Where Is Pleasantville in Real Life?


Outside the 1998 movie, Pleasantville is a common name for towns in the US and Canada. There are four Pleasantvilles in Pennsylvania alone, and there are also towns and communities named Pleasantville in Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, as well as in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire vehicle got close to real life when Larger Than Life Productions selected Pleasantville, Iowa for a promo tie-in: A contest was held to visit the town of just almost 1,700 inhabitants. It was chosen for being the smallest town named Pleasantville in the States.

A welcome billboard at Pleasantville, Iowa, said to be the smallest Pleasantville in America. Photo via Ashton B Crew

The movie itself frames Pleasantville as your typical city in the Midwest. But if you look at it from the lens of director and writer Gary Ross, Pleasantville is a stand-in for small town mentality and the great American suburbia, where everything is a black-and-white morality play reminiscent of the white picket fence values of the 1950s. 

"This movie is about the fact that personal repression gives rise to larger political oppression," Ross said. "That when we're afraid of certain things in ourselves or we're afraid of change, we project those fears on to other things, and a lot of very ugly social situations can develop."

In a nation where segregation according to one's color of skin was once a real thing, the movie hit close to home on many levels. Yet some things are as true in the 2020s as in the 1950s. As Fiona Apple croons her Beatles cover over the credits, "Nothing's gonna change my world."

A lounge at the downtown square of Pleasantville, Iowa (below), a real-life small town selected for a promotional tie-in with the 1998 movie Pleasantville (above). Photos via Andrew B Crew and filmista 

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