The Most Iconic Movies Set in Every State
Which film made the list from yours?
Alabama: ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ (2002)
Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas play childhood sweethearts in this beloved rom-com. Witherspoon has to learn to disavow the big city and return to her roots in the deep south—back to dive bars, plantations and Civil War reenactments. Don’t worry, you’ll get to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s rollicking ode to the lost confederacy at the very end when the romantic pair finally have their wedding dance. Check out these tearjerker movies for when you need a good cry.
Watch Sweet Home Alabama here.
Alaska: ‘The Gold Rush’ (1925)
This Charlie Chaplin classic is set during the Klondike Gold Rush in one of our favorite iconic movies. It was created with expensive and elaborate set pieces to film the blizzard and isolated cabin where the Little Tramp gets trapped. Famous scenes include the dance with bread rolls and the tipping log cabin. It also stars the gorgeous silent film star, Georgia Hale.
Watch The Gold Rush here.
Arizona: ‘Raising Arizona’ (1987)
Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter play an infertile couple who steal a baby in this satire about the American dream by the Coen brothers. The Arizonan desert provides the backdrop to the hijinks that ensue as convicts and bad guys try to claim the reward for the tot—one of a set of quintuplets who have the last name Arizona. Also read up on the most famous movie quotes of all time.
Watch Raising Arizona here.
Arkansas: ‘Sling Blade’ (1996)
“Gimme some of them French fried potaters. Mmm-hmmm.” Billy Bob Thornton rose to stardom after of his portrayal of a man recently released from a mental hospital. Why was he there? He killed his parents as a child. But you’ll sympathize! Rural Arkansas provides the setting for this tragic tale that also stars John Ritter in a memorable dramatic turn and country singer Dwight Yoakum as a drunk meanie.
Watch Sling Blade here.
California: ‘L.A. Confidential’ (1997)
This throwback to old Hollywood glamour and Los Angeles noir has it all: crime, passion, and star power. Russell Crowe plays a detective who falls for a call girl played by Kim Basinger—who won Best Supporting Actress for the role. James Cromwell, Kevin Spacey, and Danny DeVito round the cast of this gritty crime drama about all the corruption underneath the southern California glitz, making it one of the best iconic movies.
Watch L.A. Confidential here.
Colorado: ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969)
Paul Newman and Robert Redford team up as a pair of cowboy BFFs who are also wanted criminals. This western was shot in Telluride, Silverton, and Durango where the pair famously leap off a cliff as they try to evade the always looming posse. Redford can’t swim. The fall will probably kill them. They survive! But not forever. Get your guns ready, Bolivia—here they come.
Watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid here.
Connecticut: ‘Mystic Pizza’ (1988)
Julia Roberts stars in this coming-of-age drama about best friends and sisters who waitress at a pizza joint in a fishing town called Mystic. Roberts rocks what became her signature smile, but Lili Taylor steals the show as a fiery spirit who isn’t sure if she wants to marry her longtime boyfriend (Vincent D’Onofrio.) Annabeth Gish rounds out the cast as a Harvard-bound brainiac who falls in love with a married man—then regrets it. For some more flicks that are sure to make you hungry, check out our favorite cooking movies.
Watch Mystic Pizza here.
Delaware: ‘Goosebumps’ (2015)
Fans of the popular R.L. Stine novels were thrilled that the movie was set in the fictional town of Madison, Delaware—a state typically underrepresented in American cinema. So cheers for the little state that finally made it to the big time in the Hollywood adaptation of the blockbuster novel series. Jack Black plays author Stine in a plot that involves the books’ monsters getting unleashed and wreaking havoc. You should also check out these 31 scariest movies of all time.
Watch Goosebumps here.
Florida: ‘The Birdcage’ (1996)
This “meet the parents” scenario descends into hilarious chaos when a gay couple who own a night club meet a right-wing senator and his wife—currently embroiled in a scandal. South Beach Florida serves as the backdrop for this comedy that’s ultimately about tolerance and acceptance. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane turn in stellar performances as gay men who clash with Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, conservatives who need to loosen up.
Watch The Birdcage here.
Georgia: ‘Glory’ (1989)
The film concerns the story of the 54th Infantry—the first military regiment made up of African-American soldiers. (FYI: Battlefield scenes of this Civil War drama were shot at Gettysburg.) Starring Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington—in an Oscar-winning, star-making performance, as a former slave who teaches a Colonel, played by Matthew Broderick, about the true meaning of honor and glory.
