Perhaps New York's mass appeal can be partially attributed to its frequent presence on the silver screen. New York is featured in more films than any other city, and since the beginning of the 20th Century, directors have used it as a film backdrop, featuring countless landmarks as important locations for plot twists. Other times, New York is chosen for the ambiance it lends to a film, whether romantic, trendy, or dangerous. Below we've compiled a chronological list of the ten most classic New York films, with information on how to visit the spots depicted in the movies.
An Affair to Remember
An Affair to Remember (1957): Starring Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember is considered one of the most romantic films of all time. A wealthy playboy and a beautiful nightclub singer meet on a luxury liner from Europe to New York, and although engaged to different people, they fall in love. They decide that, in six months, if they still feel the same way, they will meet atop the Empire State Building (if the plot sounds vaguely familiar to you, it's because the 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle was inspired by this). The film was shot mostly in Hollywood, but exteriors throughout New York and the prominence of the Empire State Building make An Affair to Remember one of the first to make the city central to its plot. Ascend the landmark yourself by night and you'll understand why, after all these years, it still has timeless charm.
- Empire State Building: 350 Fifth Avenue, between E. 33rd and 34th Streets
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961): Breakfast at Tiffany's begins with one of the most classic scenes in American film history. Decked out in a floor-length dress, oversized sunglasses, and a tiara, Audrey Hepburn arrives by taxi at the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store on Fifth Avenue. With a French cruller in one hand and a hot coffee in the other, the young socialite marvels at the diamonds and pearls on the other side of the window. Hepburn became a style icon for her portrayal of the eccentric Holly Golightly, who lives in an Upper East Side brownstone and makes her living through conjugal visits to an imprisoned mobster. The story follows Holly through her entertaining escapades in Manhattan, showcasing the wealthy and prominent Upper East Side. Holly's home on 71st Street is a picturesque townhouse on a tree-lined row, and various scenes are also filmed in Central Park and on the streets of the tony neighborhood. At her spacious apartment, in elegant Givenchy dresses, and at wild cocktail parties, it's easy to see why many a young girl has dreamed of reliving Holly Golightly's fabulous New York existence.
The Godfather (1972): Francis Ford Coppola's mafia classic, about the clash of old-world and new-world values in an Italian-American gangster family, showcases more New York locations than any other movie in this list. Don Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, is the patriarch of the Corleone crime family, and the film chronicles the family's involvement the New York mafia world over the span of ten years. Many of the character's homes were shot (no pun intended) on Long Island, Staten Island and the Bronx. Meanwhile, most of the dramatic scenes involving drug deals and shoot-outs took place throughout Manhattan. Don's son Michael (Al Pacino) and his new wife, Kay (Diane Keaton) stay at the St. Regis; a pivotal, violent scene takes place at Louis' Restaurant in Belmont; Don is gunned down at the Mietz Building in Little Italy. For those who have never seen the movie, these locations don't have much meaning, but followers of The Godfather could spend several days visiting all the filming locations in New York. Unfortunately, many of the buildings have changed names or been demolished since the making of the 40-year-old film, but die-hard fans will be able to recognize them.
- Calvary Cemetery (where Don's funeral takes place): Greenpoint Ave., Woodside, Queens
- Edison Hotel (now the W Hotel): 228 W. 47th St. (near Broadway)
- Mietz Building: 128 Mott St. (between Grand and Hester Streets)
- Old St. Patrick's Cathedral (where Michael is christened to become Godfather): 264 Mulberry St. (between E. Prince and Houston Streets)
- Penn Central Railroad (where the summit meeting of the Five Families takes place): Above Grand Central Station, E. 42nd St. and Park Ave.
- St. Regis Hotel: 2 E. 55th St. (at Fifth Ave.)
