The Highest-Grossing Movie That Takes Place in Each State
Imagine "Goodfellas" without New York. Or "The Hangover" sans Nevada. A movie's geographic setting can be a character as vital as the human ones. So, in the interest of living-room trivia, we've scoured the box office receipts (courtesy of Box Office Mojo) and compiled a subjective list of the all-time global top-grossing movies set in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.
The Criteria: An effort was made to exclude what could be considered "road trip" movies, where characters cross several state lines in cinematic vignettes. However — and this is key — we've included a few flicks that may be largely set in another state or global locale yet feature what we've deemed scenes "key" to the plot. Also, a movie could only appear once.
Arguments are welcome, of course.
Alabama: 'Forrest Gump'
Worldwide gross: $678.1 million
The 1994 Academy Award Best Picture winner finds slow-witted yet kind-hearted Forrest Gump hopping all over the map — from Vietnam to Arizona's Monument Valley — but it's primarily set on Gump's home turf. Alabamians were quick to notice scenes set in the "Yellowhammer State" weren't filmed there, but rather Georgia, Virginia, and South and North Carolina. That mattered little to a global audience, who made it the top grosser of '94.
Alaska: 'The Proposal'
Worldwide gross: $317.4 million
A tyrannical Canadian book editor (Sandra Bullock) facing deportation from the U.S. forces her underling (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her in order to get a green card. To convincingly pull off the ruse, the couple travels to meet Reynolds' family living in the Southeast Alaska port town of Sitka. Cue the boy-hates-girl, boy-falls-for-girl rom-com formula that Tracy and Hepburn did far better.
As for the Alaska setting, Rockport, Massachusetts stood in for Sitka with the aid of CGI mountain-backdrop trickery. Critic Roger Ebert noted in his review, "Alaska might have been too real for this fantasy."
Arizona: 'A Star Is Born'
Worldwide gross: $434.9 million
In the latest blockbuster remake of this classic story, alcoholic singer-songwriter Jack Maine (Bradley Cooper) hails from Arizona, where he takes his up-and-coming singer wife Ally (Lady Gaga) to visit his boyhood ranch in a pivotal scene. Since the movie wasn't filmed in the Grand Canyon State, many Southern Californians will recognize what's supposedly the Arizona desert as an iconic, real-life locale near Palm Springs.
Arkansas: 'True Grit'
Worldwide gross: $252.3 million
The John Wayne classic got the Coen brothers treatment in this remake starring Jeff Bridges as Deputy U.S. Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn. Much of the action takes place in Arkansas and the historic "Indian Territory" (present-day Oklahoma). Yet the Coens opted to shoot the film in New Mexico and Texas to lend it a more classic Western look.
California: ‘Furious 7'
Worldwide gross: $1.516 billion
Throughout movie-location filming history, no city has stood in for other locales more than Los Angeles. In a trivia-worthy twist, the highest-grossing flick actually set in L.A. was not primarily filmed in the "Golden State," but rather Atlanta, Georgia. Yet Angelenos will recognize a few familiar home-turf backdrops like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Malibu.
Worldwide gross: $677.5 million
Dystopian-future Colorado sets the earthbound stage for this outer-space mind-bender by director Christopher Nolan, of "Inception" fame. Convincingly standing in for the "Centennial State," the Canadian province of Alberta served as the chief filming location.
Connecticut: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark'
Worldwide gross: $389.9 million
With Indiana Jones trotting the globe from Peru to Cairo, it's easy to forget we get acquainted with Indy in his day job as a bespectacled archaeology professor at Marshall College in Bedford, Connecticut. Here, he schools a pair of Army Intelligence agents (not to mention the audience) on the Ark of the Covenant. Best line: "Any you guys ever go to Sunday school?"
Worldwide gross: $150.2 million
The sleepy town of Madison, Delaware sets the stage for this kid-friendly horror flick that adults will find fairly entertaining as well. Jack Black leads the cast, which filmed not in Delaware, but Madison, Georgia.
Florida: ‘Men in Black 3'
Worldwide gross: $624 million
From "The Right Stuff" to "Apollo 13," several mega-money makers have blasted off from Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center. But the richest film to prominently feature the coastal Florida launch site is the third MiB installment, which time travels to the 1969 Apollo 11 launch for the flick's climax.
Georgia: ‘Gone With the Wind'
Worldwide gross: $402.3 million
We know what you're thinking. Since this list doesn't adjust the box-office take for inflation, how in the name of Clark Gable's ghost is this 1939 classic the biggest-ever money maker set in the Peach State?
