Movies set against the backdrop of Mardi Gras – a festival that is widely celebrated around the world, especially in countries with Christian roots; have either used vibrant colors, lively music, and festive atmosphere to transport the viewer into a different vibe altogether or have been used as a coverup, an anti-agent to numb the darkness.

The festivities around Mardi Gras typically take hold on or after the Christian holiday of the Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, and continue until the day before Ash Wednesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. While not all parts of the USA celebrate the festival in all its glory, New Orleans has always been a champion for the fest, so much so that people have often implicated its origin to the state itself.

So basically, in this list of movies that use Mardi Gras as a backdrop, we will be looking at stories that play in and outside of New Orleans. But before we begin, I’d like to thank Jeff Shedon, whose terrific list made me want to explore these movies from a fresher perspective.

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1. Flesh and Fantasy (1943)

Flesh and Fantasy is an anthology featuring three stories. Two members of a gentlemen’s club recount these eerie stories set in different parts of the world. As far as movies set in the backdrop of Mardi Gras are concerned, the first story itself features Henrietta (played by Betty Field) donning a beautiful mask to attend a Mardi Gras ball where she captivates the heart of a kindhearted law student named Michael (Robert Cummings). However, the mask seems to have a life of its own, and strange, supernatural occurrences begin to take place.

The second story is set in In London. It is about a palm reader (played by Thomas Mitchell) who tells a friend and American lawyer named Marshall (Edward G. Robinson) that he is fated to commit a murder. And the third takes place on an ocean liner and features a tightrope walker Paul (played by Charles Boyer), who meets a mysterious woman as more strange things happen.

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2. Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)

Abbott and Costello Go to Mars is now deemed a classic comedy film that takes the audience on a wild and hilarious ride through outer space before landing in the most unexpected place of all – the Louisiana Bayou during Mardi Gras!

If you are not new to the duo of Abbott and Costello, you would know how they often get themselves in trouble. The 1953 film finds them getting launched into an experimental rocket that was originally intended for Mars. But instead, they end up in the middle of the bustling and colorful celebration of Mardi Gras, which they, for some reason, believe to be the red planet.

The movie is a zany adventure where the duo meets extremely unhinged characters, including a beautiful princess from Venus and a uber mad scientist. The movie features one of the great Abbot and Costello chase sequences where their typical slapstick humor is at its very best. However, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars is one of those movies that also offers a lighthearted and fun-filled tribute to the spirit of Mardi Gras, where the job of celebrating life comes to the foreground

3. Mardi Gras (1958)

Movies with Mardi Gras as Backdrop - Mardi Gras

If I did not include the delightful 1953 musical comedy “Mardi Gras” in a list of movies that take place in its backdrop, then I’d be committing a heinous crime. The film is like a whirlwind tour of the festive celebrations in New Orleans. It follows the story of Pat Boone’s character, a military school cadet who wins a date with a glamorous French film actress (deemed the Queen of Mardi Gras) played by Christine Carère.

The film features all the initial inhibitions of young people who are attracted to each other, but the two quickly hit it off and fall in love as the Mardi Gras festivities hit their high. But the conflict arises when their romance reaches a crossroads with the film studio – hungry for publicity, starts to intervene in their lives and tries to manipulate it for their own gains.

Mardi gras is one of those movies that dealt with a dilemma between love and professional obligations in a time when those weren’t considered important thematical elements. It’s a strong story that explores the human spirit in a way that feels unique and thought-provoking.

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4. Easy Rider (1969)

Movies with Mardi Gras as Backdrop - Easy Rider

The classic counter-culture film “Easy Rider” tells the story of two bikers, played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, as they journey across America during a time of great social and political upheaval.

When the duo arrives in New Orleans, they face the vibrant celebration of Mardi Gras, providing a striking contrast to their dark and turbulent journey so far.

The famous Mardi Gras scene in the film is memorable because it is followed by an extremely haunting one that takes place at the crypts of St. Louis Cemetery.

The follow-up scene became instantly iconic because of the surreal acid trip that forever grounded the film in history since the cemetery became an essential tourist spot for a pop-culture-obsessed generation.

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5. Tightrope (1984)

Tightrope stars the legendary Clint Eastwood as Wes Block – a dedicated New Orleans detective and single father who is on the hunt for a ruthless serial rapist-murderer. However, as his investigation deepens and he reaches a more conclusive stage, he realizes that he has now become prey to the killer’s motives, and thus a dangerous game of cat and mouse ensues.

Mardi Gras is not an essential part of this movie, but the film’s thrilling climax (no spoiler) takes place in the vibrant and colorful festivities of Mardi Gras. The breathtaking sequence finds Eastwood’s character getting relentlessly stalked by the killer, who is cunningly disguised midst of the revelry.

6. Stolen (2012)

Movies with Mardi Gras as Backdrop - Stolen

In Stolen, Nicholas Cage takes on the role of a desperate father who must save his daughter from the clutches of his former partner-in-crime, who claims to have kidnapped her and is now asking for a hefty ransom of 10 million dollars.

While the plot of the 2012 thriller isn’t really twisted and new (remember, this is the time when movies like the Liam Nesson starrer Taken were quite a rage), the movie comes to life in the lively setting of New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festivities.

Much of the narrative finds Will Montgomery (Nicolas Cage) navigating the city’s bustling streets and iconic parades as he races against time to track down his daughter and bring her home safely.

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7. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Movies with Mardi Gras as Backdrop - Jack Reacher 2

Tom Cruise returns to the character of a tough and tenacious former military Jack Reacher, who is on the run and accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The sequel, titled Jack Recher: Never Go Back, is all about the character trying to clear his name as he trips on a metaphorical landmine of a dark conspiracy that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear.

Set against the backdrop of the vibrant and chaotic Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, the sequel features some of the greatest modern-day chase sequences where Reacher races through the crowded streets, alleys, and rooftops of the city, pursued by both the law and ruthless enemies.

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