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79 Movies That Define New York City

Because it's not all mob movies and Nora Ephron. (Though there is plenty of both.)

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1. 42nd Street (1933)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Lloyd Bacon

Written by: Rian James and James Seymour

Newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) takes the stage when leading lady Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) breaks her angle. Peggy's instant ascent to stardom has a fairy-tale quality that suggests anything can happen in New York if you want it bad enough — and isn't that what the Big Apple is all about?

2. On the Town (1949)


Directed by: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Written by: Adolph Green and Betty Comden

"New York, New York, a wonderful town" sing three sailors on 24-hour shore leave in the big city. Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra), and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) approach New York with the kind of bright-eyed enthusiasm that's only really possible in a musical, but their whirlwind appraisal of the city is infectiously joyful.

3. All About Eve (1950)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Written by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

As in 42nd Street, All About Eve tracks the rise of a young ingenue at the expense of an older star — but here it's deliberate. Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) does exactly what she needs to in order to usurp stardom from Margo Channing (Bette Davis), reminding us just how cutthroat New York can be.

4. Rear Window (1954)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Written by: John Michael Hayes

Suffering from a broken leg, photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) becomes obsessed with watching his Greenwich Village neighbors and inadvertently witnesses what appears to be a murder. Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.

5. On the Waterfront (1954)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Elia Kazan

Written by: Budd Schulberg

Inspired by the fight against real-life abuses of power, On the Waterfront stars Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, a dockworker fed up with the oppressive conditions he and his co-workers are forced into by mob-controlled New York labor unions. Corruption on the waterfront was a serious problem: As in the film, a New York–New Jersey Waterfront Commission was established to fight against mob rule.

6. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

United Artists

Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick

Written by: Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman

Influential newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) wasn't a real person, but he was based on the very real and iconic New York gossip columnist Walter Winchell. The story of his manipulation of press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) makes for a tense noir that exposes the city's seedy underbelly.

7. An Affair to Remember (1957)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Leo McCarey

Written by: Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Leo McCarey

The Empire State Building has never been more romantic than it was in An Affair to Remember — sorry, Sleepless in Seattle — even though the proposed meeting between Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) never happens because Terry is hit by a car while on her way to meet him. But the building remains a symbol of love, thwarted or otherwise.

8. Shadows (1959)

Criterion Collection

Directed by: John Cassavetes

Written by: John Cassavetes

Shot twice by Cassavetes — first in 1957, then again in 1959 — and improvised by a nonprofessional cast, Shadows was a hugely influential independent film. As an indie, the movie was able to explore issues largely ignored by mainstream cinema: in this case, an interracial relationship during the Beat Generation, a pivotal moment in New York history.

9. The Apartment (1960)

United Artists

Directed by: Billy Wilder

Written by: Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

It's hard to find a great apartment in New York City. In The Apartment, C.C. "Bud" Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is coerced into lending his Upper West Side place to his managers, who use it to cheat on their wives. Meanwhile, he's also doing his best to romance lonely elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine).

10. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Blake Edwards

Written by: George Axelrod

What exactly did Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) do? And does it matter? She was a café society girl making the most of her life in New York City. Filmed largely on location, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a glamorous portrayal of iconic fashion, a certain kind of big-city lifestyle, and the truth of what that's often masking.

11. West Side Story (1961)

United Artists

Directed by: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

Written by: Ernest Lehman

With all of its dancing and singing, West Side Story isn't the most realistic depiction of gang activity in 1960s Lincoln Square, but there's an emotional truth to the story of star-crossed lovers Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood), who comes from a Puerto Rican immigrant family.

12. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Written by: Roman Polanski

Rosemary (Mia Farrow) begins to suspect that her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) and her creepy neighbors are part of a demonic conspiracy involving her unborn child. New York City has rarely appeared more perilous: Even the most idyllic-seeming neighborhood is full of unseen dangers, and no one can really be trusted.

13. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

United Artists

Directed by: John Schlesinger

Written by: Waldo Salt

Naive Texan Joe Buck (Jon Voight) travels to New York City to become a gigolo and befriends con man Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), who takes Joe under his wing. Midnight Cowboy explores the realities of sexual inhibition in the big city, from the grimy (johns who can't pay) to the glamorous (Warhol superstars).

14. Shaft (1971)


Directed by: Gordon Parks

Written by: Ernest Tidyman and John D.F. Black

Private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is one of the most iconic film characters, and with good reason. He exudes effortless cool as he travels up and down the mean streets of New York, trying to locate a kidnapped girl in the midst of a tense mob war between Harlem organized crime and the downtown mafiosi.

