Almost as long as film making has existed, filmmakers have attempted to capture this hub of enterprise and culture in their creations. Both Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese have made careers glorifying the grit and grandeur of the Big Apple, but they aren’t the only ones. Here are the best films set in that great city that never sleeps: New York.
10) Saturday Night Fever (1977) – John Travolta, the Beegees and New York were never the same after this nightclub tale hit theaters. It was sexy, stylish and conveyed Brooklyn in all its disco glory.
9) On the Waterfront (1954) – Few stories of the has-been tug at the heart like Marlon Brando traversing the Hoboken Docks in Elia Kazan’s dark and tragic story of corruption among the struggling working class.
8) Shame (2011) – Although this film is better known for Michael Fassbender’s *ahem* business, Steve McQueen’s depiction is an integral part of the New York legacy. Fassbender’s character battles isolation and sex addiction in 21st century New York. The film also includes a startling rendition of “New York, New York” by Carey Mulligan.
7) Goodfellas (1990) – Scorsese loves this fair city and the evidence is stuffed into every frame. No film before and no film since has captured the gleeful hero-worship of the New York gangster like Ray Liotta in this film. With staggering acting and astounding cinematography, this picture made us all wanna be goodfellas.
6) Wall Street (1987) – Long before the government bailout and movie-goers met Jordan Belfort, Oliver Stone created Gordon Gekko, the merciless Wall Street tycoon. New York is conveyed as the home of the haves and have-nots, winners and losers. The result is a film that is both alluring and repulsive.
5) Annie Hall (1977) – Both New York and Diane Keaton receive the same playful adoration in Woody Allen’s quirky celebration of love, both engrossing and completely unattainable. Allen’s brand of disarming and eccentric humor is right at home in the streets of Manhattan.
4) Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – One woman’s paranoia and gloom is at the center of this New York-based drama. Rosemary and Guy’s apartment building is a vital part of the apprehension and sheer terror Polanski conjures. Mia Farrow is magnificent as the delicate wife merely trying to keep her unborn baby safe.
3) Midnight Cowboy (1969) – If you wish to see New York in very midst of the cultural revolution, all you need to do is watch this film. Both gritty and completely charming, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are compelling and heart-breaking as two outcasts watching out for each other. These are the first glimpses of the generation that refused to accept their ancestor’s “American Dream.” Somehow Harry Nilsson’s whimsical brand of rock takes this tale to new heights.
2) Ghostbusters (1994) – Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis would not have their comedy classic if not for this beloved city as their backdrop. New York is intrinsic to this story, from Sigourney Weaver’s penthouse in “spook central” to the firehouse where the team set up shop. As Ernie Hudson shouts after defeating Zuul, “I love this city.”
1) Taxi Driver (1976) – At the heart of this baffling achievement is Robert De Niro’s deranged yet somehow quintessential New Yorker. Scorsese portrays the great city in all its seedy squalor, offering De Niro’s character a sense of purpose. The film’s protagonist is the perfect metaphor for New York, always in motion, but filled with aggression and longing.