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: Big (1988)
New York movies: All About Eve (1950)
New York movies: Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
New York movies: Cruising (1980)
New York movies: Two Lovers (2008)
New York movies: The Cool World (1964)
New York movies: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)
New York movies: Requiem for a Dream (2000)
New York movies: Bad Lieutenant (1992)
New York movies: The Landlord (1970)
New York movies: Big (1988)
A 12-year-old boy makes a wish and wakes up as 30-year-old Tom Hanks (though still with a child’s mind). Off to the big city he goes, where he turns a Grand Street apartment into a tween’s paradise (trampoline!) and, most memorably, plays “Heart and Soul” on a foot-operated keyboard at FAO Schwarz.—Keith Uhlich
Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s peerless backstage Broadway drama uses the bright lights of the Theater District to illuminate a Darwinian world of competition, insecurity and backstabbing—one in which the fan waiting in the alleyway for a chance to meet the star would just as eagerly devour her and take her place as the lead. Not much has changed.—Alison Willmore
Subversively, this police thriller is actually a lurid NYC Western that recasts the cops as the cavalry fighting in “a hostile territory.” (The producers later added an apologetic disclaimer.) But seen today, this Paul Newman vehicle offers a period-piece Polaroid of a borough that was struggling to shake off its reputation as a crime-ridden cesspool.—David Fear
Once protested by the gay community, William Friedkin’s thriller serves as an unintended snapshot of a narrow slice of the pre-AIDS Village scene, with sequences filmed at the legendary leather club Hellfire. Al Pacino serves as the audience’s enigmatic window onto S&M culture, playing an undercover cop who may be repelled by (or drawn to) everything he’s seeing.—Alison Willmore
Disparities of class and temperament are keenly observed in James Gray’s underseen NYC drama, starring a pre-freakout Joaquin Phoenix (never better) as a suicidal Brighton Beach bachelor living with his worried parents. With the arrival of an alluring neighbor with expensive tastes (Gwyneth Paltrow), the movie sets off for swanky midtown locations—and a cautionary shiska romance.—Joshua Rothkopf
Taking her camera into Harlem’s streets, independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke (The Connection) turned a story about a tough kid looking to move up a local gang’s hierarchy into a vérité-like view of the neighborhood itself. Few films have captured the area (circa the mid-’60s) with such a keen journalistic eye.—David Fear
The Jazz Age comes to thrilling life in Alan Rudolph’s ensemble drama about caustic wit Dorothy Parker. Among the many triumphs of this lovingly detailed period piece are the sequences set at the Algonquin Hotel, where the gabsters gossip around the most famous table since King Arthur and his knights.—Keith Uhlich
Darren Aronofsky’s unsparing adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s rough-edged tale of drug addiction finds seedy poetry in its Brooklyn locales: Brighton Beach has seldom seemed so hellishly sunbaked, Coney Island so unbearably decrepit and the Atlantic Ocean—an alluring nirvana—so entirely out of reach.—Keith Uhlich
Junkie officer Harvey Keitel shakes down punks for stolen cash, sexually harasses teen drivers and just can’t understand why that raped nun forgives her attackers. Abel Ferrara’s incendiary look at a corrupt cop’s Catholic guilt is consummate art-house grindhouse, typifying New York’s wide appetite for cathartic highbrow cinema and Times Square raunch alike.—Stephen Garrett
A spoiled Manhattan WASP (Beau Bridges) buys a Brooklyn tenement and learns some hard (but hilarious) life lessons from his primarily black tenants. Director Hal Ashby, making his feature debut, vividly captures the rough-and-tumble neighborhood that was Park Slope, long before it became stroller-mom central.—Keith Uhlich
"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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