For those of us who love the beauty and character of the Jersey Shore, it comes as no surprise that our coastal towns and beaches have been the setting for many memorable movies. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best and most memorable movies that were filmed entirely or in part at locations at or near the Shore, from Hazlet and Highlands in the north to Atlantic City and the Wildwoods to the south.
The Wrestler (2008)
★ Gripping. Forlorn. Savage.
Worn out New Jersey professional wrestler Mickey Rourke (nominated for a best actor Oscar) is desperate to give up his bruising career and connect with girlfriend Marisa Tomei (also nominated), but has little choice but to continue. Set almost entirely in New Jersey, the film has Rourke living in Hazlet and includes a sequence with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) strolling the Asbury Park boardwalk.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
★ Ponderous. Predictable. Successful.
Any list of Jersey Shore movies must include this horror film, which spawned two sequels—all shot mainly at a home in Toms River. Even the film’s poster is iconic. Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger, the movie was the second-highest grossing release of 1979 (beating out Rocky II, Star Trek and Moonraker) and was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score.
★ Tuneful. Star-Studded. Overblown.
There’s a lot not to like in this bloated version of the hit Broadway musical, including Albert Finney miscast as Daddy Warbucks. However, with extensive filming at Shadow Lawn at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, the movie captures a Jersey Shore era when wealthy barons of industry built summer mansions easily accessible from New York City and Philadelphia. The cast includes Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters.
Baby It’s You (1983)
★ Loving. Fresh. Funny.
In one of his best films, director John Sayles dances around movie clichés about high school romance for a lively look at two New Jersey teens from different sides of the track. Bad boy Vincent Spano convinces good girl Rosanna Arquette (in her first starring role) to skip school and spend the day in Asbury Park.
★ Searing. Traumatic. Captivating.
Looking backwards from the Vietnam era, two West Philadelphia teens—played by a young Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine—kindle an unlikely friendship. A pivotal scene takes place in Atlantic City (recreated in Wildwood), where they interact with two women on the boardwalk.
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
★ Nostalgic. Surreal. Dramatic.
A huckster, his brother and two women make an unglamorous quadrangle of hopelessness and inevitable despair. The film is similar in style and grit to the groundbreaking Easy Rider, released three years earlier. Set in the pre-casino days of Atlantic City, the film provides remarkable images of the faded resort, including a scene where stars Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern carry on a conversation while sitting on horses on the beach.
Atlantic City (1980)
★ Bittersweet. Nostalgic. Romantic.
Former gangster Burt Lancaster gently romances young casino worker Susan Sarandon (who grew up in Edison), unexpectedly caught up in a drug deal gone wrong. Directed with a sensitive touch by Frenchmen Louis Malle, the characters take long walks on the Boardwalk as we witness the wrecking ball of casino gambling dismantling the reminders of Atlantic City’s heyday as the nation’s most popular tourist destination. Lancaster was nominated for a best actor Oscar, and Sarandon for best actress.
Big Night (1996)
★ Delectable. Delightful. Humorous.
Two brothers—played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub—hope to turn around their struggling Italian restaurant in Keyport with a sumptuous feast to be attended by bandleader Louis Prima. Set in the 1950s, this satisfying meal of a movie features a supporting cast that includes Marc Anthony, Minnie Driver and Liev Schreiber.
Blinded by the Light (2019)
★ Charming. Idealistic. Contemporary.
A British-Pakistani teenager’s life turns around when he becomes a devotee of Bruce Springsteen’s music. Based on a true story, it’s a sweet rock’n’rock parable of how music can change a person’s life. New Jersey figures prominently in the story, although it only includes a short montage shot in Asbury Park and other Monmouth County locations associated with Springsteen.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
★ Musical. Nostalgic. Sunny.
Excusing the over-arching plot of trying to uncover Eddie’s lost second album, the movie is perhaps the best rock’n’roll film with locations at the Jersey Shore—including Somers Point, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Asbury Park (as well as numerous other New Jersey locations). Although the music is supposedly vintage 1963, the triple-platinum soundtrack by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band sounds like Springsteen-influenced rock from the 1970s.
The Sopranos (“Whitecaps” episode, season 4, 2002)
★ Bombastic. Mischievous. Touching.
Tony Soprano surprises his wife, Carmela, with a trip to the Shore to her show a vacation home he’s bought for the family. It’s Tony at his crime-boss best and family-man worst as Tony and Carmela walk the beach in Sea Bright with the lights of New York City in the distance.
The Miracle Worker (1962)
★ Brutal. Wrenching. Uplifting.
Acted with bracing power by Patty Duke (winner, best supporting actress) as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft (winner, best actress) as her teacher, the movie—shot in black and white—is remarkably powerful almost 60 years after it was filmed in Middletown Township. Most of the outdoor scenes, including the memorable finale at a water pump, stand in for Keller’s childhood home in Alabama.
Stardust Memories (1980)
★ Wacky. Neurotic. Cinema-obsessed.
A neglected Woody Allen film, Stardust Memories is well worth watching, especially if you enjoyed Allen’s early comic films, such as Sleeper or Annie Hall, plus Italian director Federico Fellini’s 1963 classic 8 ½. Mostly set in the fictional Stardust Hotel—the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove looking grand—the movie concerns a director spending a miserable weekend at the Shore for a film festival in his honor.
★ Tough. Winning. Cliched.
Two estranged brothers—played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton—converge on Atlantic City for a mixed-martial arts event. There are few if any surprises to the plot, but this gripping sports movie still manages to hit hard. Filmed mostly in Pittsburgh, the movie gives Atlantic City a glamorous supporting role.
Chasing Amy (1997)
★ Romantic. Mainstream. Humorous.
In his first role to garner major attention, Ben Affleck plays a Red Bank comic-book artist who befriends and then romances fellow artist Joey Lauren Adams. The film, Red Bank-born director Kevin Smith’s third, is set at the Shore, but without stereotypical images of walks on the beach. As is typical in Smith’s films, the acting is occasionally rough.
★ Sharp. Current. Satirical.
Twenty-seven years after it was filmed, Kevin Smith’s directorial debut remains fresh, funny and timely. A group of post-high school grads are lost and clueless as they manage a video store and the nearby Quick Stop Groceries in Leonardo where Smith worked. The acting is all over the place, but the dialogue is brisk and often laugh-out-loud funny.
Jersey Girl (2004)
★ Pleasant. Family-friendly. Banal.
Another Kevin Smith film with Ben Affleck in the lead role. As a bereaved husband, Affleck botches his New York City career and retreats to New Jersey to care for his young daughter, who is intent on matchmaking him with Highlands video store manager Liv Tyler. Features the line: “My dad says life can be split into two categories: New Jersey… and New York.”
The Jersey Shore casting call doesn’t stop here. Others we could have listed: According to Greta (Ocean Grove); Amityville: The Possession and Amityville 3-D (both set in Toms River); The Bounty Hunter (Monmouth Park and Atlantic City); Celebrity (Atlantic City); City by the Sea (with Asbury Park standing in for New York’s Long Beach); Coyote Ugly (Sea Amboy); Down by the Shore (Keansburg, Hazlet and Atlantic Highlands); The Godfather Part III (Atlantic City); Homeboy (Asbury Park); The In Crowd (Wildwood); Marnie (Atlantic City); The Money (Atlantic County); The Pick-Up Artist (Atlantic City); Snakes Eyes (Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Township); Stealing Home (Margate and Island Beach State Park); and The Subject Was Roses (Spring Lake, Belmar and Stanhope).Click here to leave a comment