What makes an amazing New York City movie? Not merely a movie set in New York — there are a lot of those. We’re talking about an amazing New York City movie that surpasses establishing shots and dodgy accents to immortalise something distinct about this place. The nervous pace of a weekly commute, the philharmonic overlapping of sidewalk talk, the clammy jockeying for position on any square foot. Great New York City films find beauty in the rot of Times Square as well as the penthouses of Central Park West. Many people reflect the terrifying reality of living in Brooklyn today and the Bronx yesterday. Others, the urbane fantasy.
Here is our picks of the most famous movies that are set in NYC.
Spike Lee’s rueful drama mainly unfolds on the night before convicted drug dealer Monty Brogan (who is played by Edward Norton) starts a seven-year sentence in an upstate prison. It mixes together Monty’s ruminations, recollections as well as a concluding fantasy of escape. He also indulges an fiery bathroom rant against New York City stereotypes.
Although the 25th Hour isn’t “about” 9/11, New York City’s collective PTSD is implicit in the movie’s pervasive anxiety, as evidenced by the shots of Monty and his friends (who is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper) looking down on Ground Zero before they go out clubbing. Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox co-star.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Christmas in New York City could practically be its own genre, thanks in large part to 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. The charming film centres around a Macy’s department store Santa who says that he is the real Kris Kringle—to the point where he goes on trial in order to prove his identity. It’s a lovely story that is told in a lovely way, and it just may inspire you to have a little more childlike faith…and possibly go shopping at Macy’s more often.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
As a chronicler of city life where you can enjoy everything from a cab ride and a coffee to playing at an online casino South Africa in Central Park, Nora Ephron had a dramatic flair for both the comically specific and the sweepingly romantic. Her screenplay for When Harry Met Sally being the obvious example. As a Manhattan movie par excellence, it made Katz’s Deli into a genuine pilgrimage site, besides playing up the sheer beauty of autumn in New York. (A year and a half prior to her death, in June 2012, Ephron compiled a list of the things she’d miss most, among them “fall,” “a walk in the park,” “the idea of a walk in the park,” and “the park.”)
Sweet Smell Of Success (1957)
Broadway has never seemed as temptingly menacing as it does in Alexander Mackendrick’s bitter farce about a poisonous gossip columnist (who is played by Burt Lancaster), his soulless lackey (who is played by Tony Curtis) and the wreckage left in their wake. Times Square becomes a monochromatic monstrosity that is full of harsh lights, sad-sack lunch counters and nonstop noise. The luxe interiors of 21 and the Elysian Room double well for Dante’s ninth circle of Hell.