11 great movies set in New York City

With its soaring skyscrapers, unique character, diverse landscape and wealth of famous landmarks, New York is a sight to behold and has provided the backdrop for countless films. 1901, one of the earliest American films, What happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York, was made there. Today, filmmaking is a billion-dollar industry in the Big Apple, which ranks as one of the most popular filming locations in the world.

With this list, we present some of the best movies set in New York City. From romantic comedies to dark thrillers, cult classics and literary adaptations, each film you’ll find below can help you virtually explore one of the area’s most vibrant cities.

Even those who have never seen it Saturday Night Fever will likely recognize the iconic poster image that defined this late ’70s classic, showing a John Travolta in a white suit in a nightclub, his legs apart and one arm raised. The flick, shot entirely in Brooklyn, catapulted Travolta (who trained for nine months to prepare for his role) to megastardom. It was one of the first productions to use steadicam technology, and the aforementioned iconic pose was actually a brilliant improvisation by the star.

This mid-’80s comedy-drama gave Madonna her first big screen role, starring alongside Rosanna Arquette and Aidan Quinn in a twisted tale of gangsters and stolen earrings. Madonna recorded a song with the same title as the film but it was eventually dropped in favor of “Into the Groove” which became and was made a worldwide hit Rolling Stones List of the 500 greatest songs of all time. A very different cast was considered before the final cast was cemented, which you can read about here.

Director Spike Lee’s first feature-length film – which he also wrote, produced and edited – was shot in just 12 days with no budget for reruns. In fact, Lee was doing so badly at the time that he reportedly saved the cast’s empty soda cans to claim the recycling money. Similar to Martin Scorsese wild bull, the film was shot entirely in black and white, save for one scene in color – a possible homage to Scorsese himself. In 2017, Lee adapted the film into a series that ran on Netflix for two seasons. You can read about another Lee classic, do the right thinghere.

Westside Story won a whopping 10 Oscars and became one of the highest-grossing films of 1961. Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood starred in the fantastic tale of rival gangs and forbidden romance, loosely based on Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet. Rumor has it that Elvis Presley was originally approached to play the role of Tony, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reportedly turned down the opportunity.

In 1980, co-author Jay Cocks gave his friend Martin Scorsese a copy of Edith Wharton’s 1920 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which this film is based. It took Scorsese seven years to read it and another six for his classic adaptation to hit the big screen. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder star, with cameos of the director’s real-life mother and father, who sadly passed away before the film’s release. The age of innocence was nominated for five Oscars but only won for Best Costume Design.

William Friedkin directed this cop thriller starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider in their definitive roles as cops Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, respectively. The roles were based on real-life detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, who also acted as consultants on the set. Before filming, Hackman and Scheider spent a month patrolling with Egan and Grosso, drawing many elements of the film from actual events. The film won five Oscars and has become equally legendary for the stories behind its creation.

This delightful comedy-drama was directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, who also stars as the titular character. Shot in black and white on a consumer camera, it follows a struggling dancer in the Big Apple whose life is thrown into chaos when her best friend moves away. Gerwig had no intention of acting in the film but was persuaded by Baumbach and ended up appearing in every scene. Frances’ parents are played by Gerwig’s real-life parents, Gordon and Christine.

Based on a play by Susan Sandler (who also wrote the screenplay), this romantic comedy is probably director Joan Micklin Silver’s best-known work. The plot follows Isabelle Grossman (played by Amy Irving), a bookstore clerk who finds her traditional Jewish upbringing challenged by the appearance of author Anton Maes (Jeroen KrabbĂ©). Reizl Bozyk plays Isabelle’s grandmother Bubbe; As the leading lady of Yiddish theater, this was Bozyk’s only English-language film. Watch for an early on-screen appearance from character actor Reg E. Cathey, who would go on to appear in countless popular TV shows including law and order, The cableand house of cards.

This cult classic follows the perilous journey of a fictional street gang from the Bronx back to their home turf on Coney Island. Based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 graphic novel of the same name, this is one of those midnight movies whose reputation has grown over the years, thanks in part to its awesome electro-rock-funk soundtrack. Reportedly, President Ronald Reagan was a huge fan and called lead actor Michael Beck to tell him how much he had enjoyed a private screening at Camp David. The much-quoted “Warriors, come out to play” line was improvised by David Patrick Kelly, who plays Luther, and was based on an intimidating neighbor of his.

Director Blake Edwards’ enduring romantic comedy has entertained and moved audiences for decades, but it wasn’t always easy for star Audrey Hepburn, whose distaste for Danish pastries made the famous opening scene a test for her. Hepburn also had to deal with a notoriously bad-tempered cat, despite getting to sing one of the most popular songs of all time, “Moon River,” which composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote especially for her. The film (an adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel of the same name) went on to win two Academy Awards and five Grammys.

Director and producer Ivan Reitman and starring Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray have achieved comedy gold in this popular supernatural adventure. Almost none of the scenes followed the script, with most of Murray’s lines in particular being improvised. Musician Ray Parker Jr. wrote the now iconic title track in just two and a half days, inspired by – of all things – a commercial for a sewer company. (Parker Jr. was later sued by fellow musician Huey Lewis for similarities to his song “I Want a New Drug.”)

A trailer for the film replicates that ghostbusters Advertising used in the film. Viewers who called the advertised 1-800 number received a recorded message from Murray and Aykroyd.

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