In director Jim Jarmusch’s new film, “Paterson,” Adam Driver stars as a poetry-writing bus driver in the New Jersey city whose name he shares. It’s a virtually plotless, low-key film infused with deadpan humor, a multiethnic and multiracial cast, and love for a city whose history features names like Alexander Hamilton, Alan Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams and Lou Costello.
In this sense, “Paterson” provides a refreshing look at a state that, despite being home to Bruce Springsteen and some of the best beaches in the world, is all too often stereotyped as a corrupt, chemically toxic way station between New York and Philly, populated solely by people named Snooki and Paulie Walnuts.
Yet many movies tend to see the Garden State — and there’s a reason it’s called that — as more than just an exit ramp on the New Jersey Turnpike.
THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS (1972) In pre-casino Atlantic City, two estranged brothers, a late-night talk-show host (Jack Nicholson) and a con man (Bruce Dern), become involved with a former beauty queen (Ellen Burstyn) and a real estate scam.
ATLANTIC CITY (1980) In the faded resort town, an elderly small-time gangster (Burt Lancaster) and a much younger casino waitress (Susan Sarandon) are thrown together, thanks to a drug deal gone wrong involving Philly mobsters. A classic from French director Louis Malle.
CLERKS (1994) Two convenience-store clerks deal with customers, discuss movies and play street hockey in writer-director Kevin Smith’s acclaimed debut. Funny, profane, very real.
COP LAND (1997) Sylvester Stallone gives one of his best performances as a small-town Jersey cop who discovers that his community is full of corrupt policemen and mobsters. The great cast also features Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro.
THE STATION AGENT (2003) A dwarf (Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones”) whose best friend has died moves to rural New Jersey, where he meets an assortment of interesting characters. The first film from Oscar-winning director Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) is an indie delight.
HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (2004) Stoners Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) smoke some weed, get the munchies, and drive from New Brunswick to Cherry Hill in search of the eponymous fast-food outlet.
GARDEN STATE (2004) An actor-waiter (director and star Zach Braff) returns to his Jersey hometown after his mother dies. Also starring Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard.