50 Movies for 50 States: The Grand Wrap-Up

The Complete 50 Movies for 50 States – From A to Z

Part One – “Speech! Speech!”

Alright. Settle down.


I told you a year ago I was going to pick 50 movies for each of the 50 U.S. states. The only criteria was that, for each state, the movie chosen would have to take place and be filmed entirely in that given state, and that it would have to be a movie I had never seen before.

I knew it would be no easy task. For instance, I had concerns over my home state of Delaware. (Most lists similar to mine choose Fight Club, which is set in Wilmington, Delaware; however, the movie was not filmed in Wilmington and therefore, ineligible for the purposes of my list.) Other states I was worried about were the more remote, less-populated states like the Dakotas and Wyoming. Unlike Delaware, those states seemed too far off to be of any immediate concern.

I worried about the time this project might take, as my wife Anna had just given birth to our daughter May and I was to be the “stay-at-home dad.” I figured each weekly review wouldn’t have to be too grandiose. Of course, that line of thinking occasionally went out the window the moment I sat down to write and couldn’t shut up. This, of course, was not meant to be a pissing contest with my other Critical Masses contributors over who could write the longest columns (And even if it was, I think Jonathan Scovner would have me beat.) I just really enjoyed the freedom to ramble, which was liberating in a way after having to deal with the various space and content restrictions that came alone with writing for a newspaper for the last five years.

As for my film selection, for the most part I tried to choose movies that were a little outside of the mainstream — films that likely wouldn’t appear on other similar lists.

I broke my rules a few times. I’d already seen The Goonies prior to writing about it, as well as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Boxcar Bertha doesn’t take place entirely in Arkansas, although the movie was filmed entirely in Arkansas. Movies like Hoosiers and Nashville are the kinds of films that probable appear on other people’s lists of “state movies,” however, I really wanted to see them.

Because, ultimately, I undertook this project for my enjoyment. For the most part, it was fun. I got to see movies by directors I had never been exposed to, explore genres I was unfamiliar with. And, with the exception of a few truly terrible movies that I forced myself to endure, most of what I watched was pretty good.

Below is the complete list of 50 Movies for 50 States reviews, in alphabetical order. I’ve assigned ratings to each, pulled out quotes from the reviews that I felt summed up my feeling about the movie, and — when applicable — included links so that you can add them to your Netflix queue or watch them on YouTube. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my new column, Instant Gratification as well as the rest of the Critical Masses Web site.

Part Two – The Films

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Stay Hungry

Alabama – Stay Hungry (1976) “Stay Hungry is a one-of-a-kind movie.” ** 1/2 out of *****

Alaska – Runaway Train (1985) “It’s a kick-ass film.”  *** out of *****

Arizona – Billy Jack (1971) “It’s just a jumbled mess.” ** out of *****  (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until March 1, 2012)

Arkansas – Boxcar Bertha (1972) “Has a little something for everyone (but) something doesn’t gel.” ** 1/2 out of ***** ([Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until May 1, 2013)

California, Part 1 –  The Conversation (1974) “I urge you to check it out.” **** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until Sept. 16, 2011)

California, Part 2 – Hardcore (1979) “Is more than what it could or should be.” *** out of *****

Colorado – Over the Edge (1979) “Provides visceral thrills by the truckload” *** 1/2 out of *****

Connecticut – The Ice Storm (1997) “An interesting film that deserves a rewatch” *** 1/2 out of *****

Delaware – Wrestling (2008) “Not a bad movie … not a great one. O’Keefe is a director to watch in the future.” ** 1/2 out of *****

Florida – Matinee (1993) “A fun little film” ** 1/2 out of *****

Georgia – Squirm (1976) “Squirm‘s got the goods.” ** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue. ) (Available until May 1, 2013)

Hawaii – From Here to Eternity (1953)  “A ballsy movie for its time” *** out of *****

Idaho – Idaho Transfer (1973) “I didn’t hate this movie.” * 1/2 out of *****

Illinois – Curly Sue (1991) “Curly Sue isn’t bad. It’s not good. It’s bland.” ** of out *****

Indiana – Hoosiers (1986) “Critics loved it.” *** out of *****

Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story

Iowa – The Straight Story (1999) “I have nothing bad to say about this movie.” **** out of *****

Kansas – The Attic (1980) “Oddly entertaining” ** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to watch this on YouTube.)

Kentucky – Abby (1974) “This movie’s a bad trip.” * out of *****

Louisiana – Down By Law (1986) “There’s a lot to like here.” *** 1/2 out of *****

Maine – Pet Semetary (1989) “There are reasons why Pet Sematary is held in regard by horror movie enthusiasts.” *** out of *****

Maryland – Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970) and Desperate Living (1977) “I’ve seen all of John Waters’ movies and I think he’s hilarious. You may not.” Mondo Trasho * 1/2 out of *****, Multiple Maniacs ** out of *****, Desperate Living *** out of *****

Massachusetts – The Verdict (1982) ” **** out of ***** “It’s an incredible film … should be required viewing.” (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until Oct. 11, 2011)

Michigan – Roger & MeRoger & Me changed documentary filmmaking.” *** out of ***** (1989)

Minnesota – Purple Rain (1984) “It’s all a bit much.” ** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue ) (Available until July 22, 2011)

Mississippi – Cookie’s Fortune (1999) “There isn’t a bad actor in the bunch.” *** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until April 1, 2012)

Missouri – White Palace (1990) “White Palace is the kind of movie I would recommend to somebody’s parents, if it weren’t for the nasty sex scenes.” ** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until September 12, 2012)

