The romanticization of New York in movies is a controversial topic. There are those that think the over glorification of the city is unnecessary And yes, there’s no doubt that filmmakers love getting that over headshot of Washington Square Park in the fall. But the fact of the matter is, many people have moved to NYC to make their dreams come true and the city has given them the chance to. Of all the movies filmed in New York, few have achieved the status of a cult-classic.
Feeling like binge-watching Chicago movies instead? We got you, kid.
There is much to the magic of New York, if you ask us. And if you love cities, chances are , you’ve dreamt of New York if you haven’t already found yourself here.
Sure, there have been tons of movies filmed in New York, about New York, some even shot somewhere in Canada but mostly about New York ? … but here’s a list of our favorites!
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Adapted from the book with the same title, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins paints mid-century Harlem in lush and aesthetically pleasing colors. Some movies aren’t just filmed in New York, they captures New York in its complete autumnal beauty. Nature does not leave the chance to conspire with the young lovers Tish and Fonny as they walk hand in hand through a park in the opening scene. Some people even called this movie too beautiful, so prepare yourself!
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Frances Ha (2013)
This black and white Noah Baumbach special stars Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the movie. The plot endearingly recreates the intimacy, romance, and mystery of the journey many of us take after college in a pursuit to find ourselves. All against the backdrop of New York in black and white. From Tompkins Square Park and a montage of Frances and Sophie’s friendship to Bryant Park, East Broadway Station, and even a local grocery called the M. A. Grocery Store, this movie shows it all. Of all the movies filmed in New York on this list, this one’s a winner when it comes to the mysterious grit of New York.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
A traditional fairytale, with a lost prince and a princess he can’t marry because of his evil stepmother… juxtaposed with the (sort of) jarring yet hilarious backdrop of modern day New York. The premise is witty and simple yet riddled with hijinks. To quote the trailer, “no other Disney tale has even taken you to a land as strange and terrifying as ours,” but then a whole musical unfolds right next to Bethesda Fountain. Enchanted brilliantly portrays the alluring architecture of Morningside Heights, making New York not seem too different from a magical land.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Based on a Broadway musical of the same name, this movie quite joyfully highlights the gritty grunge side of New York. It sheds light on the lives of a group of ragtag artists, addicts, vagabonds and people with HIV/AIDS living in Alphabet City at the “end of the millennium.” The film also brought along most of the actors from the original Broadway production which is pretty cool.
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Uptown Girls (2003)
Among the several familiar sights in Uptown Girls, with Brittany Murphey and a young Dakota Fanning, are Christie’s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bendel’s storefront, Bow bridge in Central Park and the Tea Party ride on Coney Island. It’s comedy and romance against the backdrop of early 2000’s New York, and you can’t go wrong with that. Beware though, the reviews the movie received were negative, but it’s definitely become a cult classic.
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Crooklyn is a deeply personal and bittersweet film, inspired by the director Spike Lee’s own childhood in Brooklyn. Fun fact, his brother Cinqué and sister Joie were cowriters on the movie! Set in the 1970s, it follows Troy (Zelda Harris), a young girl growing up in colorful Bed-Stuy with her parents & four brothers. This is hands down one of Spike Lee’s warmest, calmest, and most atmospheric worlds, and it even features a performance by the director himself. It’s a pleasant focus on a lost time and place, summing up more of the boroughs than the geography of it.
Genre: Drama/Coming Of Age
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
To put things in perspective, none of Martin Scorsese’s best work such as Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence, and the Wolf Of Wall Street, have steered too far away from the New York metropolitan area. Among this list falls Goodfellas, the ultimate crime drama featuring a mobster and his crazy network of family and friends. Much of the movie was shot in Astoria, Queens.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Of all the movies set in New York, this one’s a classic Manhattan movie par excellence. When Harry Met Sally transformed Katz’ Deli into a pilgrimage site for fans of the movie. But that wasn’t all, it also justly captured the autumnal beauty of New York perfectly. What else can we say? This romcom is a total classic.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Working Girl (1988)
This quintessential workplace comedy stars Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver, and focuses on a secretary making her way up the corporate ladder. Watch this not just for Griffith’s iconic transformation from a naïve girl from Staten Island to man-eater in the ruthless concrete jungle, but for overhead shots of Manhattan, ferry rides from Staten Island, the old South Street Seaport and some admirable buildings from the 80’s.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story undoubtedly set a high mark for New York movies. With its prologue, the graphics, the bird’s-eye views, the Leonard Bernstein score and the lacerating finale, it’s truly brilliant. The playgrounds and fire escapes of Upper West Side framed a compelling epic of urban love but that’s not all, it’s an inherently New York saga – Romeo & Juliet have found themselves in various iterations over the years, but few feel as authentic as this one.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
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