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
Tue Jul 2 2013
Massachusetts: The Fighter (2010)
Never mind the blue bloods: David O. Russell’s story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s grab for the brass ring gives us a working-class Lowell community that’s pugnacious, vivacious and fiercely loyal to its own. In this Massachusetts microcosmos, everyone is a fighter.—David Fear
Michigan: Blue Collar (1978)
This salty comedy about three Detroit auto-industry workers doubles as a tribute to every Rust Belt grunt who ever tried to put food on the table—and as a salute to the state that got American rubber on the road for decades.—David Fear
Minnesota: Purple Rain (1984)
With his loosely autobiographical cult musical, pop star Prince had us wanting to purify ourselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Numerous Minnesota landmarks appear, most notably the legendary First Avenue nightclub, where our prancing hero brings his many adoring doves to tears.—Keith Uhlich
Mississippi: In the Heat of the Night (1967)
The town is fictional, but this Oscar-winning thriller about a white police chief and an African-American detective channels a very real Mississippi—one racked with hot temperatures, racial tensions and uneasy acceptance of the era’s tides of change.—David Fear
Missouri: Waiting for Guffman (1997)
Christopher Guest’s faux documentary about Blaine, MO (“stool capital of the United States”), and a community-theater troupe with delusions of Broadway grandeur beautifully captures small-town American eccentricity, always with a gentle wink.—Keith Uhlich
Montana: A River Runs Through It (1992)
Watch virtually any scene from Robert Redford’s fly-fishing family drama and you’ll get a sense of Montana’s majestic landscape; every time Brad Pitt casts his line into the Blackfoot River, you realize why they call it Big Sky country.—David Fear
Nebraska: Election (1999)
This pointed satire about a high-school student election is one of Alexander Payne’s finest satirical portraits of his home state, unearthing in the Nebraska suburbs a microcosmic portrait of American politics and all its wheelings and dealings.—Keith Uhlich
Nevada: Melvin and Howard (1980)
Las Vegas and its barren outskirts provide the mythic meeting place for billionaire mogul Howard Hughes (Jason Robards) and service-station owner Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat). Melvin spends the rest of Jonathan Demme’s delightfully quirky comedy trying to prove the encounter took place; the arid Nevada desert haunts the film like a half-remembered dreamscape.—Keith Uhlich
New Hampshire: To Die For (1995)
New Hampshire, with its quiet suburbs and picture-perfect scenery, is the setting for Gus Van Sant’s stone-cold black comedy about a career-obsessed woman (Nicole Kidman) who murderously manipulates her way up the ranks of a local cable station.—Keith Uhlich
New Jersey: Clerks (1994)
A strong contender for the scrappiest state in the union, “Dirty Jersey” gets the eloquently foulmouthed comedy it deserves in Kevin Smith’s indie classic about counter jockeys. They tell it like it is—in the funny, frank way you associate with the Garden State.—David Fear
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There are a lot of good and bad things on this list, but as a Texan I'm pretty sure y'all chose it because it was the first movie you thought of with the name "Texas" in the title. There are so many more iconic movies that truly encapsulate the spirit of Texas, such as Giant, The Last Picture Show, Days of Heaven, Friday Night Lights...
Maine should have been Shawshank Redemption and Colorado The Shining, The Departed for Mass, how about Paris, Texas for Texas
I applaud the thought that went into this list, even if I disagree with some of the picks. I do think it's weighed too heavily towards recent films. The two picks I most strongly disagree with are Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Pink Flamingos. Odd, even disgusting, movies, in my opinon. For Texas, I would have gone with The Searchers or Urban Cowboy, and for Maryland, Diner. Other suggested picks: Wyoming- Heaven's Gate or Shane; Arizona- Tombstone or My Darling Clementine; New York- Annie Hall; Pennsylvania- The Deer Hunter, and Oregon- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Considering the thousands of candidates to choose from for California, I have to say you nailed it with Chinatown. Perfect choice.
I would have picked On Golden Pond for New Hampshire. The Fighter was good for MA, but maybe Good Will Hunting? There should have been runner ups for certain states.
For Texas, I'd go with J. Sayles "Lone Star," or R. Linklater's Dazed and Confused, or Giant or The Last Picture Show, or Paris, TX, or David Byrne's True Stories any of those capture something more substantial about Texas than Chainsaw Massacre.
Connecticut also has Revolutionary Road...a nice depiction of Connecticut life while working in the maniacal world of New York City...
florida? really? body heat hands down. William hurt, katheline turner, kasdan's finest loses to a bunch of bimbos? come on...
Wyoming, "Brokeback Mountain:" Yes, the scenery was gorgeous but most of the movie was filmed in Alberta, Canada.
While The Fighter is great, Massachusetts should be Goodwill Hunting. Goodwill Hunting very much stands at the intersection of the Bay State, in between its gritty old town feel and working class folks -- and the more educated, often more phony, newer, wealthier types and hipper, Brahman locations. Whether it was the settings and scenery, or characters like the ones played by Damon and Williams, the movie truly stands at the crossroads and is Massachusetts.
A better choice for Minnesota would have been Grumpy Old Men and being from South Dakota and loving Hitchcock film, I still would have chosen Dances with Wolves. Coal Miner's Daughter in a great film but so is Elizabethtown for Kentucky, but that's a toss up. And I would have liked to seen Double Jeopardy in the running for Louisiana.
