Looking back on the good old ‘Dazed’

’90s coming-of-age film ‘Dazed and Confused’ tells past and present teen stories set against iconic Austin scenery

Shavonne Wright (Deena Martin), Kaye Faulkner (Christine Harnos) and Jodi Kramer (Michelle Burke) waiting outside of the Americana Theatre.

Sally Butler, Mac photojournalism

Dazed and Confused is a 1993 American coming-of-age comedy film written and directed by Richard Linklater. The film explores the mayhem of a group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high school in 1976. The film captures mid-’70s culture, including all the cliches,’ nuances and teenage confusion that was part of that era. It features numerous Hollywood stars before they appeared in blockbusters such as Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Michelle Burke, Parker Posey and more.

The film won the “Texas Star Award,” in 2013 and remains in the Texas Film Hall of Fame and was nominated for two 1993 Awards Circuit Community Awards , one for Best Original Screenplay and another for Best Cast Ensemble. Additionally, the film was a finalist for the Golden Leopard award at the 1993 Locarno International Film Festival, and London was a nominee for a 1994 Youth Artist Award for Best Youth Actor Co-Starring in a Motion Picture Drama.

Beyond its awards haul, the film has become a cult favorite and has enjoyed a long life becoming loved and cherished by many people. The film perfectly encapsulates both the silly and startling aspects of high school. The purpose of this photo essay—this week’s Tuesday Top 10—is to explore the different locations in Austin where Dazed and Confused was filmed. I want to highlight the stories behind these locations and also highlight how this movie was such a symbol of Austin’s incredible atmosphere and personality.

I was born in raised in Austin, and it has been a huge part of my childhood, from visiting Barton Springs, to field trips to the Capitol, to picnics at Zilker Park. I want to share the stories and experiences of these locations while also sharing the essence of Austin itself.

Location 1: Yarborough Branch, Austin Public Library

Shavonne Wright (Deena Martin), Kaye Faulkner (Christine Harnos) and Jodi Kramer (Michelle Burke) waiting outside of the Americana Theatre. (Still photo of Dazed and Confused from Universal Pictures)

DAZED AND HAZED: The Yarborough Branch Austin Public Library, is located at 2200 Hancock Drive. Although the location is now a library, the original building was a theater called the Americana. The Americana Theatre was built by Trans-Texas Theatres and opened April 28, 1965. The downfall of the theater began when an agreement was made between AMC and Disney that eventually went sour. AMC wasn’t able to get out of the contract, and they were not able to recover financially on the theater. The Americana Theatre was closed April 5, 1987.  But the theater lives on with the sign and most of its original architecture. In the film Dazed and Confused a freshman hazing scene takes place, at this very location. Hazing was a ’70s trend that took place at many high schools meant to degrade and humiliate incoming freshman. “You know what’s fascinating, is that not only the school, but the entire community seems to be supporting this,” Mike Newhouse (Adam Goldberg) complains in Dazed and Confused. Although this tradition is bizarre and belligerent, it’s featured in Dazed and Confused to encapsulate the true high school experience in the ’70s and leave out nothing, just unglorified and honest experience. It’s one reason why this film is so popular: it portrays a film that is realistic and still exceptional.

Location 2: The Moontower

Fred O’Bannion (Ben Affleck), Benny O’Donnell (Cole Hauser) and Melvin Spivey (Jason O. Smith) party at the moontower. Still photo from Dazed and Confused deleted scene from Universal Pictures.

PARTY AT THE MOON TOWER: A moonlight tower or moontower is a lighting structure designed to illuminate areas of a town or city at night. The towers were popular in the late 19th century in cities across the United States. Everyone who’s ever watched Dazed and Confused remembers the “party at the moontower” scene, but did you know Austin is the only place that has 17 surviving moonlight towers in the world? In 1970 the towers were recognized as Texas State Landmarks. The moontowers are a very unique part of the city’s history, and the City of Austin has ordinances in place to protect the towers from demolition. “All right. Guys, party at the moon tower,” utters Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) in the movie. The line made the moon towers of Austin a landmark in cult film fiction. Moontowers aren’t the only thing unique to Austin, as Matthew McConaughey is still a resident in Austin to this day.

