In times of need, I go to the movies. On Monday night, after the initial shock and devastation of the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred just four blocks away from my college dorm, had passed, what I needed was distraction. So I settled in on the couch, made a bag of popcorn, and illegally streamed The Iron Giant onto my computer. Unfortunately, even the 1999 animated classic couldn’t hold my attention. All I could think about was Boston. I thought not only about the day’s attacks, but about all the things I loved about the city – the warmth of its people, the vibrancy of its culture, even the bitterness of its winters. There’s something special about Boston. I’ve only lived here eight months, but already, I’m completely, hopelessly in love. It’s terrible to see the city become a place of terror and violence instead of a center of light and love, but I have no doubt that we’re resilient enough to rebuild. In honor of this city, here are my five favorite movies set in or around Boston:
1. Good Will Hunting
This is the ultimate Boston movie. First, you have the locations. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s characters are from Southie (South Boston for all you foreigners). Damon works as a janitor at M.I.T. There are scenes at the Public Garden, Harvard Square, Woody's L St. Tavern. It doesn’t matter that the majority of the movie was actually filmed in Toronto. It feels like Boston, and that’s enough. Second, you have the accents – thick, unintelligible, distinctly Bah-ston accents apparent in each word that comes out of the characters’ mouths. Then, finally, there is the plot. The story of a brilliant but troubled math genius who rises through life with the help of his slacker best friend and a determined therapist, Good Will Hunting is the kind of feel-good success story that’s pure Boston.
2. The Fighter
Set in the Massachusetts town of Lowell, it’s not technically a Boston film, but I deem it close enough. It stars Bostonian Mark Wahlberg, and every character’s dialect is coated in a thick city accent. The Fighter is the inspiring, incredible true story of boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his brother/trainer, Dickie Ecklund (Christian Bale), as the former vies for the world welterweight title. It’s a powerful, hugely entertaining film, starring four of the best actors – Wahlberg, Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, of this generation.
3. The Departed
The Departed isn’t my favorite Scorcese film (that would be Hugo), but it holds a solid second place on my list. With an all-star ensemble including Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jack Nicholson, it’s a beautifully crafted thriller set right here in Boston. The film showcases everything from the city’s social class divide to its intense police force, all while making sure to highlight Boston’s unique beauty. It’s a fantastic film worth watching for a multitude of reasons, but my personal motive is the thrill of seeing my favorite actors walk past a T stop that’s visible from my bedroom window.
4. The Social Network
Mark Zuckerberg’s least favorite movie takes place largely at Harvard University, located, of course, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although most scenes weren’t actually shot at Harvard (they denied the on-location shooting request), The Social Network is still a uniquely Boston film. Scenes were shot at Boston University and in the suburbs of Newton and Andover, among other close locations, and nothing screams “Boston” like a bunch of frat boys freezing their butts off in the middle of winter.
5. The Abscam Project
Yes, I’m including David O. Russell’s still-untitled upcoming film, which is currently being filmed in and around Boston and is set to be released in December. Some might say it’s too soon to tell if the movie will be any good, but I beg to differ. I have enormous trust in Russell, whose prior achievements include The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Plus, I stood outside the film’s trailers for an hour last week in the freezing cold trying to get a glimpse of one of its stars, so if the movie doesn’t deliver, I’ll be real pissed. What we know of the film isn’t much, but it’s enough to peak my interest. The Abscam Project follows the true story of a 1970 con artist, and just the collective talent of the cast alone – Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Louis C.K. – makes me confident that this will be the film of 2013.
Honorable Mentions: Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Legally Blonde, Ted
This article was originally published on TheReelist.com.