Ben Affleck

Boston's best films offer mobsters, geniuses and gritty looks at Beantown

Feb. 15, 2013 at 7:07 AM ET

Poor Boston: Take a look at the films Hollywood makes within your borders and you'd think the whole place was flooded with guns, mobsters and mercenary Harvard students.

On the other hand, go, Boston! You appear to also be packed with geniuses and passionate sports fans. And in all cases, you'd be right. Here's a look at eight of the best Boston-based, (largely) Boston-made films out there. So pahk yer cah in our yahd a moment and check 'em out!

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

Ask any Bostonian to name the quintessential Boston film, and they're almost guaranteed to mention the Peter Yates film based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Robert Mitchum plays the title character, a gun-runner for the local mob in Boston who tries to save himself by becoming an informant, but ends up in very murky waters. The film uses the city to great effect, wandering from the legendary Boston Garden to suburban Brookline back to roughneck South End and ending at City Hall.

 

Good Will Hunting (1997)

The story behind "Good Will Hunting" is in some ways better than the film itself: Two childhood friends, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, collaborated on the screenplay about an MIT janitor (who's a secret math genius, but also psychologically troubled) who matures and tries to reach his full potential underneath the mentoring eyes of his shrink, best friend and girlfriend. It won the virtual unknowns two Oscars and propelled them to Hollywood stardom, crowning them the kings of Boston big-screen storytelling.

 

Mystic River (2003)

This Clint Eastwood-directed film based in Boston's working class Southie neighborhood follows three neighborhood friends, one of whom was abducted and assaulted when they were children. Two of its stars, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, won Oscars for their performance in an uncompromising film about growing up lower-middle-class in Boston, and about trying to right very old wrongs.

 

Fever Pitch (2005)

What could go wrong? Jimmy Fallon, playing a diehard, life-long Red Sox fan, wins over Drew Barrymore thanks to his passionate commitment to baseball. Key scenes were shot on the Sox' home turf of Fenway Park, including one where Barrymore's character interrupts a game-in-progress to run across the field and declare her love. However, when the real-life Red Sox managed to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years in 2004, the movie's Sox-losing-playoff ending had to be re-written -- and re-shot in St. Louis, Mo.

 

The Departed (2006)

Perhaps the greatest irony about "The Departed" is that it won iconic New York director Martin Scorsese his sole directing Oscar -- for a film not based in New York. Instead, "Departed" takes Scorsese's patented gangster expertise and applies it to Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a local Irish mob boss based loosely on the notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Leonardo DiCaprio goes undercover to get Costello, but Costello has his own mole (Matt Damon) in the Boston Police Dept., and things get rough.

 

The Town (2010) / Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Ben Affleck wants everyone to know: He's from Boston, darn it (even if he was born in California)! For his first and second directorial efforts, the man who shared an Oscar with Matt Damon for "Good Will Hunting" went back home to explore the criminal side of Boston's tougher neighborhoods. "Gone Baby Gone" ventures into Dorchester to investigate a kidnapping, while "Town" veers into Charlestown to find out what happens when a bank robber falls for a kidnapped victim. 

 

The Social Network (2010)

Boston isn't all hardscrabble working-class folk. Across the Charles River lies the heart of Ivy League academia: Harvard University, in Cambridge. Facebook's tricky conception and birthing pains play out on the rolling lawns and hallowed dorm rooms of the school, which sticks close to Harvard Square for about half of the film before relocating to sunny Palo Alto, Calif. 

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