15. The French Connection (1971)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: William Friedkin

Written by: Ernest Tidyman

The French Connection is best remembered for the greatest chase scene of all time, in which detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) drives through the streets of Brooklyn to catch a hitman before he escapes at the next station. That's not to discount the movie as a whole, but the sequence is unmatched. The streets of Brooklyn have never looked more perilous.

16. The Godfather (1972)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Written by: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

"I believe in America" is the first line of The Godfather, commonly regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. The story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) inadvertently inheriting a crime empire from his father, Vito (Marlon Brando), is largely a story of how to make it in America. The Italian-American immigrant experience is an essential part of New York history, and there is no more iconic one than that of The Godfather.

17. Across 110th Street (1972)

United Artists

Directed by: Barry Shear

Written by: Luther Davis

This crime drama pairs racist white police captain Frank Mattelli (Anthony Quinn) with honorable black police lieutenant William Pope (Yaphet Kotto), and its authenticity is due in large part to the fact that it was filmed on location in Harlem, the first block of which is the titular street.

18. Mean Streets (1973)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin

Along with The Godfather before it, Mean Streets established many of the conventions of mob films that followed. It's another version of the Italian-American immigrant story in New York, but Mean Streets, one of Scorsese's first films, is a story on a smaller scale: Charlie Cappa (Harvey Keitel) attempts to rise in the ranks while protecting his friend Johnny Civello (Robert De Niro).

19. Serpico (1973)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Written by: Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler

Al Pacino stars as titular cop Frank Serpico, a real-life NYPD officer who went undercover to root out police corruption. While Serpico shows the gritty reality of New York City crime in the '70s, it also exposes the way that those who appeared to be on the right side of the law were often just as ruthless and dangerous.

20. Death Wish (1974)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Michael Winner

Written by: Wendell Mayes

The first Death Wish film ushered in not just a franchise but also a genre, the vigilante thriller. Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is forced to take the law into his own hands when his wife is murdered and his daughter is raped. Like Serpico, Death WIsh reflects a distrust with the proper channels of law enforcement, a thematic indictment of the NYPD.

21. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Written by: Frank Pierson

Another Sidney Lumet film starring Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon is based on the real-life "only in New York" story of a novice criminal who robbed a Brooklyn bank to pay for his transgender wife's sex reassignment surgery. The film once again paired Pacino with his Godfather co-star John Cazale, who plays his accomplice.

22. Taxi Driver (1976)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Paul Schrader

No one else has better captured New York City's seedy underbelly than Scorsese. Here, Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a troubled former Marine turned taxi driver. It's equal parts iconic and terrifying. But Taxi Driver also shows the corruption of youth in sharp focus: 13-year-old Jodie Foster plays a teen prostitute named Iris.

23. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: John Badham

Written by: Norman Wexler

Tony Manero (John Travolta) is an Italian American who feels confined in his Brooklyn neighborhood. He finds escape through a local disco — and by imagining life on the other side, which, in this case, is Staten Island on the other side of the Verrazano Bridge.

24. Annie Hall (1977)

United Artists

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

It's impossible to compile a list of the most iconic New York films without including Woody Allen's work, no matter how we might feel about him. Annie Hall was actually inspired by Allen walking around the city with his co-writer Brickman. And Allen plays his quintessential character: the neurotic New York Jew.

25. The Goodbye Girl (1977)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Herbert Ross

Written by: Neil Simon

Also central to the depiction of New York: playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon. In The Goodbye Girl, dancer Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason) and her young daughter are forced to share a Manhattan apartment with struggling actor Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss). There is no realer New York reality — and of course their spite for each other turns into love, because this is a movie after all.

26. New York, New York (1977)

United Artists

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Earl Mac Rauch and Mardik Martin

Although it was a significant box office failure, New York, New York does have its fans, and it's certainly worthy of inclusion on a list of films that define New York. Especially because the movie's title song, sung here by Liza Minnelli, has become the unofficial anthem of the city: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."

27. Manhattan (1979)

United Artists

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

As the title might suggest, Manhattan is Woody Allen's ultimate ode to New York. While the story — in which Allen's Isaac Davis has a relationship with 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) — might cause reasonable discomfort, the city looks gorgeous in black-and-white, with cinematography by the great Gordon Willis.

