Top Ten Boston Movies, Part I: 10-6

This is a post I have wanted to write for a while now but have never done before for a variety of reasons- the main one being it has just slipped my memory. But I've been extremely bored these past few days ans I have finally gotten around to compiling a list of the best movies set in or around the Boston area. In the past few years and now decade there have been an influx of movies centered around Boston (and you will see, below, that the vast majority of this list are post 2003) and having been born in Boston and love ranking things I always wanted to create this post.

"What is a Boston Movie?" you may ask yourself. Well, good sir, here is my criteria. A few years back I came across a list of the best L.A. movies and one of their criteria was that the city itself had to be a character. This is my main factor I look for. There are movies in the bottom half of this list that I consider to be better films as a whole than some of the top half movies but because the city of Boston is not really a character in those movies, I chose to not rank them as high.

What I mean by the city of Boston as a character is that the actual characters in the movie are shaped because of their association with the city and the events, plot, and story line are advanced because of what the city has to offer. But mainly, the characters just have to have that stereotypical Boston accent where they say they have to p-ah-k the c-ah in H-ah-v-ah-d Y-ah-d. I think as you read through my list you'll get a better understanding of what I mean by this.

The other minor factor I included was how much did the movie take place in Boston. One last note: The movie itself did not have to take place in the actual city but the suburbs of the city sufficed and you still got the feel that it was a "Boston Movie" even though it took place in a surrounding neighborhood and not technically within the city limits.

The first three movies (movies 8-10) take place at Harvard and really do not fit within the typical "Boston Movie" mold that I believe the next seven do. With that being said, Boston has the greatest amount of Universities per square mile than anywhere else in the country. Even though the first three movies are not nearly as gritty as the rest, it is ignorant to think that just because a movie takes place at a college means that the movie does not exemplify what Boston is about.

10) Legally Blonde (2001)

While I am not a personal fan of this movie, I am also not closed minded to cut off its merit just because of my own tastes. I detest bluegrass music but I would put the soundtrack to "O Brother Where Art Thou" in my top five greatest movie soundtracks because I can differentiate between enjoyable and good. In an earlier episode of The Office, guest star and super hottie Amy Adams (who was playing Jim's girlfriend at the time) said the number one movie she would watch if she were stranded on a desert island was Legally Blonde. This was after Jim accosted Pam for saying the same thing earlier in the episode. Chicks love this movie and for that it earned the last spot on this list.

That reason plus I came up with the first nine and struggled to come up with a tenth that I had seen.

Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) as she goes from college sorority ditz to super smart lawyer at Harvard Law. Even if you don't like this movie or its appeal you still know the plot of the movie so I'm not going to go into it now (especially considering the movie became so popular it spawned a sequel and a Broadway musical where Christina Applegate played the role of Elle Woods). The one last thing I'll say about this movie is that the premise where Woods earns one of the highest LSAT scores a person can get just because there was a small montage of her studying pissed me off. As a person who is in law school and who studied his ass off to get the LSAT grade I did, a lot of studying does not equal a 179. But whatever, it's a movie.

9) The Paper Chase (1973)

Again, another movie about Harvard Law School but this was one I actually enjoyed. Maybe I liked this movie because I empathized with the character a lot. I don't know how much non-law school people would enjoy this movie, but considering how surprisingly little Boston movie choices there are and how much I liked this movie, I believe The Paper Chase deserves a spot on this list.

The movie mainly follows first year law student James Hart (Timothy Bottoms) as he struggles to balance law school under his strict Contracts professor Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman) with his personal life and sanity. As someone who had strict, sarcastic Contracts professor like a Professor Kingsfield and as someone who struggled to learn Contracts like James Hart did I felt for the main character and it made me really enjoy this movie.

In terms of a Boston Movie I think it exemplifies the academia side of Boston very well. Some of the best universities like Harvard, Tufts, Boston College, and Boston University are in Boston and are not easy to get into or stay in to and that struggle exists within The Paper Chase.

8) The Social Network (2010)

I love this movie.

But in terms of a Boston Movie it's probably the worst selection on the list. Once I got to these list picks I probably should have given up on the topic but what can I say, I'm not a quitter. Plus, the vast majority of the movie takes place at Harvard which is Boston.

