And so we arrive at the big daddy—the movie you quote into the mirror when you’re feeling fed up (“You talking to me?”), the film that always leaps to mind when a cab pulls through the late-night steam of a manhole cover to take you on a ride to hell. The project almost went to Hitchcock-obsessed Brian De Palma, deemed unsuitable. Instead, with great serendipity, the intense, young director of Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese, and his soft-spoken star, Robert De Niro, were attached. Nothing less than magic was captured during that difficult summer shoot, plagued by beastly heat and a Manhattan garbage strike. Travis Bickle, our cracked hero, cruises through unruly Greenwich Village and the unpredictable streets of Hell’s Kitchen. The story may be all in his head: a deranged man’s dream of vanilla romance with Cybill Shepherd, unchecked fury at political impotence and the compulsive urge to right every wrong, no matter how slight. Because Taxi Driver is so pungent and real, it tops our NYC list. Because it speaks to the lonely devil in all of us, it tops any list.
Paradise and prison, bustling metropolis and the loneliest place on earth: New York City has a cinematic identity that touches upon all walks of life. Even as we write our own stories in this most famous of locations, we walk alongside fictional characters (and sometimes real ones, if we’re lucky).
In selecting the 100 most essential New York movies, we kept the city’s boldness in mind. We know the town backward and forward, and could recommend to you the best things to do, the best pizza parlors, the best speakeasies. But what about the best rom-coms that aren’t Woody Allen movies? Dive in, jostle politely, find your seat or ride standing: Please tell us what we’ve missed. It’s a big town.
Written by Melissa Anderson, David Fear, Stephen Garrett, Joshua Rothkopf, Andy Kryza, Keith Uhlich and Alison Willmore
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