28. All That Jazz (1979)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Bob Fosse

Written by: Robert Alan Aurthur and Bob Fosse

Roy Scheider plays Bob Fosse — er, Joe Gideon, a Broadway director and choreographer modeled very closely after the real Fosse, who co-wrote and directed the film. All That Jazz captures Joe's fast-paced lifestyle of drugs, sex, and dancing, with elaborate musical fantasy sequences reflecting his troubled psyche. The combination of Broadway and debauchery is essential to '70s New York.

29. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Robert Benton

Written by: Robert Benton

The brutal reality of divorce and a custody battle play out in Kramer vs. Kramer, which pits Ted (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) against each other in the fight for their son, Billy (Justin Henry). New York provides the backdrop for a story about the strain of parenthood. As difficult as it is everywhere, it's harder still here.

30. The Warriors (1979)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Walter Hill

Written by: David Shaber and Walter Hill

There's no West Side Story–style singing and dancing, but The Warriors isn't exactly a realistic depiction of New York gang life either. Nevertheless, the story of a rivalry between the titular Warriors from Coney Island and the Gramercy Riffs (location is everything!) has attracted a devoted cult following over the years for its distinctive style.

31. Dressed to Kill (1980)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Written by: Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma is another filmmaker who has an eye for the darker side of New York. His erotic thriller Dressed to Kill is outdated (and more than a little problematic) in its Psycho-esque twist. But there's something to be said for its depiction of big-city "perversion" and the consequences of sexual desire.

32. Cruising (1980)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: William Friedkin

Written by: William Friedkin

And while we're on the subject of controversial queer movies, Cruising was widely protested for its apparent negative portrayal of the LGBT community. In fact, it's a sharp takedown of law enforcement in which the NYPD are corrupt and largely ineffective. It also exposed viewers to the gay bar scene in the West Village.

33. Fame (1980)

United Artists

Directed by: Alan Parker

Written by: Christopher Gore

In real life, New York's High School of Performing Arts educated Liza Minnelli and (briefly) Al Pacino. In Fame, a fictionalized look at the school, the ambitious students hope for the same success. The film does a good job of contrasting the seemingly unattainable dreams of artists with the realities of city life.

34. Escape From New York (1981)

Shout! Factory

Directed by: John Carpenter

Written by: John Carpenter and Nick Castle

How bad must crime have been for Escape From New York to envision a 1997 in which the entire island of Manhattan has been turned into a prison? That didn't really happen, rendering a rescue mission by Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) unnecessary, but it's interesting to see those worst fears about New York realized.

35. Tootsie (1982)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Written by: Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal

In Tootsie, notoriously difficult actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is forced to reinvent himself as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, to get work. It's yet another depiction of a working New York actor's life — taken to a dragtastic extreme, of course — and on-location shots keep the film firmly grounded in the city.

36. Wild Style (1983)

Music Box Films

Directed by: Charlie Ahearn

Written by: Charlie Ahearn

Wild Style is notable for being one of the first films to capture New York hip-hop culture, as well as the emerging graffiti art scene. Filmmaker Charlie Ahearn went for authenticity by casting graffiti artist "Lee" George Quiñones as his protagonist, Zoro, and there are also numerous cameos from contemporary New York hip-hop figures.

37. Ghostbusters (1984)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Written by: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis

The Ghostbusters have been an institution since 1984, when Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) first strapped on their proton packs. The idea that New Yorkers have seen it all was challenged by the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

38. The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Directed by: Frank Oz

Written by: Tom Patchett, Jay Tarses, and Frank Oz

It's hard to imagine better tourists than the Muppets: They're active, inquisitive, and low to the ground. Through their eyes, even native New Yorkers can see their own city in a new light, and Kermit more than deserved getting his portrait put up at Sardi's, even if that did mean replacing Liza Minnelli.

39. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Sergio Leone

Written by: Franco Arcalli, Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Franco Ferrini, Ernesto Gastaldi, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Sergio Leone, and Enrico Medioli

Best known for his Westerns, Italian director Sergio Leone shifted his focus to mob activity in a film that spans from the 1920s to the 1960s. Once Upon a Time in America centers on the Jewish ghetto of the Lower East Side, and the street kids that became involved with organized crime as a means of survival.

40. C.H.U.D. (1984)

Anchor Bay

Directed by: Douglas Cheek

Written by: Parnell Hall

"C.H.U.D." is an acronym for "cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller," which tells you everything you really need to do know about this schlocky horror film. One could argue a deeper meaning — it could reflect the way New York City treated its homeless population in the '80s — or maybe it's just a cheap monster flick.

41. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

Lorber Films

Directed by: Susan Seidelman

Written by: Leora Barish

Lonely housewife Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) dreams of another life outside her suburban New Jersey existence, and becomes obsessed with the fast-paced New York lifestyle of Susan Thomas (Madonna), who represents the lure of the big city and the promise of a much less mundane reality.

42. After Hours (1985)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Joseph Minion

After Hours is on a much smaller scale than Scorsese's previous work — but perhaps not to protagonist Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne). The entire film takes place over the course of one night in New York City, as Paul faces disaster after disaster while trying to make it back home amid the madness. Any New Yorker can relate.

43. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

United Artists

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen

Frankly, a huge portion of the Woody Allen catalog could qualify for inclusion on this list: His movies reek of New York life — the good, the bad, and the ugly. But Hannah and Her Sisters is an important addition. The film chronicles the stories of sisters Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey), and Holly (Dianne Wiest) over two years as they experience all three sides of the city.

44. Moonstruck (1987)


Directed by: Norman Jewison

Written by: John Patrick Shanley

Cher won an Academy Award for playing Loretta Castorini, a widow living with her Sicilian-American immigrant family in Brooklyn Heights. Moonstruck follows her romance with Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), who is rough around the edges but does clean up when he takes Loretta to an opera at Lincoln Center.

45. Wall Street (1987)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Written by: Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser

"Greed is good," Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) famously says in Wall Street. The film ultimately undermines Gekko's belief system by showing the toll corruption and a certain kind of Wall Street lifestyle take on him and young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). It's the perfect time capsule of the world of stockbrokers in the late '80s in New York City.

46. Fatal Attraction (1987)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Adrian Lyne

Written by: James Dearden

Infidelity is terrifying in Fatal Attraction, in which Manhattan lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) embarks on an ill-advised affair with the highly unbalanced Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). In Sleepless in Seattle, this movie is presented as the nightmare in contrast to the romantic dream of An Affair to Remember. Basically, love in New York can lead you to the Empire State Building or a boiled bunny.

47. Working Girl (1988)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Mike Nichols

Written by: Kevin Wade

Working Girl is well remembered for its opening sequence, scored to Carly Simon's "Let the River Run": Commuters from Staten Island make their way into Manhattan on the ferry. Among them is Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), who refuses to be taken advantage of as she finds her place among the business class. It is the ultimate portrait of the life of a young professional New York woman in the '80s.

48. Crossing Delancey (1988)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Joan Micklin Silver

Written by: Susan Sandler

Delancey Street runs through the largely Jewish Lower East Side, which Isabelle Grossman (Amy Irving) is eager to escape. As her bubbie (Reizl Bozyk) pushes her to date pickle shop owner Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), Isabelle finds herself distracted by the world outside the community she was raised in. There's a lot more to New York than the LES.

49. Big (1988)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Penny Marshall

Written by: Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg

When 12-year-old Josh Baskin wishes he were bigger, he's transformed into a fully grown man (Tom Hanks) — but acting like an adult doesn't come naturally. Luckily, Josh's childlike enthusiasm affects those around him, particularly in the film's most memorable scene, a dance on the walking piano at the iconic FAO Schwarz. (It's OK to cry.)

50. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Written by: Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron cornered the market on the New York romantic comedy, and When Harry Met Sally... is arguably the finest example. It captures the city's ability to put you into the path of the same person over and over again, the gorgeous changing seasons, and, of course, the thrill of faking an orgasm at Katz's Delicatessen.

51. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Universal Pictures

Directed by: Spike Lee

Written by: Spike Lee

On the hottest day of the summer, racial tensions come to a head in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood where the characters of Spike Lee's magnum opus Do the Right Thing reside. The film drew controversy from critics who implied it would cause black audiences to riot; Lee called out the inherent racism in those fears.

52. Metropolitan (1990)

New Line Cinema

Directed by: Whit Stillman

Written by: Whit Stillman

Writer-director Whit Stillman established himself (and his brand) with Metropolitan, which focuses on New York's "urban haute bourgeoisie" — the young, educated, and wealthy. Our entry point is Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who joins a group of Upper East Side socialites despite his middle-class status. He is the Dan Humphrey, basically.

53. Goodfellas (1990)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese

Yes, it's another New York mob movie directed by Martin Scorsese, but Goodfellas is considered one of the best, thanks to the cast — including Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci — and its authenticity. Scorsese called its source material, the New York–set book Wiseguy, the most honest portrayal of gangsters he'd read.

