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17 Country Songs That Would Make Great Movies

From Billie Joe to Jolene, country’s greatest casts of characters, along with our wish list for actors to play them

keith urban dolly parton robert earl keen

Kevin Winter/ACMA2014/Getty Images for ACM; Valerie Macon/Getty Images; Erika Goldring/WireImage

From Glen Campbell's performance in the original True Grit to Dwight Yoakam's creepy, critically-applauded turn in Sling Blade, country stars have a long history of appearing in the movies. They also have an equally lengthy history of writing songs that could be adapted into screenplays. Maybe it's the stories they tell, or the way the bright twang of a Telecaster guitar can evoke images of wide-open landscapes and rundown, roadside saloons, but country music can sound downright cinematic when it wants to. Most of these songs haven't received the silver screen treatment — yet — but that doesn't mean they don't deserve it. By Andrew Leahey

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Whiskeytown, “Houses on a Hill”

A tale of long-distance love during wartime, "Houses on a Hill" begins with the narrator stumbling across a box of letters written to his girlfriend's mother. Those letters are from the mother's former flame, a soldier who fought for his country in WWII and died with his girlfriend's "picture in the pocket that was closest to his heart… [which] must've been a target for the gunnerman." While stars shine in the sky, the mother grieves his loss — often with the help of pain pills.

Suggested actors: Keira Knightley as the younger version of the grandmother, Matt Damon as the young soldier

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Keith Urban, “Til Summer Comes Around”

Keith Urban is the maintenance man at an oceanside amusement park. It's a lonely job during the off-season, and the only thing that keeps him going is the promise of summer — specially, the return of an old flame who stole his heart beneath the boom and blast of July 4th fireworks. That was "five long years" ago, though, leading Urban to tell his story in a series of flashbacks. The rest is just a brokenhearted present, with Urban counting down the days 'til summer comes around once more. Moviegoers: don't expect a happy ending with this one.

Suggested actors: Aaron Paul as the narrator, Mélanie Laurent as the girlfriend

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Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”

There's already one movie about Billie Joe's deadly dive off the Tallahatchie Bridge, directed by the guy who played Jethro Bodine on "The Beverly Hillbillies" and starring the guy who voiced the Beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." In that mid-Seventies film, Billie is a sawmill worker who kills himself after sleeping with a man. The best thing about Bobbie Gentry's 1967 crossover hit isn't the suicide, though; it's the way the narrator's parents react — or don't react, rather — to the news. Movies like "River's Edge" have focused on teenagers' indifference to death. Maybe it's time to turn the tables on the adults?

Suggested actors: Emma Roberts as the narrator, Nicholas Hoult as Billie Joe, Holly Hunter as the mother, Jeff Daniels as the father

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Drive-By Truckers, “Decoration Day”

Jason Isbell finds himself caught up in a bloody family feud that started years before he was born. He's got enough hatred — for himself, for his family's violent acts and especially for the Hill boys who gunned down his dad — to keep the fight going once he becomes the head of the family. Like an updated version of the 19th century battle between the Hatfields and the McCoys, "Decoration Day" is an action movie waiting to happen. Killer soundtrack, too.

Suggested actors: John Hawkes as the narrator, Tom Hardy as Holland Hill

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Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, “Switchblade”

A slow-building epic about a heist in the American southwest, "Switchblade" feels like the Arizonan equivalent of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City." In the Peacemakers' song, though, the narrator has already pulled off the crime. He keeps a low profile for a year, waiting for his two accomplices to come out of hiding, only to learn that they were killed by the very same weapon — a cheap, Mexican switchblade — that helped them commit the crime in the first place. Hey, Cormac McCarthy: wanna write this screenplay?

Suggested actors: Daniel Day Lewis as the narrator

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Jeannie C. Reilly, “Harper Valley PTA”

Who doesn't like a good revenge story? Released in 1968, Jeannie C. Riley's signature song topped the pop and country charts with its tale of a minidress-wearing housewife who confronts the PTA of her daughter's high school, blasting them for scrutinizing her child-raising techniques. It's Mermaids meets Mean Girls, laced with enough attitude and suggestive clothing to warrant at least a PG-13 rating.

Suggested actors: Sarah Jessica Parker as the mother, Elle Fanning as the daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard as the PTA head

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