Can’t-Miss Films Set in New York

New York—it has been written about, talked about, sung about. Jay Z and Alicia Keys were right when they sang of the Big Apple being the concrete jungle where dreams were made of. New York, after all, is the great American dream for people who wish to dabble and exploreTalent and skills.

Movies inspire people more than ever to see this city that never sleeps, and here are the best films that put the city on wonderful display—being the uncredited star of these amazing films.

Gangs of New York (2002)

This film by Martin Scorsese is a semi-historical epic taking place about 150 years ago in the early days of the city—a place plagued by racism, elitists, corruption, and violence.

The film centers around Leonardo DiCaprio’s Amsterdam Vallon, who witnessed the death of his father as a child. He then returns to the city as an adult to seek revenge on the killer. The historical accuracy is questionable, but Scorsese’s take is symbolic of the old New York—a city born of immigrants looking for better lives in a world full of promise, only to realize that they have to fight for it in the city full of turmoil.

West Side Story (1961)

Turn a family feud into a gang rivalry, a ball to a school dance, and a balcony to a fire escape, and you have successfully changed Romeo and Juliet to the New York–centric West Side Story.

This different take on the Shakespearean classic acknowledges bias and racism—social experiences that are made very different due to who they were. This fictional version of New York was set in a lighted studio, but despite not showing the real New York, it safely states its commentary, effectively drawing the importance of the city in the story.

12 Angry Men (1957)

This film may not be on the top ten to come to mind when it comes to displaying the great New York hits; however, it does have an ensemble that shows much of being a New Yorker. Taking place almost entirely in a jury room of a courthouse, twelve citizens convene to decide the fate of a young boy who was accused of murdering his own father.

Eleven of the jurors already decided the verdict, but one man forced them to take another look at the evidence. A tale of morality, 12 Angry Men shows the classic racism people are all too familiar at the time—the accused is a Hispanic and is part of the lower class. The all-white jury stands in stark contrast, being the rich who are separated by a few blocks. The film begs people to ask, what is a “jury of peers” really about?

The Naked City (1948)

Said to be one of the first movies that prominently filmed in the actual streets of New York, the story is almost hidden behind the photography of the city itself. Not exactly considered a noir film, the beauty of the project shows cinematographer William H. Daniels’s shot of the streets held in secret, hiding cameras to make sure that the shots look as “real” as possible.

Inspired by tabloid photography, this crime film paints it as a city that is full of good and bad, of right and wrong. The Naked City is a film about triumph and tragedy, with the gorgeous city as its backdrop.

Manhattan (1979)

The hometown of Woody Allen, it comes as no surprise that he paid an homage to the city. Manhattan is a romantic comedy that centers around an older man and a young girl, something that mirrored the controversies of his own life. Focusing on the glamour shots around New York, this film is dryer than his usual brand of film. However, the real romance in the film is between the man and his city, admitting, “For some reason I’ve always had an irrational love for New York. The city is so full of chaos, and the chaos is, for many people, pleasurable.”

New York City is the ultimate American dream, not only are there big opportunities in the Big Apple, it is also a form of proof of the glitz and glamour that made people wish they are living in one of the best cities in the world. Which of these films would you want to watch in the future?