“What’s the best movie set in every state?”
We got as far as California before realizing the utter futility of the conversation.
“Chinatown!” “Boogie Nights!” “Rebel Without a Cause!” “Double Indemnity!” “Drive!” “Lebowski!”
And around we went, voices raising in pitch and volume with each title, until someone said something about someone else’s mother and we had to take five. So picking the best movie from every state was out. But nobody likes a quitter and the conversation was a good one. So we reframed the criteria and began anew.
One movie, each state, and the lesson you took away from it. A cinematic self-help canon, if you will. Yeah. That sounded achievable. So we continued. What follows: the fruits of our loud-voiced labor.
Alabama: To Kill a Mockingbird
Every life is worth protecting.
Alaska: The Grey
If you're gonna go out, go out on your feet.
Arizona: Raising Arizona
"You're young and you got your health, what you want with a job?"
Arkansas: Sling Blade
There aren't that many great movies set in Arkansas.
California: Boogie Nights
Love is harder than sex.
Colorado: The Shining
Stop typing and go play with your kid.
Connecticut: Revolutionary Road
Do not pursue anyone's idea of success but your own.
Delaware: Fight Club
Be your own hero.
Fight for what's yours — but don't be greedy.
Bring a sat phone on the canoe trip.
Hawaii: The Descendants
Legacy > Money
Idaho: Napoleon Dynamite
Gotta let the big game go.
Illinois: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Indiana: Breaking Away
Sometimes winning looks like failing. Also, this is a better movie than Hoosiers.
Iowa: Field of Dreams
Spend time with the people who love you while you can.
Kansas: The Outlaw Josey Wales
The true hero knows when to seek revenge, and when to deliver mercy.
Kentucky: The Insider
Recognize the cost of speaking truth to power; speak it anyway.
Louisiana: 12 Years a Slave
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.
Maine: In the Bedroom
Nature can be cruel. Prepare accordingly.
Maryland: The Blair Witch Project
If you're standing in a corner in a stranger's basement, and that stranger is a ghost, and that ghost killed his family ... leave that basement.
Massachusetts: The Departed
"When you decide to be something, you can be it."
Michigan: American Pie
Don’t take people so literally.
Minnesota: Purple Rain
Listen to your own voice. Especially if that voice sounds like Prince.
Mississippi: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Friends stick together.
Missouri: Winter's Bone
Stand by your family. Also, don't do meth.
Montana: A River Runs Through It
"All good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — came by grace."
Pretty much everything can be worked out on a road trip.
Nevada: The Godfather: Part II
New Hampshire: What About Bob?
"There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't."
New Jersey: Clerks
Terrible jobs are great if they can launch your film career.
New Mexico: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
"There's two kinds of people: those with loaded guns, and those who dig."
New York: Goodfellas
"Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut."
North Carolina: Bull Durham
The wisdom of a veteran > promise of youth
North Dakota: Fargo
"There's more to life than a little money."
There's a line between being the cool guy in the leather jacket and being a sociopath.
Oklahoma: The Outsiders
Oregon: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Freedom comes at a price.
Keep moving forward.
Rhode Island: There's Something About Mary
"The most honest moment in a man's life are the few minutes after he's blown his load. The reason for it is that you're no longer trying to get laid."
South Carolina: Glory
When institutions fail you, fight for your friends.
South Dakota: Badlands
It’s called jailbait for a reason
Beware the populist.
Texas: Dazed and Confused
"Alright, alright, alright" really is a workable life thesis.
Utah: 127 Hours
Hike with a buddy.
Vermont: Dead Poets Society
Teachers don’t make enough money.
Virginia: Donnie Darko
Sometimes you've gotta investigate the scariest thing in the room.
Washington: Say Anything
The right girl is worth the plane ticket.
West Virginia: The Night of the Hunter
Kids can’t keep secrets.
Wisconsin: Tommy Boy
"Brothers don't shake hands. Brothers gotta hug."
Wyoming: Brokeback Mountain
Love comes in many forms.