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: King of New York (1990)

  • New York movies: Metropolitan (1990)

  • New York movies: Shaft (1971)

  • New York movies: Wild Style (1983)

  • New York movies: Shame (2011)

  • New York movies: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

  • New York movies: West Side Story (1961)

  • New York movies: Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

  • New York movies: Mean Street (1973)

  • New York movies: The Naked City (1948)

New York movies: King of New York (1990)


King of New York (1990)

Would-be Robin Hood Christopher Walken travels to all corners of the city to take out his competition in Abel Ferrara’s operatic crime epic, heading from the Plaza Hotel to Little Italy to Chinatown. He ends up where any true New Yorker dreads being stuck: Times Square.—Alison Willmore


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Metropolitan (1990)

A Princeton undergrad and self-proclaimed radical (Edward Clements) unwittingly falls into a circle of Upper East Siders during black-tie debutante party season—his crosstown address and “limited resources” notwithstanding. Prep auteur Whit Stillman delivers a deeply affectionate look at the collegiate insecurities and overeducated naïveté of Park Avenue high society.—Stephen Garrett


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Shaft (1971)

From Harlem to midtown to Greenwich Village, no one seems to have a finger on the pulse of the city like Richard Roundtree’s impossibly badass private eye in Gordon Parks’s blaxploitation classic. He’s a man whose loyalty shifts from faction to faction but always seems to belong, quietly, to New York.—Alison Willmore


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Wild Style (1983)

Charlie Ahearn’s legendary docudrama captured onscreen as never before the worlds of hip-hop and graffiti, with appearances from Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, street artist Lee Quinones, break-dancers the Rock Steady Crew and more. It’s an unparalleled artifact of a tagging, popping and body-rocking era.—Alison Willmore


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Shame (2011)

Never mind Michael Fassbender’s bollocks; the real nakedness in Steve McQueen’s portrait of a sex addict comes when our city’s pleasuredome facade is stripped away. It’s as much a portrait of post-9/11 NYC as it is of a broken man, encapsulated in a rendition of “New York, New York” that melds personal trauma and public anguish.—David Fear


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Midnight Cowboy (1969)

John Schlesinger’s Oscar-winning drama not only offers a glimpse of the forty-deuce at its sleazy height; it captures the desperation of the hustlers and con men trying to survive in a city where everybody talks at you and nobody hears a word you say. Also, you might want to get outta Dustin Hoffman’s way—he’s walkin’ here!—David Fear


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West Side Story (1961)

The majority of this musical tour de force—a modern-day take on Romeo and Juliet—was shot on a soundstage. Yet it still has a fierce City That Never Sleeps flavor, helped in no small part by the stunning on-location opening sequence in which two rival gangs tussle their way from West 68th Street to 110th Street.—Keith Uhlich


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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Sergio Leone’s epic mob drama recently received an upgrade, closer to its original 269-minute running time. Can it even be improved upon? The standout section remains Leone’s heartbreaking evocation of 1920s Jewish tenement life on the LES, starring a cast of kids. Wanna-be toughs roam cart-strewn streets, chow down on deli food and flirt with a preteen Jennifer Connelly.—Joshua Rothkopf


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Mean Streets (1973)

Raw and vital, Martin Scorsese’s early gangster tragedy portrays Little Italy as intimately lived-in, both a close community and a trap from which Harvey Keitel’s Charlie and best friend, salvation and destruction Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) will never have enough momentum to escape.—Alison Willmore


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The Naked City (1948)

“There are 8 million stories in the naked city,” but only one Jules Dassin classic—a shot-entirely-on-location police procedural that had the chutzpah to tell its tale on Gotham’s actual crammed sidewalks. Doubling as a travelogue, this noir thriller established a new benchmark for verisimilitude; the real stars are the streets of New York themselves.—David Fear


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