Movie Stereotypes Based on the States

An Irish guy in a pub? Must be a movie in Massachusetts.

A giant chunk of movies are filmed in New York and California. In fact, they dominate cinema so much that films based in other specific states tend to stand out. And patterns start to emerge when films take place in those specific states. For instance…

If the film is based in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas… the characters will almost certainly be “rugged”, and weather-worn. They’re liable to be wearing cowboy boots or some kind of flannel shirt. Jeans are a must. Women’s faces will be dirty, and they will have sharp features. They’ll be strong and overcome adversity.
Example: A River Runs Through It

If the film is based in Louisiana… voodoo will be involved. Cajuns will play a key role. Jazz and blues will be all over the soundtrack. Also, someone might be the devil.
Examples: Angel Heart, Skeleton Key

I reckon not everyone from Missouri and Arkansas talks this'a way.


If the film is based in Missouri or Arkansas… the characters are going to have thick, over the top drawls. They probably aren’t going to be very bright, either. Meth might be involved. Someone will mention a rodeo. Whatever town they’re in will have a population of 20,000 people or less.
Examples: Winter’s Bone, Slingblade

If the film is based in Mississippi or Alabama… see Missouri and Arkansas. Additionally, the characters will be violently racist regardless of whether or not it’s a period piece. Also, at some point, you will hear the hum of cicadas and see an oppressively humid day. Nobody will be happy.
Examples: Mississippi Burning, To Kill a Mockingbird

If the film is based in Maryland… John Waters filmed it, and it’ll be based in Baltimore. Highjinx will ensue.
Example: Everything John Waters has ever made

If the film is based in Washington… if it’s in Seattle, the characters will be trying to find themselves. If it’s not based in Seattle, the characters will work in the lumber industry.
Examples: Singles, Dancer in the Dark

If the film is based in Iowa or Nebraska… the characters will have home-spun wisdom. They probably live on a farm. Like Mississippi and Alabama films, you’ll hear the hum of cicadas at some point but it’ll be while looking at a wide-angle shot of some corn. If you don’t see a tractor at some point in the movie, you should ask for your money back.
Example: Field of Dreams

If the film is based in Indiana… everything will be the exact same as films based in Iowa or Nebraska except you are 10 times more likely to see either college or high school basketball. You’re also likely to see baseball period pieces that were filmed where I did my internship when I worked in professional baseball (A League of their Own, Soul of the Game).
Example: Hoosiers

You want to talk quirky? That's a 1994 NFC Wild Card commemorative shirt that he's wearing there.


If the film is based in Wisconsin or Minnesota… the characters will have funny accents, and act quirky. Sometimes, it’s quirky and charming (Grumpy Old Men) but other times, it’s just quirky and odd (Fargo). There’s a 25% chance it will have been filmed by the Coen brothers.
Example: American Movie

If the film is based in Illinois... and it’s not taking place in Chicago, then it’s about Abe Lincoln or Michael Myers.
Example: Halloween, Abe Lincoln in Illinois

If the film is based in Texas or Tennessee… characters will hang out in honkytonk bars. Someone may be a country musician. An inordinate amount of people will wear cowboy hats, boots, and wear shirts that makes them look like rockabilly singers.
Example: Nashville, Blood Simple

If the film is based in Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire… it will take place during the fall. There’s also a high likelihood that the subject matter will be horror-related, often because Stephen King’s literature will be the source material. Locals will be leery of outsiders. The protagonists will live among nature, probably on a lake.
Examples: Stand by Me, On Golden Pond

If the film is based in Rhode Island… then it’s probably a Farrelly Brothers movie, because they seem to make the only movies ever based in Rhode Island.
Examples: Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary

If the film is based in Massachusetts… everyone will be Irish and drink a lot. You’ll see a Red Sox hat at some point, even if it’s based somewhere besides Boston. Characters will typically work inner-city manual labor type jobs, live a hard life, and drink a hard life. Other than actors who are originally from Massachusetts like Mark Wahlberg and Ben Affleck, the accents will be way off.
Examples: The Fighter, Mystic River

If the film is based in Nevada… then gambling and excessive living will be involved. There’s also a decent chance you’ll hear from the mafia.
Example: Casino, Leaving Las Vegas

If the film is based in Kentucky… it’s going to be about horses.
Examples: Dreamer, Secretariat

If the film is based in South Carolina it’s going to be about either the Civil War or the Revolutionary War.
Examples: The Patriot, Glory

If the film is based in Virginia… the FBI or CIA will be involved. You’ll either see gratuitous shots of federal monuments, or smokey mountains.
Examples: Arlington Road, Silence of the Lambs

If the film is based in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or West Virginia… the characters are likely going to be blue-collar, drink generic or mass-produced beer, and work in factories. The women will be strong and the men- the extras, anyway- will have mustaches. The biggest exception are movies that revolve around the Amish, who aren’t reading this right now.
Examples: Tommy Boy

If the film is based in Kansas… unless it’s The Wizard of Oz, then it’s probably boring and I haven’t seen it.
Examples: N/A


Filed under Movies

16 responses to “Movie Stereotypes Based on the States

  1. heyzeus

    This is excellent. That’s my only comment.