I first thought that when we look back on the 2010 Oscars that we'll see just how screwed The Social Network got. I thought there was a generational gap where the younger generation loved The Social Network and the older generation loved The King's Speech but after talking to a lot of people my own age who loved The King's Speech over The Social Network I may be mistaken on how history will view this past Oscar.

Either way, I still love this movie and after seeing it 3 or 4 times I still can not stop raving about it.

7) The Town (2010)

Now we start getting into the "true" Boston Movies. Although I think out of all the movies on this list I liked The Town the least (and that includes Legally Blonde) and even though most of this movie takes place within the suburbs of Boston, the reason I put The Town #7 is because this is a true Boston Movie, through and through.

The movie follows a group of four friends / bank robbers as the leader of the gang Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) struggles to leave his gang of friends and best friend / fellow gang member James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) while falling in love with a bank teller (Rebecca Hall) whom the gang robbed and emotionally assaulted in a pretty cool opening shot (Although the greatest bank robbery / opening shot / opening shot with a bank robbery still belongs to The Dark Knight, but The Town has a pretty cool one nonetheless)

Throughout the movie the gang is being chased by FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm a.k.a. Don Draper) and the biggest part of the problem I had with this movie was Hamm's character. I love Mad Men and Hamm's guest spots on SNL, 30 Rock, and the movie Bridesmaids but I couldn't stand his FBI character. He was too cliche and it felt like Hamm phoned in his performance. I also have become a big fan of Affleck post Bennifer (and we'll see an example of this later in the list) but I thought the directing was good, just not good enough. There was just something off about this movie that made me want to like it but not able to like it.

The best part of this movie was Jeremy Renner who was on an acting hot streak with this and The Hurt Locker the year before. Renner earned the movie's sole Oscar nomination and I thought that was the only nomination the movie truly deserved.

As just a movie to see with your friends I do not recommend The Town, but in terms of a Boston Movie, this one is one of the best (and only).

6) The Boondock Saints (1999)

Let's do some gratuitous violence
-Murphy MacManus-

True, this quote actually comes from the Boondock Saints sequel, All Saints Day, but still holds true for its predecessor.

The movie follows two brothers Murphy (Norman Reedus) and Connor (Sean Patrick Flannery) MacManus as they destroy the mafia and gangs within Boston while being chased by FBI agent Paul Smeckler (Willem Dafoe). Does this plot sound familiar? All the awesome-ness The Town wanted to have turned up in Boondock Saints.

I feel everything Dafoe does is just amazing (sans Spider-Man where he was just OK and his creepy self). There are certain guys like Gary Oldman and John Malkovich that have just played creepy and awesome and weird characters throughout their entire career and yet have gone under the radar and Willem Dafoe I feel falls under that umbrella. I loved his character and my favorite line (and extremely politically incorrect) from this movie was said by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe's character is homosexual and after his partner /lover tries to cuddle with him as Dafoe goes to leave to catch Connor and Murphy he turns to his partner as says, "Cuddle? What a fag."

But the main part of the movie are the two brothers as there are many scenes with them filled with shoot outs, explosions, and killings. When you think of a quintessential guy movie The Boondock Saints have to be at the top of the list just because of all the aforementioned violence. Sometimes the character's thick Irish brood may be tough to hear but so was Brad Pitt in Snatch and I loved his character as well.

There are historically two main sects within Boston: The Irish and The Italians and the movie has the Irish attacking the Italians in true Boston fashion and does so to help The Boondock Saints to earn the #6 spot on this list.

Coming Up Next: Movies 1-5.

Considering how few Boston movies there are I'm sure you can guess at least what the five movies at least are, so now comments like, "How could you put Legally Blonde on this list and not so and so." Chances are "so and so" will be in the top five. Although I do expect some criticism, especially with a selection like Legally Blonde on the list and that's fine. Whatever. Haters gonna hate. Just please limit your comments to the selections themselves and no personal attacks will be tolerated.


Anonymous said...

Charlestown is most definitely not a "suburb" of Boston.