Montana – The Slaughter Rule (2002) “It’s not a movie for everyone.” *** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until July 22, 2011)

Reese Witherspoon in Election

Nebraska – Election (1999) “It’s the script that really shines.” *** out of *****

Nevada – Showgirls (1995) “Just a big worthless tease” * out of *****

New Hampshire – The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979) “I’m not going to recommend it.” ** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until November 20, 2011)

New Jersey – Happiness (1998) “Happiness isn’t for everyone, but I love it.” **** out of *****

New Mexico – Let Me In (2010) “It’s a really good movie, albeit an unnecessary one.” *** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until December 1, 2012)

New York, Part 1 – Manhattan Baby (1982) and The New York Ripper (1982) Manhattan Baby “It’s boring.” ** out of *****/The New York Ripper “Sleazy as hell.” ** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until August 16, 2011)

New York, Part 2 – Buffalo 66 (1998) “Quite the filmmaking debut” *** 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until September 30, 2012)

North Carolina – Junebug (2005) “Perfectly acceptable filmmaking” *** out of *****

North Dakota – Wooly Boys (2001) “Baaaaaad…” * out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until April 1, 2012)

Ohio – Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990) “It’s not as good as you remember it.” ** out of *****

Oklahoma – Dillinger (1973) “Quite entertaining if for nothing else than the performances.” No rating (Guest column)

Oregon – The Goonies (1985) “One of the greatest adventure films of all time” **** out of *****

Pennsylvania – Mannequin (1987) “Stupid, harmless fun” ** 1/2 out of *****

Rhode Island – American Buffalo (1996) “If you’re a fan of Dennis Franz or Dustin Hoffman … check this out.” *** out of *****

South Carolina – The Big Chill (1983) “If you’re one of the few people left who hasn’t seen The Big Chill, check it out.” *** 1/2 out of *****

South Dakota – Skins (2002) “There’s a lot to like here.” *** out of ***** (Click here to add this to your Netflix instant queue.) (Available until August 1, 2011)

Karen Black in Nashville

Tennessee – Nashville (1975) “A classic 1970s film with a message that still resonates today.” **** out of *****

Texas – Talk Radio (1989) “An overlooked classic” *** 1/2 out of *****

Utah – Rubin & Ed (1991) “A wealth of quotable lines … it’s certainly original.” ** 1/2 out of *****

Vermont – The Trouble With Harry (1955) “It stinks a little.” ** out of *****

Virginia – What About Bob? (1991) “At the end of the day, it’s just a dumb comedy.” ** 1/2 out of *****

Washington – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) “I love the way the film looks and feels.” *** out of *****

West Virginia – Chillers (1987) “Some things are better off buried.” 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to watch this on YouTube.)

Wisconsin – The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) “Extra effort deserves special recognition.” * 1/2 out of ***** (Click here to watch this on YouTube.)

Wyoming – The Mountain Men (1980) “It’s offensive. It’s predictable. It’s kind of entertaining.” ** out of *****

Part Three – Didja Know?

Didja know that this t-shirt, featured in What About Bob? is available for purchase at http://www.founditemclothing.com?

You probably knew that there haven’t been many movies made in Delaware and Wyoming compared with the rest of the country, but didja know that I had a bitch of a time finding a movie that was both filmed and set in Virginia? Didja know that most of the time Virginia is used as a filming location, it’s to stand in for Washington, D.C.? I finally settled for What About Bob? which was filmed entirely in Virginia, although the story takes place in New Hampshire.

Didja know that David Carradine shows up in two of the lowest rated movies on this list: Idaho Transfer and Wooly Boys? Didja know that Peter Fonda directed Idaho Transfer, as well as starred in Wooly Boys? Filmmakers, takes note: if you want to make a movie that isn’t terrible, do not hire David Carradine and Peter Fonda!

Speaking of Idaho Transfer, didja know that if you rent Idaho Transfer from Netflix, your name automatically goes into a central database of potential sex offenders organized by the FBI? Seriously. Kelly Bohanon, who appears topless in the movie, can’t be a day over 15. Shame on you, Mr. Fonda. Just kidding. But, still … shame on you.

Didja know this is awesome?

Speaking of nudity, didja know that Showgirls is one of two movies rated NC-17 to appear on this list? The other movie is Happiness. Didja know that Happiness was one of my favorite movies on the list while Showgirls was one of my least favorite? It sucks!

The bottom of the barrel, the one star films: Showgirls, Wooly Boys, Abby and Idaho Transfer. Didja know none of these movies are as bad as Chillers?

The best of the best: The Conversation, The Straight Story, The Verdict and Nashville, all ****!

Didja know it’s much easier to tear a movie down than talk about one you love? Try it! For me, a really good movie is a movie that leaves me speechless — or maybe I’m just a really negative person.

Didja know that 50 More Movies for 50 States: The All-80s Edition is coming soon?


6 responses to “50 Movies for 50 States: The Grand Wrap-Up

  1. what does it take for a movie to get 5 stars? i would have easily given goonies 5, but that one’s so deeply ingrained in me that the rating would be too subjective for this site. you know, grew up on it, etc. etc.

    too subjective ’cause we’re a bunch of smarmy jerks with no souls.


  2. I don’t know. I pulled those ratings out of my ass for the most part. I guess I’m just not inclined to give something five stars, just like I’m not inclined to give it no stars. Chillers got 1/2 a star but it was really that bad, as in, completely void of any redeeming value.


  3. that’s ok – i don’t think there’s much out there that deserves 5 for real anyway. this is ryan.


    ps – ryan’s my name.


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