54. Paris Is Burning (1990)

Miramax Films

Directed by: Jennie Livingston

Jennie Livingston's classic documentary Paris Is Burning captures the world of undeground drag balls in New York City. It is a unique portrait of a culture that had been mostly ignored up to that point — and one that has had tremendous influence on pop culture. Where do you think Madonna learned to vogue?

55. Juice (1992)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson

Written by: Ernest R. Dickerson and Gerard Brown

There were plenty of violent early '90s gangster films about the New York mob, but Juice focused on a different crime problem — gang activity in Harlem. Tupac Shakur stars as Roland Bishop, who forms "The Wrecking Crew" with three other friends. The group quickly moves from petty theft to bigger offenses.

56. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Lions Gate

Directed by: Abel Ferrara

Written by: Edward R. Pressman

Harvey Keitel's eponymous character is another reflection of distrust of law enforcement in New York. Here is a real criminal, and he's lurking within the NYPD. He's dirty in the worst way — not just bad, but one of the worst. And while he gets what's coming to him, he does plenty of damage along the way.

57. A Bronx Tale (1993)


Directed by: Robert De Niro

Written by: Chazz Palminteri

Robert De Niro directed and starred in this '60s-set crime drama, adapted by star Chazz Palminteri from his autobiographical one-man show. A Bronx Tale is about an Italian-American boy getting drawn into a life of crime by his local Mafia boss (Palminteri), all while his father (De Niro) tries to keep him on a straighter path. It owes its authenticity to Palminteri, who was raised by his Sicilian immigrant parents in the Bronx.

58. Kids (1995)

Miramax Films

Directed by: Larry Clark

Written by: Harmony Korine

Few films scared parents more than Kids, which follows teenagers doing very bad things in New York City. Larry Clark cast real street kids with no acting experience to add to the film's authenticity. It's a stark viewing experience about drug abuse, reckless behavior, the spread of HIV, and kids too young to grasp their situations.

59. One Fine Day (1996)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: Michael Hoffman

Written by: Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon

One Fine Day is a rom-com about two New York single parents who initially hate each other — Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (George Clooney) — but eventually find love, of course. The film is notable for including 44 Manhattan locations, including Serendipity 3, the home of frozen hot chocolate.

60. You've Got Mail (1998)

Warner Bros.

Directed by: Nora Ephron

Written by: Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron

You've Got Mail is very much a product of its time — hello, that AOL-inspired title — but that just makes it more charming. Besides, it's another delightful Nora Ephron romance with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. (Sleepless in Seattle almost made it on this list, for the end alone.) And everything about it is distinctly New York City.

61. The Last Days of Disco (1998)

Gramercy Pictures

Directed by: Whit Stillman

Written by: Whit Stillman

Whit Stillman makes his second appearance on this list with The Last Days of Disco, which focuses on the world of publishing and the nightlife in early '80s New York. As the title suggests, it's very much about a time that's long gone. And things have changed even more since 1998: Lutèce closed in 2004.

62. Summer of Sam (1999)

Buena Vista Pictures

Directed by: Spike Lee

Written by: Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli, and Spike Lee

It's summer 1977 and the Son of Sam serial killer is in the midst of his horrifying spree. But Summer of Sam is less about David Berkowitz and more about the atmosphere of fear he created. It was shot on location in the Bronx, including the Throggs Neck neighborhood where the film takes place.

63. 200 Cigarettes (1999)

Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Risa Bramon Garcia

Written by: Shana Larsen

Another look at an earlier time in New York — in this case, New Year's Eve 1981 — 200 Cigarettes centers on a party hosted by Monica (Martha Plimpton), who is worried no one will attend. She's not wrong to fear that: The film tracks her guests and their misadventures, culminating in some very delayed arrivals. And these aren't just your average subway delays.

64. Hamlet (2000)

Buena Vista Pictures

Directed by: Michael Almereyda

Written by: William Shakespeare and Michael Almereyda

Of all the modern-day Shakespeare adaptations (several of which star Julia Stiles), 2000's Hamlet is one of the most successful. Perhaps that's because the Prince of Denmark's angst fits so perfectly in turn-of-the-21st-century New York City. Ethan Hawke is exactly as cruelly disaffected and indecisive as he needs to be.

65. Center Stage (2000)

Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Nicholas Hytner

Written by: Carol Heikkinen

No, the American Ballet Academy is not real, but it's based on the extremely competitive School of American Ballet in New York, which is the associate school of the New York City Ballet. Regardless, the film's depiction of young dancers' lives in New York is largely accurate — the stresses, the competition, and the impossible demands.