Watch Glory here.
Hawaii: ‘From Here to Eternity’ (1953)
In this lush military melodrama, soldiers try to keep it together. If only these boozy, angry men knew that bigger affronts awaited—like Pearl Harbor. Frank Sinatra won the Best Supporting Actor, but the this Best Picture’s claim to fame will always be Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr passionately kissing as they get drenched in Oahu’s sudsy surf. While there are plenty more iconic movies set in Hawaii, this one is our favorite.
Watch From Here to Eternity here.
Idaho: ‘My Own Private Idaho’ (1991)
This artsy film, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry plays, helped launch independent cinema and proved arthouse projects could make some money. Keanu Reeves and the late great River Phoenix star as street hustlers on an odyssey between Portland, Idaho, and Italy. Deserted highways become metaphors for Gen-X angst right when that was becoming a cool new thing.
Watch My Own Private Idaho here.
Illinois: ‘Chicago’ (2002)
This Broadway musical-turned-big screen Best Picture starred Renee Zellwegger, Richard Gere, and Catherine Zeta-Jones—all proving they could sing and dance. The city of Chicago is the perfect backdrop for the story about the glamour and celebrity of corruption and crime.
Watch Chicago here.
Indiana: ‘Breaking Away’ (1979)
Set in Bloomington, Indiana, this coming-of-age drama follows four young men, known as “cutters.” Instead of going to college, they’ll probably end up cutting stone in the local quarry like their dads. But the boys, played by Daniel Stern, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, and Jackie Earle Haley, long for more. Christopher dreams of bicycle racing and the final sequence shows him and his buddies racing against college teams to prove they’re more than just “cutters.”
Watch Breaking Away here.
Iowa: ‘Field of Dreams’ (1989)
“If you build it, he will come.” Don’t question that cornfield voice, Kevin Costner, just construct that baseball diamond on your farm, okay? This sentimental classic makes rural Iowa the land of dreams—like Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and Moonlight Graham (Burt Lancaster) reuniting in the twilight of the heartland to play America’s pastime—literally.
Watch Field of Dreams here.
Kansas: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
The Kansas scenes are shot in dismal black and white. Dorothy sings in front of haystack and falls into the hog pen before a twister carries her plain little cabin to the land of Oz, a technicolor dreamscape. But the glitz and glamour of those ruby slippers teach her that there’s no place like home. Even if that home is rural Kansas. And when she wakes up surrounded by family and friends you know she’ll be all right. Did you know all these weird and wonderful facts about The Wizard of Oz?
Watch The Wizard of Oz here.
Kentucky: ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ (1980)
Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of country star Loretta Lynn—a woman who hailed from the backwoods of Kentucky. Lynn was one of eight children born into poverty. She married at age 15 (Tommy Lee Jones plays her husband) and was a grandmother by 29. But her talent prevails and those simple tunes she sings to her babies eventually get her to the Grand Ole Opry and stardom.
Watch Coal Miner’s Daughter here.
Louisiana: ‘Interview With a Vampire’ (1994)
Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are gloriously hammy in this vampire spectacle set in the bayou and New Orleans. Each star wears their hair in a nineties ponytail and dons southern gentlemen waistcoats with knee socks and buckled shoes. Kirsten Dunst shines as a tragic doll-like bloodsucker who will live forever as a child.
Watch Interview With a Vampire here.
Maine: ‘Pet Sematary’ (1989)
When a big city doctor gets a new job in rural Maine and moves his family there, it seems like a great idea. But since Stephen King wrote the novel this film is based on, things take a terrible turn. The cemetery in question is not just for pets. It’s a bad idea to even go near it. Said the supporting character who is soon after killed by a toddler zombie wielding a scalpel.
Watch Pet Sematary here.
Maryland: ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (1999)
This horror hit started the found footage craze. It’s a mockumentary set in the fictional Blair Woods in Maryland. Three friends set out to investigate the witch who lives in the woods. They find bizarre and creepy crafts made of sticks and grisly objects left in flannel. One of them goes missing, then the other two, and the audience freaks out. The witch’s whereabouts and those of the hikers remain a mystery. Not recommended to be watched alone.
