Life

The 10 Best Movies and TV Shows Inspired by the Jersey Shore

The Steel Pier in Atlantic City, as seen from the beach with the Ferris wheel and amusement park rides.

The New Jersey shoreline stretches 141 miles from Monmouth to Cape May on the Eastern seaboard and is famous for many reasons other than producing top poker talent. Known to the locals (and later on the whole world) as Jersey Shore, this little slice of heaven is home to some of America’s most charismatic, enigmatic and generally mischievous personalities that lend themselves to the arts. In essence, they like to have a good time, as much of the time as possible, whether it’s online casino games, pool parties or the sunbed. But it would be unfair to characterize the Jersey Shore only by the magnetic people who call it home. The rolling beaches and coastal towns are scenic and charming, belying the chaos caused by the usual suspects like Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino on MTV’s show Jersey Shore.

In fact, the area has a rich history in both movies and television that predates even the popularity of hair gel or the online casino. So many memorable cinematic and television moments have taken place on the shores of New Jersey that it would be almost impossible to mention them all. But in the interest of representation, some selections have been made purely for entertainment value rather than being pieces of celluloid genius. 

10. Jersey Shore (2009)

Love it or hate it, Jersey Shore put New Jersey on the world map and was easily one of the most popular TV series when the first episode aired on MTV in 2009. The life and times of Snooki, The Situation, Pauly D and the rest of the crew were filled with drama and self-inflicted emotional and physical damage which made for sensational television.  

9. The Amityville Horror (1979)

Not only is The Amityville Horror a genre classic, but it’s also one of the most influential movies filmed in New Jersey during the state’s long and storied relationship with the big screen. Followed up by two slightly impressive sequels, The Amityville Horror shocked audiences in 1979, laying the groundwork for modern horror films and becoming the second highest-grossing film of the year. Shot in Toms River, the film also received an Oscar nod for its musical score that was the perfect accompaniment for the brooding and foreboding cinematography. 

8. Boardwalk Empire (2010)

The story of Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson’s rise to prominence and infamy is based largely on a true story that took place during the prohibition era of the 1920s and 30s in Atlantic City – widely accepted by critics as one of the best crime dramas of recent decades. The show starred heavy hitters like Steve Buscemi and the recently departed Michael K. Williams and cleaned up at the Golden Globes in 2012. 

7. Cake Boss (2009)

Admittedly, Cake Boss fell off towards the end of its almost 10-season run, but it’s still one of the most iconic shows to come out of the Jersey Shore. It follows the highs and lows of Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss, and his team of cake baking experts at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken. Buddy and his family’s genuine warmth and watching six-tier cakes fall to the ground makes for objectively excellent television. It may have lacked the excitement of the casino table games and parties often seen in other shows about the Shore, but it made up for it in wholesome charm.

6. Big Night (1996)

Big Night never got the plaudits or recognition it so richly deserved and, despite its inclusion as a cult classic of the 90s, received very little love at the time of its release. But over time, the incredible performances of Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci aged like fine wine, a fitting analogy as the movie tells the story of immigrant brothers trying to resurrect their failing Keyport restaurant. Set in the 50s, the pair must move quickly to impress the visiting Louis Prima if they are to survive. A must-watch. 

5. Atlantic City (1980)

An aerial shot of Atlantic City.

Atlantic City is one of those films that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it and is a true masterpiece of the craft. From director Louis Malle, it’s a whirlwind tour of fundamental human emotions and the beauty and hopelessness of dreams. Touching, funny, poignant and superbly acted by its stars Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City strolls along the boardwalk and into our top 10.

4. Baby It’s You (1983)

Baby It’s You is a coming-of-age romance that features a rugged and edgy script from filmmaker John Sayles set to a thrice-platinum classic rock-and-roll soundtrack. Played out over the Jersey Shore, it’s a realistic look at the follies of young love. Rosanna Arquette is electric in her debut starring role, and her on-screen chemistry with Vincent Spano produces moments of comedy gold throughout. 

3. Chasing Amy (1997)

Some may be shocked to find Chasing Amy on here instead of Kevin Smith’s seminal work Clerks, and that’s understandable. While both are excellent films in their own right, the themes in Chasing Amy and the eloquence of their delivery set it apart, and the dialogue is among the best of any movies filmed in New Jersey. It retains its place in the hearts and minds of an entire generation, both in the Garden State and the rest of the country. 

2. The Wrestler (2008)

2008’s The Wrestler came out of nowhere to be one of the year’s biggest hits. It immediately got rave reviews upon its cinematic release, and for good reason. The script is unrelentingly brilliant in its authenticity and delivered in a powerhouse performance from Mickey Rourke that earned him a Golden Globe. The film follows a washed-up pro wrestler, played by Rourke, who abandons the sparkle of the Shore for New Jersey’s grittier industrial underbelly. It’s the tragic story of a man torn between reconnecting with the women in his life and doing what he does best. 

1. The Sopranos

Without question, The Sopranos is the most highly celebrated show to ever come out of the Jersey Shore and is still revered to this day as one of the best shows ever. Backed by a stellar supporting cast, James Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano must rank as an all-time great performance on any screen. Intrinsically linked to New Jersey’s history, we think it’s a fitting number one on our list.

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