Top 10 NYC Movies From The Mouth Of A Native

{Dear Readers: The guest post written by Mike Vogler, Top 10 New York City Movies From My West Coast Point Of View, caused quite the passionate discussion here in NYC, so much so that our very own New Yorker and UYC writer Joanne came up with her own top 10!)

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Now Mike…

I don’t mean to start a coastal conflict nor a gender war. I am not equipped intellectually nor physically for either.  However, that being said … the genteel gloves are off!

There is a LEFT coast – and a RIGHT coast (pun intended!) that define our borders.  However, it’s like sliding doors. Sunny LA, Wintry NYC. You need both sides of the coin, another point of view, devil’s advocate….call it as you see it!

Your Top Ten NYC movie list represents an admirable, well considered selection and I especially respect the thorough research you put into the movie locales involving all five boroughs of the Big Apple, not just the slice called Manhattan. But it was teeming with testosterone driven selections! (Although I acknowledge your Number One spot was a smart choice and saved you from eternal banishment to the dog house, Mike!) But I think perhaps it’s the L.A. smog and not rose colored glasses informing your list. The films you chose are so dark and grim. More a view of NYC’s gritty underbelly then the romantic, optimistic “the sky’s the limit” approach – “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”  I don’t want the UYC readers to think NYC is ripe with corruption, mafiosos, mean streets and greedy Wall Streeters,  yet seasoned at its edges with a little serendipity! 

So lest those in the middle think NYC is all grit and grime, I’ll visit the lighter side of the moon with my selections rather then fly too close to the sun.

I am offering an admittedly highly subjective list for my “Filmed in the Big Apple Top Ten Movie List” from the female pov, and the biased opinions of a born and bred New Yorker – we’re all like that i.e. overly opinionated!  I am opting for the gentler, kinder movie NYC tempered by the double “X” factor. Yes, there are a few mean streets here but there’s also the yellow brick road.

The only criteria for my selections is that NYC work as great backdrop and setting, yet assumes such importance that our great city becomes an essential character in the film.

By the way, the last time I did a “Top 10” movie list, I had 117 selections.  So make certain your Netflix account is in good standing, you’re gonna need it!

Enjoy my self indulgent anecdotal commentary – my personal version of pop up video.

10.  “ENCHANTED”

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Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? Starring the gossamer Amy Adams, and a gorgeous Patrick Dempsey, this film solidified her cinematic future. A star was born.  Adored the charming romp thru the eastern side of Central Park, especially literary walk and Belvedere Terrace for the production number “How Do You Know?” But all the NYC backdrops, especially the Times Square neon and billboards, are essential to this fabulous fluff of a flick.  I remember when they were in NYC filming this feather of a story – it was the dead of winter! Brrrrrr.

9.  “REAR WINDOW”

Photo Credit: https://www.movieposter.comDirected by the great mystery movie maker, Alfred Hitchcock.  Starring the iconic Jimmy Stewart and that regally beautiful blonde, Grace Kelly. This is a terrific thriller and debunks the myth that NYC’s citizens don’t know their neighbors….and if they don’t, this movie proves that they SHOULD!  The view from the rear window in this film is EXACTLY like the one I have from my home. Many Manhattan apt. dwellers who live on the side streets can make the same statement. You never know what you’re gonna witness outside your window, be warned.

8.  “THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT”

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With the legendary funny man, Peter Sellers, and the always interesting Angela Lansbury.  But the real standouts are the two clever, precocious 12 year old private school BFFs  on that crucial cusp of adolescence. Girl pals who make the streets and avenues of NYC their personal back yard.  Great views of NYC landmarks such as the UN and my beloved East River Walk (which I wrote about previously in UYC) and of everyday Manhattan neighborhoods. Who says you can’t raise kids safely in a big city?  Growing up in a city like New York is an education in itself. A must see, bittersweet  adventurous tale of that necessary, life altering transition from innocence to experience.

