I got into a discussion with one of my friends about which is the best Boston movie, and that got me thinking. Are there classic movies for each state? What movies best represent the state they were set in? So, I decided to do some research. Here is what I found:
There have been a surprisingly large number of great movies based in Alabama. From the endearing Big Fish, to the charming Sweet Home Alabama, to the classic Smokey and the Bandit, to the surprisingly great Fried Green Tomatoes, there is a lot to choose from. I came very close to choosing My Cousin Vinny because not only is it absolutely hysterical, but it also shows off a good amount of what its like in Alabama (the mud, the grits, etc.). But there is only one real answer to the question ‘What is the best movie set in Alabama’. Forrest Gump.
I am not the biggest Gump fan, and I know that can be sacrilegious to say, but I still like it a lot. I just don’t love it nearly as much as everyone else does. However, it most definitely is the best movie set in Alabama. There really is not all the much more I can say about it that you don’t already know. And seriously if you haven’t seen it, don’t call yourself an American.
There are several quality movies set in Alaska that I considered for this spot. Into the Wild is a great movie about discovering yourself, and a great lesson about not drinking water from old radiators (fucking idiot), but it did not quite make the cut. Then theres 30 Days of Night a fantastic take on the Zombie genre, but it too did not make the cut. Instead, I go to maybe the best, and easily the most successful director of the last 10 years, Christopher Nolan.
Before he gained fame and acclaim from his Batman trilogy, Inception, and The Prestige (One of my favorite movies, and one of the best movies ever made), he made a fantastic psychological thriller titled Insomnia. An aging detective haunted by his past is sent to look into a string of murders in a secluded Alaskan town. It is during the time of the year where the sun never goes down, and the troubled protagonist cannot sleep. Al Pacino stars, with Robin Williams giving a chilling performance in a supporting role. If you are into serial killer mysteries, then this is most definitely for you. A great depiction of Alaskan towns, life, and climate as the viewer gets shown a world without night.
This is a tricky one. There are three movies that stand out to me. Raising Arizona is a great comedy about kidnapping a baby (wow that sounded better in my head), but it doesn’t make the cut. Now I’m left with two vastly different movies. Little Miss Sunshine is a balls to the wall comedy that is ridiculous, heartfelt, and wrong in all the right ways. The laughs hit hard, but so do the feels and it is really hard not to give this movie the nod, but I have to go with 3:10 to Yuma.
Now I haven’t seen the original, but from what I have heard the remake is just as good if not better. Yuma is a brutally violent western about a Civil War vet (Christian Bale) trying to save his family’s farm by taking a murderous outlaw (Russel Crowe) to a train to be executed. Crowe and Bale give some of the best performances of their career, and that is seriously saying something. It is a fantastic depiction of the violent, cruel, unfair, and harsh world that was post-Civil War America in the west. With endless shots showing off the gorgeous land in Arizona, I felt it more than fit the bill for this list.
Ah, the first state with not a lot going for it movie wise. While there aren’t a plethora of movies to chose from Arkansas, there is one that is fantastic. Mud is a movie that is far better than it has any right being. Matthew McConaughey is absolutely amazing as the mysterious hermit named only Mud, and the movie hits all the marks. Its a movie about love, madness, truth, growing up, trust, and family. It is unbelievably good, and I highly recommend you check it out.
Yeah this is just impossible to choose from. There are too many great movies based in California to even name. You have L.A. Confidential, The Graduate, Point Break, Beverly Hills Cop, and The Nice Guys to name just a few of the literal dozens of excellent movies based in California. But I am choosing one that is more personal: Dirty Harry.
While a classic, and a great movie, this might seem like a strange choice. But it shows so much of San Francisco. From naming dozens of streets, to many arial shots of the city San Francisco plays a huge role in the movie. But I chose it because the quarry then final confrontation takes place in is where my parents used to live, and the bridge Harry jumps off of near the end was a bridge they drove under all the time. A little bit of home from this movie puts it on top.
There have been plenty of great movies to take place in Colorado, but very few actually feel like the location is important to it. The Prestige takes place largely in Colorado and as I’ve already said, is phenomenal, but has little to do with the culture or location. The same goes for The Shining, another great movie that the location does not matter too much. So I decided to go with Red Dawn.
While not giving off a strictly Colorado vibe, this Cold War classic shows off the sort of attitude that is common in the midwest/west. Very good and comfortable in nature, lots of legally owned guns (more so than the coasts at least), small towns where everyone knows everyone, and beautiful flatlands and mountains.
This one is tough. I have spent a lot of time in Connecticut, so I want to be able to nail this one, but not many movies take place in Connecticut. With two major cities a few hours drive away, Ct kind of gets lost in the mix. But I am going to have to go with Far From Heaven. A melodrama about gender, sexuality, and race in the 1950s America, it is a pretty good movie with strong performances by Julianne Moore, Dennis Quad, and the Allstate guy. Not a bad watch if you are from Hartford and are looking for some familiar ground in movies.
There really haven’t been a lot of movies set in Delaware, but it does have an all time classic, Fight Club. Fight Club is the movie every guy was obsessed with in middle school then looses some appeal as you age, but then becomes so much better as you get even older. David Fincher’s cult classic is a must watch for everyone, especially men feeling lost in their life with no sense of purpose or masculinity. Pitt and Norton steal the show, and the twisting and turning plot is captivating until the final, and iconic shot.
Back to another really tricky state, Florida has been the location of a lot of movies. Some greats like Monster, Donnie Branco, and Cool Hand Luke. And then some very good’s like Live by Night, and Marley & Me. But the best movie based in Florida really can only be one movie. It is easily Scarface.
Scarface is a perfect depiction of life in Miami during the 80s. Drugs ruled the criminal world, and Cocaine was the best seller. The story of an immigrant coming to America and succeeding in his dreams is one of the most classic American stories. This version is just about drugs and gangs instead of a more honest dream and success story. No other movie feels more Florida than that. The glamor, the diversity, the beaches, everything.
Sadly, most great movies located in the south are about slavery and I do not want to do this whole list bashing the South for slavery, so I am going to include as few of those movies as I can. However, that being said it would be impossible for me not to choose Gone with the Wind.
There are other greats set in Georgia, most notably The Color Purple, and Deliverance. But Gone with the Wind is simply one of the best movies ever made so I had to make it my choice for Georgia. Not only is it that good, but it also actually uses its location as part of the story, it is important where they are. Some great movies, the location could be anywhere like Reservoir Dogs, or Psycho for instance. But Gone with the Wind is not like those ones. Georgia is almost a character on its own. Truly a must watch.