25 best movies set in Boston

Written by:
June 5, 2021
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

25 best movies set in Boston

Known for the distinctive accent of its residents, devoted sports fans, storied colleges and universities, and some of the greatest hospitals in the country, Boston is a diverse city that offers a scenic and historic setting beloved by locals and visitors alike. Because of this, Beantown has secured a place not only in the hearts of many, but on the big screen as well.

These films run the gamut for both genre and decade. Whether it is a film about a brilliant janitor with a history of trauma, an old Boston spinster, a mobster turned informant, a pair of vigilante brothers, or a boxer trying to come out from under his brother’s shadow, these films show Boston in all its glory. Often these films feature Boston natives who have become some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names.

To gather the 25 best movies set in Beantown, Stacker compiled data on the top-rated feature-length films and ranked them by IMDb user rating. To qualify, the film had to primarily take place in Boston and have at least 5,000 votes on IMDb. Ties were broken by IMDb votes.

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1 / 25
Columbia Pictures

#25. 21 (2008)

- Director: Robert Luketic
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 123 minutes

Under the tutelage of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, six MIT students were trained to become card counters and made a killing in Las Vegas in this film, loosely based on the novel “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich. While many filming locations were in Boston including the Public Garden, Boston University, and Newbury Street, Las Vegas was also an important filming locale for “21.”

2 / 25
Lionsgate

#24. Stronger (2017)

- Director: David Gordon Green
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 119 minutes

Based on the true story of Jeff Bauman, who not only survived the Boston Marathon bombing, but went on to inspire the nation, “Stronger” comes from the memoir of the same name. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Jeff Bauman in the film, and Miranda Richardson plays his mother Patty.

3 / 25
Cross Creek Pictures

#23. Black Mass (2015)

- Director: Scott Cooper
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 123 minutes

“Black Mass” is the story of South Boston Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and his turn as an FBI informant attempting to take down the Italian mafia. The murder scenes in the film were shot where the real-life murders occurred. Bulger refused to talk to Johnny Depp, who portrayed him in the film, or filmmaker Scott Cooper and is said to have penned letters about how the film angered him.

4 / 25
Universal Pictures

#22. Ted (2012)

- Director: Seth MacFarlane
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 62
- Runtime: 106 minutes

The adventures of a man and his foul-mouthed childhood teddy bear, “Ted” stars former Funky Bunch rapper and Bostonian Mark Wahlberg. Seth MacFarlane created the animated show “Family Guy,” and “Ted” marked his first live-action project. The film was shot using many popular Boston locations including The Esplanade, Fenway Park, and the New England Aquarium.

5 / 25
Paper Street Films

#21. Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

- Director: Maya Forbes
- IMDb user rating: 7
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 90 minutes

In the 1970s, a father, played by Mark Ruffalo, struggles with bipolar disorder and attempts to take care of his twin girls while his wife, played by Zoe Saldana, studies in New York for her MBA. The film was based on the life of director Maya Forbes.

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6 / 25
The Mirisch Corporation

#20. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

- Director: Norman Jewison
- IMDb user rating: 7
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, “The Thomas Crown Affair” is about the perfect heist and the romance between a bank executive and an insurance investigator. Thomas Crown’s residence was at 85 Mt. Vernon Street in the Beacon Hill section of Boston. The film was remade in 1999 with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in the lead roles.

7 / 25
Jalem Productions

#19. The Out of Towners (1970)

- Director: Arthur Hiller
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 101 minutes

When an Ohio sales executive and his wife travel to New York City for a job interview, things go completely awry in this comedy written by Neil Simon. Both Logan Airport and South Station in Boston were used for filming locations. The film starred Sandy Dennis and Jack Lemmon and was remade in 1999 with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.

8 / 25
Twentieth Century Fox

#18. The Boston Strangler (1968)

- Director: Richard Fleischer
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 116 minutes

This is the true story of the investigation into the serial killer who terrorized and killed 13 women in Boston in the 1960s. Based on the book by Gerold Frank, the film starred Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, the man who confessed to the crimes. While many of the scenes were shot on location at various Boston locales, filming also took place on sound stages at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles.

9 / 25
BRON Studios

#17. Pieces of a Woman (2020)

- Director: Kornél Mundruczó
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 126 minutes

A Boston woman mourns the loss of her child after a home birth goes wrong in “Pieces of a Woman.” The opening birth scene was more than 20 minutes long and to get her performance to ring true, actress Vanessa Kirby watched documentaries and witnessed a live birth. While set in Boston, “Pieces of a Woman” was shot almost entirely in Montreal.

10 / 25
Columbia Pictures

#16. The Equalizer (2014)

- Director: Antoine Fuqua
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 57
- Runtime: 132 minutes

Denzel Washington takes over the role of Robert McCall, originally played by Edward Woodward in the 1980s television show, for this film version where a guardian angel with a mysterious past helps a girl involved with Russian gangsters. A new television series starring Queen Latifah as the female version of the Equalizer premiered in 2021.

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11 / 25
CBS Films

#15. Patriots Day (2016)

- Director: Peter Berg
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 69
- Runtime: 133 minutes

“Patriots Day” tells the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the hunt for the men responsible. This was the third time actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg collaborated on a film. Wahlberg is originally from Dorchester, one of Boston’s largest neighborhoods.

12 / 25
Paramount Pictures

#14. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

- Director: Peter Yates
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 102 minutes

A gangster, played by Robert Mitchum, rats on his friends so he can avoid jail time. Based on George V. Higgins’ novel of the same name, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” was shot on location. Mitchum talked with several Boston policemen to perfect the distinctive Boston accent.

