The best of New Orleans films for Mardi Gras


Illustration by Issabelle Vu

Ver Lumod, Reviews Editor

As Mardi Gras returns to the streets of New Orleans for the first time since the pandemic started, The Maroon presents a compilation of some of the best films in the “Films for when you miss Loyola and New Orleans” series.

All set in the Big Easy, these eight films (and two TV shows) represent the best things about the city: cultural diversity, boundless creativity, and avenues for reinvention. Watch these films and be taken in by the vibrant, exotic atmosphere of New Orleans.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Based on the classic play from Tennessee Williams, the 1951 American Gothic film from Elia Kazan is another classic. It follows Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh), a Southern belle beset with personal losses. She moves to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) and brother-in-law Stanley (Marlon Brando).

“A Streetcar Named Desire” takes the viewer on a time capsule to New Orleans in the 1950s. It features a groundbreaking story dealing with mature themes as well as award-winning performances from Leigh, Hunter, and Brando.

Click here to stream “A Streetcar Named Desire” on HBO Max.

Always for Pleasure

Courtesy of Janus Films

Noted documentary filmmaker Les Blank presents the 1978 documentary short. “Always for Pleasure” showcases social traditions in the Big Easy, from the “jazz funeral” and second line parades, to Mardi Gras and a crawfish boil. The short also features interviews and performances from local musicians such as Allen Toussaint, the Neville Brothers, Professor Longhair, and more.

Click here to stream “Always for Pleasure” on the Criterion Channel.

Down by Law

Courtesy of Janus Films

The 1986 indie film from director Jim Jarmusch stars Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni. They play three prisoners who plan to escape from prison. However, “Down By Law” doesn’t dwell on plot convention; instead, it focuses on their budding camaraderie as they get to know each other.

The cinematography from Robby Müller features the forbidding metropolis that is New Orleans as well as the Louisiana bayou, presented in immersive fashion. For this reason, “Down by Law” stands out as among one of Jarmusch’s finest early works.

Click here to stream “Down by Law” on the Criterion Channel.

Interview with the Vampire

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise stars in the 1994 gothic horror film based on the novel by Anne Rice. It features the actor as vampire Lestat as he recounts his experiences, as well as an early turn from Brad Pitt as his protege Louis.

The film was shot in New Orleans, with Louis’s plantation being a combination of Destrehan Plantation west of the city and Oak Valley Plantation in Vacherie. A period feel was achieved by filming in the French Quarter as well as in a purposely built boardwalk overlooking the Mississippi River.

Click here to stream “Interview with the Vampire” on Netflix.

Déjà Vu

Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

Denzel Washington stars in the 2006 action sci-fi film from director Tony Scott. He plays an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who travels back in time to prevent a domestic terrorist attack in New Orleans and save one of the victims that he falls in love with, played by Paula Patton.

Principal photography was set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the resulting destruction was prominently featured, especially with scenes in the Lower 9th Ward.

Click here to stream “Déjà Vu” on Prime Video.

The Princess and the Frog

Courtesy of Disney

The city of New Orleans has been immortalized in a Disney animated movie, in this case released in 2009. Set in the 1920s, “The Princess and the Frog” tells the story of a hardworking waitress named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose). After kissing a prince turned into a frog by an evil witch doctor, she becomes a frog herself and must find a way to turn back into a human.

The animated movie is notable for being the first to feature a Black Disney princess. Its exploration of New Orleans culture will also make the viewer want to walk its streets, sample its food, and lose themselves in its music.

Click here to stream “The Princess and the Frog” on Disney Plus.

Girls Trip

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

In this 2017 comedy, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith play four friends who reconnect to attend the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. “Girls Trip” is evocative of all the fun times and friendship to be had in the city, as well as entertaining and raunchy comedy from the four lead stars.

“Girls Trip” is now available to rent or buy online.

Happy Death Day

Courtesy of Blumhouse

The 2017 slasher horror film has a special place at Loyola. With a thrillingly original premise that is described as “Groundhog Day” meets “Scream”, it follows a college student (Jessica Rothe) who is murdered on the night of her birthday. Forced to relive the last day of her life, she decides to find her killer and end the time loop.

“Happy Death Day” and its 2019 sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” were filmed on Loyola’s campus. They provide some campy horror entertainment mixed with a welcome sense of familiarity.

“Happy Death Day” is now available to rent or buy online.

Click here to read the full review for “Happy Death Day 2U” from 2019.


When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Courtesy of HBO

Spike Lee directs the 2006 documentary series for HBO. “When the Levees Broke” extensively details the destruction of New Orleans brought forth by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, further exacerbated by the failure of the levees surrounding the city. Politicians, journalists, historians, engineers, artists, and residents provide first-hand accounts of their experiences with the hurricane and its aftermath.

Click here to stream “When the Levees Broke” on HBO Max.


Courtesy of HBO

After David Simon explored the intricacies of the city of Baltimore in “The Wire,” he then set his sights on New Orleans, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Co-created with Eric Overmyer, “Tremé” centers particularly on the titular neighborhood, as an assorted cast of characters try to rebuild their lives, their homes, and their culture.

Running for four seasons from 2010 to 2013, the drama series also features musical performances by New Orleans-based artists.

Click here to stream “Tremé” on HBO Max.