every thinks it is: Deliverance

Could this be a major part of the problem? Let’s get this out of the way.  This movie is set in Georgia not West Virginia! This 1972 award winner is often the punchline of many West Virginia jokes, and who among us has not heard the tune of the fabulous dueling banjo scene whistled to us when we mention our home state?  OK, let’s admit though that most West Virginians do appreciate that dueling banjo scene:

Honorable Mention of “West Virginia movies” not actually set in West Virginia:  Sling Blade and Silence of the Lambs


Worst movie actually set in West Virginia: The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.

This Boone County expose’ is a must see for all West Virginians …so that you can then call the producers of this movie to tell them to ‘F’ off.


Honorable Mention of movies that we have to admit atually are set in West Virginia: The Mothman Prophecies, Superman III,  and Wrong Turn


Worst  television show about West Virginia: The Beverly Hillbillies

This show helped solidify the connectin between the term “hillbilly” and West Virginia. You need more? Watch Granny as she teaches a bunch of beatniks the “Tater Digger”.

Honorable Mention: 16 and Pregnant and Buckwild.

Worst and Best television reference: Family Ties

In this classic clip Alex P. Keaton and friends sneak of to Wheeling, West Virginia where the drinking age is 18 to drink and pick up chicks.  Yes, these sophisticated Ohio kids (oxymoron?) go to behind-the-times “charming” West Virginia where the drinking age is 18.  The bar scene is really cool (see the awesome dance party in the background), but we all know that Wheeling girls are WAY smarter than this!

Honorable Mention: telvision star Don Knotts


Best scene set in West Virginia: The Deer Hunter

In this critically claimed 1978 movie starring Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, West Virginia’s breathtaking natural beauty takes the Academy Award.

Honorable Mention: Super 8


Best movie set in West Virginia: It’s a TIE! We are Marshall and October Sky

In both of these classics, “hillbilly”, “backward” and stupid jokes are replaced with “leadership”, “ambition”, “family”, “success” and “positivity”.  In this clip a young Homer Hickam breaks the mold of traditional Mountain State stereotypes.

Honorable Mention: Patch Adams, The Bodyguard (Kevin Costner character is a WVU grad and wears a WVU t-shirt that catches Whitney Houston’s eye).


While there are terrible, less than terrible and slightly amusing portrayals of our state in popular media, gives us a chance to share our own story.

Let’s start today.

Visit for more information, or connect with us on Facebook. If you’re interested in contributing, send an email to It’s time to rise up and show the world the real West Virginia.

Feature Photo, Scene from “The Deer Hunter”, courtesy