Say Anything for Washington would have been a better choice. ANd "Garden State" instead of Clerks is another choice i would have gone with. But i understand their choices. Pretty good list (iconic)
pretty average list all in all. i agree with a lot of the suggestions by a lot of the people in the comments. but being from Minnesota, i hate the choice of Purple Rain, and i hate Fargo for North Dakota. i know Fargo is actually in NoDak, but the whole movie takes place in Minnesota. it was shot in Minnesota. the characters even have crazy, over-the-top Minnesotan accents. and if you really can't go with Fargo, then The Mighty Ducks would've been a better choice than Purple Rain. MD is a hockey movie, taking place in Minnesota, largely - if not completely - shot in Minnesota. also, as a side note, as much as i love North By Northwest, you gotta go with Dances With Wolves for South Dakota
definitely agree with the comment below about Stand By Me. That movie perfectly captures summertime in Oregon.
West Virginia should be represented by the magnificent "Night of the Hunter", an unforgettable film.
Disagree with Missouri a much better representation would have been Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, set in the Civil War in Missouri or Clint Eastwood's Outlaw Josey Wales
I don't care what the "locale" of Fight Club is supposed to be, it's a patently California film. Every scene is L.A., especially the last scene where the buildings are all brought down. Every exterior scene is filmed around L.A. icons, including Century Plaza. The buses, the bar and Paper St. scenes, LAX, I mean everything about this film says "L.A.". You can't assign a film to Delaware that doesn't have a single exterior scene shot anywhere but California/L.A.. C'mon, you can do better than this. How about "Dead Poet's Society" for cryin' out loud?
As far as Kevin Smith goes, I think Mallrats is a better depiction of Jersey. And to the person ranting about the amount of 'recent' movies on the list, if they were all old mid-nineteenth century movies, they would be representing very dated notions of the states and the list would be a lot of nostaltic smalltown Americana. As previously mentioned, you'd find a lot of takes place in Illinois, shot in Vermont or in a studio type stuff. PLUS, a lot of these movies really aren't as recent as you think. And early nineties movie, for example, is now twenty years old.
Largely a pretty good list. And fun to click through too. Like everyone else, I have some differing opinions too. I agree with previous commenters about Boston and Florida. There are dozens of movies that are more iconic than "Spring Breakers," a movie to that just made it to BluRay. Considering the dearth of pre-1990 classics, I'll go with "The Palm Beach Story." My other votes would be: "Bull Durham" for North Carolina "Giant" for Texas "Roger and Me" for Michigan "Leaving Las Vegas" - Nevada It's hard to beat "Chinatown" but I might pick "Vertigo" for California. "Sleepless in Seattle" for Washington strikes me as more 'iconic' than "Singles." "The Big Sleep" may be the most iconic movie to take place in South Carolina, but all they talk about is Ann Arbor. I would go with "The Patriot," a lesser movie, but more iconic about S.C.
Michigan deserved a better title. Blue Collar?! I'm from Michigan and I haven't even heard of it. Countless better choices come mind. Some of them include: Gran Torino, 8-Mile, Four Brothers, Escanaba in da Moonlight, Detroit Rock City, Robocop.
A good list for the most part. I wish my home state of Arizona was better represented by a movie that captured the essence of the Grand Canyon State. Not the "Raising Arizona" is a bad film by any means, but I feel like it could be set anywhere. A classic western like "Stagecoach" or "3:10 to Yuma" (the original) would've been a preferable choice. Other recommendations: Texas - "Lone Star" - I know John Sayles is already represented on this list with "Matewan", but Lone Star will always be his best work IMHO. Besides, WV can always be represented by... West Virginia - "October Sky" Michigan - "Roger and Me" - Before the conspiracy theories and the hatred of Republican politics clouded his vision Michael Moore was the best documentary film-maker around Connecticut - "Mystic Pizza" - Maybe not as good as "The Ice Storm" but not as heavy-handed either. Plus, it was the launching pad for Julia Roberts Pennsylvania - "All the Right Moves" - Okay, nothing beats "Rocky" but having lived in PA I can tell you it is a state that worships high school football
Some other alternates: "Petrified Forest" for Arizona (an oldie), "The Producers" for New York, "Good Will Hunting" for Massachusetts (though largely filmed here in Toronto), "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" for Pennsylvania (the western part instead of Philly), "Bullitt" for Califormia (great chase scene in SF), "Fried Green Tomatoes" for Alabama
I would have picked "Days of Heaven" or "Tree of Life" for Texas since they were directed by a Texan as well as being set there. And while you already have another Stephen King adaptation on the list, I would have picked "The Shining" for Colorado.
Ugh, this New Yorker is wiping the egg off his face...we've corrected the Massachusetts entry re: Lowell. All apologies to the fine people of Lowell and MA.
Melvin and Howard for Nevada?! Over Casino, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Hangover, The Oceans's movies???
i think Jeramiah Johnson was actually mostly filmed in Utah not Colorado. Filming this movie was the reason Redford eventually moved to Utah. Sundance. The entire film festival. Right?
Do not agree with Florida. How is a movie made last year a classic? Also I can easily name a movie for Florida: "Scarface"
While I appreciate it's inclusion on the list, "Brokeback Mountain" was actually filmed in Canada, not Wyoming...
The fact that you call the setting of The Fighter "a working-class Dorchester community" and then immediately trot out fake words like "microcosmos" as if you have effortlessly mastered both film comprehension and the English language tells me all I need to about this article. Garbage.
A principle we used (one that might not be obvious): Rarely did pre-1950 films shoot on location. They were usually marked by the artifice of Hollywood studio sets; location shooting was an evolution that happened later. Even so, we picked some studio-shot movies like Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz, titles that evoke the *idea* of their states. But overall, we were looking for authenticity. Loving the comments!—JR
Gonna stump for Blue Velvet as the more representative choice of my beautiful home state of North Carolina.
Great list! In order to keep track how many you've watched of this list, we just created this list on Letterboxd: http://letterboxd.com/cinemagazine/list/time-out-new-york-50-american-films-50-states/
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