    • Thanks, Zeus. I wish I could’ve done the full 50 states, but I couldn’t think of a single movie I’d seen based in places like Oregon or Delaware.

      • heyzeus

        For Delaware, the solution is obvious: the only memorable scene in film history in, or about, Delaware.

        Wayne: “Hi. I’m in Delaware.”

        For Oregon:
        The film you are watching is The Goonies. It is the only Oregon-based film, ever.

      • Pedro

        Stand by Me, which you have erroneously listed as set in New England, is in fact, set in Castle Rock, Oregon.

  2. Stu

    I think it would be interesting to look at where the movie characters are from originally. I’ve found that in a great number of films (including science-fiction and war dramas) the characters wandered out from the Ohio valley. I can only think the reason for this, with sci-fi anyhow, is the whole John Glenn/Neill Armstrong/Wright Brothers angle. As for military, Ulysses S. Grant might have something to do with that.

    • That’s a great idea re: where characters are from. As for the Ohio Valley, don’t forget the Presidential angle. I have no clue if it has anything to do with why screenwriters would choose the Ohio Valley, but Ohio has an inordinate amount of natives who became president.

      I get the feeling that the stereotypes that I’ve identified that are most accurate are the stereotypes about places I’ve lived. Specifically, Minnesota/Wisconsin and Missouri.

  3. rtm

    Ahah, fun list John. Totally agree about the accent on movies set in MN, either that or some references that we live in igloos!

  4. Kelly

    I’m surprised that you say Wisconsin is one of states with the most accurate stereotypes you’ve identified. Being a Wisconsinite (or whatever the hell we’re called), I have yet to hear anyone sound like the characters from Fargo. Even when Seth McFarlane made a reference in an episode of Family Guy, I was like, “Huh…?” Is it just a northern thing? I’m from halfway between Madison and the Illinois border, and Steven’s Point is the farthest north I’ve ever been. BTW, I do really like this post. My fav was Maryland. It’s so true!

    • Ah, I wasn’t very clear there. I just meant that I feel comfortable that my characterization of the Hollywood stereotype is accurate- that movies about Wisconsin and Minnesota tend to fit my description well. And the same goes for Missouri.

      I couldn’t agree more about people messing up the Wisconsin accent in movies and TV. The imitiations they have in Family Guy (and any of the McFarlane shows) are the worst- they’re nowhere near accurate. I laugh at them, they’re funny to me, but I’ve never heard people sound like that.

  5. Don

    Here are a few Oregon Movies. I’m surprised you didn’t know Animal House was filmed in Eugene and based on a fraternity at the University of Oregon.

    Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
    The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)
    A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
    All the Young Men (1960)
    American Taboo (1982)
    Animal House (1978)
    AntiTrust (2001)
    The Apple Dumpling Gang (2001)
    Ask Me No Questions (2001, TV)
    Assassins (1995)
    Bandits (2001)
    Batman Forever (1995)
    The Bed You Sleep In (1993)
    Bend in the River (1952)
    Beyond the Pale (2001)
    The Big One (1997)
    Birddog (1999)
    Blast (2000)
    Blood Song (1982)
    Body Language (1992, TV)
    Body of Evidence (1993)
    Bongwater (1998)
    Border to Border (1998)
    Brain Smasher… A Love Story (1993)
    Breakaway (1996)
    Breaking In (1989)
    Broken Noses (1987)
    Bronco Billy (1980)
    A Change of Heart (1998, TV)
    Child of Darkness, Child of Light (1991, TV)
    Chrome Soldiers (1992, TV)
    City Girl (1930)
    Claire of the Moon (1992)
    Come See the Paradise (1990)
    Corpse Bride (2005)
    Cosas Que Nunca Te Dije (1996)
    Cry for the Strangers (1982, TV)
    Dead Air (1999)
    Dangerous Pursuit (1990, TV)
    Deadly Game (1991, TV)
    Deafula (1974)
    Deception: A Mother’s Secret (1991, TV)
    Dimension of Blood (1996)
    Don’t You Cry For Me (2002)
    Down and Out With the Dolls (2001)
    Dr. Giggles (1992)
    Drinking Games (1998)
    Drive, He Said (1971)
    Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
    Duplicates (1992, TV)
    The Dust Factory (2003)
    Elephant (2003)
    Emperor of the North Pole (1973)
    Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
    Fade to Black (1993, TV)
    Fast Mail, Northern Pacific Railroad (1897)
    Fatal Exposure (1989)
    Fatal Exposure (1991, TV)
    Fatal Revenge (1990)
    Fifteen and Pregnant (1998, TV)
    Final Justice (1996)
    Final Justice (1998)
    Finish Line (1989, TV)
    Fire! (1977, TV)
    Fire in the Sky (1993)
    First Love (1977)
    Five Easy Pieces (1970)
    Flames (1926)
    The Flash (1923)
    Flood! (1976, TV)
    Forest Warrior (1996)
    Foxfire (1996)
    The Four Diamonds (1995, TV)
    Free Willy (1993)
    Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995)
    Frozen Assets (1992)
    The General (1927)
    Getting Straight (1970)
    A Girl of the Limberlost (1990, TV)
    The Golden Trail (1920)
    Good Cops, Bad Cops (1990, TV)
    Good Grief (1998)
    Good Luck (1997)
    The Goonies (1985)
    The Goonies 2 (2005)
    Grand Tour: Disaster in Time (1992, TV)
    The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
    The Great Race (1965)
    The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
    Grizzly Mountain (1997)
    Guns on the Clackamas (1995)
    Halloweentown (1998, TV)
    Hard Luck (2001)
    The Haunting of Sarah Hardy (1989, TV)
    Hear No Evil (1993)
    Heaven and Earth (1987)
    Homer and Eddie (1989)
    Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
    Homewrecker (1992, TV)
    Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978)
    How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980)
    The Hunted (2002)
    Hysterical (1983)
    Imaginary Crimes (1994)
    Inconceivable (1998)
    The Indian Fighter (1955)
    Indigo (2004)
    Inherit the Wind (1988, TV)
    In the Land of the Setting Sun (1919)
    In the Line of Duty: Blaze of Glory (1997, TV)
    Iron Horse Rodeo (1992, TV)
    The Island at the Top of the World (1974)
    Isn’t it Shocking? (1973, TV)
    Johnny Bagpipes (1999)
    The Joyriders (1999)
    Just Before Dawn (1981)
    Kansas City Bomber (1972)
    Killing at Hell’s Gate (1981, TV)
    Kindergarten Cop (1990)
    The Last Innocent Man (1987, TV)
    Lineage (1997)
    The Longest Day of the Century (1994)
    Love at Large (1990)
    Love is Strange (1998, TV)
    Lost in the Stars (1974)
    Lost Horizon (1973)
    The Lusty Men (1952)
    Mackenna’s Gold (1969)
    Mal Noche (1985)
    The Marla Hanson Story (1991, TV)
    The Master of My Life (2002, TV)
    Maverick (1994)
    Men of Honor (2000)
    Mirrorball (1999)
    Monster in the Garage (1997)
    Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
    My Own Private Idaho (1991)
    Mystery Mansion (1986)
    Napoleon and Samantha (1972)
    Night Ride Home (1999, TV)
    “Nowhere Man” (1995-1996)
    The Old Oregon Trail (1928)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
    Oregon Passage (1957)
    Paint Your Wagon (1969)
    Park Avenue Logger (1937)
    Payback (1997, TV)
    Pay It Forward (2000)
    Perfect Family (1992, TV)
    Penalty Phase (1986, TV)
    Permanent Record (1988)
    Personal Best (1982)
    Pigs vs. Freaks (1984, TV)
    Pillars of the Sky (1956)
    “The PJs” (1999)
    A Place Apart (1999, TV)
    Point Break (1991)
    Portland Expose (1957)
    The Postman (1997)
    The Power Divine (1923)
    Praying Mantis (1993, TV)
    The Promised (1977, TV)
    Promise (1986, TV)
    Property (1978)
    Quarterback Princess (1983, TV)
    Rachel and the Stranger (1948)
    Reggie’s Prayer (1996)
    Reunion (1980, TV)
    The Ring (2002)
    The Ring 2 (2004)
    Ring of Fire (1961)
    The River Wild (1994)
    The Road to God Knows Where (1990)
    Roaring Rails (1924)
    Rooster Cogburn (1975)
    “Rough Crossing” (1997)
    Sacred Ground (1983)
    The Sea Gypsies (1978)
    Shadow Play (1996)
    Shattered (1991)
    The Shining (1980)
    Short Circuit (1986)
    Sisters (2005)
    Sleepwalking (2002)
    Sometimes a Great Notion (1971)
    Spirit of the Eagle (1989)
    Spy (1989, TV)
    Stand By Me (1986)
    Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    Steeletown (1979, TV)
    The Swarm (1978)
    Switched at Birth (1999, TV)
    Swordfish (2001)
    Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story (1999, TV)
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
    The Temp (1993)
    Three Warriors (1977)
    Thumbsucker (2003)
    To My Daughter With Love (1994, TV)
    Tonka (1958)
    Total Reality (1997)
    2612 South Ave. West (1997)
    Under Suspicion (1992)
    Under the Rouge (1925)
    Under Western Skies (1926)
    Visions (1989)
    The Vow of Vengeance (1923)
    The Way West (1967)
    Welcome to Woop Woop (1997)
    What the Bleep Do We Know (2004)
    Winds of Chance (1925)
    Without Limits (1998)
    Without Warning: Terror in the Towers (1993, TV)
    World Traveler (2001)
    Zero Effect (1998)
    Zero Tolerance (1994)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s