7.  “HANNAH AND HER SISTERS”

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Woody Allen is to NYC as Charles Dickens is to London … inseparable.  Set throughout Manhattan – the Carlyle, the Metropolitan Opera House, uptown, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, CBGB’s, the Broadway Theater District,  Pageant Bar & Grill, the Chrysler Building…. he covers it all. But the real star of the film, especially to New York’s apartment dwellers, became the sprawling, fabulous, seemingly endless apartment where several keys scenes are played out. We all drooled over the dining room (who in NYC has a dining room?) the 12 foot ceilings with crown molding, endless book shelves,  a grand piano in the enormous living room, a center hallway – the sheer good taste of it all…the green eyed monster came out in all of us. Allegedly this was Mia Farrow’s real apartment (she plays Hannah) left to her by her legendary actress mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, who actually plays her Mother in this film.  I so miss the legendary Tower Records on Broadway and 68th Street, a logical neighbor for Lincoln Center.( Woody spots one of the sisters in Tower browsing their incredible jazz selection.) A great place to browse, listen, meet up – as a music major, I spent HOURS there.  My friends met their future spouses there (as does Woody in this film). A legendary selection of music.

6.  “SEX AND THE CITY”

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Our favorite gal pals continue their cable tv love affair (not to mention their love lives) with NYC on the silver screen.  The main 42nd Street branch of the NYPL will NEVER be the same. (I spent many a weekend in their 3rd Floor main reading room while in Graduate School) The grand entrance, flanked by those majestic lions (aptly named “Patience and Fortitude”) and grand marble staircase soured into a sad exit for our beloved Carrie, faster the a New York minute.  And again, we salivated over SJP’s and Big’s Upper Fifth Avenue apartment, not to mention Charlotte’s Park Avenue digs and Miranda’s Brooklyn brownstone. These glam gals defined NYC for an entire generation.  I ran into their tv shoots several times during the years they were filming their show in and about NYC.  Always a thrill to see these women “on the job.”

5.  “THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR”

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Such an intelligent, involving, intriguing plot – the perfect metaphor for NYC itself. Robert Redford plays a CIA low level think tank “brain” (code name: condor) who analyzes data and ideas for possible conspiracy theories. (Remember, this was pre 9/11 – where the criticism became “a failure of imagination”…how prescient). Sure enough, he comes too close to the truth and the story takes off. You will see our government in a totally different light after this exciting, absorbing film. I remember when they were filming on the streets of Manhattan, very exciting seeing Redford literally on the run!  The Lexington Avenue “Luncheonette” and East 77th St. elegant townhouse which served as this film’s catalyst, still stand, as well as the entire Upper West side Broadway run where Redford’s character literally ran for his life.  The Times Square recruiting station also still stands.  Gotta mention the legendary Max Von Sydow as a chilling “hit man” and a smart Faye Dunaway as an initially unwilling accomplice.  Love a good conspiracy theory!

4.  “WHEN HARRY MET SALLY”

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NYC couldn’t be more beautiful in the Fall, and this film takes total advantage of this season.  If you have not seen this film – which centers around that eternal question  “Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?” then run, don’t walk to see an adorable Meg Ryan and a witty, smarty pants Billy Crystal. You have all seen the famous scene at Katz’s deli i.e. “I’ll have what she’s having.” This “hit the nail on the head” love story travels to Giant’s Stadium, the Puck Building, the Washington Square Arch down in the heart of Greenwich Village, Central Park’s ideal ladies luncheon locale i.e. the Central Park Boat House….each scene contributes to this insightful love story that could only happen in NYC.

3.  “MOONSTRUCK”

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Only a New Yorker such as John Patrick Shanley (born in the Bronx) could write such an off center, off beat love story. With lines like “Snap out of it!” and “Ma, I love him awful”… well, reality bites back!  Cher scored her Oscar in this film, but it was her NY spot on accent, highlighted by the Brooklyn Heights streets and glorious promenade that captured out hearts. The scenes both outside and inside the glorious red velvet Metropolitan Opera House take your breath away. Every other time I pass the infamous Lincoln Center Fountain, I spot someone posing like Cher in “Moonstruck” for a selfie.  I urge you all to one day go inside this major opera house, they offer a fab back stage tour.