Following the movie's original run, it has been re-released in U.S. theaters an additional ten times. Most recently, a limited two-day-only release in early 2019 celebrated the movie's 80th anniversary.
Worldwide gross: $529 million
Aloha, Godzilla! The 30th film in the franchise finds the "King of the Monsters" arriving on the island of Oahu and causing a tsunami before going mano a mano with the dreaded "MUTO" monster. The killer wave and brawling behemoths are CGI, but the Honolulu filming location is legit. The production even employed a few hundred locals as extras. Mahalo!
Idaho: ‘The River Wild'
Worldwide gross: $94.2 million
Meryl Streep, action hero? No one will blame you if this whitewater-rafting thriller set on Idaho's Salmon River has drifted from memory since the '90s. While Streep and villain Kevin Bacon turn in their usual fine performances, the plot isn't especially suspenseful. However, the knockout scenery (filmed in Montana and Oregon) and thrilling river-rafting scenes make for a fun, albeit wholly predictable ride.
Illinois: ‘Transformers: ‘Dark of the Moon'
Worldwide gross: $1.1 billion
According to the Transformers Cinematic Universe Wiki site, the movie's epic "Battle of Chicago" sequence is "a major battle of the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth during the Second Cybertronian Civil War." Translation: Giant robots tear each other apart and lots of stuff blows up real good.
Though critics savaged the flick, global audiences ate up enough of the headache-inducing CGI chaos to make it the second-highest-grossing picture of 2011, narrowly bested by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2."
Indiana: ‘The Fault in Our Stars'
Worldwide gross: $307.1 million
Keep Kleenex handy for this heartfelt weeper about two Indianapolis teenage cancer patients who fall in love and find meaning in life despite their terminal prognoses. Even if tearjerkers aren't your thing, the superb Shailene Woodley ("Big Little Lies") makes it worth watching for her acting alone.
Iowa: ‘Star Trek'
Worldwide gross: $385.6 million
Every Trekker worth their rubber Spock ears knows James T. Kirk was raised in Iowa. But it wasn't until J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot that fans finally got to see teen Kirk's rowdy, formative years on screen. Abrams also made Iowa the location of Starfleet's Riverside Shipyard, where the USS Enterprise is seen under construction.
For Trekkers looking to geek-out on a Midwest road trip, the real-life town of Riverside, Iowa honors its place in Trek lore with a Star Trek museum and an annual Trekfest celebration.
Kansas: ‘Man of Steel'
Worldwide gross: $668 million
Thirty-five years after the first modern "Superman" movie told the Man of Steel's origin story, this 2013 reboot of the franchise returned to Clark Kent's fictional hometown of Smallville, Kansas. This go-round, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Supe's adoptive parents, while the town of Plano, Illinois stands in for Smallville.
Kentucky: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle'
Worldwide gross: $410.9 million
International spy organization, Kingsman, heads to Kentucky to team up with their U.S. counterparts, Statesman, who keep things on the down-low by posing as bourbon distillers. Though none of the action-comedy was shot in the Bluegrass State, the film gave a movie tie-in-product boost to Kentucky's longstanding Old Forester bourbon brand. In business since 1870, the legendary distiller produced a special Statesman-label whiskey to match the one featured on screen.
Louisiana: ‘Captain Marvel'
Worldwide gross: $1.128 billion
A Kree warrior named Vers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), is captured in a battle, escapes and crash lands on Earth. Suffering from amnesia and haunted by a mysterious woman who appears in her recurring nightmares, Vers searches for clues to learn her own identity. With the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), she travels to meet the last person on Earth to see her alive, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch, pictured), in — you guessed it — Louisiana.
Worldwide gross: $700.3 million
Terrified of circus clowns? Welcome to the club. Based on Stephen King's novel, the highest-grossing horror film of all time finds demonic shapeshifter "It" (aka Pennywise the Dancing Clown) awakening from a 27-year hibernation to stalk and feed on the children of Derry, Maine. Yum!
A fictional town of King's invention, Derry has been the setting for several of his novels and short stories.
Maryland: 'Live Free or Die Hard'
Worldwide gross: $383.5 million
Yippee-ky-yay, Maryland. The fourth film in the 'Die Hard' series finds detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) determined to foil a cyber-terrorist attack that will bring the U.S. to its knees. Much of the shoot-em-up, punch-em-out action centers around an NSA facility in Woodlawn, Maryland — just outside Baltimore. Surprisingly, the mindless-action fun is a cut above other 'Die Hard' sequels, and the flick was indeed filmed in and around Baltimore.
