Must-See Films That Were Filmed in New York City
New York City is such an iconic place, it’s no wonder that countless movies have chosen the city as the perfect location. With its soaring skyscrapers, lush parks, and streets resplendent with history, the city becomes a character in and of itself.
Check out fifteen critically acclaimed films that feature NYC in all its bright, sometimes gritty glory.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Blake Edwards directed this story, which was loosely based on Truman Capote’s novel of the same name. Audrey Hepburn gives one of the greatest and most iconic performances of her career as Holly Golightly, a naïve, eccentric socialite who falls in love with a young writer who moves into her NYC building. Their love is threatened, however, by Holly’s past—she has been working as a high-class escort in an attempt to land a rich, older man.
Much of the action takes place at the luxurious Tiffany & Co. shop on Fifth Avenue. All of the exterior shots were filmed on location in New York, while the interior shots were all filmed inside Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California.
After 12 year-old Josh makes a wish on a carnival fortune teller machine, he mysteriously wakes up in the body of a full-grown adult (Tom Hanks). Josh leaves the safety of his home in suburban New Jersey an flees to New York City, where he takes childlike delight in all of the grown-up things the city has to offer.
One of the most famous scenes in this film took place inside mega-toy store FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue. You can watch that famous FAO Schwartz piano scene right here, on YouTube. Other locations included JFK Airport, the St. James Hotel, and the Strip House Grill.
Working Girl (1988)
Melanie Griffin plays Tess McGill, a secretary with ambition. When her evil boss (played by the always-awesome Sigourney Weaver) steals her business idea, she attempts to steal it back by pretending to have her boss’s job.
Tess makes her home in Staten Island, and there are several scenes of her riding the ferry to Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty is shown frequently in the movie. The office scenes were filmed at State Street Plaza and 7 World Trade Center, a location which was destroyed during the attacks on September 11, 2001. The Twin Towers are featured prominently throughout the film.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Director Rob Reiner’s classic romantic comedy is one big love letter to NYC. Written by lifelong New Yorker Nora Ephron, the film was filmed almost entirely in the city and features several memorable locations, including Washington Square Park Arch, Greenwich Village, the Loeb Boathouse (and various other scenic spots in Central Park), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Park Plaza Hotel.
Perhaps the most famous scene, wherein Meg Ryan fakes the big “O” for a shocked Billy Crystal, took place at Katz’s Delicatessen in the East Village. You can watch that scene here on YouTube.
Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also starred alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson, this movie was one of the funniest films of the 1980s. In the movie, three former parapsychology professors start a business to remove ghosts from various locations around New York.
While some interior shots were filmed in Los Angeles, the Big Apple plays a paramount role in the action. The firehouse where the Ghostbusters set up shot is a real firehouse: 8 Hook and Ladder at 14 North Moore Street, and quite a few scenes were shot at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Columbia University and Central Park are also shown.
One of the most famous scenes filmed at the library was the one where Dr. Venkman (Murray) gets “slimed.” You can watch that scene here on YouTube.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This spooky psychological thriller was written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling novel. The movie was filmed almost exclusively in and around the famous Dakota apartment building at 1 West 72nd Street at Central Park.
Though the movie changes the name of the building to the “Bramford,” this is the same building where legendary former Beatles member John Lennon once lived, and where he was fatally shot on the sidewalk outside by a crazed fan.
What’s more New York than a struggling actor who will do anything to land a great job? This movie, which stars Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lang, tells the story of an actor who dresses up as a woman in order to get a job on a soap opera. The film was shot entirely in New York, and prominently features famous spots like the Russian Tea Room.
I Am Legend (2007)
Will Smith plays the sole survivor of a plague that killed most of humanity in New York City. Those who weren’t killed were transformed into zombie-like monsters.
The entire film was shot on location in New York City. One scene, shot on the Brooklyn Bridge, cost the production $5 million dollars. Other noteworthy locales include Will’s home at 11 Washington Square Park, Times Square, Central Park, the East River, Herald Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Park Avenue, and the USS Intrepid.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Robert De Niro stars in Martin Scorsese’s neo-noir psychological thriller about a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran who works as an overnight taxi driver on the mean streets of New York City.
Shot entirely in the city, it’s not a question of which locations De Niro’s lonely war veteran visited during the course of the movie; it’s which locations weren’t featured.
West Side Story (1961)
“West Side Story” tells the timeless tale of Tony and Maria, star-crossed lovers from rival New York City gangs. It’s the classic “Romeo and Juliet” concept, made into a modern musical for stage and screen.
Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy. Most scenes were shot on one street: 68th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and West End Avenue.
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Jim Henson’s Muppets never fail to charm, and seeing them explore the many landmarks of New York is a lot of fun. In this full-length feature, Kermit The Frog and the gang graduate form college and decide to try to make it big in NYC. They take their variety act on the road, trying to convince producers to put on their show.
There are tons of great locations here, including the Empire State Building, Pulitzer Fountain, Sardi’s restaurant, Cherry Hill, Central Park, and Conservatory Water in Central Park.
Wall Street (1987)
“Wall Street” tells the story of an ambitious stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) who turns to insider trading to win the respect of his mentor, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Directed and co-written by Oliver Stone, the movie was shot entirely in New York, including a shoot on the real floor of the New York Stock Exchange that Stone had just 45 minutes to shoot.
Other noteworthy locales include the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel, the swanky 21 Club, Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park, and the New York Supreme Court Building. All of the office shots were shot inside real financial offices at 222 Broadway in downtown Manhattan.
Like many of Woody Allen’s films, New York features prominently throughout this tale of a divorced television writer who’s dating a teenage girl when he falls in love with his best friend’s mistress.
Locations include Fifth Avenue, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Bloomingdale’s, Broadway, Central Park West, Hayden Planetarium, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Queensboro Bridge, Dalton School, Dean and Deluca, Inc., the East Side, Elaine’s Restaurant, Empire Diner, Greenwich Village, John’s Pizzeria, Lincoln Center, Madison Avenue, New York Harbor, Park Avenue, Riverview Terrace, Rizzoli’s Bookstore, Russian Tea Room, Uptown Racquet Club, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Zabar’s.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee’s story of racial division between an Italian pizza shop owner in a black neighborhood was truly groundbreaking work in 1989. The movie was shot entirely on Stuyvesant Avenue, between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Much of the movie’s action takes place in Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, a real restaurant on Lexington Avenue.
“Fame” follows the lives of teenage students who attend the prestigious High School of Performing Arts in New York City, (known today as LaGuardia High School). From auditions to graduation, these teens deal with issues like homosexuality, abortion, attempted suicide, and illiteracy.
Interestingly, the real school refused to let filmmakers shoot even the exterior of the building because they thought the film was too graphic. Filmmakers instead used an abandoned church on 46th Street. The church’s doorway was used as the school’s main entrance. Haaren High School was used for the interior shots.
The big dance number was shot on West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. Watch that famous scene here on YouTube.
Other action takes place in Times Square, Central Park West and Broadway.