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Best Movies Set in North Dakota

Every state is known for something. As you work your way through the list, don’t miss the best movies set in North Dakota. While you’re at it, check out the best books set in North Dakota, too.

North Dakota is a midwestern U.S. state dominated by the Great Plains. Its eastern city of Fargo showcases Native American and modern art at the Plains Art Museum. The area’s immigrant history is honored at the Scandinavian Heritage Association in the city of Minot. The Great Plains give way to the rugged Badlands near the border with Montana, where Theodore Roosevelt National Park spans the Little Missouri River.

What themes are in Movies Set in North Dakota?

Movies set in North Dakota often explore a variety of themes, just like movies set in any other location. While North Dakota may not be as frequently depicted in popular films as some other states, it still provides a unique backdrop for storytelling. Some common themes in movies set in North Dakota include:

1. Isolation and Solitude: North Dakota’s vast and sparsely populated landscapes can create a sense of isolation and solitude. Films set in the state may explore characters’ struggles with loneliness and the challenges of living in remote areas.

2. The American Dream: Some movies set in North Dakota focus on characters pursuing the American Dream, often through agriculture, oil exploration, or other industries prevalent in the state. These films may highlight the determination and hard work required to achieve success.

3. Rural Life: North Dakota’s predominantly rural and agricultural environment is a common backdrop for films that examine the joys and hardships of rural life, including farming, ranching, and small-town living.

4. Environmental and Conservation Themes: The state’s natural beauty and natural resources can inspire themes related to environmental conservation and the impact of human activity on the land and wildlife.

5. Family and Community: Many movies set in North Dakota emphasize the importance of family and community bonds. These films may depict characters coming together to overcome challenges and support one another.

6. Economic Struggles: North Dakota’s economy can be subject to booms and busts, particularly in the oil industry. Some movies explore the economic struggles faced by individuals and communities during these fluctuations.

7. Native American Culture: North Dakota is home to several Native American tribes, and films set in the state may explore themes related to Native American culture, history, and identity.

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8. Law Enforcement and Crime: Like any state, North Dakota has its share of crime and law enforcement. Some films set in the state delve into themes of crime, justice, and the work of law enforcement officers.

9. Road Trips and Adventure: North Dakota’s scenic byways and natural beauty can serve as a backdrop for road trip movies and adventure stories, where characters explore the state’s landscapes and attractions.

10. Harsh Weather and Survival: The state’s extreme weather conditions, including cold winters, have been the focus of some films that explore themes of survival and resilience in challenging environments.

It’s important to note that the themes in movies set in North Dakota can vary widely, and not all films set in the state will touch on these themes. The specific themes explored in a movie depend on the storyline, genre, and creative choices of the filmmakers.

How to Create a State Unit Study for North Dakota

Creating a state unit study for North Dakota is an engaging way to explore the state’s history, geography, culture, and more. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you design a comprehensive and educational unit study:

1. Define Learning Objectives:
Begin by setting clear learning objectives and goals for your North Dakota unit study. Determine what you want students to learn and take away from the study.

2. Select Age-Appropriate Materials:
Choose educational materials, books, websites, videos, maps, and other resources that are suitable for the age and grade level of your students. Make sure to include both primary and secondary sources.

3. Explore Geography:
Start with North Dakota’s geography. Study its physical features, such as the Great Plains, the Missouri River, the Badlands, and the Red River Valley. Learn about the state’s climate, ecosystems, and regions.

4. Historical Timeline:
Create a timeline of North Dakota’s history, beginning with its indigenous peoples and continuing through exploration, settlement, statehood, and significant events like the Dust Bowl and the oil boom.

5. Notable Figures:
Highlight important historical figures from North Dakota, such as Sacagawea, Theodore Roosevelt, and Peggy Lee. Explore their contributions and impact on history.

6. State Symbols:
Discover and study North Dakota’s official state symbols, including the state bird, flower, tree, and motto. Explain the significance and history of these symbols.

7. Cultural Aspects:
Delve into North Dakota’s culture, including its music, arts, cuisine, and annual festivals. Explore themes like Native American culture, Scandinavian heritage, and the state’s role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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8. Literature and Authors:
Explore literature by North Dakota authors, such as Louis L’Amour and Louise Erdrich. Discuss their works and contributions to literature.

