These are the 8 most iconic movies set or filmed in Kansas

Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal
"The Wizard of Oz" may be the most iconic movie with a Kansas connection, considering the Library of Congress reports it "has been seen by more viewers than any other movie."

There's no place like home, and if you're looking for the most iconic movies from Kansas, we have the list for you.

From Westerns to fantasy to a nuclear apocalypse, the Sunflower State has been the setting for many iconic films. Eight such movies are listed below.

If you want further readings, the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn University has compiled lists of movies with Kansas connections. The school's listings are available online.

'The Jayhawkers!'

This 1959 movie directed by Melvin Frank is set before the Civil War, during the Bleeding Kansas period. Rebel leader Luke Darcy (played by Jeff Chandler) styles himself as the leader of an independent Kansas republic. Former raider Cam Bleeker (played by Fess Parker, who was better known as the Davy Crockett actor) is tasked with capturing the rebel. The final fight happens at an Abilene saloon.

'Kansas Raiders'

After they were falsely accused of being members of Quantrill's Raiders while in Lawrence, American outlaw Jesse James (played by Audie Murphy, the decorated World War II hero) and his friends join up with the infamous band of pro-Confederate guerillas. The friends were outraged by Red Leg abolitionist atrocities but found themselves participating in even worse war crimes, including the 1863 Lawrence massacre. This 1950 movie was directed by Ray Enright.

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'Dances with Wolves'

Kevin Costner directed and starred in this 1990 movie where he played Army Lt. John Dunbar. The soldier was transferred to Fort Hays in Kansas during the Civil War and later a farther west frontier outpost. He befriended a wolf and Native Americans during the journey. The film won seven Academy Awards and a Golden Globe and was selected to the National Film Registry in 2007.

'Sarah, Plain and Tall'

Based on the popular elementary school reading level book series of the same name by Patricia MacLachlan, this 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-television movie was directed by Glenn Jordan. The story follows the life of New England mail-order bride Sarah Wheaton (played by Glenn Close) who moves to the Kansas plains in 1910 to marry widower farmer Jacob Witting (played by Christopher Walken) who needs help raising his children. Filming locations for the Emmy-award-winning movie included Wichita and the Melvern area.

'The Day After'

This 1983 TV movie imagines a fictional nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union. Set in Lawrence and the Kansas City area, the movie tells the story of survival as nuclear weapons devastate multiple locations. President Ronald Reagan was reportedly troubled by the movie, contributing to a turning point in foreign policy and the nuclear arms race. "It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed," he wrote in his diary. The movie, directed by Nicholas Meyer, set a record as the highest-rated television film in history and won two Emmy Awards.

'The Learning Tree'

Written and directed by famed Fort Scott photographer Gordon Parks, this 1969 coming-of-age movie is based on Parks' 1963 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. It follows the life of poor Black teenager Newt Winger (played by Kyle Johnson) as he learns about love, death, morals and racial injustice in 1920s Kansas. The movie, filmed in Fort Scott, was one of the first 25 movies selected to the National Film Registry as a "culturally, historically or esthetically significant."

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'In Cold Blood'

This rated-R 1967 neo-noir movie based on the 1966 true crime book by Truman Capote dives into the 1959 quadruple murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb and the ensuing police manhunt and eventual executions. The film was shot on location, including the real Clutter home where the robbery and murders happened. The film, starring Perry Smith (played by Robert Blake) and Richard "Dick" Hickock (played by Scott Wilson), was selected to the National Film Registry in 2008.

'The Wizard of Oz'

This 1939 movie directed by Victor Fleming is the source of the phrase "we're not in Kansas anymore," where a tornado sweeps Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland) from her Kansas home to the magical Land of Oz. The original 1900 book by L. Frank Baum was arguably an allegory on American politics and populism in the Midwest, according to the Kansas Historical Society. The movie won two Academy Awards, including one for the original song "Over the Rainbow," and was also one of the first 25 movies selected to the National Film Registry. The Library of Congress reports the classic "has been seen by more viewers than any other movie."