Massachusetts: ‘War of the Worlds'
Worldwide gross: $591.7 million
In the big-screen history of outer-space alien attacks, it's no secret our otherworldly tormentors love to target major cities. In director Steven Spielberg's telling of the classic H.G. Wells tale, Boston and the world are laid waste as our hero (Tom Cruise) fights to save his family from Martian heat-ray incineration.
Michigan: ‘Beverly Hills Cop'
Worldwide gross: $316.3 million
Before street-savvy detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) departs gritty Detroit for a "vacation" in sunny Beverly Hills, we see him in his element. With Foley swinging from the back of a semi-truck full of contraband, the movie's opening police-chase sequence through the Motor City still excites, thanks in large part to excellent stunt-driving choreography and the Pointer Sisters' booty-shaking soundtrack song, "Neutron Dance."
Minnesota: ‘Inside Out'
Worldwide gross: $857.6 million
Eleven-year-old Riley is guided by her emotions, which we see play out within the confines of her mind as characters (Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness) — a concept introduced during Riley's happy Minnesota childhood. Inventive and funny, not only was "Inside Out" a monster hit for Pixar studios, many critics felt it should've been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Hear, hear!
Mississippi: ‘Django Unchained'
Worldwide gross: $425.3 million
Quentin Tarantino's black slavery-era Western (ahem, Tarantino prefers you call it a "Southern") spends its latter, blood-splattered half at a notorious Mississippi plantation named Candyland. In reality, the plantation exteriors were filmed at Wallace, Louisiana's Evergreen Plantation, which offers guided historical tours — minus Quentin's gory fantasies.
Missouri: ‘Gone Girl'
Worldwide gross: $369.3 million
Manhattan hipster couple Nick and Amy (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) lose their jobs, forcing their move to a ho-hum McMansion in the fictional town of North Carthage, Missouri, where they live not-so-happily ever after. When Amy goes mysteriously missing, the cops suspect Nick offed her for the life insurance money.
Director David Fincher, a stickler for detail, chose Cape Girardeau, Missouri to stand in for North Carthage because it most resembled the small-town setting described in the mega best-selling "Gone Girl" novel.
Montana: ‘Jurassic Park'
Worldwide gross: $1 billion
Before we're welcomed to the Velociraptor terrors of Jurassic Park in Costa Rica, the movie's early scenes introduce us to paleontologists Sam Neil and Laura Dern at a dino-dig site in the Montana badlands. Rather than haul the production crew from Hollywood to Big Sky Country, director Steven Spielberg shot the footage in Kern County, California's starkly beautiful Red Rock Canyon State Park — a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles.
Nebraska: ‘Up in the Air'
Worldwide gross: $166.8 million
George Clooney has the unenviable job of flying around the country and handling mass workplace layoffs for a human resources consulting firm based in Omaha. In other words, he fires people for a living. Released during the late-2000s' Great Recession, this sharp, timely rumination on the angst of modern life filmed its Nebraska airport scenes at Omaha's Eppley Airfield.
Nevada: ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'
Worldwide gross: $786.6 million
The Indy movie that never needed to be made and briefly gave rise to the phrase "nuking the fridge" (similar to "jumping the shark"), Crystal Skull unfolds at Nevada's infamous atomic-bomb test site. Cue some nonsense about "Hangar 51" alien mummies and Soviet double agents, and the fuse is lit for Indy to survive a nuclear blast by hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator.
Prior to the movie's release, George Lucas, who co-wrote the story, predicted "We're all going to get people throwing tomatoes at us." Um, ya' think?
New Hampshire: ‘Jumanji: ‘Welcome to the Jungle'
Worldwide gross: $962.1 million
In the third Jumanji picture, four New Hampshire teens serving after-school detention play an old video game that sucks them out of "Granite State" reality into the jungle world of Jumanji. In a body-switcheroo twist, the kids become their chosen video game avatars — from mega-muscled Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to schlubby archaeologist Jack Black.
Though it doesn't score high for originality, Jumanji is good, popcorny fun that might've raked in even more cash were it not pitted against "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" during the Christmas 2017 box office season.
New Jersey: ‘World War Z'
Worldwide gross: $540 million
Brad Pitt fights zombies in Newark? Sign us up!
While this zombie-apocalypse horror reel doesn't spend a ton of time in the Garden State, it is the setting for some key, early scenes of Pitt running a zombie gauntlet to save his family from the undead. Is it the best zombie movie ever? No. But a worthy, action-packed addition to the genre.
