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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New Mexico: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)

America’s legendary outlaw went down at Old Fort Sumner, in the state nicknamed the Land of Enchantment. Strong-willed director Sam Peckinpah turned in a Western for the ages (despite much studio interference), caked with grime and dirt, tinged with frontier wildness.—Joshua Rothkopf


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

New York: Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese’s portrait of a lost soul shows us a mythic NYC filled with steaming manholes, colorful street characters and the sense that some of its citizens are on the verge of psychological breakdown. It’s an overwhelming urban jungle that can make you feel like “God’s lonely man,” even when you’re behind the wheel of an iconic yellow cab.—David Fear


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

North Carolina: George Washington (2000)

David Gordon Green made his feature film debut with this poetic look at a group of poor children living in rural North Carolina. Long before he hopped aboard the pineapple express, Green’s ethereal imagery and vivid sense of place (wracked with economic and spiritual depression) had many proclaiming him the new Terrence Malick.—Keith Uhlich


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

North Dakota: Fargo (1996)

Much of the movie takes place in ice-scraped Minnesota, but we can’t help but defer to the title: It’s where half-smart car dealer Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) drives to set up his kidnapping scheme. More symbolically, North Dakota is the wintry place where all is lost in the Coens’ breakthrough.—Joshua Rothkopf


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

Ohio: American Splendor (2003)

As played by Paul Giamatti, underground comic-book memoirist Harvey Pekar is a cranky yet sympathetic ogre. Crucially, though, on Letterman and a national stage, Pekar becomes a symbol for his unpretentious blue-collar hometown of Cleveland (where the movie was largely shot).—Joshua Rothkopf


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

Oklahoma: Oklahoma! (1955)

The title song says it all: “Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain / And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet!” Forget Broadway: The vistas in this adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musical make you feel like you’ve just been dropped into Sooner State grandeur.—David Fear


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

Oregon: Old Joy (2006)

Evoking both the indie rep of Portland and Oregon’s sublime natural landscape, Kelly Reichardt’s hiking drama treks a path into the space that grows between two friends. The Beaver State is the film’s silent third character.—Joshua Rothkopf


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

Pennsylvania: Rocky (1976)

Mention the City of Brotherly Love to folks and they’ll picture Philly’s No. 1 son jogging up those Philadelphia Museum of Art steps. Sylvester Stallone’s underdog drama reminds us, 200 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed there, that the state’s best-known city can still produce American dreamers who go the distance.—David Fear


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

Rhode Island: There’s Something About Mary (1998)

Sure, you remember the “hair gel” scene the most—a notorious comedy moment that will never die so long as there are horndogs. But codirectors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have always demonstrated a commitment to their cozy home state; most of their movies are at least partly set there.—Joshua Rothkopf


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

South Carolina: The Big Chill (1983)

A generational landmark, Lawrence Kasdan’s ensemble drama was responsible for launching the career of Meg Tilly (and hooking millions on a Motown soundtrack). The place where all the tension happens is a lovely antebellum mansion in Beaufort, SC, deceptively serene.—Joshua Rothkopf


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

See iconic American films: South Dakota to Wyoming


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