Watch The Blair Witch Project here.
Massachusetts: ‘The Perfect Storm’ (2000)
Set in the coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, this true story depicts the fate of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat manned by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg that goes missing during a storm that is anything but perfect. The fishermen have lovable eastern accents and they look great in flannel and five o’ clock shadows. Spoiler alert: Watch with tissues close at hand.
Watch The Perfect Storm here.
Michigan: ‘Roger and Me’ (1989)
Michael Moore’s scathing examination of the General Motors Corporation was the most financially successful documentary in America until it was surpassed by Moore’s later films. Moore examines the effects the closures of several GM plants have on the town of Flint, Michigan where he grew up. The Roger in the title refers to GM exec Roger Smith who Moore confronts about the toll these closures took on the local community—many of whom were evicted from homes and fell into poverty.
Watch Roger and Me here.
Minnesota: ‘Untamed Heart’ (1993)
Marisa Tomei shines as a waitress in Minneapolis who falls for a shy dishwasher played by Christian Slater in this sentimental romantic comedy. Slater has heart troubles—literally, so the romance can’t last long. Tomei and Slater give warmth and allure to an otherwise freezing Minnesotan winter.
Watch Untamed Heart here.
Mississippi: ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ (1958)
Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman simmer in Tennessee William’s sultry play about a rich Mississippi family seething with dysfunction. Big Daddy is dying, Newman’s Brick is laid up with a broken leg and Sister Woman and Brother Gooper are trying to make sure they get their share of the inheritance. Taylor drips with southern passion as Maggie “the cat,” trying to win the favor of Big Daddy and the affection of husband Brick.
Watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof here.
Missouri: ‘Waiting for Guffman’ (1997)
Christopher Guest’s improvised mockumentary celebrates the fictional small town of Blaine, Missouri. He plays Corky, a musical theater buff, directing a play called “Red, White, and Blaine” about the town’s history. The movie’s title is a riff on “Waiting for Godot” as the amateur thespian’s await Guffman, a Broadway producer who never shows.
Watch Waiting for Guffman here.
Montana: ‘Legends of the Fall’ (1994)
This sweeping epic follows the adventures of three brothers who grew up on a ranch in Montana. Anthony Hopkins plays the patriarch. Aidan Quinn is the oldest brother and Henry Thomas (Elliott from E.T. all grown up) plays the youngest. But it’s Brad Pitt as the passionate, unbridled Tristan, the middle brother, who seems to represent the bear-fighting soul of Montana’s nature itself. Julie Ormand is gorgeous as the love interest for all three bros.
Watch Legends of the Fall here.
Nebraska: ‘Nebraska’ (2013)
Bruce Dern plays a crotchety old codger who thinks he won the lottery. So begins a road trip back to his hometown in Nebraska to collect his winnings. Will Forte plays his son who takes him on a Midwestern odyssey where they revisit locales and memories. Shot in black and white the film has a quiet poignancy fitting of its namesake. Find out the most historically inaccurate movies ever.
Watch Nebraska here.
Nevada: ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ (1995)
Nicolas Cage won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as a depressive alcoholic who wants to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. But then he falls for Elisabeth Shue, a hooker with a heart of gold, who manages to steal his heart. Las Vegas provides the setting for this tragic meditation on love and loss.
Watch Leaving Las Vegas here.
New Hampshire: ‘To Die For’ (1995)
Gus Van Sant’s mockumentary-style drama is based on New Hampshire criminal Pamela Smart—a high school worker who seduced a 15-year-old student and then convinced him to murder her husband. Stars Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon as the fated couple. A young Joaquin Phoenix plays the murderous teen.
Watch To Die For here.
New Jersey: ‘Garden State’ (2002)
New Jersey is the setting for Zach Braff’s autobiographical comedy-drama about an actor who returns home for his mom’s funeral. Natalie Portman also stars as the original “manic pixie dream girl.” Despite his dysfunctional past, she’s the reason he can’t quite leave the garden state.
Watch Garden State here.
New Mexico: ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’ (1988)
Robert Redford directed this enchanting drama set in the fictional town of Milagro, New Mexico. Using magical realism, this film concerns the “war” between village locals and the corporate fiends who want to buy out and develop the land. When one townsman rebels by growing beans across the land in question, we get a hopeful fable about activism and faith.