New Mexico: ‘Thor'
Worldwide gross: $449.3 million
Hammer-swinging Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cast from his home realm of Asgard for being an arrogant trouble-maker, and, via an inter-dimensional wormhole, deposited on Earth in New Mexico. Thor's pecs? Ripped! His hair? Terrific! The movie? Not so much.
On the scenic plus side, much of the filming took place in northern New Mexico's gorgeous high desert on the Cerro Pelon Ranch's Wild West movie set, near Santa Fe.
New York: ‘Avengers: Endgame'
Worldwide gross: $2.795 billion (and counting)
The top-grossing film of all time is also one of the year's best. As part of the movie's time-travel adventure heist, “Endgame” transports a team of our heroes to 2012 New York City for scenes that had fanboys geeking-out over MCU callbacks galore.
North Carolina: ‘Deep Impact'
Worldwide gross: $349.4 million
Robert Duvall is a living Hollywood legend, so we'll give him a pass for starring in this disaster-film dreck involving two massive comets hurtling toward Earth — one of them with North Carolina in the bull's-eye.
In the summer of '98, "Deep Impact" found the somewhat similar "Armageddon" (upcoming on this list) as its competition. Which flick won the box office brawl? Read on.
North Dakota: ‘Logan'
Worldwide gross: $619 million
Is this Eden? No, it's North Dakota.
The tenth movie in the X-Men series follows Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to a "Peace Garden State" refuge named Eden, where he plays shepherd to imperiled children, pops his claws and rips cyborg thugs to shreds. Not a single frame was filmed in North Dakota, prompting Twitter reactions wondering when one of the starkest states in the union suddenly sprung forests, soaring cliffs and mountains.
Ohio: ‘Toy Story'
Worldwide grosses, combined: $2.9 billion
On screen, it has never been made clear where the Toy Story movies are set. Most viewers accept the locale as "Anytown U.S.A." That is until 2010's "Toy Story 3" gave rise to the theory that Buzz Lightyear and the gang reside in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Say, whaa?!
If you look close, two scenes strongly suggest Andy is a student at Chagrin Falls High School, which also happens to be the alma mater of the movie's director, Lee Unkrich. Witness, a bumper sticker in Andy's bedroom shows a "Tigers!" football helmet, which is the school's mascot. Even more telling, the license plate frame on Andy's mom's minivan reads "Tiger Pride," while the plate itself has a number "18" sticker, which is the Ohio county code for Cuyahoga County, where the school is located. Case closed?
If you don’t buy it, Ohio’s next up is “Silence of the Lambs.”
Worldwide gross: $494.4 million
Naturally, the Sooner State's top grosser had to be "Twister." The studio planned for this flick about a group of tornado chasers to be filmed in California, but director Jan de Bont insisted it be shot in Oklahoma. Across the state, more than ten different towns were used as locations.
Oregon: ‘Kindergarten Cop'
Worldwide gross: $201.9 million
If you're going to set a movie in a coastal Oregon town, it's tough to top the old Victorian-style homes and picturesque waterfront of Astoria. Here, detective Arnold Schwarzenegger goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher as part of a plan to nab a vicious drug kingpin. Despite some good laughs courtesy of Arnold's class of cute six-year-olds, this movie is definitely not suitable for young kiddos. For them, a better Astoria-set choice is 1985's "The Goonies."
Pennsylvania: ‘The Sixth Sense'
Worldwide gross: $672.8 million
Haley Joel Osment sees dead people in this Philadelphia-set ghost story with a famous twist ending. A surprise hit, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's breakout movie wound up the second-highest moneymaker of '99 — topped only by "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace."
Rhode Island: ‘The Conjuring'
Worldwide gross: $319.4 million
Set in the nation's smallest state, this horror flick about a haunted Harrisville farmhouse delivered big scares, and made even bigger money. Reminiscent of the "Amityville Horror," the movie follows real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), whose experiences inspired the best-selling Amityville novel and subsequent 1979 film.
"The Conjuring" and its sequel have proved so frighteningly successful, "The Conjuring 3" is currently in production and slated to scare the bejesus out of you in the fall of 2020.
South Carolina: ‘G.I. Joe: ‘Retaliation'
Worldwide gross: $375.7 million
No one buys a G.I. Joe ticket expecting high art, or even a cohesive story, which made the franchise's second installment ripe for boffo international box office business. The chaotic climax involves a summit of world leaders at Charleston's historic Fort Sumter, real-life flashpoint of the Civil War. Wondering why the fort bears little resemblance to Sumter? The scenes were filmed at Louisiana's 19th-century Fort Pike.
