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.

0

Comments

Add +
  • New York movies: Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

  • New York movies: Man on Wire (2008)

  • New York movies: Marty (1955)

  • New York movies: Flaming Creatures (1963)

  • New York movies: Network (1976)

  • New York movies: Kids (1995)

  • New York movies: Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

  • New York movies: My Dinner with Andre (1981)

  • New York movies: The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

  • New York movies: The Godfather (1972)

New York movies: Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

50

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

Soon enough, Madonna’s grungy downtownness would be buffed to a mainstream sheen. But here it is, captured for all eternity. The rom-com’s mystery meeting point is Battery Park, yet its more lovable locations include the bygone East Village thrift store Love Saves the Day (where the fought-over jacket is purchased) and Danceteria, a perfect place to get into the groove.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

 Buy on Amazon

49

Man on Wire (2008)

Brit documentarian James Marsh enshrines the rogue-immigrant romance of New York in French equilibrist Philippe Petit, who sneaked to the top of the newly built World Trade Center in 1974 and enjoyed a death-defying tightrope walk between the Twin Towers’ lofty heights. Not even terrorists can erase this city’s most lyrical expression of skylarking.—Stephen Garrett

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

48

Marty (1955)

Romance blooms on the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue, as a coupla dogs—lonely butcher Marty (Ernest Borgnine) and plain schoolteacher Clara (Betsy Blair)—meet at the Stardust Ballroom and find love against the odds. Borough native-son Paddy Chayefsky nabbed a screenplay Oscar for this Best Picture winner, a beautiful homily to homeliness.—Stephen Garrett

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

47

Flaming Creatures (1963)

Jack Smith’s self-described “comedy set in a haunted music studio”—a 45-minute chronicle of delirious degeneracy—limits its vamping to a single rooftop on Grand Street, but the shock waves continue to reverberate. Having virtually created New York’s underground-film scene overnight, its influence is incalculable.—David Fear

46

Network (1976)

More jeremiad than satire, Sidney Lumet’s well-oiled production of Paddy Chayefsky’s prophetic masterpiece follows an amoral TV conglomerate that exploits a mentally ill news anchor by turning his low-rated national news show into whorehouse entertainment. This still-prescient vivisection of modern culture’s vapidity crackles with the nervous energy of midtown’s hothouse broadcasters.—Stephen Garrett

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

45

Kids (1995)

Marking the breakthroughs of two signature NYC voices—director Larry Clark and screenwriter Harmony Korine (age 19 when writing it)—this docu-style provocation put Washington Square’s sexually active skaters at the center of an NC-17 controversy. Critics and moral guardians tut-tutted, but New York City’s urban rep was burnished as the place where wayward youth party hardest.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

 Buy on Amazon

44

Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

You play the Kevin Bacon game; it’s worth returning to this adaptation of John Guare’s witty, class-conscious play, costarring a rising Will Smith as a lonely Central Park hustler (would that he’d remained this adventurous). The city is the movie’s star—a cauldron of art-gallery hauteur, liberal piety and, ultimately, the need to make a difference.—Joshua Rothkopf

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

43

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

A playwright (Wallace Shawn) and a stage director (Andre Gregory) chew the fat while literally chewing the fat in a tony New York restaurant—and create a philosophical feast. Cinema’s ultimate jawbreaker (the verbal script was penned by its stars and midwifed by director Louis Malle) celebrates the restless ruminations of a city’s eat-out culture.—Stephen Garrett

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

42

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Together again! The last Muppet adventure created under Jim Henson’s watch follows Kermit and friends as they try to make it on Broadway. Central Park and Sardi’s are key locations, and our beloved amphibian has an inspiring epiphany (“This frog is stayin’!”) atop the Empire State Building.—Keith Uhlich

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

41

The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola’s film is the great myth of a shadow New York: an immigrant tale of assimilation pitted against the impulse to honor one’s dark roots. Its vision of the city is fittingly grounded in real locations, from Manhattan’s New York State Supreme Court steps to the Calvary Cemetery in Queens.—Alison Willmore

 

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video


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...