Paris Is Burning
Jennie Livingston’s monumental documentary shed light on the participants of the underground drag-ball culture in late-’80s New York City — a culture that spawned the popularity of vogueing.
Wayne Wang directed this film, written by New York-based author Paul Auster, that centers around the owner and patrons of a Brooklyn cigar shop, featuring a cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Stockard Channing, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, and Ashley Judd.
Trigger warning: Woody Allen. But if you can get past that, it’s a lovely portrait of a city shot in glorious black and white.
Noah Baumbach’s film, co-written with its star Greta Gerwig, is another lovely black-and-white depiction of life in New York City from the point of view of a listless modern dancer desperate to find her place within her own surroundings.
West Side Story
Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins directed this magnificent Oscar-winning film, which just might be the best movie musical ever made.
As Good As It Gets
James L. Brooks’ romantic dramedy features a look at many sides of New York, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, and reveals a sweeter side of the typical caustic New Yorker demeanor.
Mary Harron’s dark comedic adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ bestseller illuminates a side of New York that most of us, thankfully, never need to experience: the sociopathic Wall Street bro-culture of the ’80s.
Bill Cunningham New York
This lovely and touching documentary follows famous street photographer Bill Cunningham as he bikes and shoots across his city, offering a wide look at New York from his perspective.
All About Eve
A quick-witted look at a group of New York theatre professionals and the unraveling of their social circle once its infiltrated by a manipulative fan, All About Eve is one of the greatest films ever written — one that still feels incredibly fresh and smart today.
I mean, can you even look at the New York skyline without imagining the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in it?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Truman Capote’s classic novella received an iconic big-screen adaptation, with Audrey Hepburn delivering her most famous role as Holly Golightly.
Martin Scorcese’s classic perfectly illuminates the sleaze and grit of the bygone era of New York in the ’70s, forever preserved on celluloid.
The claustrophobic nature of apartment living plays a part in the hysteria of Roman Polanski’s brilliant horror classic. Now, only imagine that Rosemary and Guy had moved into a Lower East Side tenement rather than a huge apartment in the Dakota.
Johnny Depp and Al Pacino star in this crime drama about an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate the Bonanno crime family in 1970s New York City.
King of New York
Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, and Wesley Snipes star in Abel Ferrara’s notorious crime drama about a drug lord who returns to the city after being released from prison with the intention of regaining the power he left behind.
Back in the early ’90s, New York was still kind of a scary place to live, full of mobsters and subway ghosts.
Coming to America
John Landis’ uproarious comedy follows a young African prince who sets out to find a bride in New York City, only to end up living in a run-down apartment in Long Island City, Queens.
Al Pacino plays real-life NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who experience as an undercover cop allows him to expose corruption among his colleagues within the force.
Often, superheroes are confined to their fictional worlds (see: Batman’s Gotham City). Not Spider-Man, who sees New York City become both his playground and battlefield in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy.
2 Days in New York
Julie Delpy’s comedy (a sequel to her 2 Days in Paris) sees her French family arriving in New York and wreaking havoc on the city, as well as her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, played by Chris Rock.
Hamlet, but starring Ethan Hawke and set in New York? Sure, why not.
Abel Ferrara’s follow-up to King of New York concerns another despicable man — this time a member of the NYPD — as his lifestyle deteriorates into a world of drugs and violence.
Walking and Talking
Nicole Holofcener’s debut, a comedy about two best friends slowly drifting apart as they get older and form separate relationships, is still her best film, and one that perfectly established her great, wry wit.
This steamy thriller was every wealthy New York man’s nightmare come true: that his one-night stand with some chill lady in a Meatpacking District loft would turn into a psychological mind game resulting in dead rabbits and a hell of mess left in the shower.
Man on Wire
This documentary depicts the exploits of Philippe Petit, who performed a death-defying high-wire act between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.