South Dakota: ‘Transformers: ‘The Last Knight'
Worldwide gross: $605.4 million
In the fifth and biggest pile of Transformers junk yet (please, make it stop!), it's fitting the South Dakota setting is an Autobot refugee camp that Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has established in a Dakota Badlands' junkyard. Director Michael Bay says he won't make any future Transformers movies (promise?), but when the bean counters at Paramount Pictures see huge worldwide grosses like this, it's only a matter of time before "Transformers: Return of the Migraine."
Tennessee: ‘Iron Man 3'
Worldwide gross: $1.214 billion
Tony Stark's Iron Man suit is unreliable, running low on power, and he's being chased by a terrorist madman. Enter Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is stuck, frustrated, spending key scenes searching for Internet speeds fast enough for cyber heroics. Upon seeing the movie, residents of the "Volunteer State" wondered when a town of half-a-million people suddenly became a broadband backwater? Blame Hollywood's uninformed imagination.
Worldwide gross: $553.7 million
Hurtling toward Earth, an asteroid the size of the Lone Star State threatens total oblivion. NASA calls on the world's top deep-sea oil-drilling team, led by Bruce Willis, to land on the asteroid, bore into its core, plant a nuke and blow the rock apart before it obliterates humanity. But first, the gung-ho team undergoes space-mission training at Houston's Johnson Space Center.
In the summer of '98, "Armageddon" faced box office competition from the similar disaster picture, "Deep Impact" (see this list's North Carolina entry). Not only did Willis and company blow its gross away, "Armageddon" went on to be the year's top global money maker.
Utah: ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'
Worldwide gross: $474.1 million
A young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) gets bit by the archaeology bug in the action-packed opening scenes set in Southeast Utah, where Indy lives with his archaeologist father (Sean Connery). It's tough to fake the state's iconic red-rock scenery, so director Steven Spielberg and company filmed on-location in Utah's Arches National Park. However, the circus train sequence was staged in neighboring Colorado aboard the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Vermont: ‘What Lies Beneath'
Worldwide gross: $291.4 million
Harrison Ford makes yet another appearance on this list (his fourth) in director Robert Zemeckis' haunted house picture set in an idyllic Vermont lakefront pad custom built for the filming. The house has since been demolished, replaced by a pavilion on the grounds of Vermont's D.A.R. State Park.
Virginia: ‘Mission: Impossible'
Worldwide gross: $457.6 million
In terms of quality, the MI film series has been hit or miss since it's '96 debut. But if you've never seen the first go-round, it's certainly worth a watch. Among the exciting, key scenes, Tom Cruise and company infiltrate CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Washington: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2'
Worldwide gross: $829.7 million
The primary setting for the Twilight saga, the tiny, former-logging town of Forks, Washington has embraced visiting "Twihards" with everything from a Twilight-themed tourist map and souvenir shop to an annual festival. Don't leave town without a "Forks Bites!" t-shirt.
Washington, D.C.: ‘Independence Day'
Worldwide gross: $817.4 million
The White House is toast in this 1996 blockbuster, which sees an alien flying saucer use its mega-laser to blow 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to smithereens. Lucky for President Bill Pullman, he narrowly escapes aboard Air Force One before aliens barbecue his hide.
West Virginia: ‘Patch Adams'
Worldwide gross: $202.2 million
Robin Williams plays Patch Adams, a medical student who opens a West Virginia clinic and uses zany humor to ease the sick and dying. Indeed, laughter can be the best medicine — if only this weren't such shameless, formulaic schmaltz.
Despite being drubbed by critics and disliked by the real-life Hunter "Patch" Adams (though he later softened his criticism after Williams' 2014 suicide), the picture proved a sizable hit with sentimental moviegoers.
Worldwide gross: $288.3 million
The movie that made major stars out of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy is largely set in Milwaukee. Though most of the Wisconsin scenes were filmed in and around Los Angeles, the soundtrack does offer "Brew City" locals an Easter egg by featuring a cover version of the song "Blister in the Sun" by Milwaukee-based band, Violent Femmes.
Wyoming: 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Worldwide gross: $306.8 million
Why is spaced-out Indiana suburbanite Richard Dreyfuss using a dinner fork to sculpt his mashed potatoes into a semblance of Wyoming's Devils Tower butte? Visiting extraterrestrials have extended him a subliminal invitation to rendezvous with their UFO mothership at America's first-established national monument.
Spoiler alert: Dreyfuss ultimately decides to join the aliens in their galactic travels, boards the mothership and leaves the 50 states behind forever. Wise move?