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.

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  • New York movies: The Last Days of Disco (1998)

  • New York movies: The Blank Generation (1976)

  • New York movies: Hester Street (1975)

  • New York movies: King Kong (1976)

  • New York movies: Summer of Sam (1999)

  • New York movies: The Hunger (1983)

  • New York movies: Smithereens (1982)

  • New York movies: Rear Window (1954)

  • New York movies: Little Murders (1971)

  • New York movies: Dressed to Kill (1980)

New York movies: The Last Days of Disco (1998)

90

The Last Days of Disco (1998)

Set in the “very early 1980s,” Whit Stillman’s evocation of a dying Manhattan nightlife brings back the coke-laced dance palaces—including a club similar to Studio 54—and the desperation that would have the party go on forever. Another old-NYC gesture: Our young heroines, Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale, are up-and-coming editors at a publishing house. Today they’d be bloggers.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

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89

The Blank Generation (1976)

The definitive visual document of the early CBGB scene, Amos Poe and Ivan Král’s out-of-sync home movie captures a who’s who of NYC musical royalty—Tom Verlaine, David Byrne, the Ramones—as they plant the seeds of punk rock. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the moment when downtown found its sound: rough, raw and revolutionary.—David Fear

 

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88

Hester Street (1975)

Joan Micklin Silver’s tribute to Jewish-diaspora life in the 1890s makes you feel as if you’ve stepped through a time portal. Her black-and-white re-creations of the avenues where an insulated community tried to assimilate to its new home bridges the gap between New York’s history and its present—an immigrant song straight from our city’s heart.—David Fear

 

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87

King Kong (1976)

Dino De Laurentiis’s lascivious production infuses the animal magnetism of the 1933 original with a pervy sensibility (the overgrown primate literally fingers a visibly aroused Jessica Lange). And with a double phallus like the World Trade Center as a final setting, there’s no better city for a big ape to be a swinger.—Stephen Garrett

 

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86

Summer of Sam (1999)

The Bronx represents in Spike Lee’s ominous reconstruction of the 1977 David Berkowitz serial-killer panic, taking root in a city plagued by blackouts, racial tensions and—vividly rendered—a sweltering, inescapable heat. Lee imparts a hometown boy’s feel for pizzerias, hair salons and punk clubs (including the departed CBGB).—Joshua Rothkopf

 

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85

The Hunger (1983)

This sexy vampire tale takes place mostly in a ridiculous realm of spacious townhouses filled with smoke and coffins. But we include it for its opening scene alone: Bloodsuckers David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve prowl a sweaty, downtown nightclub for sweet young things, while Bauhaus pounds through its classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It’s a goth NYC we remember with a tear.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

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84

Smithereens (1982)

The poverty chic of the early-’80s Lower East Side is romanticized these days, but Susan Seidelman’s drama drops its art-world-wanna-be heroine into an LES full of self-centered dilettantes, obnoxious opportunists and predatory perverts. It’s a snapshot of an era that doubles as its own epitaph, one that smashes hipster nostalgia into shards.—David Fear

 

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83

Rear Window (1954)

The iconic Greenwich Village courtyard over which a convalescing Jimmy Stewart looks out and spots something he wasn’t meant to see perfectly encapsulates the subjective blindness that allows New Yorkers to lead parallel lives in such close quarters. Hitchcock’s thriller also captures what it takes to bring those imaginary boundaries crashing down.—Alison Willmore

 

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82

Little Murders (1971)

Adapting Jules Feiffer’s Obie-winning play for the screen, director Alan Arkin (yes, that Alan Arkin) steers Elliott Gould through a metropolis where random shootings are the norm and there’s a heavy breather on the end of every phone line. Welcome to Horror City ’71, where every day is an endless absurdist farce.—David Fear

 

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81

Dressed to Kill (1980)

New York City becomes a bored housewife’s erotic playground in Brian De Palma’s funny, suspenseful chiller. A luscious Angie Dickinson wanders through the Metropolitan Museum in pursuit of a flirty stranger (a quickie in a cab follows). Later, inquisitive hooker Nancy Allen shares a too revealing lunch with übernerd Keith Gordon at WTC’s Windows on the World.—Keith Uhlich

 

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Users say

163 comments
SLIM c
SLIM c

 Carlitos Way and American Gangster !!!

Alan P
Alan P

Crossing Delancey is about as NY as you get and should be on this list. The Apartment too; its commission is an injustice. That said, #2, that other great 50's film, is right where it should be.

Triangulove .
Triangulove .

Black and white was a bunch of racist shit. According to this film all white men are weak and gay and all black men are strong and virile. When the hell did this happen? Oh yea, it didn't. 


Bryan J
Bryan J

aww c'mon u gotta have home alone 2 in there somewhere

Brad
Brad

An Unmarried Woman and Light Sleeper should be on this list!

charlottebartlett
charlottebartlett

"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.

Greg
Greg

Lets not forget the Billy Wilder classic, The Apartment.

Carrie
Carrie

Autumn in New York and Llittle Manhattan are two of my picks.

Mary Nell
Mary Nell

"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.

Adam
Adam

I completely agree with CyCC, "Moonstruck" should go without saying... And what about "Working Girl"? That movie should definitely have cracked the top 100.

Igor
Igor

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?

Bocephus
Bocephus

"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.

denjski
denjski

"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

CyCC
CyCC

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.

CyCC
CyCC

How can you have a list about NY movies and not even list Moonstruck?

Alan
Alan

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.

Mike
Mike

Serpico? Pope of Greenwich Village? Basketball Diaries? Marathon Man? A Bronx Story? Get outta here!

Blake
Blake

No Die Hard 3????

Jim
Jim

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

STELLA
STELLA

so sweet and interesting

Nawfel
Nawfel

I think that Vanilla Sky should have a place in the classement, New York had a great influence on the movie.

Edward Stratton
Edward Stratton

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.

John Bengtson
John Bengtson

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

LennyH
LennyH

Godfather #41 What planet are you guys from?

Renata
Renata

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.

Dave
Dave

New Jack City with Wesley Snipes, Ice T & Judd Nelson comes to mind as a great movie filmed in NYC!!!

Hannes
Hannes

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!

Matthew
Matthew

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.

Marc Hutzler
Marc Hutzler

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!

travis
travis

scent of a woman, where is it ? who ranked this list? this is beyond trash. I dont want to live on this planet anymore.

Bill Cushing
Bill Cushing

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.

Pammy
Pammy

What about "Night Shift"?!

Mike
Mike

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.

Greg W. Locke
Greg W. Locke

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.

Jamie
Jamie

i kinda liked "Bright Lights, Big City"...also, "Cloverfield"?

Wonderboy
Wonderboy

whoever things there are 24 movies that are set in NY that are better than Goodfellas has serious issues...

Dave
Dave

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.

Richard
Richard

"A Thousand Clowns" should be on this list. It's a classic!

Branden Sword
Branden Sword

Pardon me for putting a period rather than a question mark after "41" in my previous comment.

Branden Sword
Branden Sword

Unbelievable. How does "The Godfather" land at 41. Top 5, if not #1.

James
James

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?

James
James

"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.

SouthPA
SouthPA

What about "The Front" from 1976?

Cole
Cole

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.