66. American Psycho (2000)

Lions Gate Films

Directed by: Mary Harron

Written by: Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner

Like Wall Street but with brutal murder! OK, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) isn't a stockbroker — he's an investment banker and, in his spare time, a serial killer. American Psycho satirizes a greed-before-all-else New York lifestyle in which murder goes as unnoticed as the omnipresent misogyny and homophobia.

67. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Artisan Entertainment

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Hubert Selby Jr.

It doesn't get much bleaker than Requiem for a Dream, in which drug addicts meet dark ends. In Brighton Beach, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) becomes a pill addict, while her son, Harry (Jared Leto), and his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and best friend, Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans), are all heroin addicts.

68. 25th Hour (2002)

Buena Vista Pictures

Directed by: Spike Lee

Written by: David Benioff

25th Hour was in the works before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but Spike Lee decided to integrate them into the film. And many consider 25th Hour — the story of Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), who has one day before serving a seven-year prison sentence — to be the best movie about post-9/11 New York.

69. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Written by: Noah Baumbach

Few writer-directors have managed to capture a particular kind of New York misanthropy the way Noah Baumbach has. The Squid and the Whale — the title refers to the exhibit at the Museum of Natural History — is about the divorce of Brooklyn parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) and its effect on their children.

70. Man Push Cart (2005)

Koch-Lorber Films

Directed by: Ramin Bahrani

Written by: Ramin Bahrani

Like many other movies on this list, Man Push Cart is an immigrant story. In this case, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), a successful musician in Pakistan, finds himself selling coffee and bagels on the streets of New York. Though limited in its scope, the film captures an immigrant experience not often seen on film.

71. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

20th Century Fox

Directed by: David Frankel

Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna

For those who want to move to New York City right out of college and start a career, The Devil Wears Prada is something of a cautionary tale. Sure, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) does finally make it, but before that, she suffers endlessly under her terrifying boss, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), a ruthless fashion editor.

72. Shortbus (2006)


Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

Written by: John Cameron Mitchell

It all comes down to one quote: "[New York is] where everyone comes to get fucked. It's one of the last places where people are still willing to bend over to let in the new." John Cameron Mitchell's film about an underground Brooklyn sex club and its members is also about the difficulty of finding human connection, a constant New York struggle.

73. Two Lovers (2008)

Magnolia Pictures

Directed by: James Gray

Written by: James Gray and Richard Menello

Another recurring theme on this list: Romance is hard in New York. In Two Lovers, suicidal Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself torn between who his parents want him to date, Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), and who he wants to date, Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has a drug problem and is already dating a married man. It's complicated.

74. Black Swan (2010)

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin

Think Center Stage, but much, much darker. This is another Darren Aronofsky film, after all. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a dancer in a highly competitive New York City ballet company, begins to feel threatened by a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), as she loses control of her psyche and spirals out of control.

75. Tiny Furniture (2010)

IFC Films

Directed by: Lena Dunham

Written by: Lena Dunham

Before Girls, Lena Dunham made a name for herself with the indie Tiny Furniture. Many of the themes are familiar to those who have watched the HBO series — or frankly, to those who are millennials. Dunham plays Aura, who returns to New York after college and discovers that she is ill-equipped to deal with the real world.

76. Shame (2011)

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan

Though not as explicit as Shortbus, Shame still earned an NC-17 rating for its frank depiction of sex addiction. Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) is certainly searching for something in the depths of New York, but Shame is more about anonymous sex than human connection, which is not Brandon's strong suit.

77. Frances Ha (2012)

IFC Films

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Written by: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig

The search for the right apartment is something much more for Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig). She longs to move from Brooklyn to TriBeCa, even though she can't afford life in Manhattan. Over the course of Frances Ha, she searches for meaning while shifting zip codes, finally ending up in Washington Heights.

78. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

CBS Films

Directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Inside Llewyn Davis showcases life in Greenwich Village in the early '60s by way of its protagonist, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). As Llewyn floats through the city, crashing with friends because he has nowhere else to go, he encounters other equally aimless musicians and artists at varying levels of success all over New York.

79. Obvious Child (2014)


Directed by: Gillian Robespierre

Written by: Gillian Robespierre

Brooklyn-based comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) has a one-night stand with Max (Jake Lacy) and ends up pregnant in Obvious Child, a frank and funny story about Donna's decision to have an abortion. It's a sympathetic but honest portrait of late twentysomethings who still don't quite feel like adults, a relatable notion to most late twentysomethings living in Brooklyn.