20 Quintessential New York City Movies

28 Oct 2019 | 10:48

Will "The Irishman" live up to its hype? Crucially, will it be remembered as a classic New York City film? Let’s face it. Any movie boasting the talents of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and director Martin Scorsese is, by definition, a New York flick.

We’ll soon find out if "The Irishman" can take its place alongside the slew of vintage New York crime and mob movies. One thing is clear: When it comes to making movies, there is no town quite like New York. Cops and robbers. Romance. Bravery. Foolishness. Heroes. Villains. And the city is often a character.

And since we’re New Yorkers, we can be snobbish and provincial about this fine point. What about LA, you say? Please. Woody Allen, perhaps the quintessential New York filmmaker, put it well in his masterpiece, "Annie Hall:" LA is forever the burg “where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”

I have compiled a list of my favorite New York films. No doubt, I’ve left out some good ones. I encourage you to set me straight. I’m interested in what seem to be the most iconic – not necessarily the best – movies set in New York City during the past 50 years. There has to be a cut off – and this is a useful one.

Therefore, no "West Side Story" or "Sweet Smell of Success" or "The Apartment" or "Marty" or "Rosemary’s Baby," to name five gems. Sorry.

One ground rule: No more than two films per director. Therefore, no Francis Ford Coppola’s "Cotton Club." No Sidney Lumet’s "Prince of the City." No Scorsese’s "After Hours" or – don’t hate me! – "Mean Streets."

20) "The 25th Hour" 2002 (Spike Lee) – Edgy, paranoid, messy – just like New York City, right?

19) "The Devil Wears Prada" 2006 (David Frankel) – They don’t make fashion movies in Pittsburgh or the Twin Cities, do they?

18) "Desperately Seeking Susan" 1985 – (Susan Seidelman) – Where else could a post-punk film co-starring Madonna possibly take place?

17) "Shaft" 1971 (Gordon Parks) – No explanation required.This film screams NYC.

16) "Wall Street" 1987 (Oliver Stone) – Well, where else would you set a film called "Wall Street?"

15) "Kids" 1995 (Larry Clark) – These kids are nothing like Patti Smith’s "Just Kids."

14) "A Little Romance" 1979 (George Roy Hill) – They don’t seem to make romantic movies set in Newport Beach.

13) "Saturday Night Fever" 1977 (John Badham) – When John Travolta set the world on fire.

12) "Crossing Delancey" 1988 (Joan Micklin Silver) – If you don’t love this movie, I don’t think we can be friends. Turn in your NYPL card, too.

11) "When Harry Met Sally" 1989 (Rob Reiner) – If I didn’t include this romance epic, no one would want to be my friend (PS – I bumped "The Freshman" to make room for it)

10) "Serpico" 1973 (Martin Scorsese) – Maybe THE classic NYC antihero epic

9) "Midnight Cowboy" 1969 (John Schlesinger) – “I’m walkin' here! I’M WALKIN.”

8) "The French Connection" 1971 (William Friedkin) – And it beat out "A Clockwork Orange" for Best Picture.

7) "Dog Day Afternoon" 1975 (Sidney Lumet) – I still think this movie deserved Best Picture over "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." One word: ATTICA!

6) "The Godfather" 1972 (Francis Ford Coppola) – The all-time mob opera.

5) "Annie Hall" 1977 (Woody Allen) – Yes, this is my favorite film of all time. But as a vintage NYC, it ranks fifth. Which is still not bad, Woody.

4) "The Godfather, Part II" 1974 (Francis Ford Coppola) – This “sequel” screams NYC more than any of the other two. The period shots of the Lower East Side still blow me away.

3) "Manhattan" 1979 (Woody Allen) – With a title like this...

2) "Taxi Driver" 1976 (Martin Scorsese) – We all have a little Travis inside of us. Hopefully it never comes out.

1) "Do the Right Thing" 1989 (Spike Lee) – Easy choice. Three decades later, it depicts the racial turmoil of New York better than any other film. Spike’s masterpiece. Now and always.