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: Carnal Knowledge (1971)

  • New York movies: The Squid and the Whale (2005)

  • New York movies: Margaret (2011)

  • New York movies: Klute (1971)

  • New York movies: Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

  • New York movies: Fame (1980)

  • New York movies: When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

  • New York movies: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

  • New York movies: Fatal Attraction (1987)

  • New York movies: The Crowd (1928)

New York movies: Carnal Knowledge (1971)

60

Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Romantic dissatisfaction and a very Gothamite certainty that there’s always someone better out there shape Mike Nichols’s damning portrait of former college roommates (Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson). They navigate 25 years of shifting urban sexual mores but never find what they’re looking for.—Alison Willmore

 

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59

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Noah Baumbach’s razor-edged semiautobiographical dramedy is set in a 1980s Brooklyn intellectual community that’s since devoured half the borough. For its cathartic image (see title), the movie revisits a childhood memory likely shared by any impressionable museumgoer of a certain age.—Alison Willmore

 

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58

Margaret (2011)

Kenneth Lonergan’s ragged masterpiece, haunted by personal and municipal trauma, showcases better than any film the flux of 8 million individual stories going at once. It also captures the way that a life-shaking, permanently altering experience for one teenager (the riveting Anna Paquin) can be just another glittering point in the kaleidoscope of the city.—Alison Willmore

 

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57

Klute (1971)

Jane Fonda won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a cynical actor (this town is full of them) moonlighting as a Big Apple prostitute. After she’s caught up in the mysterious disappearance of a business executive, director Alan J. Pakula and cinematographer Gordon Willis turn the city streets and alleys into a shadowy paranoiac’s nightmare.—Keith Uhlich

 

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56

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Robert Benton’s tale of a brutal custody battle is set during a specific, privileged era on the Upper East Side, the place to where upwardly mobile professionals aspired. It becomes Manhattan’s answer to the idyllic suburbs of other movies, beneath the surface of which lie all kinds of trouble.—Alison Willmore

 

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55

Fame (1980)

Alan Parker’s body-electrifying tale of High School of Performing Arts students trying to hit it big makes prime use of Gotham venues, from a thrillingly turbulent Times Square to the now-defunct 8th Street Playhouse’s midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.—Keith Uhlich

 

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54

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

After a casual run-in at Shakespeare & Co., an orgasmic conversation at Katz’s Deli and long walks through Central Park, a Jersey-born Jew (Billy Crystal) realizes the high-maintenance shiksa (Meg Ryan) he resented since college is actually his soulmate. Director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Nora Ephron capture Manhattan romance with splendiferous anxiety.—Stephen Garrett

 

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53

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Truthfully, the city where it takes place is unspecified, but it’s impossible for us not to include Jim Jarmusch’s hip-hop fantasia, scored to the sinuous beats of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. Forest Whitaker cruises late-night streets in a stolen car, motivated by a solemn code of honor and capable of violent deeds.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

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52

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Histrionic bunny-boiling revenge overshadows what is an unusually well-located NYC psychothriller—from Michael Douglas’s Upper West Side domestic stronghold to Glenn Close’s Meatpacking District loft, a fitting spot for an illicit fling with a hot dish of crazy. Subtly, the hurtful nature of five-boroughs trysting is tweaked.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

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51

The Crowd (1928)

An office peon (James Murray), hitched after a night at Coney Island, struggles to raise a family in the tiny Murphy-bed confines of a tenement apartment and reconcile his outsize aspirations with the noble modesty of blending in with the urban masses. King Vidor’s stunning silent is a chronicle of crushed hubris.—Stephen Garrett

 

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Users say

159 comments
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.

Alan
Alan

What about Die Hard With A Vengeance or Spiderman?

tony
tony

No "I am Legend" hmmm

mike
mike

an affair to remember should be on this list................how could you miss this......

Anthony
Anthony

This list is a joke. No Gangs of New York? And the 1974 King Kong, not the last one?? Please...