A Top Ten List of New York City Films

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 I am offering an admittedly highly subjective list for my “Filmed in the Big Apple Top Ten Movie List” from the female pov, and the biased opinions of a born and bred New Yorker – we’re all like that i.e. overly opinionated!  I am opting for the gentler, kinder movie NYC tempered by the double “X” factor. Yes, there are a few mean streets here but there’s also the yellow brick road.

The only criteria for my selections is that NYC work as great backdrop and setting, yet assumes such importance that our great city becomes an essential character in the film.

By the way, the last time I did a “Top 10” movie list, I had 117 selections.  So make certain your Netflix account is in good standing, you’re gonna need it! Enjoy my self indulgent anecdotal commentary – my personal version of pop up video.

10.  “ENCHANTED”

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Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? Starring the gossamer Amy Adams, and a gorgeous Patrick Dempsey, this film solidified her cinematic future. A star was born.  Adored the charming romp thru the eastern side of Central Park, especially literary walk and Belvedere Terrace for the production number “How Do You Know?” But all the NYC backdrops, especially the Times Square neon and billboards, are essential to this fabulous fluff of a flick.  I remember when they were in NYC filming this feather of a story – it was the dead of winter! Brrrrrr.

9.  “REAR WINDOW”

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Directed by the great mystery movie maker, Alfred Hitchcock.  Starring the iconic Jimmy Stewart and that regally beautiful blonde, Grace Kelly. This is a terrific thriller and debunks the myth that NYC’s citizens don’t know their neighbors….and if they don’t, this movie proves that they SHOULD!  The view from the rear window in this film is EXACTLY like the one I have from my home. Many Manhattan apt. dwellers who live on the side streets can make the same statement. You never know what you’re gonna witness outside your window, be warned.

8.  “THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT”

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With the legendary funny man, Peter Sellers, and the always interesting Angela Lansbury.  But the real standouts are the two clever, precocious 12 year old private school BFFs  on that crucial cusp of adolescence. Girl pals who make the streets and avenues of NYC their personal back yard.  Great views of NYC landmarks such as the UN and my beloved East River Walk (which I wrote about previously in UYC) and of everyday Manhattan neighborhoods. Who says you can’t raise kids safely in a big city?  Growing up in a city like New York is an education in itself. A must see, bittersweet  adventurous tale of that necessary, life altering transition from innocence to experience.

7.  “HANNAH AND HER SISTERS”

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Woody Allen is to NYC as Charles Dickens is to London … inseparable.  Set throughout Manhattan – the Carlyle, the Metropolitan Opera House, uptown, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, CBGB’s, the Broadway Theater District,  Pageant Bar & Grill, the Chrysler Building…. he covers it all. But the real star of the film, especially to New York’s apartment dwellers, became the sprawling, fabulous, seemingly endless apartment where several keys scenes are played out.

We all drooled over the dining room (who in NYC has a dining room?) the 12 foot ceilings with crown molding, endless book shelves,  a grand piano in the enormous living room, a center hallway – the sheer good taste of it all…the green eyed monster came out in all of us. Allegedly this was Mia Farrow’s real apartment (she plays Hannah) left to her by her legendary actress mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, who actually plays her Mother in this film.

I so miss the legendary Tower Records on Broadway and 68th Street, a logical neighbor for Lincoln Center.( Woody spots one of the sisters in Tower browsing their incredible jazz selection.) A great place to browse, listen, meet up – as a music major, I spent HOURS there.  My friends met their future spouses there (as does Woody in this film). A legendary selection of music.

6.  “SEX AND THE CITY”

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Our favorite gal pals continue their cable tv love affair (not to mention their love lives) with NYC on the silver screen.  The main 42nd Street branch of the NYPL will NEVER be the same. (I spent many a weekend in their 3rd Floor main reading room while in Graduate School) The grand entrance, flanked by those majestic lions (aptly named “Patience and Fortitude”) and grand marble staircase soured into a sad exit for our beloved Carrie, faster the a New York minute.

And again, we salivated over SJP’s and Big’s Upper Fifth Avenue apartment, not to mention Charlotte’s Park Avenue digs and Miranda’s Brooklyn brownstone. These glam gals defined NYC for an entire generation.  I ran into their tv shoots several times during the years they were filming their show in and about NYC.  Always a thrill to see these women “on the job.”

5.  “THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR”

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Such an intelligent, involving, intriguing plot – the perfect metaphor for NYC itself. Robert Redford plays a CIA low level think tank “brain” (code name: condor) who analyzes data and ideas for possible conspiracy theories. (Remember, this was pre 9/11 – where the criticism became “a failure of imagination”…how prescient). Sure enough, he comes too close to the truth and the story takes off. You will see our government in a totally different light after this exciting, absorbing film.

I remember when they were filming on the streets of Manhattan, very exciting seeing Redford literally on the run!  The Lexington Avenue “Luncheonette” and East 77th St. elegant townhouse which served as this film’s catalyst, still stand, as well as the entire Upper West side Broadway run where Redford’s character literally ran for his life.  The Times Square recruiting station also still stands.

Gotta mention the legendary Max Von Sydow as a chilling “hit man” and a smart Faye Dunaway as an initially unwilling accomplice.  Love a good conspiracy theory!

4.  “WHEN HARRY MET SALLY”

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NYC couldn’t be more beautiful in the Fall, and this film takes total advantage of this season.  If you have not seen this film – which centers around that eternal question  “Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?” then run, don’t walk to see an adorable Meg Ryan and a witty, smarty pants Billy Crystal. You have all seen the famous scene at Katz’s deli i.e. “I’ll have what she’s having.” This “hit the nail on the head” love story travels to Giant’s Stadium, the Puck Building, the Washington Square Arch down in the heart of Greenwich Village, Central Park’s ideal ladies luncheon locale i.e. the Central Park Boat House….each scene contributes to this insightful love story that could only happen in NYC.

3.  “MOONSTRUCK”

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Only a New Yorker such as John Patrick Shanley (born in the Bronx) could write such an off center, off beat love story. With lines like “Snap out of it!” and “Ma, I love him awful”… well, reality bites back!  Cher scored her Oscar in this film, but it was her NY spot on accent, highlighted by the Brooklyn Heights streets and glorious promenade that captured out hearts. The scenes both outside and inside the glorious red velvet Metropolitan Opera House take your breath away. Every other time I pass the infamous Lincoln Center Fountain, I spot someone posing like Cher in “Moonstruck” for a selfie.  I urge you all to one day go inside this major opera house, they offer a fab back stage tour.

2.  “ANNIE HALL”

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Another Woody Allen masterpiece. A work of epic proportion and way ahead of itself in the relationship area.  Both Woody and Diane Keaton (her quirky, cool look launched a fashion trend) have never been better.  You laugh, you cry, you relate. As expected, Woody’s love affair with NY continues, he takes us thru Coney Island in Brooklyn, his beloved Beekman Movie Theater on the Upper East Side, the beautifully filmed streets of New York invite you for a admirable stroll where everything is possible.

And if you can’t get it here….well, you don’t need it!  Our beloved “Thalia” movie theater (the ultimate art house for film buffs and due to its late night/early morning programming, the perfect symbol of the city that never sleeps) is lovingly acknowledged in a memorable scene. It closed way back when. I cut my young cinematic teeth there on those deep, existential Ingmar Bergman stoic stories and Fellini double headers. Those were the days.

 

By: Joanne Theodorou

 

 

 

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