I often wonder how movies get their titles. Was it the screen writer that chose the movie title, or the producer? Was it chosen with a commercial aim, was it random?
I am not sure how much the movie titles matter. I, for one, forget them easily. But, when you get it right, you really get it right. And this is particularly true to movies with a city name in the title. There is the risk that it will sound generic and superficial, but you do it right and your movie will become an unforgettable multi-dimensional experience where the city is a character on its own.
For this article, I have chosen my personal favorites – movies that I will not forget not only because of their titles, but because of their cinematic value.
To make it easier on myself, I have only focused on movie titles with USA cities/states, but stay tuned for more…
9. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club is certainly a great movie and it has well deserved all the good reviews. But, what makes it a truly authentic and memorable experience is the brilliant acting. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s physical and emotional transformation is remarkable and got them an Oscar each.
Location: Surprise, the movie is set in 1985 Dallas but was mainly shot in New Orleans, Louisiana.
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Martin McDonagh’s heartfelt drama is one of the best movies in the recent year. A combination of strong acting, and brilliant screenplay and directing, will take you on a memorable journey of emotions. The movie title itself seems a strange (and rather long) choice until you watch the movie. And then, you cannot imagine naming it differently.
Location: Ebbing Missouri is not a real city, the movie was shot in various locations on North Carolina.
7. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Many movies take place in Los Angeles, not that many have the city name in their titles. L.A. Confidential is one of the most recognized ones. It is a fascinating tale about life in the big city, with the glamour and darkness, ambition, corruption, and violence.
Location: The movie was indeed shot in L.A, including locations such as the famous Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood.
6. Philadelphia (1993)
Philadelphia is one of the iconic movies of the 90s – both very relevant to that decade and much ahead of its time, dealing with the topics of HIV, homophobia, discrimination.
The movie also brought us the legendary song “The Streets of Philadelphia” written and performed by Bruce Springsteen – a song that will probably outlive us all.
Location: Yes, many scenes of the movie were shot on the streets of Philadelphia.
5. Paris, Texas (1984)
Paris, but not that European capital of fashion, wine and love. It is Wim Wanders’s Paris, Texas that is a dark, slow and deep movie about the human emotions of grief, despair and longing. It is a true cinematic experience and one of Wanders’s best movies in my opinion.
Location: Although the city of Paris exists, the movie was not filmed there, but in various other places in Texas and California.
4. Gangs of New York (2002)
There are many movies that have “New York” in their title, but I think that Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York is the most iconic one. And I would not go too far if I say that it is also one of the best in the director’s filmography and in the genre itself.
The location: The movie was shot in Cinecittà Studios in Rome where the production designer Dante Ferretti and his crew built recreation of New York’s Five Points district.
3. Chicago (2002)
Talking about big American cities, there is Chicago. This movie is a cinematographic masterpiece – authentic atmosphere, moving performances, beautiful music, and gorgeous costumes. Furthermore, here the city of Chicago has a real presence and it is not just a background, but as much a part of the storyline as the main characters.
The location: This may come as a surprise, but Chicago was not even filmed in the USA. The movie was shot in Toronto, Canada.
2. Fargo (1996)
I think Fargo is the movie that best reflects Joel and Ethan Coen’s work – it is smart, serious and hilarious all at once, dark, chaotic, human but unpredictable. It is an absolute treat to all cinephiles.
The location: Although the city of Fargo exists, none of the scenes were actually filmed there. The movie was shot in other locations in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
1. Arizona Dream (1993)
Talking about US States-named movies, Arizona Dream is the one that will always pop-up first in my mind. This is a bit ironic since the film is not even directed by American director, but by the European legend Emir Kosturica. However, if you have to choose just one to watch from my list, this should be the one.
I guess the movie is the European perception about America, and the notion of the American dream. And, as any Kusturica movie, it indeed deals with political and social themes. However, for me, the movie goes far beyond that into the depths of concepts such as freedom, fear, self-understanding, self-realization, and of course love. Arizona Dream is a true masterpiece – complex, artistic, super emotional.
The location: Many of the scenes in the movie were actually filmed in Arizona.