New York movies: The 100 best films set in New York City
From King Kong's spire down to the scummiest subway tunnel, TONY ranks the definitive list of the 100 best New York movies: crime dramas, romantic comedies, documentaries and more.
Tue Jul 3 2012
New York movies: Click to the next image to see our 100 best films set in New York City
New York movies: C.H.U.D. (1984)
New York movies: Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! (2006)
New York movies: Black and White (1999)
New York movies: Hi, Mom! (1970)
New York movies: God Told Me To (1976)
New York movies: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
New York movies: Wolfen (1981)
New York movies: Man Push Cart (2005)
New York movies: Hamlet (2000)
New York movies: Three Days of the Condor (1975)
New York movies: Click to the next image to see our 100 best films set in New York City
Paradise and prison, bustling metropolis and the loneliest place on earth: New York City has a cinematic identity that infuses all walks of life. Even as we write our own narratives in this most famous of locations, we walk alongside fictional characters (and sometimes real ones, too, if we’re lucky).
In selecting the 100 most essential New York movies, we kept the city’s boldness in mind. TONY Film staffers David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich teamed up with movie experts Stephen Garrett and Alison Willmore to gather titles from all genres and eras—the widely known and the obscure—in pursuit of a complete picture of NYC on film.
Our only parameter: The movie had to be set in New York City, not Metropolis (sorry, Superman fans), Oz (ditto, you Wiz diehards), nor anywhere else. Dive in, jostle politely, find your seat or ride standing: Please tell us what we’ve missed. It’s a big town.—Joshua Rothkopf, senior Film writer
More funny than scary, this schlock-horror Z flick articulates a primal NYC fear harbored by anyone who’s ever peered down a sewer grate: Who (or what) is living below? Not the homeless, not alligators, but cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. As the poster of a shimmering Manhattan skyline warned, “They’re not staying down there, anymore!”—Joshua Rothkopf
An essential New York band plays a landmark NYC venue (MSG) as 50 fans capture the event for posterity; only the Beastie Boys could turn a crowdsourced concert movie into a time capsule, a tour of the city’s musical styles (hip-hop, punk, Latin funk) and a tribute to the power of Gotham’s DIY spirit. RIP, MCA.—David Fear
James Toback’s giddy ensemble drama transforms the city into an urban playground where rich white kids play-act ghetto fabulousness, criminals consort with moguls and Brooke Shields sports dreadlocks. It’s a bold think piece on the malleability of class and race in NYC, spiced with the single most sizzling sex scene ever set in Central Park.—David Fear
Brian De Palma’s darker-than-dark comedy stars Robert De Niro as a XXX-rated filmmaker wanna-be who peeps on his neighbors. The no-budget film captures porn-theater-era New York at its seediest; it also features an astonishing sequence satirizing downtown experimental theater, in which a white-bread audience is viciously humiliated (and they love it).—Keith Uhlich
Larry Cohen’s sci-fi chiller about a detective investigating murderers who claim to be carrying out God’s will is the surreal B-side to Taxi Driver: a nightmare vision of the city’s repressed rage that starts with cameoing Andy Kaufman gunning down the St. Patrick’s Day parade and ends with our hero becoming what he was trying to stop.—Alison Willmore
Stanley Kubrick’s polarizing swan song takes place in a Manhattan of the mind, specifically the sexually frustrated brain stem of Tom Cruise’s upper-crust physician. The film’s fantasy Greenwich Village, populated by taunting fratboys, a hard-sell hooker and a Lolita-like teen is especially weird—and disquieting.—Keith Uhlich
Long before it was cool to go green, Woodstock director Michael Wadleigh helmed this environmentally conscious (though still pretty damned scary) werewolf movie. The South Bronx provides some memorably decayed, practically postapocalyptic terrain, and a number of vertigo-inducing scenes are shot atop the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.—Keith Uhlich
Indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani provides an eloquent, empathetic backstory to a pushcart vendor so street-corner standard, he’s all but invisible to passersby. Bahrani explores the fictional man’s past as a Pakistani rock star and his lonely, lowly present in a New York that’s both beautiful and coolly indifferent to his Sisyphean struggle.—Alison Willmore
Michael Almereyda transposes William Shakespeare’s seminal tragedy to the world of high finance as Ethan Hawke’s brooding prince goes up against his slick CEO stepfather. The modern-day setting—moving from grungy streets to antiseptic boardrooms and even that cylindrical mousetrap the Guggenheim—adds thematic heft to the greatest of all plays.—Keith Uhlich
Filmed at the peak of Hollywood’s political paranoia, this CIA thriller captures a tense, spy-saturated NYC that would reappear in The Bourne Ultimatum. Choice local touches include Robert Redford’s clandestine office on 77th Street at Madison, a quiet Brooklyn Heights getaway (occupied by sultry Faye Dunaway) and a WTC window overlooking the intrigue.—Joshua Rothkopf
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"The World of Henry Orient" in which two preppy private school girls stalk their crush - an increasingly irate concert pianist played by Peter Sellers - all over mid-60s midtown.
"Moscow on the Hudson" - Robin Williams as a Russian saxaphonist defector, with Maria Conchita Alonso, a Bloomingdales counter girl, and friends - early 1980s East Village and beyond, immigrants' story, romantic comedy, valentine to NYC, filled with the ups, downs, and ups of living here and being from somewhere else.
