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Best Movies Set in Pennsylvania

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

Pennsylvania, officially known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a state spanning the Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, Appalachian, and Great Lakes regions of the United States.

What themes are in Movies Set in Pennsylvania?

Movies set in Pennsylvania, like those set in any location, can explore various themes. The themes of such films often depend on the genre and the specific storyline. However, there are several recurring themes commonly found in movies set in Pennsylvania:

1. Industrialization and Decline: Pennsylvania, with its history of industrialization, has been the backdrop for films exploring the rise and fall of various industries, such as steel and coal mining. Themes related to economic prosperity, labor struggles, and deindustrialization are common.

2. Historical Significance: Pennsylvania is rich in historical significance, being the birthplace of the United States and home to iconic sites like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Films set in the state may delve into themes of American history, revolution, and freedom.

3. Urban Life: Movies set in cities like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh often focus on themes related to urban life, including issues of crime, poverty, gentrification, and community resilience.

4. Sports: Pennsylvania is known for its passionate sports culture, and films set in the state often revolve around themes related to sports, competition, and the impact of athletic success on the community. The “Rocky” film series, set in Philadelphia, is a notable example.

5. Identity and Heritage: Pennsylvania is a diverse state, and movies set there may explore themes of cultural identity, heritage, and the experiences of different ethnic and religious communities.

6. Amish Culture: Pennsylvania is home to a significant Amish population, and some films set in the state focus on themes related to Amish culture, their way of life, and the clash between tradition and modernity.

7. College Life: Pennsylvania has numerous colleges and universities, and some films on college campuses explore themes of education, personal growth, and the challenges of young adulthood.

8. Supernatural and Horror: Pennsylvania's history, including its rural areas and old buildings, has provided the backdrop for supernatural and horror-themed movies. Themes of the paranormal, ghosts, and unexplained phenomena are common in these films.

9. Coming of Age: Just like in many other settings, Pennsylvania-based films often explore themes of coming of age, adolescence, and self-discovery.

10. Family and Relationships: Themes of family dynamics, relationships, and personal journeys are commonly found in films set in Pennsylvania, regardless of the specific genre.

11. Political and Social Issues: Pennsylvania's political and social landscape may be a film focal point. Themes related to politics, activism, and social justice can be explored in these movies.

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12. Natural Beauty: Pennsylvania's diverse natural landscapes, including the Pocono Mountains and the Appalachian Trail, provide a backdrop for films exploring nature, adventure, and outdoor activities.

It's important to note that not all films set in Pennsylvania will touch on these themes, and the specific themes explored in a movie will depend on the storyline, genre, and the filmmakers' intentions. Pennsylvania's rich history and varied landscapes offer a wide range of possibilities for storytelling and thematic exploration in cinema.

How to Create a State Unit Study for Pennsylvania

Creating a state unit study for Pennsylvania is a fun and educational way to explore the history, geography, culture, and notable features of this state. Whether you're a homeschooling parent or a teacher looking to enhance your students' understanding of Pennsylvania, here's a step-by-step guide to help you create a comprehensive unit study:

1. Define Your Objectives:
– Determine the grade level of your students and their prior knowledge.
– Set clear objectives for what you want them to learn about Pennsylvania.

2. Gather Resources:
– Collect books, websites, videos, and other educational materials related to Pennsylvania.
– Reach out to local museums, historical sites, and experts who can provide additional resources or guidance.

3. Choose Key Topics:
– Select specific topics to cover in your unit study. Common topics for a Pennsylvania unit study might include history, geography, famous people, landmarks, and cultural aspects.

4. Create a Lesson Plan:
– Organize your study into a structured lesson plan with a sequence of activities and topics to be covered over a set period.
– Decide how often you'll conduct lessons and for how long each session will last.

5. Pennsylvania History:
– Explore Pennsylvania's history, from its colonial origins to its role in the American Revolution and industrialization.
– Discuss important events, figures, and key contributions to American history.

6. Geography and Landforms:
– Study Pennsylvania's geography, including its regions, physical features, and natural landmarks like the Appalachian Mountains and the Delaware River.
– Incorporate map reading and geography-related activities.

7. Cultural Aspects:
– Dive into Pennsylvania's diverse culture, including its contributions to arts, music, and cuisine.
– Explore the cultural heritage of different communities, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish.

8. Famous Pennsylvanians:
– Learn about notable individuals from Pennsylvania, such as Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, and Grace Kelly.
– Create projects or presentations about these famous Pennsylvanians.

9. Industry and Innovation:
– Investigate Pennsylvania's role in the Industrial Revolution and its significance in industries like steel, coal, and manufacturing.
– Discuss economic changes and challenges faced by the state.

10. Local Field Trips:
– Plan visits to local museums, historical sites, and landmarks relevant to Pennsylvania's history and culture.
– Engage with experts and local residents to enrich the learning experience.

11. Hands-On Projects:
– Encourage students to complete hands-on projects, such as creating a timeline of Pennsylvania history, building a diorama of a significant location, or cooking a regional dish.

12. Art and Music:
– Explore Pennsylvania's artistic and musical heritage, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Philadelphia Orchestra.
– Engage in art projects or music-related activities.

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13. Assess and Review:
– Regularly assess your students' understanding of the material and review as needed.
– Provide opportunities for students to showcase what they've learned, such as presentations or exhibitions.

14. Culminating Activity:
– Conclude your unit study with a culminating activity, such as a group presentation, a class exhibit, or a written report.

15. Reflect and Evaluate:
– After completing the unit study, take time to reflect on the experience and evaluate its success. Gather feedback from your students to make improvements for future unit studies.

Customize the unit study to the age, interests, and needs of your students. Encourage exploration, critical thinking, and creativity to make the learning experience engaging and memorable.

Best Movies Set in Pennsylvania

Groundhog Day
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Bill Murray, Richard Henzel, Andie MacDowell (Actors)

Groundhog Day

Year: 1993

A cynical TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again when he goes on location to the small town of Punxsutawney to film a report about their annual Groundhog Day. His predicament drives him to distraction, until he sees a way of turning the situation to his advantage.

The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Geena Davis, Samuel Jackson, Craig Bierko (Actors)

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Year: 1996

School teacher and single mother Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) lives an average suburban life — until she begins having strange memories of unexplained violence and discovers that she has physical skills that she never imagined.

Hiring private detective Mitch Hennessey (Samuel L. Jackson) to probe into her past, Samantha discovers that she's a well-trained government assassin who went missing after suffering a bout of amnesia and that her former handlers want her back in their employ.

That Thing You Do!
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech (Actors)

That Thing You Do!

Year: 1996

Set in 1964, the film stars a talented group of newcomers as The Wonders, a fictional rock band that embarks on a humorous journey when its hit song rockets to the top of the charts.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri, Belinda Bauer (Actors)


Year: 1983

The visual and musical box-office smash Flashdance is the exhilarating story of Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals), a fiercely determined and beautiful 18-year-old woman, who works as a welder by day and a dancer at a local bar at night.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young (Actors)


Year: 1976

As boxer “everyman” Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone comes out swinging with heart, humor and unforgettable power as he “goes the distance” against World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in this unforgettable, Oscar-winning film!

What is the historical significance of movies that are set in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is a state with a rich history, and many movies have been made that depict different aspects of that history.

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For example, the movie The Molly Maguires (1970) tells the story of a group of Irish-American miners who fought for better working conditions in the late 19th century.

The movie Amish Grace (2010) is a true story about a community that came together to support one another after a tragedy.

Movies set in Pennsylvania play an important role in documenting and preserving the state's rich history. They provide viewers with a glimpse into different eras and aspects of Pennsylvania life, and they can help to raise awareness of important historical events and figures.

Some movies that are set in Pennsylvania depict specific historical events, like the story of three friends from a Pennsylvania steel town who are drafted into the Vietnam War. Or, a lawyer who is fired from his job after disclosing that he has AIDS. And a group of teenagers who try to rob a bank during the Great Depression.

Other movies that are set in Pennsylvania explore the state's cultural heritage. For example, a true story about a community that came together to support one another after a tragedy. Or, the story of a teenage boy who comes of age in a Pittsburgh suburb or the son of a fictional boxer who trains in Philadelphia to become a professional fighter.

Movies that are set in Pennsylvania can also be used to teach viewers about important historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln.

Overall, movies that are set in Pennsylvania play an important role in documenting and preserving the state's rich history. They provide viewers with a glimpse into different eras and aspects of Pennsylvania life, and they can help raise awareness of important historical events and figures.

After watching these movies, you could discuss the setting, plot, characters, themes, and critical reception of each movie. You could also mention any interesting or behind-the-scenes information about the film.

There are many other great movies that are set in Pennsylvania, such as:

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
  • Amish Grace (2010)
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • National Treasure (2004)
  • Warrior (2011)
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
  • Creed (2015)
  • The Greatest Showman (2017)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
  • A Star Is Born (2018)
  • Joker (2019)

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 Pennsylvania.

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