From battling the supernatural to star-crossed love to succeeding at your first job, Musement shares ten of the best films set in New York.
Even if you haven’t visited New York, you probably feel like you already know the city as it’s served as the backdrop for countless TV shows, films, and novels, rendering it easy to fantasize about your next (or first) trip. To help quell (or agitate?) your wanderlust, here are ten films that will put you in a New York state of mind while you’re in quarantine.
1. The Apartment, 1960
Jack Lemon stars as C.C. Baxter, a bachelor and insurance clerk whose married colleagues use his apartment to conduct their extramarital affairs. Along the way, he falls for Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator who happens to be his boss’s mistress and therefore, has unknowingly had a few liaisons in Baxter’s apartment. A delight from start to finish, this classic film took home the Oscar for Best Picture.
2. When Harry Met Sally, 1989
Even if you’ve never seen the film, you’ve undoubtedly heard of its most iconic scene: Meg Ryan’s faux orgasm at Katz’s Delicatessan that prompts a customer to utter the immortal line: “I’ll have what she’s having.” The film recounts the tale of its two titular characters, the other depicted by Billy Crystal, and follows their friendship-turned-romance over the course of several years—the ultimate New York love story.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
Loosely based on Truman Capote’s novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s stars Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a high-class escort of sorts who clicks with her new neighbor Paul, an aspiring writer and kept man. The movie opens with a taxi dropping off a gussied up Hepburn on a desolate Fifth Avenue after a late night in front of the legendary jewelry store. She pulls her coffee and croissant out of a paper bag and eats her breakfast while browsing the windows and eyeing the diamonds—many an Instagrammer has, of course, imitated this photo opp.
4. West Side Story, 1961
Based on Romeo and Juliet, this musical set in Manhattan’s Lincoln Square (located on the city’s West Side as suggested by the title) tells the tale of ill-fated love between Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood). Tensions run high between two rival gangs, the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks—Tony co-founded the Jets and Maria’s brother Bernardo is the leader of the Sharks. Featuring iconic songs like Somewhere, America, and I Feel Pretty, this film is epic. The musical itself is currently on Broadway (though obviously dark at the time being).
5. Brooklyn, 2015
Based on Colm Tóibín’s novel, Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who emigrates to New York in the 1950s. She resides in an Irish boarding house in Brooklyn and begins working at a department store. At an Irish dance, she meets Tony, an Italian-American plumber who sneaked in, and they begin dating. While she’s happy with her life, she also feels homesick for Ireland. The film also takes place on the Emerald Isle, but what’s so New York about the story is how the city symbolizes new beginnings for the many who chose to put down roots there.
6. Moonstruck, 1987
Another tale of one of New York’s Brooklyn immigrant communities, Moonstruck is a heartwarming romantic comedy starring Cher as Loretta Castorini, the role that won her an Oscar. The Italian-American bookkeeper is engaged to Jonny (Danny Aiello), who leaves for Sicily to visit his dying mother, but sparks fly between Loretta and Ronny (Nicolas Cage) when Jonny’s out of town.
7. Ghostbusters, 1984
Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Akroyd), Egon (Harold Ramis), and Winston (Ernie Hudson) take on supernatural rascals like Slimer, Gozer the Gozarian, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. From its opening scene in the storied New York Public Library to its ending on fabled Central Park West, the entire film is fodder for any New York lover’s appetite.
8. Frances Ha, 2013
Gerta Gerwig, also a co-writer of the film, stars as Frances Halladay, a 27-year-old aspiring dancer eager to stand up on her own two feet in New York. Directed by Noah Baumbach, this charming black and white film will tug on your heartstrings.
9. Birdman, 2014
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Oscar-nominated film fuses magical realism with black comedy and drama in what flows as one long single take. Michael Keaten plays Riggan Thomson, a faded actor whose most iconic role was a superhero called “Birdman,” as he’s preparing to star in a Broadway play. Much of the film offers a backstage peek of the inner workings of the St. James Theater, an emblem of Broadway.
10. The Devil Wears Prada, 2006
Anne Hathaway stars as Andrea Sachs, who has a job “a million girls would kill for:” assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor of Runway magazine, played by Meryl Streep, who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the demanding boss. Based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel à clef about her experiences as the assistant to Vogue’s Anna Wintour, the Devil Wears Prada not only has delightful New York cityscapes but also captures the sentiments many may experience when embarking on careers in the Big Apple. The film also boasts some lovely Paris footage.