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: 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)

80

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

 

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79

All About Eve (1950)

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

 

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78

Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)

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

 

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77

Cruising (1980)

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

 

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76

Two Lovers (2008)

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

 

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75

The Cool World (1964)

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

74

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)

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

 

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73

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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

 

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72

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

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

 

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71

The Landlord (1970)

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

 

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Users say

164 comments
John S
John S

The one that's missing that's typically on lists like these—and for good reason—is "A Thousand Clowns," starring Jason Robards. It has terrific location photography from all over Manhattan circa the mid-1960s. But, more importantly, it captures a certain zeitgeist among the artistic community at the time trying to live a Bohemian ideal by not selling out to corporate careerism. Another miss is the 1921 documentary short "Manhatta" by painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand. Spectacular early 20th Century on location photography of Manhattan is mixed with a critique of the contemporary urban ideal. 

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?