Reporting Eric Henderson
Can’t get to the State Fair this year? Assuage your isolation from drippy cheese curds and fragrant livestock by catching one of these ten movies.
I mentioned this beautiful movie a few weeks back when I was counting down great fireworks sequences. Expand the parameters of that section and you’ve also got one of the most enjoyable and romantic scenes ever to take place inside fairgrounds.
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
Judy Garland and the rest of the Smith clan endure four seasons of trials, tribulations and trolleys, nearly moving away from their St. Louis home on the eve of the 1904 World’s Fair. Fortunately for them and the nation’s faith in the Great Plains, they stay and are rewarded with the lights and splendor of the fair, right in their own backyard.
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
With unsavory references to the Black Dahlia murder, Orson Welles’ befitted his tense noir with an unforgettable sequence inside a carnival’s hall of mirrors.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Two crucial scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s mid-career masterpiece take place at a carnival. In the first, a killer trails his prey through a tunnel of love. In the second, said killer becomes the pursued atop an out-of-control carousel.
Carnival of Souls (1963)
There’s nothing, I mean nothing more terrifying in the world than an abandoned amusement park. This classic B-movie shocker milks as much suspense from a desolate turn-of-the-century Utah pavilion as imaginable. Especially when corpses start rising from the waters of the Great Salt Lake.
Charlotte’s Web (1973)
I almost wanted to put Babe on this list, but the scene in which Farmer Hoggett procures his runty pig isn’t really significant enough to merit a slot. On the other hand, this animated pig classic (based on E.B. White’s beloved children’s book) boasts one of them most memorable fair-related pig-outs of all time. Only the one pigging out is a rat. “A fair is a veritable smorgasbord.” Indeed.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Did I just say “pig”? As you may recall, Kermit and Fozzie Bear first ran into Miss Piggy at a county fair beauty contest. And the rest, as they say, was history.
The Funhouse (1981)
The only fair creepier than Carnival of Souls‘s Saltair is the cheap-jack, town-to-town fair in Tobe Hooper’s October-festive chiller The Funhouse. From the brokedown rides and the animal freakshows to “adults only” tents, this movie gets all the details right.
The fortune-telling machine Zoltar turns up at a neighborhood carnival and changes a young boy into Tom Hanks. For some reason, he spends the rest of the movie trying to change back. Did the kid not want to win back-to-back Oscars?
Problem Child 2 (1991)
As with Sunrise, I also mentioned The Sandlot when I ran down the list of fireworks sequences. Good thing I have a backup pick for a scene involving hysterically overdone puking. With more simulated vomit than 10 screenings of The Exorcist, the title-character’s merciless sabotage of a carnival ride leads to probably the grossest scene I’ve ever seen in a kids’ movie.