There's a big difference between a movie simply set in Boston and a truly genuine "Boston movie."
Beantown natives and film buffs can easily spot a movie with enough Boston flair to color every aspect of the film. Some examples include the crime thriller 'The Departed' or the crime thriller 'The Boondock Saints' or the crime thriller 'Mystery Street' or ... you get the idea.
That means that movies set in Boston, like this year's 'The Social Network' or the Harvard comedy 'Legally Blonde,' don't count here. (Sadly, the author's personal favorite -- the unintentionally campy 'Southie: Toughest Neighborhood in America' -- had to be cut, too.)
With 'The Fighter' nominated for seven Oscars, Moviefone is counting down the 13 best Boston movies (in order), and yes, there's even one that isn't just about guns. Get ready for some wicked-good films.
13.'The Thomas Crown Affair'
Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway make a great pair in 'The Thomas Crown Affair.' The 1968 original is set in Boston and features a multimillionaire (McQueen) committing the "perfect crime" of robbing a bank. Dunaway plays an investigator who falls in love with Crown while closing in on him as a suspect. The 1999 remake starring Pierce Brosnan (and also local boy Denis Leary) is equally beloved but, alas, it was relocated to New York. How dare they!
'The Fighter,' starring Bostonian Mark Wahlberg, earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, and Best Supporting Actor for the uber-talented Christian Bale. Wahlberg plays real-life Lowell boxer Micky Ward, while Bale strikingly captures his drug-addled brother Dickie Ecklund. Adams is Ward's supportive girlfriend and Leo is his wacked-out mother. The film does its best to scream its Boston roots from the Roxbury rooftops but, though great, it falls short of another 2010 Boston drama ...
Ben Affleck, also a Boston native, directed this look at the inevitability of falling into the crime world in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. He plays a guy who doesn't want to rob banks or dally with overly-made-up hookers, but his life is on a downward spiral. Until he falls in love with a rich girl (Rebecca Hall) who is also the teller he kidnapped during a robbery. The movie, overshadowed by its lesser 2010 counterparty, 'The Fighter,' boasts great performances from Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively, even if you're not sure whom you're rooting for in the end.
10.'The Boondock Saints'
This 1999 crime thriller about Irish Catholic twins who become vigilantes after accidentally killing two Russian mobsters, has become a cult classic after it flopped at the box office. Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find a film student who didn't love the story of two "saints" who set out to rid Boston of evildoers all while being pursued by an FBI agent (Willem Dafoe). The film has inspired a documentary on the director's struggles with the studio and numerous DVD releases, plus a sequel and a comic book. Looks like the 'Saints' were good, after all.
9. 'Monument Ave.'
Boston native Denis Leary co-wrote and starred in 'Monument Ave.,' a 1998 film centered on the Irish mob in Charlestown and a small-time criminal (Leary) dealing with the town's "code of silence." Many movies based in Boston focus on the idea that locals don't want, or are afraid, to "snitch" on each other for crimes. But 'Monument Ave.' is more than just another gangster movie. It's one of the finest explorations of the area's crime culture -- something that could only be done by someone from Boston.
8.'Gone Baby Gone'
Starring Boston local Casey Affleck and directed by his brother Ben, 'Gone Baby Gone' is based on a novel by prolific Beantown writer Dennis Lehane. The 2007 film has two private investigators hunting down a missing 4-year-old girl in the grimy Dorchester neighborhood. Amy Ryan gives an amazing and haunting performance as the girl's neglectful mother, and the twist ending nailed audiences right in the gut -- and the heart.
This 1950 black-and-white film noir marks the first time Hollywood used Boston as a filming location. Scenes were shot in Cape Cod, Boston proper and on Harvard's campus. 'Mystery Street' earned a Best Original Story Oscar nomination and helped set the stage for the modern-day procedural crime drama. The markedly low budget didn't hinder the film's amazing performances and brilliant attention to detail.
6. 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle'
Any movie starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle sounds like it can't lose, but 1973's 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' is especially good. Mitchum plays an aging, lowly gun-runner for the Irish mob who is about to be arrested. Instead, he becomes a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with disastrous results. The movie filmed all over Boston, using locations in Cambridge and a Bruins hockey game.
5. 'Next Stop, Wonderland'
There aren't many good romantic comedies set in Boston, a city that seems to inspire crime dramas first and foremost. But 'Next Stop, Wonderland' is a charming little indie that floored the Sundance Film Festival. In the 1998 film, Hope Davis and Alan Gelfant play a couple who fall in love on an MBTA subway train headed to the Wonderland stop, just outside of Boston. 'Next Stop, Wonderland,' co-starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, is an underrated rom-com and shows the kinder, gentler side of Boston.
'Mystic River,' based on another Lehane novel, was directed, scored and produced by Clint Eastwood. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscars, respectively, for the film, which was also nominated for Best Picture. One of the best crime dramas ever written about Boston, the film adaptation is just as, if not more, haunting and hypnotic. It's been called Eastwood's masterpiece, and we'd have to agree.
'The Verdict' has director Sidney Lumet and actor Paul Newman at their absolute best, which really says something. Newman plays an alcoholic lawyer taking on the Archdiocese of Boston, which runs a Catholic hospital where a woman is in a vegetative state. Boston's Catholic community is prominent and pervasive, and no film depicts its ineffable influence on the city like 1982's 'The Verdict.'
2. 'Good Will Hunting'
Over the last decade, 'Good Will Hunting' has become more identified with Boston than just about any other film, and it nearly hit no. 1 on this list. Matt Damon stars as a math genius working as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The film took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (the first for Damon and BFF co-writer Ben Affleck) at the 1998 Academy Awards, and it's still a classic and one of the best showcases of the thick class lines drawn throughout the city. How do you like them apples?
1. 'The Departed'
'The Departed' is our No. 1 choice because it captures everything audiences love about Boston. The 2006 Best Picture winner has a star-studded cast of natives, including Wahlberg and Damon, giving flawless performances. Plus, director Martin Scorsese breathtakingly explores the delicate balancing act between the Beantown police and the Irish mob. The direction, script, pacing and characters, led by an intense Leonardo DiCaprio and a frightening Jack Nicholson, were all near-perfect. Anyone who likes Boston movies should have 'The Departed' at the top of their list.