Top Ten Movies that Have Come from NJ

It is no wonder that New Jersey has inspired some of the greatest movies of all time. I mean, Thomas Edison invented motion picture technology in West Orange. Check out the following list of Awesome NJ inspired movies, in no particular order….

On the Waterfront (1954) – Arguably Marlon Brando’s magnum opus (well, he wasn’t too bad in The Godfather, either), this heart-wrenching noir -filmed throughout Hoboken but “set” in Brooklyn- about a troubled shipyard worker/mob informer, features the iconic line: “You don’t understand. I could’a had class. I could’a been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. “

Jaws (1975) – Oh, so you thought Peter Benchley’s novel and Steven Spielberg’s cinematic adaptation of the same name both stemmed from the rough waters of the New England beach resort areas? Well, the dirty Jerz, the summer of 1916 and one badass great white shark have something to say about that. And by “something to say”, I mean four fatalities and a near-death injury in an eleven day period. Cue the theme song!

Rocky (1976) – Speaking of Garden State legends, AwesomeNJ would be remiss not to include the Sylvester Stallone film tribute to New Jersey’s own “Bayonne Bleeder”, Chuck Wepner – the unlikely challenger for the heavyweight title who knocked down an overconfident Muhammad Ali in the process of going the distance with the champion of the world. Does this story ring a bell? That’s because a young Sly was in the crowd to watch this ’75 Bout near Cleveland, Ohio.

Cinderella Man (2005) – Why does the sport of boxing personify & embody the state of New Jersey so well? ‘Cause we’re a tough, gritty and working-class people. That’s why. This Ron Howard directed picture staring Russell Crowe as underachieving to overachieving fighting hero, James J. Braddock of Bergen, NJ is no exception (all he does in the film is beat the Great Depression for his family and an antagonistic boxer who previously killed a man. Nothing too epic here.).

The Wrestler (2008) – Ok, ok. I’m slowly weaning myself off of the Jersey-Boxing-Movie relationship. Wrestling will help make that transition smooth & painless. Seriously though, how many times in this Darren Aronofsky film did you say to yourself “Hey, I’ve driven down that road!” or “Wait a minute! I’ve shopped in that convenience store!” Well, that’s probably because you did at one point or another. Rahway, Clark, standup!

Garden State (2004) – The directorial debut and coming of age story from the pride of South Orange, Zach Braff. Surprisingly, what makes this indie, cult favorite awesome – even more so than the various NJ settings made clear throughout, and, you know, Natalie Portman – is the immaculate Grammy award-winning soundtrack handpicked by the Scrubs star himself.

Big (1988) – Tom Hanks. New Jersey. Toys. Big is a winner.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Films set in New Jersey and Russell Crowe: Perfect Together. This psychological thriller – based on the true story of John Nash Jr. – does eventually deviate from the Garden State, but it’s in the numerous plot shaping scenes along the beautiful campus of Princeton University that we truly crawl into the belly of the beast that is this troubled and schizophrenic intellectual’s mind.

Clerks I & II (1994 & 2006) – Can a Jersey film list honestly be awesome without a large Kevin Smith presence? Hell, no. We are forever in debt to our friendly neighborhood Director/Silent Actor.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – This unlikely stoner film (Cherry Hill & Princeton aren’t exactly drug-use Mecca’s, a la San Francisco) tours our state and actually gives a semi accurate portrayal of the NJ night life. In some strange way…

By Brian Erhardt

What are your favorite NJ inspired movies?

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