9 of the Best Movies Set in New York City

Jan 26, 2018

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For the first time in 15 years, the GRAMMY Awards are coming back to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The city will welcome award show patrons all across the city — from Wall Street to Central Park, every neighborhood will get into the groove in preparation for music’s biggest night. To celebrate all things New York, we’ve compiled a list of the most iconic movies that have left their mark on the city. Take a look below and see how many quintessential movie scenes you can place from across the Big Apple.

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Midtown East & Upper East Side

This classic tale is about a southern gal turned call girl who moves to the Big Apple to find a rich, older man on NYC’s Upper East Side. Fates collide when her new neighbor, a struggling writer who reminds her of her estranged brother, appears to have more in common with her than either is willing to admit. The jewelry store on Fifth Avenue is not only the titular storefront, but the place where Holly Golightly feels most at home.

2. Taxi Driver: Midtown West & Upper West Side

Hailed (heh!) by many as one of the greatest films of all time, Taxi Driver follows the life of Travis Bickle, a twenty-something, honorably-discharged US Marine who struggles with depression and insomnia. Bickle takes to his cab every night to distract himself from life, traveling up and down Manhattan picking up customers. He ventures from neighborhood to neighborhood, trouble lurking at his side anywhere he goes in Manhattan.

Jodie Foster, center, and Robert De Niro walk past a parked taxi on a New York City street in a still from the film,
Jodie Foster, center, and Robert De Niro walk past a parked taxi on a New York City street in a still from the film, ‘Taxi Driver’ directed by Martin Scorsese. (Photo by Columbia Tristar/Getty Images)

3. Gangs of New York: Downtown Manhattan

The Bowery Boys ruled their domain in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan: The mid-19th century anti-Catholic, anti-Irish gang was one of the most notorious of the day. The movie begins with a battle in the old Five Points neighborhood but was also filmed on a set in Italy so that scenes could imitate an old-fashioned and believable NYC where gangs once fought for power.

4. Ghostbusters: Upper West Side

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters. This ragtag team of scientists joins forces to wage a battle on NYC’s supernatural residents. From the NYC Public Library to an apartment building that straddles Central Park, the Ghostbusters police Manhattan to make sure a recently discovered portal into another dimension remains closed, and New York’s residents remain free of the evil spirits that lie behind the gateway.

5. King Kong: Various locations in NYC

The film, which was released in 1933, is one of the most iconic depictions of NYC. From the remote, uncharted land of Skull Island and back to Manhattan, King Kong has become a name synonymous with the Big Apple. The most notorious scenes take place in midtown Manhattan starting at the Broadway Theatre, where Kong is first presented to the people of the city. And then, of course, from the Empire State Building where Kong climbs the 102-story building and (spoiler alert) ultimately falls to his death after being shot down by planes.

6. West Side Story: Upper West Side

This is the harsh story of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood, where the Sharks from Puerto Rico battle the American Jets. The Upper West Side becomes the center of the story with both gangs fighting for control of the streets.

Actors George Chakiris, Tony Mordente, Tucker Smith and Russ Tamblyn in a scene from the musical film
Actors George Chakiris, Tony Mordente, Tucker Smith and Russ Tamblyn in a scene from the musical film ‘West Side Story’, 1961. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

7. The Muppets Take Manhattan: Various locations

The Muppets truly take over the island in this epic 1984 classic. From Central Park to Times Square to Broadway and beyond, these furry guys come to NYC with the hopes of jumpstarting the play they wrote together. They end up taking odd jobs around the city to eventually gain enough capital to get their play going.

8. When Harry Met Sally: Various locations

The saga — which spans a decade — begins with two strangers sharing a ride from Chicago to New York City while arguing whether men and women can remain platonic friends. Years later, upon a chance meeting, the two meet again and the same argument arises. From Katz’s Deli, where Sally shows Harry how women fake it, to Washington Square Park and the Upper West Side, NYC becomes a central element in this classic rom-com.

9. You’ve Got Mail: Upper West Side

You’ve Got Mail gives us a closer look at the literary sites of the Upper West Side. The majority of the film was based and shot in the western nook of Manhattan and shows neighborhood mainstays, from bookstores to cafés to parks. The two protagonists live in the ‘hood as well and work blocks from their respective (fictional) businesses. The characters never seem to leave the UWS, whether for coffee or food — or the blind-date that never was.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "You
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail”. (Photo courtesy Warner Bros.)

Feature photo of Audrey Hepburn acting in the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. New York, 1960 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

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