Location 3: Top Notch

David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) and Ron Slater (Rory Cochrane) invite people to their moontower party in Top Notch’s drive-in. Still photo of Dazed and Confused from Universal Pictures.

ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT: Top Notch, an Austin icon, located at 7525 Burnet Road, has been a must-go for all Austin visitors. Since 1971, Top Notch has been a constant favorite, famous for their burgers, onion rings and its vintage setting with curbside service. But the vintage Austin landmark is most known for its feature in Richard Linklater’s 1993 film: Dazed and Confused, Top Notch even hosts an annual event on April 20, where people come to watch the movie play on a big movie screen. Not just that but Top Notch offers Hot-Rod Drive-in Nights, where every first Saturday of the month, vintage cars from all over Austin pull up for movies, live music, and entertainment. Austin’s Top Notch is one of the most beloved and recognizable landmarks in the movew. It’s even where the famous “Alright, Alright, Alright” quote from Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) in Dazed and Confused came from! The restaurant also owns the original hazing paddles from the movie. It’s obvious that Top Notch has stayed loyal to their roots; it delivers an incredible atmosphere as well as great food with its ’60s feel and car hop service. “We stay true to our iconic roots,” the restaurant’s owners proclaim on the restaurant’s website. “The flashing lights on our marquee serves as a landmark to Austinites.”

Location 4: Northwest District Park

Fred O’Bannion (Ben Affleck), Melvin Spivey (Jason O. Smith), Benny O’Donnell (Cole Hauser) and Don Dawson (Sasha Jenson) yell at a freshman baseball player at a school baseball game. Still photo of Dazed and Confused from Universal Pictures.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park is a 31-acre park in the Allandale neighborhood. Located at 7000 Ardath Street, park amenities include baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, and a pool. The park’s Pony fields shown in these images host games for the Northwest Pony leagues, and some McCallum games. But the fields are often visited for their appearance on Dazed and Confused, a scene where Mitch (Wiggins), a freshman and main character in the film is unable to escape Benny (Hauser) and O’Bannion (Affleck), leading to the gang of seniors giving him a beating in the parking lot, as an act of hazing. The fields are used frequently, but not all the players are aware they are on a field where one of the most iconic Austin movies was filmed. “One of the coming age movies I watched in sixth grade was Dazed and Confused,” said Clark Butler, a former baseball player who played in the Northwest Pony leagues. “At the time I didn’t recognize the fields, but now it’s so cool to know. I wish I would have appreciated it more.”

Location 5: Carl’s House

Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) and Carl Burnett try to get out of a double-headlock from Fred O’Bannion (Ben Affleck). Still photo of Dazed and Confused from Universal Pictures.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: The house that lives at 6409 Wilbur Drive is also known as “Carl’s house” from its appearance in the 1993 American comedy film Dazed and Confused. The Allandale home is a normal mid-century family home except to those dedicated, radical supporters of the motion picture Dazed and Confused. For the fans, this house is where Ben Affleck’s O’Bannion ambushes Carl and Mitch in an effort to paddle them in one of the most intense high school hazing rituals. Things look bleak for Carl and Mitch until Carl’s mom comes to the door threatening O’Bannion with her rifle. With the house still in the exact same condition, and architecture still intact, walking past the house truly makes you relive the scene. “I live across the street from the house, so I see a lot of people stop and take pictures,” said neighbor Natalie Klein. “One time there was a bus full of people who wanted to talk about the movie. The family loves the history behind the house, so they don’t mind.”  Although this house holds some protection, from the fact it is featured in the famous Linklater film. Many houses in the neighborhood of Allandale with a similar mid-century vibe have been knocked down and built into huge modern mansions. One of the most charming things about Allandale is the wholesome vintage homes that hold so many great memories. Houses like these need to be better preserved to maintain the wonderful, weirdness of Austin.

Photos by Sally Butler.