I completely agree with CyCC, "Moonstruck" should go without saying... And what about "Working Girl"? That movie should definitely have cracked the top 100.
Several of these movies could have been located in some other city without much change. But Prince of the City couldn't have been made in, or about, any other city. How can it not make the list?
"Juice" if it hasn't been mentioned is deserving of a mention. "Party Monster" really has to be able to crack the Top 100 at least. Club kids? Limelight? That's as 'New York' as New York got in the late 80s/early 90s.
"Street Scene" 1931 directed by King Vidor.....a one block stretch in the NYC, from dawn to night.."Dead End" 1936...shows life in NYC during the Depression and what it took to survive....Bogart is in this as a supporting role, he plsys a gangster who comes back to the neighborhood and finds his girl friend a hooker, hard to make clear in 1936 film censorship.....he is finally killed by Joel Mcrea, an other neighborhood kid who came back trying to make is as an architect
and btw, Taxi Driver may be a brilliant film but it does not summarize or even remotely encapsulate a particularly NY experience. This film is really about any city that exists the periphery of a normal city. These people and these situations come out at night, when it's dark, when everyone has gone home. And it happens everywhere. Even in the so called "nicer" cities. And btw, even if you ARE a 12 year old hooker, there aren't very many vets/cab drivers who are looking to liberate you. What you have in Taxi Driver is a story that's an extraordinary AMERICAN story about a wartorn, disoriented, displaced vet in need of such an extreme episode of such outrageous vengeance and violence, it gives him a justifiable and bloodsoaked gateway back to the living, to the norm.
I watched "Saturday Night Fever" last night on DVD. I first saw the film when I was in college and in my 20s. I am now 53 and still love this film. It has aged well and I saw it through much diferent eyes at age 53 than I did in college. A terrific story with a terrfic John Travolta.
Serpico? Pope of Greenwich Village? Basketball Diaries? Marathon Man? A Bronx Story? Get outta here!
Awesome list but my only complaint is that Rent isn't included. Even though it was mainly shot in San Francisco the movie captures New York and especially Alphabet city in a unique way. Also Nick and Nora's infinite playlist captures NY city nightlife extremely well
I think that Vanilla Sky should have a place in the classement, New York had a great influence on the movie.
There were some good choices on this list, but I was very disappointed by the low placement of "Requiem for a Dream" and complete lack of "The Basketball Diaries." Nobody sees the gritty nature of New York City like a heroin addict. And where exactly is "Se7en"? Tisk, tisk, although it's hard to do it right when you're making a list about the world's most iconic city.
For what is is worth, nearly all of The Crowd, aside from some preliminary establishing shots, was filmed in Los Angeles. Harold Lloyd's Speedy (1928) (Number 65) has dozens more NYC settings. You can read about Lloyd filming Speedy in New York in my book Silent Visions, and on my blog SilentLocations.Wordpress.com
I'd have liked to have seen "13 Conversations About One Thing" on this list. It had the bad luck of coming out when 9/11 tore the city apart.
New Jack City with Wesley Snipes, Ice T & Judd Nelson comes to mind as a great movie filmed in NYC!!!
How could you dare and ignore DIE HARD 3? Isn't this a typical movie for Manhattan? I love the scene with John McClane and Zeus meeting the first time in Harlem while John is carrying his "I hate ..." board! Reconsider, please!
Arthur (the original) and Moonstruck should definitely both be on that list as they are both great movies that are about specific cultures within NYC.
Terrible that three movies didn't make the great movies of New York ... Meet John Doe, The Seven-Ups, and Quick Change. All three have great true to New York scenes! None of which ever show scenes where you can tell they shot any of it in Hollywood!
scent of a woman, where is it ? who ranked this list? this is beyond trash. I dont want to live on this planet anymore.
Most of htese were pretty good choices, but picking the 1976 King Kong is a real letdown. Aside from the promise shown by a young actress named Jessica Lange in that rotten movie, that one was inexcusable. Thank the lord Peter Jackson revived the franchise with his later version.
Oh my goodness this is a crime against humanity. Manhattan should at LEAST be number two. The city is such a big part of that story there is no question that it is the most iconic New York City movie of the 20th Century.
I've seen most of these movies. Good list. A few things bug me (Man Push Cart over Chop Shop? No Royal Tenenbaums? Spider-Man 2? Half Nelson? ATCW Documentary?) My biggest issue, however, is that Die Hard with a Vengeance isn't included. Sure, it's not high brow cinema art, but it's a spectacle, it's fun, and it shows more of the 90s NYC than any other movie I've seen. And, IMO, it's one of the all-time great action films. Also, how about The Cruise?!!?!!?!!?!? Classic NYC romance in such an interesting way.
whoever things there are 24 movies that are set in NY that are better than Goodfellas has serious issues...
Is this supposed to represent the best movies filmed in New York, or movies that best exemplify New York. If it's the latter, a pair Adam Sandler movies, "Big Daddy," and "Mr. Deeds" would qualify.
And no "Panic in Needle Park." The more I look at this list, the more flaws I see. Expected, though, from JR. Can't Time Out find people who know more about film?
"The Hunger?" Does the author even realize that most of that film was shot in London because it was too expensive to shoot the whole thing here? Certainly films like "The Hospital" and "Beat Street" are more deserving of this list. I pretty much don't read anything JR writes or reviews, but figured I would check out as something as simple as a list.
No Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, or Synecdoche, New York. Pretty much everything by Charlie Kaufman should be on this list.
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