The List: 14 awesome movies set in the suburbs

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

As this week's issue explores the 'burbs, here are some great movies set in suburbia. Only most of them feature angst or death.


Director Todd Solondz has made a career out of his dark, often comedic reflections on suburbia. This layered anthology is probably the darkest, and the best.

"American Beauty"

With its manicured white-picket-fence setting, the movie's tagline of "look closer" was a perfect fit. There's still a strange beauty to this Oscar winner from Sam Mendes, who returned to the suburbs in a different era with "Revolutionary Road."

"The Ice Storm"

The lives of several upper-middle-class suburban Connecticut families intersect on the evening of an ice storm in director Ang Lee's gem.

"Blue Velvet"

David Lynch has long had a thing for what is rotting beneath the perfect exterior of the suburbs, but it is perhaps best on display in "Blue Velvet," thanks to a severed human ear.

"The Graduate"

Mike Nichols' 1967 classic is a fantastic depiction of returning to one's suburban home full of post-graduation ennui. Hello, Darkness, my old friend.

"Grosse Point Blank"

You can return home again, as long as you're an assassin played by John Cusack in this dark comedy.


While there's nothing particularly subtle about its black-and-white-to-color analogy, I think writer-director Gary Ross' 1998 film is an underrated look back at why the good ol' days in the 'burbs were anything but.

"The Burbs"

This 1989 Tom Hanks comedy plays into those classic "there goes the neighborhood" fears when new neighbors move in. In this case, they might be cannibals.

"Donny Darko"

Oh, look! More angst! Writer-director Richard Kelly's breakout film is still his masterpiece … and we're still waiting for him to make something even close to this good.


Written and produced by Steven Spielberg in his early '80s prime and directed by Tobe Hooper ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), this is the ultimate suburban homebuyers' fear.

"The Virgin Suicides"

Director Sofia Coppola's feature debut was her adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel. It remains one of her best films, probably second only to "Lost in Translation."


For what was essentially a teenage version of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" (starring a young Shia LaBeouf), it was a lot better than it had any right to be.

"Mean Girls"

One of the best movies about high school life since the heyday of John Hughes, "Mean Girls" was set in an affluent suburb north of Chicago (suburban Chicago also being a Hughes favorite).

"A Nightmare on Elm Street"

Freddy Kruger haunted teen dreams in the fictional Springwood, Ohio, inspired by director Wes Craven's roots growing up near Cleveland.