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The 10 Best Movies Set in Boston and Beyond, Ranked

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Growing up in the greater Boston area, I’ve always had a soft spot for films set there. The films hit home a little harder and I always feel like I can relate to them on a better level compared to other films. So I decided to rank them and give you what I think are the best movies set in Boston and the surrounding areas.

Before we get into the list, there will definitely be some HOT takes. Please keep in mind this is just my list, so please go see these films and form your own opinions. Additionally, I will not be including films like The Social Network and Shutter Island because I don’t consider them Boston-oriented movies. Now let’s get into the 10 best movies set in the Boston area.

10. CODA

The most recent Best Picture winner makes the cut. CODA (or child of deaf adult) is, well, about a child of deaf adults. Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing person in her family, and when her family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby is stuck between a rock and a hard place having to choose between her passion for singing and her fear of leaving her parents. This one is tough to dislike, it’s sweet and has so much heart, which is a key reason why I believe it took home the coveted Best Picture prize at the 94th Academy Awards. The film is located in Gloucester, Massachusetts which is one of the fishing hotspots on the North Shore. It also features some key scenes in the heart of Boston and captures what a classic North Shore, blue-collar family looks like.

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9. The Boondock Saints

This movie is wild. The first time I saw this not only did I laugh hysterically but it was incomparable to anything I’ve seen before.

Two Irish Catholic brothers seek to eliminate Boston’s criminal underground all in the name of God. Sounds silly because it absolutely is (and the film being set in Boston is just a bonus). Additionally, Willem Dafoe is in this movie and gives the goofiest performance I’ve ever seen. If you take this as a serious action movie then you are watching it wrong. This film is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, so crack a beer, grab your buddies and get ready to laugh your asses off. 

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8. Ted

Are you really from Boston if you dislike this movie? John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has to navigate moving on from his best friend who also happens to be a raunchy teddy bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane in order to keep his relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) afloat.

This movie is SO Boston. From the hardcore accents, constant references to sports teams, and famous Boston locations used throughout, this whole movie just screams BOSTON. As far as the film goes, it’s everything you’d expect from the mind of Seth MacFarlane. Imagine Family Guy but five times as raunchy. A few jokes don’t fly here and there but for the most part, you’ll be quoting this film for a while…just like myself and my brother have been since we first saw it.

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7. Gone Baby Gone

One of Ben Affleck's best-directed films, Gone Baby Gone is a gritty crime mystery that’s full of surprises. When a little girl disappears and the police make little headway in figuring out the case, the girl’s aunt hires two detectives, who are experienced with the tough Boston neighborhoods, to figure out what exactly is going on. It doesn’t do anything too bold, which is why it is lower on this list than some would expect to see, but it is undoubtedly very solid. If looking for a good detective story set in the Boston area with some tricks up its sleeve, definitely try seeking this one out.

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6. Patriots Day

Debatably Peter Berg’s best, Patriots Day follows the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the days following the attack. One thing I do agree with is that this could’ve waited a few more years before being made. Only being three years after this tragic event was a little too soon but, nevertheless, it takes the subject matter extremely seriously. It does an excellent job of telling the story (even if some of the plot elements and characters are fake,) while keeping the audience entertained in the manhunt for the terrorists. It’s very emotional talking about this subject matter after living through it, but when regarding this film, it’s definitely a very important movie and the city and citizens of Boston will always be BOSTON STRONG.  

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5. The Fighter

Writer and Director David O. Russell brings us an amazing true story about a boxer on the rise, Micky Ward (Mark Whalberg) who’s trying to escape his troubled, older boxing brother, Dicky’s (Christian Bale) shadow. This movie is full of great performances but Christian Bale is by far the standout. He is at the top of his game here and it’s no surprise that he received an Academy Award for his role in this film. It takes place in gritty Lowell Massachusetts which, at the time, was a crime-ridden area. If you're seeking a great story with even better performances, look no further than The Fighter.

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4. Spotlight

The shocking true story about how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and the cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. This is a damn near-perfect movie but it all starts with the brilliant script. The writers do a great job at carefully articulating the order of events that lead to the discovery and when they are mashed up within the film, it all fits cohesively well. I know I said it’s perfect, but the only reason I wouldn’t put it higher is its rewatchability value.

Yes, the film is captivating, but do you really want to watch a film over and over again that revolves around child pedophilia…no not really. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic journalistic, Boston flick that thoroughly deserves its Academy Award for Best Picture.

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3. Good Will Hunting

How ‘bout them apples? I know most were potentially expecting this to be at my number one slot. Don’t get me wrong, everything about this film is awesome and the concept completely works. But, something about it always feels a little off to me. I’m not sure if it’s the ending or the overall blandness feeling the film gives off, but I’ve just never been able to love this movie. Although, clearly I am still a huge fan of the film since it’s this high on my list. It has a fantastic cast with young Matt Damon playing the lead, and Robin Williams in his prime, and uses the Boston setting brilliantly to its advantage. I'll keep giving it chances but honestly, I don’t see any movie passing these next two on my list…ever. 

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2. Manchester by the Sea

Go ahead and call this a hot take, but I love this movie. It might be because I grew up in a town close to Manchester, Massachusetts, and still have buddies who live there, but this film completely blew me away. It all starts with the brilliant writing and direction from Kenneth Lonergan. He manages to create a film so realistically emotional and doesn’t shy away from showing the viewer what it’s like to deal with loss, sadness, and depression. The film is a slower watch for sure, but the pacing is earned and fits extremely well with the tone of the film. 

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1. The Departed

You might be shocked that films like The Town or Mystic River aren’t on this list. Call me crazy but they just don’t resonate with me one bit. On the other hand, The Departed is a fantastic Boston film and one of Martin Scorsese’s best films to date that I can’ stop thinking about. The one thing that stands out to me about this film that helps elevate it to the stratosphere is the editing. It’s extremely quick and tight yet somehow smooth all at the same time, linking the storylines together in a beautiful and cinematic fashion. I also find it funny how this is the fourth movie featuring Mark Whalberg on this list. Coincidence? I think not.

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