How Is Houston’s ‘Reality Bites’ Neighborhood Doing, 20 Years On?

Still from Closing Scene of Reality Bites, W. Clay St. Looking East Toward Downtown, Houston

Robocop may have moved on to the real Detroit, but Houston will always have Reality Bites. And today folks around the movie biz are celebrating the movie’s twentieth anniversary. The Winona Ryder-Ben Stiller-Janeane Garofalo-Ethan Hawke pic filmed here and there about Houston (with a few disguised-L.A. settings thrown in for good measure) was released on February 18, 1994. In and around the Gen X coming-of-age coming-out reality-TV disaffection storyline, the movie depicted the overgrown charms of Alden Place, the little North Montrose neighborhood of duplexes and 4-plexes that made living in the shadows of Downtown seem so easy and affordable back then. Twenty years on, how’s it doing?


Despite the townhouse development that’s taken down many of its neighbors, the area immediately around 409 W. Clay St. today looks much the same as it did in the still shown above, taken from one of the film’s final scenes. If Ethan Hawke were to deliver a similar hello-again speech to Winona Ryder standing next to the street’s cracked-concrete curbs and driveways today, he’d probably have a bit more to say and maybe be a bit more articulate about it, but the angled view of Downtown fronted by a row of stoops might not be too different. (A cinematographer today might want to tilt the camera a bit to the left, however, to avoid a view of the 4 somewhat incongruous townhouses — 2 of which are pictured below — that went up last year on the longtime parking lot at the end of the street.)

316 W. Clay St., Alden Place, North Montrose, Houston

Here’s a pic of the property that starred as Hawke’s, Ryder’s, Garofalo’s, and Steve Zahn’s apartment as it appeared in a rental listing from a few years ago, not looking much worse for wear — and still sporting window units:

409 W. Clay St., Alden Place, North Montrose, Houston

Still: MovieClips

Alden Place and Time

8 Comment

  • Why did you bring up this movie? Now I can’t get “Tempted by the Fruit of Another” out of my head.

  • AWESOME MOVIE!!!! Made Houston float in my mind for years when i was a kid. Now Im a Houstonian.. Luv it!!

  • As someone who lives on that street, I can say that there are distinctly more cats than the movie would have you believe. And distinctly fewer Winona Ryders.

  • We were able to see Downtown from our balcony before that townhouse went up. Still a nice view driving east down the street though.

    And yes, brake for the kitties!

  • The question in the title makes me think of a revelation I had while watching this movie again a year ago… despite the gentrification and apparent metamorphosis of the neighborhood over the past 20 years, many of us residents are still doing the exact same things we were 20 years ago: drinking, chain-smoking, failing at relationships and careers, and sitting around talking about the excruciating minutiae of our frustrations with life (which ultimately come from living in a state of suspended adolescence). The dream of the ’90s is alive in Montrose.

  • Never did see this movie so I’m watching it now. Cool seeing many Houston sights look much like they did in 94′.

  • Incongruous? That is a matter of opinion. I bought one of those “out of place” town-homes and I have to tell you, it is fantastic. The view to the skyline from my 4th story balcony is to die for. I understand, however, the writer’s romanticism. I wish we were back in the 80’s too. It was a simpler time.

    I have news for the writer, many of the duplexes and and four-plexes he/she is talking about are in terrible shape and super expensive to maintain therefore these rentals are not “affordable” anymore. They are also selling for 500k to 700k and 2 million dollars t-homes can be built in their place. It is simple math. Soon the writer will write about the duplexes and four-plexes being incongruous.

    By the way, the writer should go by the street now and see the incongruous brown loft complex in front of us.

  • I lived across the street when this movie was filmed.