9. Local Industries:
Investigate North Dakota’s major industries and economy, including agriculture, energy (oil and wind power), manufacturing, and tourism. Discuss how these industries have shaped the state’s economy.

10. Natural Resources:
Study North Dakota’s natural resources, including agriculture, fossil fuels, and minerals. Examine the state’s role in environmental conservation and sustainability.

11. State Government:
Learn about North Dakota’s government structure, including the roles of the governor, state legislature, and judiciary. Explore the state’s unique approach to governance.

12. Field Trips and Virtual Tours:
Plan field trips to historical sites, museums, and cultural centers in North Dakota when possible. If in-person visits are not feasible, consider virtual tours and online resources.

13. Hands-On Activities:
Include hands-on activities like preparing North Dakota-inspired dishes, creating art influenced by local artists, or conducting science experiments related to the state’s geography and ecosystems.

14. Multimedia Resources:
Utilize videos, documentaries, and multimedia resources to supplement your unit study. Online platforms and educational websites offer a wealth of information about North Dakota.

15. Assessments:
Develop assessments and activities to assess students’ understanding and retention of the material. These may include quizzes, research projects, presentations, and creative assignments.

16. Culminating Project:
Conclude the unit study with a culminating project, such as a research paper, a multimedia presentation, or a cultural fair where students showcase what they’ve learned about North Dakota.

17. Reflection:
Encourage students to reflect on their learning experiences, their favorite aspects of the unit study, and any questions they still have about North Dakota.

18. Sharing Experiences:
Have students share their experiences and findings with their peers, parents, or the school community to showcase their knowledge of North Dakota.

Adapt the unit study to meet the specific needs and interests of your students, and be adaptable in adjusting the curriculum as necessary. A well-rounded unit study can make learning about North Dakota an enriching and memorable experience.


Best Movies Set in North Dakota

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi (Actors)


Year: 1996

This 1996 black comedy crime film, set in the frigid winter landscape of North Dakota and Minnesota, spins a tale of deceit, kidnapping, and murder. The plot revolves around a desperate car salesman’s bungled crime scheme, which unravels due to his own ineptitude and the persistent investigation of a pregnant local police chief. Despite the dark themes, the film is punctuated with humor and warmth, making it a unique cinematic experience.

Northern Lights

Year: 1978

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Northern Lights has the feel of an old black-and-white photograph discovered in an attic. This bitter-sweet story of young lovers caught up in a political struggle waged by farmers against the grain trade, the banks and the railroads, brings back a forgotten era of American history and evokes the austere beauty of the Northern Plains. | Stream on Tubi

Logan (4K UHD)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Hugh Jackman, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart (Actors)


Year: 2017

Set in a near future where mutants are nearly extinct, an aged and tired hero, once known as “Wolverine,” leads a quiet life on the North Dakota border. His solitude is disrupted when he crosses paths with Laura, a young mutant pursued by ruthless scientists. As he fights to protect her, the film delivers a poignant exploration of redemption, mortality, and the enduring power of humanity.
The Messengers
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller (Actors)

The Messengers

Year: 2007

Desperate for a fresh start after a tough two years in Chicago, the Solomon family retreats to a desolate sunflower farm in North Dakota. But the calm of farm life is shattered when 16-year-old Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her 3-year-old brother Ben begin to see nightmarish apparitions throughout their new home — visions that nobody else can see.

As the visions grow darker, they become fear-inspiring experiences and Jess’ parents (Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller) start to question their daughter’s sanity.

Wooly Boys [VHS]
  • Peter Fonda, Keith Carradine (Actors)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Wooly Boys

Year: 2001

A sheep rancher’s visit to the big city triggers a mischievous adventure with his teenage computer-whiz grandson.

Now that you’ve completed the list of best movies set in this state, why not check out some others? Here are the Best Movies Set in All 50 States.


Click here to download this printable. It has a list of movies in all 50 states, including the Best Movies Set in North Dakota.

printable mock-up image of Movies Set in all 50 states


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