I'm making a podcast about movies. One episode is about Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog.

I can not find out in which city is the story happening. There are just some cars and their license plate numbers. As you can see in my screen captures, the first one says "Industrial State".

Later in the film when, we see a different style of license plate, when ghost dog leaves town for a murder. In the middle of the road, he parks his car and changes its number with a car that belongs to a family. The new plate says "Highway State".

What do these license plates say about where the story takes place? Why did Jim Jarmusch use these?

Industrial State

enter image description here when he wanted change the number

Highway State

the changed number

  • A Google search for "The Industrial State" and "The Highway State" led to the wikipedia article for the movie. The film was filmed and set in New Jersey. Filmed in Jersey City.
    – sanpaco
    Oct 22, 2018 at 20:39
  • Hi. Welcome to the Movies and TV site. The wikipedia page on this movie makes it pretty clear that the location the story takes place in is not mentioned in the movie and The Industrial State and The Highway State are fictional state nicknames. What are you trying to get from this question - are you trying to understand the location the movie was shot in or the location the story takes place in? Perhaps a more interesting question is the last one you say here, what is Jim Jarmusch trying to say by his choice of these fictional locations.
    – iandotkelly
    Oct 22, 2018 at 20:40
  • 1
    I would also suggest you can remove the large photos and replace them with either the text of the state nicknames, or a cropped photo. Currently its quite hard to read your question.
    – iandotkelly
    Oct 22, 2018 at 20:42
  • 2
    I edited it for grammar and formatting. Feel free to rollback if it changes your question too much.
    – sanpaco
    Oct 22, 2018 at 21:22
  • 1
    @sanpaco thanks so much for your help... I am a student in English. Oct 22, 2018 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


The movie never mentions where the story is set

The wikipedia article for Ghost Dog explains that the film never mentions exactly where the story is set, but it was filmed in Jersey City, New Jersey and the license plates in the film use fictional state nicknames for the state of New Jersey, USA.

Wikipedia article

The film was shot mostly in Jersey City, New Jersey, but the movie never mentions where the story is set. License plates reveal it is in "The Industrial State" and a vehicle from another state has on its license plate "The Highway State", both of which are fictional state nicknames.

Why are fictional names used?

Ultimately it seems the intent was so that viewers could believe that the story could take place anywhere. It could be in their own neighborhood or it could be in a fictional world. The location of the story is meant to be abstract and allegorical.

One article argues that using fictional names and never specifying the exact location of the story is done deliberately, to build the character of ghost dog into a believable urban legend.

Phantom Geography

It's never specified where Ghost Dog takes place. It was filmed in Jersey City, New Jersey (you can see the industrial sprawl of the Meadowlands from his roof). When Ghost Dog switches license plates on a stolen car, the plates read "THE INDUSTRIAL STATE" and "THE HIGHWAY STATE." There are some superficial indicators that Ghost Dog occurs in the New York metro (the Holland tunnel appears briefly), but the film could take place in any labyrinthine US metropolis. Ghost Dog could be moseying through your neighborhood.

While another article claims that the story is meant to be allegorical, hence the use of fictional names.

NYTimes Film Review

Ghost Dog's world is an abstract, allegorical place, where cars have license plates from "The Industrial State" and "The Highway State." From "Hagakure," the film quotes the standard Buddhist teaching "form is emptiness; emptiness is form," and Mr. Jarmusch sometimes seems intent on demonstrating the truth of this observation.

  • as we talked, I wanna know why did he do this? I think this and some other questions that can help us to understand more about it. Oct 22, 2018 at 21:30
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    I'm not sure why he chose to set the story in New Jersey, if I find any additional details I'll update my answer.
    – sanpaco
    Oct 22, 2018 at 21:31

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