2.  “ANNIE HALL”

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Another Woody Allen masterpiece. A work of epic proportion and way ahead of itself in the relationship area.  Both Woody and Diane Keaton (her quirky, cool look launched a fashion trend) have never been better.  You laugh, you cry, you relate. As expected, Woody’s love affair with NY continues, he takes us thru Coney Island in Brooklyn, his beloved Beekman Movie Theater on the Upper East Side, the beautifully filmed streets of New York invite you for a admirable stroll where everything is possible. And if you can’t get it here….well, you don’t need it!  Our beloved “Thalia” movie theater (the ultimate art house for film buffs and due to its late night/early morning programming, the perfect symbol of the city that never sleeps) is lovingly acknowledged in a memorable scene. It closed way back when. I cut my young cinematic teeth there on those deep, existential Ingmar Bergman stoic stories and Fellini double headers. Those were the days.

1. “BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS”

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Iconic. Unique. The epitome of my city’s inherent promise, its legendary night life, its drama. Starring the ultra stylish, supremely beautiful  Audrey Hepburn. She looked like nobody else, they broke the mold.  I moved to an old brownstone in NYC’s East 70s-so influential was this film to my generation of young women – as this is where the fictional Holly Golightly lived.  I pass the building where they filmed her apt. practically every day. Holly was godmother to all young women trying to make their dreams come true, knowing they can’t- or won’t- go home again. Keep sailing that moon river, my fellow huckleberry friends. You know who you are!

Now readers, we would love to hear from you! What is your favorite movie set in NYC?  Share below!

 

By: Joanne Theodorou

 

 

 

13 Comments on “Top 10 NYC Movies From The Mouth Of A Native

  1. You did really good on this Joanne and thank you for the rebuttal post. Very enjoyable :) Redford’s character in the current Captain America: The Winter Soldier was modeled after his role in Three Days of the Condor :)

    • Glad you enjoyed, Mike!;-) And thanks for the fun fact, you definitely know your movie trivia!

    • Mike,
      Thank you, MIke.
      Between the two of us, Jessica -our illustrious editor, and the UYC readers we could easily arrive at 100 more NYC films equally as worthy.
      Great fun. I love walking NYC and spotting movie shoots, we are indeed rich in cinematic history.
      Welcome Spring, Blessed Passover and Happy Easter to all.
      Joanne recently posted..A Conversation With A DreamerMy Profile

  2. Love that Enchanted made the list! In addition to When Harry Met Sally and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I’d add Barefoot in the Park, One Fine Day, Serendipity and Home Alone. Then I’d swap the three Woody Allen films for ones with Doris Day: That Touch of Mink, Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. I love the ladies of SATC and was a huge fan of the show, but the movies were a big disappointment.
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    • Ahh, yes, Home Alone is a great one that shows the city in its Christmas finest! Good add, Heather!:-)

    • It’s definitely one of those classics you can re-watch again and again!

  3. Loved Enchanted because it was so funny and everything was just “off” – rats to clean? So clever! Loved 3 Days of the Condor, too. Never met anyone who’d seen it so was glad to see it on here along with Moonstruck, a classic, “snap outta it!” I never saw Sex in the City series or movie but the rest are gems, too.

    Loved “The Thin Man” and “Topper” series set in 1930’s NY, “Arsenic and Old Lace” and a hysterical Christmas movie, It Happened on Fifth Avenue” (1940’s) and on and on – it’s fun to see NY in its past and compare it to today!
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    • Yay, glad you liked the lesser known gems, too!

      I’m definitely going to check out “It Happened on Fifth Avenue”, never seen it! Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Thanks Steven! And agree, SATC is one of those shows you can watch again and again, year after year!:-)