Annie Hall (1977): As in most of his films, New York City plays a crucial role in Woody Allen's critically-acclaimed classic, Annie Hall. Allen's character, the neurotic Alvy Singer, guides the audience through his doomed relationship with the equally neurotic Annie, played by Diane Keaton. Early on, we learn that Alvy grew up on Coney Island underneath the roller coaster in Astroland; viewers will always remember the scene of Alvy eating dinner with his family as the house shakes from the ride. New York locations mark the passing of time throughout Annie and Alvy's relationship, such as an early scene outside Annie's apartment on 70th and Madison ("Don't worry," Alvy tells Annie after she parks the car, "We can walk to the curb from here.") A shot of the couple kissing in a park, with the 59th Street Bridge lit behind them, reveals the hidden romantic nature of their relationship, while the last scene of the film, the couple meeting long after their break-up, is shot from the inside of famous saloon P.J. Clarke's on West 63rd Street. The film leaves New York briefly when Alvy takes a trip to Los Angeles, but he doesn't stay long, disgusted by the superficiality of the city and the fact that its "only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light."
- 59th Street Bridge: Annie and Alvy kiss in a small park off E. 57th St. and Sutton Place with the East River and the 59th Street Bridge behind them (also known as the Queensboro Bridge)
- Annie's Apartment: On E. 70th Street, near Madison Avenue Coney Island: Neptune Ave., Brooklyn
- New York Health and Racquet Club (where Alvy and Annie meet for the first time): 39 Whitehall St. (between Pearl and Water Streets)
- P.J. Clarke's: 44 W. 63rd St. at Columbus Ave.
- Thalia Cinema (where Alvy spots Annie on a date with another man): 250 W. 95th St. at Broadway
Saturday Night Fever
Saturday Night Fever (1977): From start to finish, Saturday Night Fever embodies the New York disco craze of the 1970s. The film begins with John Travolta's legendary saunter down 86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to the beat of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive." Travolta's character, Tony Monero, grabs two slices of pizza at Lenny's, which is still in business today. Bay Ridge, a historically-Italian neighborhood, serves as the backdrop as the film continues to follow Tony's dramatic and disco-filled days: at home with his working-class family, at work, a local hardware store, and of course, at the nightclub. And who can forget that pivotal scene on the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge? Sadly, the 2001 Odyssey, which became an iconic nightclub during the late-70s and into the 80s, has since been demolished. You can still visit Tony's place of work, though, the Bay Ridge Home Center, and the Phillips Dance Studio where he and Stephanie rehearsed for the big competition. Plus, you'll reminisce most about the film by simply walking around the neighborhood. Just make sure you have some Bee Gees on your iPod.
- Bay Ridge Home Center: 7305 5th Ave. at 73rd St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
- Lenny's Pizza: 1969 86th St. at 20th Ave., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
- Phillips Dance Studio: 1301 W. 7th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Ghostbusters (1984): Who you gonna call? Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray star as "parascientists" in this classic sci-fi comedy about four former professors who start a ghost-catching business in New York. Hired by Dana Barrett, played by Sigourney Weaver, the Ghostbusters must rid her Upper West Side apartment of the ghosts that have been haunting it. Among the famous filming locations in Ghostbusters are the New York Public Library, where the first ghosts in the film are spotted, and Tavern on the Green, where Rick Moranis escapes after being chased by a hellhound. The Ghostbusters headquarters' was an abandoned firehouse in the film, but today it still serves as 8 Hook and Ladder in TriBeCa.
When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally (1989): Director Nora Ephron made full use of New York City as the backdrop of When Harry Met Sally, considered the epitome of the romantic comedy genre. Taking place over the course of ten years, the film recounts the friendship turned roller coaster relationship between two young professionals, played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Years after they graduate from college, and have ended other serious relationships, Harry and Sally meet again in Shakespeare and Co., a charming bookstore on the Upper West Side. Though they continue to date other people, Harry and Sally develop unspoken feelings for each other while spending time at various New York landmarks, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Washington Square Park, and the Puck Building. A scene also takes place in Central Park in autumn; the characters talking, with the vivid autumn leaves behind them, served as the poster for the film. And who can forget Meg Ryan's, ahem, vocal performance in Katz's Deli? The delicatessen commemorates the famous scene in a plaque on the wall that reads, "We hope you have what she's having!"
- Katz's Deli: 205 E. Houston St. (near 1st Ave.)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (scene was shot in the Egyptian Exhibition Room): 1000 Fifth Avenue (near E. 82nd St.)
- Puck Building: 295 Lafayette St. (near E. Houston St.)
- Shakespeare and Co.: W. 79th St. (near Broadway)
- Washington Square Park: At Washington Square in Greenwich Village (near University Place and Fifth Ave.)
