50 American films, 50 states: One iconic movie for each state

In celebration of the big, bold USA, we take a trip through all 50 states via 50 indelible American films.

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Hawaii: The Descendants (2011)

Trouble in paradise, indeed: Alexander Payne made prime use of Hawaii’s luscious greenery and gem-blue oceans to counterpoint the melancholy story of a husband (George Clooney) who discovers that his dying wife was unfaithful.—Keith Uhlich



 Watch this classic American film set in Hawaii now at Amazon Instant Video

Idaho: My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Gus Van Sant’s moody, Shakespeare-inflected street-youth tale follows a narcoleptic hustler (River Phoenix) on a tragic journey in search of himself. Idaho is the place he’s most drawn to: a site of roots (it’s where the last of his family lives) and hallucinogenic dreams (a highway to nowhere stretches tauntingly beyond the horizon).—Keith Uhlich


 Watch this classic American film set in Idaho now at Amazon Instant Video

Illinois: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Chicago is shown off magnificently as a playground for an irresponsible teen hero: Ferris (Matthew Broderick) drags his friends to Wrigley Field and the Art Institute, high up the Sears Tower—and even to the front of the Von Steuben Day Parade. Writer-director John Hughes, a local, called the movie his love letter to the city.—Joshua Rothkopf


 Watch this classic American film set in Illinois now at Amazon Instant Video

Indiana: Hoosiers (1986)

Basketball-obsessed Indiana and its 1954 state champions from small-town Milan were the real-life inspiration for this stirring sports drama, set in an abstract terrain of painted court lines and clean-cut grass, a place where second chances can happen.—Joshua Rothkopf



 Watch this classic American film set in Indiana now at Amazon Instant Video

Iowa: Field of Dreams (1989)

Could Kevin Costner’s classic double play of baseball and father issues be set anywhere but the “corn jewel” of the American heartland? We think not: The film’s mix of salt-of-the-earth values and moral fortitude exemplifies the Hawkeye State’s character to a tee.—David Fear



 Watch this classic American film set in Iowa now at Amazon Instant Video

Kansas: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Of course, there’s a point when we’re not in Kansas anymore. But until then, in lovely sepia tones, Dorothy’s farm surroundings come to vivid life, as does a scary “twister” on the horizon. Judy Garland’s immortal rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is a full dose of country yearning in two minutes.—Joshua Rothkopf


 Watch this classic American film set in Kansas now at Amazon Instant Video

Kentucky: Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

Going from rags to riches is the American Dream, but this biopic of country-music legend Loretta Lynn (starring a spunky, radiant Sissy Spacek) emphasizes that hers is a Kentucky story—she’s a honky-tonk honeysuckle rose born in coal dust and bred by the state’s hardscrabble rural beauty.—David Fear


 Watch this classic American film set in Kentucky now at Amazon Instant Video

Louisiana: The Big Easy (1987)

You won’t find a better picture of the state’s unofficial capital than this sleazy, sweaty mystery set in New Orleans. The longer Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin prowl the city’s lively streets and hot spots, the more the region’s Cajun-inflected funky spirit comes through.—David Fear



 Watch this classic American film set in Louisiana now at Amazon Instant Video

Maine: Dolores Claiborne (1995)

It would be perverse of us not to pick a Stephen King adaptation, so thoroughly he commits to depicting his home state. We like this domestic drama, a murder mystery set in a handsome coastal town. Kathy Bates embodies take-no-guff Maine attitude—King wrote the character especially for his Misery star.—Joshua Rothkopf


 Watch this classic American film set in Maine now at Amazon Instant Video

Maryland: Pink Flamingos (1972)

Baltimore’s favorite transgressive son, John Waters, made a big splash with this shameless black comedy about a Maryland family with a taste for rabble-rousing, criminal activity and dog excrement. Even at its sleaziest, the film is a strangely loving portrait of the director’s home state, freaks and all.—Keith Uhlich


 Buy this classic American film set in Maryland on Amazon

See iconic American films: Massachusetts to New Jersey


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