From major box office hits to cult classics, Austin has provided a spectacular landscape for filmmakers to bring their vision to life. Visitors have flocked to destinations featured in iconic locally made films like "Dazed and Confused" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." With over 50 years of production, there are many film tourism locations in the Austin area to experience including those seen in "Tree of Life."

About "Tree of Life"

In this highly philosophical epic, acclaimed director Terrence Malick chronicles the origins and meaning of life through middle-aged Jack O'Brien's (Sean Penn) childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas. "Tree of Life" is interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe, flashbacks of young Jack O’Brien (Hunter McCracken) and his two brothers (Tye Sheridan and Laramie Eppler) growing up with a demanding father (Brad Pitt) and saintly mother (Jessica Chastain), and adult Jack struggling with his past while trying to make sense of existential issues.

Details: 20th Century Fox / Rated PG-13 / 139 minutes / Drama
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, Tye Sheridan and Laramie Eppler
Streaming On: @YouTube, @PrimeVideo, @GooglePlay, @VuduFans, @MicrosoftStore, @iTunes, @Redbox


Scene: The O’Brien’s Neighborhood

Tree of Life Screengrab, showing a father placing his hand on his son's neck as they walk towards a house. The sunset is visible in front of them

Though set largely in Waco, "Tree of Life" was actually filmed in the small town of Smithville, located about 40 miles southeast of Austin (between La Grange and Bastrop). Smithville's prominent 1950s architecture made the beautiful neighborhood just west of the downtown the perfect setting for Jack O’Brien's childhood neighborhood.

Location: Smithville, Texas (Burleson St, Smithville, TX 78957)

Scene: Town Square Arrest

Tree of Life Screengrab showing a close-up of a young boy's face as he watches an arrest in the Town Square

The town square where young Jack (McCracken) witness an impactful arrest as he walks with his brothers (Sheridan & Eppler) and their mother (Chastain) was shot on location in La Grange, a town made famous by ZZ Top. The scene in "Tree of Life" features the Fayette County Courthouse, which was built in 1891 and is still active at the center of town today.

Location: Fayette County Courthouse (246 W Colorado St, La Grange, TX 78945)

Scene: The Church

Tree of Life Screengrab, with a crowd of people outside a church, walking to their cars

The church where the O’Briens hear a sermon on the tribulations of Job is the New Sweden Lutheran Church in Manor, Texas. The picturesque narrow steeple on the lone church, surrounded by vast farm fields makes this one of the most photographed landmarks in Central Texas.

Location: New Sweden Lutheran Church (12809 New Sweden Church Rd, Manor, TX 78653)

Scene: Barton Springs Pool

Tree of Life Screengrab, showing Jessica Chastain looking to the side of the frame. Behind her, people are swimming in Barton Springs Pool

The O’Briens boys (McCracken, Sheridan & Eppler) swim and witness a drowning in Barton Springs Pool, a recreational swimming pool built around a natural spring in Zilker Park, just southwest of downtown Austin.

Location: Barton Springs Pool (2201 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746)

Scene: The Texas Capitol

Tree of Life Screengrab, Brad Pitt's character stands in the interior chambers of Texas Capitol

The scene where Mr. O'Brien (Pitt), the family’s disciplinarian father bitterly contests a court case regarding patents was filmed at the Texas State Capitol Building. This location was also used in the production of "True Grit," Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams" and "Machete."

Location: Texas Capitol (1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701)

Iconic Filming Location Map


Explore more iconic filming locations during your next visit to Austin. The Austin Film Tourism Guide has details on the where scenes from your favorite movie and television series were filmed in and around Austin.