Watch The Milagro Benfield War here.
New York: ‘Manhattan’ (1979)
Woody Allen’s classic romantic comedy is a love letter to the romance of New York City. Shot in black and white and scored with Gershwin tunes, the movie is as much about the aura of the city and skyline as it is about Allen’s character—a neurotic intellectual in love with several women, including a 17-year-old played by Mariel Hemingway.
Watch Manhattan here.
North Carolina: ‘Nights in Rodanthe’ (2008)
You can actually stay in the famous house from the movie that’s located in the Outer Banks of the North Carolina shore. Maybe you’ll even see a herd of wild horses gallop along the beach to inspire you the way they did for grieving Diane Lane in the movie. This is one of many Nicholas Sparks dramas set in North Carolina. Richard Gere will both enrage and inflame you in this tragic and romantic weepy.
Watch Nights in Rodanthe here.
North Dakota: ‘Fargo’ (1996)
This Coen Brothers drama makes North Dakota seem like an unforgiving and cruel hellscape in this “true” crime thriller. Frances McDormand won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of pregnant and goodly police chief Marge Gunderson. The movie has since spawned an acclaimed TV series of the same name following bizarre American criminals, their hapless victims, and the police who bring them in.
Watch Fargo here.
Ohio: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)
Fictional small-town Ohio is the perfect setting for iconic Freddy Krueger’s slasher shenanigans. Wes Craven’s horror classic started the Freddy franchise—devoted to the burn victim in the striped sweater who wields a glove with knife fingers. Surreal imagery elevated this scare fest about the dreamscapes that haunt teenagers. These horror films were based on real-life stories.
Watch A Nightmare on Elm Street here.
Oklahoma: ‘Oklahoma’ (1955)
Shot in CinemaScope (mostly in Arizona due to production concerns), this Broadway musical features cornfields and haystacks. It’s an homage to the romance of classic farm life. Shirley Jones made her debut as a farm girl courted by a farm hand and cowboy who each want to take her to the town social. One of them ends up as a drunken baddie who falls on his own knife, but this beloved classic is still rated G.
Watch Oklahoma here.
Oregon: ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975)
Based on Ken Kesey’s counterculture novel, this tragic drama was filmed at the mental institution in Salem, Oregon. Jack Nicholson shines as rebel who fakes crazy to go from jail to a mental hospital in hopes of an easier time. But stern Nurse Ratched proves to be too strong a foe. In the iconic final scene, his friend Chief’s escape provides some uplift in an otherwise cynical film.
Watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest here.
Pennsylvania: ‘Rocky’ (1976)
The steps in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum are now known as the “Rocky Steps.” Sylvester Stallone plays a down-on-his-luck boxer who triumphs in spite of desperate odds. He gets in shape to the iconic song “Gonna Fly Now” and runs through Philadelphia train yards and city streets cheered on by locals and a group of running children. If you make it to Philly, you have to jog up those famous stairs and punch the air when you get to the top.
Watch Rocky here.
Rhode Island: ‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
This creepy film about paranormal happenings is, unfortunately, based on a true story. In fact, the couple who live in the Rhode Island farmhouse where the scary stuff supposedly went down sued the film’s producers due to ongoing harassment by the film’s fans. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the investigators who look into the farmhouse hauntings and discover possession and a terrible historic curse. This flick is one of our favorite terrifying iconic movies.
Watch The Conjuring here.
South Carolina: ‘The Big Chill’ (1983)
This is the movie that made ensemble casts iconic. Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, and William Hurt play college buddies who gather in a huge South Carolina estate to mourn the death of a friend. Over the course of the weekend, they make sense of their life choices, rekindle old romances and find catharsis through grief. Kevin Costner’s scenes (he played the deceased friend) famously ended up on the cutting room floor before he was a star.
Watch The Big Chill here.
South Dakota: ‘Dances With Wolves’ (1990)
Shot across the South Dakotan plains, this western defied the odds and became a critical and financial success—despite being an over-budget Western with subtitles by a newbie director. Kevin Costner plays a Union soldier dispatched to secure a fort on the edge of the wild west. Instead, he falls in love with a white lady hanging out with Native Americans in this love fest about the one good white man in frontier history. Find out the 15 movies that have hilarious titles in other countries.
Watch Dances With Wolves here.
