Last Updated on October 6, 2021 by
11 great films set in New York
The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps, The Capital of the World.
We are now shifting our focus from the west coast to the east coast. Few cities have been portrayed as extensively as the world’s most populous metropolis: New York. In the city that never sleeps, we’ve seen everything from rock-hard thrillers to explosive space invasions and romantic comedies, as well as a whole bunch of superhero movies.
This is our list of 11 of the top films that are set in New York.
10. “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
Despite a black biopic about drugs, money and the horrible life of a sleazy stockbroker, “The Wolf of Wall Street” manages to be surprisingly funny. It’s a three-hour drama-comedy where we get to follow the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort’s (DiCaprio), with a script that manages to mix seriousness with humor in a refreshing way.
Although as usual, DiCaprio does a great job acting, but Jonah Hill’s charismatic “Donnie” is at least as entertaining. The two characters quickly take a liking to each other and move together from being nothing to running a smaller empire on Wall Street. Most impressive? That Martin Scorsese somehow manages to give the film an ultra-fast, youthful pace, even though he was over 70 when he recorded “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
9. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
Jim Carrey is better as a serious drama actor than a comedian? This may have come as a surprise to a lot of people when watching this movie. Carrey plays the shy Joel in the sci-fi drama “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” for the first time. Sure, he had offered strong roles in some earlier films (not least “Truman Show”), but this is something else. Something better. The same goes for Kate Winslet’s colorful Clementine, which stands in stark contrast to the roles she would otherwise do.
In addition to Jim Carrey’s and Kate Winslet’s unexpected role performance, it’s the tricky plot that captivates. For some reason, these people want to erase each other from their memories and unfortunately, there is an apparatus that can help them do just that. However, Joel regrets himself in the middle of the process and being able to follow along on his journey through the subconscious is just as fascinating every time. Like “Inception” fixed without explosions, type.
8. “King Kong” (2005)
If there were any warning signs before Peter Jackson’s mediocre “Hobbit” trilogy, the exaggerated and obviously computer-made “running dinosaurs” sequence in “King Kong” is probably the most ominous. However, the difference between “King Kong” and “Hobbit” is that Peter Jackson was genuinely interested in doing “King Kong”, while he seems to have wanted to just complete them in the three “Hobbit” films. In “King Kong” there is a passion in filmmaking similar to that of the “The Legend of the Ring” trilogy, which in our eyes makes this three-hour-long matinee adventure the best of all Kong films.
Instead of treating the giant monkey like a monster (as in the original of 1933), we get to know Kong in-depth here when he and actress Ann (Naomi Watts) find each other on Skull Island. Kong is depicted as a giant animal rather than a vicious monster, while it is the people who are the “bad guys” when they catch him and take him to New York, where he is to be shown and capitalized on … Thanks to it, we can build sympathy for the monkey.
7. “Spider-Man” (2002)
Before pumping out new superhero movies every two months, there were “X-Men” and “Spider-Man”. The former is admittedly really good, but the feeling you get when seeing an unsigned Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) get bitten by a radioactive spider and then swing around New York for the very first time, is a cinematic experience you won’t forget. However, it’s not just nostalgia that makes “Spider-Man” one of the best superhero movies ever, but the film – despite some outdated CGI and Green Goblin’s plastic costume – has aged really well.
The reason why “Spider-Man” still works today is its fully cast story. Unlike the soup of superhero films that show up today, in which all films must be part of a “cinematic universe” (watching you, MCU and DCEU), Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” movie manages to stand on their own legs. It gives us a Peter Parker who, during the course of the film, grows into the role of the spider man, where he starts teasing but towards the end takes responsibility for his newfound powers and meets his destiny. A full-fledged story, in short.
6. “Godfather” (1972)
What is there to say about this movie that has not already been said? Everyone already knows that Marlon Brando makes his life role as Don Vito Corleone, that Al Pacino shines as Michael Corleone and that no film (except possibly the sequel “Godfather: Part 2”) has come close to portraying the mafia in an equally believable way. “Godfather” is full of murders, family intrigues and revenge.
When you look at “Godfather”you can get a weird feeling that this is exactly what life could look like for a family like Corleone during the 40s and the 50’s. The relationships and tension between the five mafia families in New York are portrayed in a realistic way, and although Corleone is an inventive family name, the real mafia probably had a number of heads who ruled on the criminal power that Vito has in “The Godfather.” It is both a scary and fascinating story that gives me an insight into the darkest side of 40s New York.
5. “American Psycho” (2000)
The filmization of Bret Easton Elli’s cult-declared (horror) novel features a mesmerizing Christian Bale starring Patrick Bateman; an egocentric Wall Street juppie who fantasizes about murder and only cares about superficial things, such as the nuance of his skeleton-white business cards and the importance of exercising regularly to achieve the most perfect body possible. It is easy to imagine that “American Psycho” is a slasher film, but in fact, it is a black comedy packed with social criticism.
Unlike the book, the film does not show the bloodiest parts of the story; the most grotesque scenes had not worked very well on film … Instead, the film focuses on the real essence of the novel: the satire of the entire Wall Street culture, its extreme superficiality, and Patrick Bateman’s increasingly unreliable psyche. It is hard not to laugh at all that morbidness when he tells in one second in detail about the band Huey Lewis and the News, to chop an ax in the face of colleague Paul Allen in the next moment. If he even commits this murder? Later in the movie, it is alleged that Paul Allen is still alive … In the end, it is not clear what has really happened and what has just happened in Bateman’s head, which makes me still speculate about the action for almost 20 years after the movie was released.