You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail (1998): We know, we know: another Meg Ryan movie directed by Nora Ephron. Yet this film captures the neighborhood feel of the Upper West Side so beautifully that we had to include it along with When Harry Met Sally. You've Got Mail is an updated version The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 film about two store employees who despise each other though are unknowingly falling in love as the other's anonymous pen-pal. You've Got Mail takes a technology-age approach: instead of writing to each other by hand, Kathleen (Ryan) and Frank (Tom Hanks) fall in love over emails, using secretive screen names rather than their real names. Meanwhile, Kathleen owns a small bookstore in the neighborhood and hates Frank, who is opening a Barnes and Noble-like chain that is sure to bankrupt her. The internet pals decide to meet in person at Café Lalo, a charming spot on West 83rd with wonderful espresso and pastries, but when Frank sees that his lovely pen-pal is actually Kathleen, he stands her up. Other Upper West Side spots in the film include Gray's Papaya, home to best hot dogs in New York, the gourmet grocery store, Zabar's, and the 91st Street Garden, where the couple finally get together in the end.
- 91st Street Garden: W. 91st Street and Riverside Park
- Books of Wonder (an actual children's bookstore that served as Kathleen's store in the film – but not actually on the Upper West Side!): 18 W. 18th St. (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
- Café Lalo: 201 W. 83rd St. (near Amsterdam Ave.)
- Gray's Papaya: 2090 Broadway (at W. 71st St.)
- Zabar's: 2245 Broadway (near W. 79th St.)
Spider-Man (2002): Everyone knows the story of Spider-Man, right? Awkward high school boy with a secret crush on the girl-next-door is bit by a spider, gains super powers, fights evil in order to save his family and, eventually, New York City. This awesome remake starring Tobey Macguire and Kirsten Dunst was filmed largely on blue screens in Sony soundstages, due to the amount of special effects used. Still, most non-action scenes were shot on location in New York, including landmarks like Columbia University, Rockefeller Center, The New York Public Library, and the Flatiron Building. In a pivotal scene, the villainous Green Goblin throws Mary Jane (Dunst) off the Queensboro Bridge, and Spider-Man manages to save both the damsel in distress and a falling tram full of passengers. This scene actually replaced a climactic fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin atop the Twin Towers, which was removed from the film after the events of September 11th. At the end of the Queensboro Bridge scene, a civilian on the tram yells to the Green Goblin, "You mess with him, you mess with New York!", a nod to the resilient spirit of post-9/11 New Yorkers.
- Columbia University Low Memorial Library (where Peter Parker is bit by the spider on a field trip): 430 W. 116th St. (between Morningside Dr. and Amsterdam Ave.)
- Flatiron Building (location of The Daily Bugle offices): 1 E. 23rd St. (between Fifth Ave and Broadway)
- New York Public Library (outside of which Uncle Ben is killed): Fifth Avenue at E. 42nd St.
- Rockefeller Center Roof Gardens (where Spider-Man meets Mary Jane after saving her for the first time): 7th Floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, between 49th and 50th Streets
The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada (2006): The most recent film on our list, The Devil Wears Prada offers a realistic, humorous, and sometimes poignant look into the fashion industry so integral to New York City. Working as an assistant at the Vogue-like Runway Magazine, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) literally becomes a slave to her boss, Miranda, the editor-in-chief of the magazine (played chillingly by Meryl Streep). The film exposes the inner workings of the industry as Andy runs around the city, doing ridiculous errands for Miranda and trying not to get fired. We follow her to Smith and Wollenksy's famous steakhouse, where she must order Miranda's lunch and deliver it to her searing hot; to her boyfriend's restaurant, Bubby's Pie Company, which she has to leave early after an "emergency" phone call; and to a benefit at the Met, where she must know information about every single guest in attendance. Even the scenes that took place in Paris were filmed in New York, illustrating the versatility of the city.
- Bubby's Pie Company: 120 Hudson St. (at Moore St.)
- McGraw-Hill Companies' Building (this building served as the location for the Runway offices): 11 W. 19th St. (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1000 Fifth Avenue (near E. 82nd St.)
- New York Sun Offices (served as the location for the New York Mirror offices at the end of the film): 105 Chambers St. (near Church St.)
- Smith and Wollensky: 797 3rd Ave. (at 49th St.)