Tennessee: ‘Nashville’ (1975)
Robert Altman’s ensemble drama interweaves the stories of multiple main characters involved in the country music scene in Nashville. The storylines take place over five days leading up to a presidential rally. The acclaimed comedy-drama offered a slice-of-life vision into the goings-on of political operatives, business types and those involved in the music scene in the iconic music capital. Altman was famous for eschewing traditional narrative in favor of interlocking narratives and character study.
Watch Nashville here.
Texas: ‘Giant’ (1956)
Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor play wealthy Texas ranch owners in this soapy drama about class turmoil set in the Texan oilfields. James Dean stars as a ranch hand who inherits a tiny piece of land and then strikes it rich when he discovers oil on it. In one iconic scene, he drips in crude oil while he brags about his coming riches. The film also depicts racial discrimination against Mexican Americans and aims to raise consciousness about discrimination through epic familial melodrama.
Watch Giant here.
Utah: ‘127 Hours’ (2010)
This true story stars James Franco as a hiker who spends 127 hours trapped in a Utah canyon after a hiking accident pins his arm beneath a boulder. Ultimately inspirational and filmed amidst the breathtaking Utah terrain, this uplifting story is based on hiker Aron Ralston’s 2004 book about the ordeal. He ends up amputating his own arm to free himself, make his way back to help, and save his own life.
Watch 127 Hours here.
Vermont: ‘White Christmas’ (1954)
Bing Cosby and Danny Kaye play World War II vets who’ve turned to nightclub management after the war. They follow a pair of performing sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to an inn near Pine Tree, Vermont where they discover their commanding officer—who could really use some help getting business rolling. How about some musical numbers—especially “White Christmas”? This holiday classic honors vets at the same time it portrays romantic hijinks that end up merry and bright.
Watch White Christmas here.
Virginia: ‘Remember the Titans’ (2000)
In this true story, Denzel Washington plays the head coach of a racially integrated football team at a Virginia high school in the 1970s. Sentimental and inspirational, Washington gives rousing sunrise speeches and inspires his team (and the audience) to overcome prejudice and work together for change—and victory. (Related: Here are more of the best football movies of all time.)
Watch Remember the Titans here.
Washington: The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
Kristin Stewart plays a brooding teenage girl who moves to Forks, a small town in Washington state, that’s surrounded by lush forests that happen to be a haven for werewolves and vampires—two of whom end up as her boyfriends. Robert Pattinson plays her ultimate love—his skin sparkles amidst the trees, while Taylor Lautner, as the boy turned wolf, also manages to show off his abs (just another reason why we file it under ‘Iconic Movies’). The northwest terrain is appropriately overcast for the adolescent love triangle. These are the most romantic movies of all time.
Watch The Twilight Saga here.
West Virginia: ‘October Sky’ (1999)
Jake Gyllenhaal shines in the true story of Homer Hickam Jr., a NASA engineer who grew up a coal miner’s son in West Virginia. Chris Cooper plays Hickam’s staid father who resists his interest in rockets, but eventually gives in once his son inspires the whole town and wins a spot at a national science fair. Small town West Virginia, coal mines and rural pastures provide the backdrop for stirring rocket blast-offs. Here are more classic autumn movies to make you feel all cozy.
Watch October Sky here.
Wisconsin: ‘The Straight Story’ (1999)
David Lynch’s film is a road trip that takes place on a tractor. Richard Farnsworth plays an elderly man who longs to journey to see his ailing brother, Harry Dean Stanton. Farnsworth is too infirm to get a driver’s license so he takes off on his tractor, traveling over 200 miles at about 5 miles per hour, on the tractor. Midwestern scenery from Iowa to Wisconsin gives the slow pace a moving Americana feel that soothes the soul.
Watch The Straight Story here.
Wyoming: ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005)
Ang Lee directed this stirring romance that starts when cowboys Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal herd sheep over a summer in Wyoming’s mountains. The two fall into a passionate affair that lasts for years even as each man marries and tries to live a life on the straight and narrow. “I wish I knew how to quit you,” says Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist famously. Ultimately, this tragic drama teaches tolerance and sympathy for men who shouldn’t have had to quit their love, making it one of the best iconic movies. Next, find out the movie trivia facts you won’t believe are true.
Watch Brokeback Mountain here.
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