13 / 25
Warner Bros.

#13. The Town (2010)

- Director: Ben Affleck
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 125 minutes

Love complicates things when a group of thieves rob a bank in this film that is an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves.” One of the locations used for “The Town” was a maximum security prison, MCI-Cedar Junction, located in South Walpole, Massachusetts. The film premiere took place at Fenway Park, and director and actor Ben Affleck is a die-hard Red Sox fan.

14 / 25
Miramax

#12. Gone Baby Gone (2007)

- Director: Ben Affleck
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 114 minutes

This film marks the directorial debut of actor and Massachusetts native Ben Affleck. Based on the book of the same name by bestselling author Dennis Lehane, who grew up in the Dorchester section of Boston, “Gone Baby Gone” follows two detectives as they try to find a kidnapped little girl. The film stars Affleck’s brother Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, and Ed Harris.

15 / 25
Twentieth Century Fox

#11. The Verdict (1982)

- Director: Sidney Lumet
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 129 minutes

A lawyer, played by Paul Newman, makes an attempt at redemption when he takes a medical malpractice suit to trial in this film based on the novel by Barry Reed and screenplay by David Mamet. Boston filming locations included South Station, South Boston High School, and the Suffolk County Courthouse. “The Verdict” was also filmed in New York and Ontario, Canada.

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16 / 25
Columbia Pictures

#10. The Social Network (2010)

- Director: David Fincher
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 95
- Runtime: 120 minutes

“The Social Network” documents Mark Zuckerberg’s time as a student at Harvard and the beginning of social media giant Facebook. The film was nominated for eight Oscars and won three. According to the film’s director, David Fincher, Harvard was less than helpful during filming, and other schools served as the prestigious Ivy League university.

17 / 25
Franchise Pictures

#9. The Boondock Saints (1999)

- Director: Troy Duffy
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 44
- Runtime: 108 minutes

Two brothers who believe they were called by God to rid the streets of scum begin killing off members of the mafia in this crime thriller. Followed up a decade later with a sequel, Boston native Mark Wahlberg turned down one of the lead roles in the film as he was starring in the film that would make him a star, 1997’s “Boogie Nights.”

18 / 25
Amazon Studios

#8. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

- Director: Kenneth Lonergan
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 96
- Runtime: 137 minutes

The tragic past proves to be too much for a Boston handyman, played by Casey Affleck, when his brother dies and he is asked to care for his teenage nephew. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win two Oscars, including one for best performance by an actor in a leading role, which went to Casey Affleck. Affleck did not have to work to perfect the unique Boston accent because he is a Boston native.

19 / 25
Closest to the Hole Productions

#7. The Fighter (2010)

- Director: David O. Russell
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 116 minutes

Micky Ward gets the chance to outshine his older brother, a famous boxer, in this true story. Boston native Mark Wahlberg plays Micky, and British-born Christian Bale plays his brother Dicky Eklund, who was known as “The Pride of Lowell,” a city northwest of Boston. “The Fighter” won two Oscars, both for best performances in supporting roles.

20 / 25
Warner Bros.

#6. Now, Voyager (1942)

- Director: Irving Rapper
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 70
- Runtime: 117 minutes

A Boston spinster becomes a sophisticate after a stint in a sanitarium and has an affair with a married man, which has consequences she discovers later. The film, which stars Bette Davis in the title role, won an Oscar for best music, scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture.

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21 / 25
Warner Bros.

#5. Mystic River (2003)

- Director: Clint Eastwood
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 138 minutes

Three childhood friends navigate the past and present when one of their daughters is found dead in this crime drama based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. Lehane, a native Bostonian, also made a cameo in the film. “Mystic River” stars Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Robbins as the three friends.

22 / 25
Participant

#4. Spotlight (2015)

- Director: Tom McCarthy
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 93
- Runtime: 129 minutes

The Boston Globe reporters investigate a massive cover-up in this true story about the child molestation that occurred at the local Catholic archdiocese. The film, starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, won two Oscars, including Best Picture.

23 / 25
Paramount Pictures

#3. Shutter Island (2010)

- Director: Martin Scorsese
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 63
- Runtime: 138 minutes

Based on the bestselling novel by Dennis Lehane, the psychological thriller marked the fourth collaboration between actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese. Set in 1954, “Shutter Island” focuses on a U.S. Marshal investigating a disappearance at a remote hospital for the criminally insane where nothing is as it seems. Medfield State Hospital, located just 20 miles outside of Boston, served as the location for the film’s fictional Ashecliffe Hospital.

24 / 25
Miramax

#2. Good Will Hunting (1997)

- Director: Gus Van Sant
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: 70
- Runtime: 126 minutes

Matt Damon plays a genius janitor who works at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attracts the attention of a professor there when he begins secretly solving math problems in this Oscar-winning film that featured locations throughout Boston. Robin Williams plays the psychiatrist who helps Matt Damon’s character Will uncover and heal from some long-held trauma. Matt Damon, born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, really did attend Harvard, and wrote the treatment of the script for an English class. He and Ben Affleck, who were friends since high school, penned the script and won an Academy Award for best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen.

25 / 25
Warner Bros.

#1. The Departed (2006)

- Director: Martin Scorsese
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 151 minutes

Police turn on each other as they attempt to infiltrate the Irish mob in this tale of corruption. While the film was a critical and commercial success, not everyone was pleased. The families of those killed by Whitey Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang, whose history inspired the movie, felt Martin Scorsese’s film glorified the mob. The production crew spent six weeks filming in Boston.

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