4. “Watchmen” (2009)
When Zack Snyder took on Alan Moore’s masterful comic book “Watchmen,” the result became one of the best books-turned-movies in the world, according to some. This is largely due to the fact that the film is almost identical to the picture frames from the publisher, except at the end which has only changed for the better in the film version. The film is a visual delight to the eye and shows that Snyder – despite some mediocre works – can make really sharp films, as long as he has a good script to work with.
The best thing about “Watchmen” is that no one is good or evil, but all characters only have their own agendas that they follow. Rorschach is completely uncompromising in his belief in justice, while Veidt wants to achieve peace on earth even if it costs millions of human lives to get there. At the same time, the blue superhero is watching Dr. Manhattan in the whole human race with indifferent eyes, while The Comedian laughs most miserably at all the misery going on … The clash between all characters is magical and thought-provoking, as none of the heroes are right or wrong. Instead, they just think differently, which makes it impossible for me to put myself on anyone’s “side”. It’s all moral gray zones that make “Watchmen” stand out from all other superhero movies and make it more interesting than any Marvel reel. Snyder’s gorgeous action scenes, I also thank you no!
3. “Whiplash” (2014)
There are four villains from the 21st century that I think stand out more than some others: The Joker in “The Dark Knight”, Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”, Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and finally Fletcher in ” whiplash “. The latter does not deal with murders and explosions like the other three psychopaths, but he is at least as unpleasant as the others I mentioned. J.K. Simmons steals every scene he is in and after seeing “Whiplash” a few times, I still can’t really decide if he is evil or good. Which makes him a fantastic villain!
On the one hand, his methods of getting Andrew (Miles Teller) to his full potential as a drummer are absolutely awful. He screams, swears and abuses the young musician to play better. On the other hand, his brutal methods ultimately result in Andrew actually getting sharper behind the drums than he (probably) would ever have been if it wasn’t for the way Fletcher pushes him, so my feelings about the mentor end up in real conflict. The questions that arise within me are these: is it worth feeling bad to be able to play well? Would Andrew have been able to play as well as he does in the end if it wasn’t for Fletcher’s nightmare-like approach? Is there a limit to what you have to go through to achieve your dreams? The only question you really get a real answer to is this: is it possible to make a thriller about jazz? “Whiplash” gives us the answer.
2. “Birdman” (2014)
Although Alejandro Iñarritu’s Oscar-winning drama is of course filled with cheat clips that are hidden from the viewer, it seems that the entire movie consists of only one long shot. Talk about taking the photo to new levels! We even want to go so far as to say that we have never seen a movie similar to “Birdman”. The constant flow between the different scenes creates an overall feeling that we have never experienced in any other film, but besides the extremely well-choreographed footage, the actors’ efforts and the philosophy-filled story also impress.
The film revolves around Riggan, a theater industry executive who now wants to make a comeback by putting on a theatrical performance and getting attention again. Opponent Mike (Edward Norton) does everything for the art and does not hesitate to immediately question Riggan’s half-box script, which of course damages Riggan’s self-confidence but ultimately leads to a better play. In the midst of all this drama, Iñarritu throws in the unreal fact that Riggan can move things with the help of thought power and even has the ability to fly; two superhero attributes that, oddly enough, actually feel quite reasonable in this movie. The mix of drama, surrealism and black comedy makes “Birdman” an incredibly unique film. In addition, it gives us both Michael Keaton’s and Edward Norton’s best acting efforts!
1. 12 Angry Men (1957)
If there is a movie we would like to call timeless, it is “12 sworn men”. It could as well have come today as it was 60 years ago, when its story somehow succeeds in feeling as current now as when the film was first released in 1957. A murder has been committed and it is up to a jury to judge whether the accused guy is guilty or not. If they state that he is guilty, the electric chair is waiting … At first, it seems obvious that he has committed the murder, but juror number 8 (Henry Fonda) votes alone against all the others for the simple reason that he wants them to at least talk through the matter properly before drawing any conclusion.
What follows is an extremely exciting drama that manages to be more shocking than any modern action movie we have seen. Jury member 8 questions all the evidence, argues against everyone else in the jury room and eventually succeeds in persuading one after the other that the accused boy was actually guilty of the murder of his father. The script is fully cast and the tension seals the more we get to know the people in the room. As time goes on, we find out the reasons for their positions and it becomes more and more clear that everyone has their own luggage that makes them find the defendant guilty (or not guilty, in some cases).
The fact that the film takes place almost exclusively inside the jury room, but still manages to captivate the audience from beginning to end, is also proof of the incredibly well-written script the film has. Here, nothing is needed other than the jurors’ dialogue, as everything is said for the plot ahead at a perfect pace. The best thing is that the jurors are convinced by completely different arguments and evidence that emerge during the course of the film, right up until only the very last bull skull in the jury (Lee J. Cobb) remains. Throughout the film, it has been hinted that he has personal – rather than factual – reasons to want to convict the defendant to death, and when his real motives are revealed, you feel most kind of sad sympathy for this angry man.