Great Movies Set in New York City

Contributing Writer; Sydney, Australia (@HugoOzman)
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Great Movies Set in New York City
The most recent great film set in New York City that I saw was a little independent film called THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND from writer-director-producer David Spaltro. As you could tell from my positive review, I admired it a lot. So when I heard that pre-production for Spaltro's third and final valentine to NYC (after 2008's ...AROUND and 2011's THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND) has begun and that shooting is due to start in early winter 2013, I am naturally excited. 

Here is what Spaltro told me about his new film: "The film's plot deals with memories, the art of writing and storytelling, changing relationships as well as a science fiction element involving time travel and space. It's going to be a bit non-linear detailing an important and sometimes toxic relationship between two people continually brought together and torn apart at different times in their lives and also tie in a science fiction element to explore those themes as well, which is something completely new and different to my work I've never tried."

"I've always had a bit of a love affair with New York City," Spaltro said. "It's the only place I've ever been able to call home and how it's inspired me creatively as the setting for both my films and how its themes and characters are very much facets of the city." 

So I asked him the question that I often discuss with my friends: what are your favorite movies set in New York? "My favorite NYC set films are Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, Martin Scorsese's AFTER HOURS and Billy Wilder's THE APARTMENT (my favorite film in general) with an honorable mention to Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING. I feel they are the most accurate and honest portraits of real life at different times in NYC rather than "post card movies" that just have familiar NYC visuals or things that are more for tourists."

So, how about you, our dear readers? What are your favorites amongst all the films set in New York? TAXI DRIVER, ANNIE HALL, WALL STREET, GHOSTBUSTERS or others? Let us know!
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marcwalkowApril 6, 2012 9:17 AM

Four letters:


One of the best NYC films ever made, simply in its use of locations and how it captures the gritty feeling of the city in the 1980s.

Honorable mentions:

KING OF NEW YORK (though a lot of it was shot on soundstages)
plus nearly anything by Sidney Lumet.....

nolanbruce.bruceApril 6, 2012 11:33 AM

Off the top of my head, the movie I want to say (barring Annie Hall and Taxi Driver which you already mentioned) is Metropolitan.

Jason GorberApril 6, 2012 1:17 PM

I hear the Godfather trilogy's pretty good... :)

I kinda hate AFTER HOURS, it just drove me nuts, almost irrationally so. But, excluding every Coppola and Scorsese and Spike and Wood and Lumet film from the list, one of the weirder NYC film experiences was KISSING JESSICA STEIN.

It's a light film, kinda sweet, but it was shot basically entirely in lower Manhattan (Water St and the like), and screened Wednesday, September 12, 2001. Just as the audience would warm up to the tale, there would be yet another shot in the background of those two buildings that were there 30 hours or so earlier.

Still, is there a more definitive NYC film than KING KONG? How can you visit Manhattan and not think of some ape climbing up that building?

Ben UmsteadApril 6, 2012 3:32 PM

For whatever reason I have not yet seen any films from Spaltro. This post helps in reminding me I need to rectify that. Thanks, Hugo. As for my own answers to the question... you can find them in this T-o-M post from last July

Mr. CavinApril 6, 2012 6:51 PM

Well, skipping over the ones that have been mentioned previously (After Hours is one of my favorite films), I'd like to add the Naked City and Wolfen to the list of movies that present a useful, cultural, or indispensable document of the city. Honestly, I don't know where you fall when it comes to Spider-Man 2, but the footage of New York is state-of-the-art. At the very least, Raimi's B-roll needs to be on this list, too.

This is an excellent idea for a thread. Do more cities!

Hugo OzmanApril 6, 2012 7:00 PM

Great list! Thanks, marcwalkow!

Hugo OzmanApril 6, 2012 7:01 PM

Great choice. Thanks, nolanbruce.bruce!

Hugo OzmanApril 6, 2012 7:04 PM

Thanks Jason. How could I not think of KING KONG! (By the way, I love the original, but actually like Peter Jackson's version quite a lot as well.)

Hugo OzmanApril 6, 2012 7:07 PM

Thanks, Ben! I would definitely recommend Spaltro's THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND. And thanks for posting the link to your great article. Anyone who hasn't read it yet ought to check it out!

Hugo OzmanApril 6, 2012 7:09 PM

Thanks, Mr. Calvin. Great additions to the list, and wonderful suggestion! We should work on covering more cities then!

2BitApril 6, 2012 8:36 PM

I'll throw The Fisher King into the ring. (I like New York in June how about you? )

Also, off the top of my head gotta show some love for Igby Goes Down & most recently Margaret.

2BitApril 6, 2012 8:49 PM

Oh yeah, 200 Cigarettes is a fun little romp as well.

Hugo OzmanApril 7, 2012 7:11 AM

Thanks for these additions, 2Bit!

stkareneApril 7, 2012 10:23 AM

Above all else The Warriors. A movie that should never be redone. Maybe not great or epic but it certainly captures a moment of American history and the true grit of New York at the end of the 70's.

And then perhaps King of Comedy.

Hugo OzmanApril 7, 2012 10:52 AM

Thanks, stkarene. To me, THE WARRIORS is one of those films that get better with repeated viewings.

XarisApril 7, 2012 12:40 PM

The Wackness completelty pwns all those NY movies man

Hugo OzmanApril 8, 2012 12:14 AM

Thanks, Xaris Froso. Interesting choice!

Dustin ChangApril 12, 2012 1:04 AM

Some of my favorites:

25th Hour
The Little Fugitive
Midnight Cowboy
The Muppets Take Manhattan
Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind

There's gotta be more

Hugo OzmanApril 12, 2012 7:36 AM

Thanks for joining the discussion, Dustin. There are really so many great NYC-based films!

Ard VijnApril 12, 2012 7:44 AM

The Fifth Element!

Hugo OzmanApril 12, 2012 9:19 AM

Thanks, Ard. Yes, The Fifth Element, from the director of my favorite English-language film Leon the Professional!

Ard VijnApril 12, 2012 10:01 AM

Leon was actually the first film where I was able to think of New York as a place where people actually LIVE, instead of a business center.

Hugo OzmanApril 13, 2012 4:27 PM

That's true, Ard. I just love the feel of the run-down New York neighborhood in Leon.