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18 New York Movies Every Guy Should See

18 New York Movies Every Guy Should See

Drive around New York City for a day, and you’re bound to see at least one film being made. They’re not all blockbusters, but the city serves as a vibrant backdrop for a great number of productions. And while it’s easy to use the slew of skyscrapers and gaggle of taxis as scenery, it’s another thing to effectively capture the unique feel of the Big Apple. Not only do these 18 movies manage to do so, they do it incredibly well.

Once Upon a Time in America

Gangster films and New York City go hand in hand. Few use the one-way streets better than Once Upon a Time in America. The film spans over 40 years and kicks off in the Lower East Side back in the 1920s. It’s worth watching the uncut 229-minute film and not the chopped up version that was in theaters back in 1984. Amazon iTunes


Ahh, the New York artist, so creatively odd and bizarrely brilliant. This film is about Jean Michel Basquiat who went from being a bum on the streets of New York to the talk of the town with a little help from Andy Warhol. Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, and Benicio del Toro are all tremendous. Amazon Netflix


Based on the true story of Frank Serpico—a New York City cop who tried to bring the corruption in the NYPD to light—Serpico is highlighted by a magnificent performance by Al Pacino. Consider the film your NYC ride-along. Amazon iTunes Netflix

Gangs of New York

The Five Points was an area in lower Manhattan where crime and corruption ran rampant in the mid-1800s. In Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese uses the blood-splattered streets as a battleground for Bill the Butcher. Amazon iTunes

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Based on Neil Simon’s Broadway play, Brighton Beach Memoirs is set in Brooklyn during the 1930s. It’s the story of Eugene Morris Jerome, a teenager who is struggling to find himself while dealing with his family. It’s a coming-of-age story set in a Jewish home in Brighton Beach. Amazon iTunes Netflix


When Woody Allen titled this film Manhattan, he made clear what one of the central aspects of the flick would be. The 1979 movie still remains one of the most honest glimpses into the complicated quest to find love in New York. Amazon iTunes Netflix


Kids would succeed even if it wasn’t set in New York, but there’s something about the city and the urban freedom the youngsters have that just adds to the movie. It’s a story of raging hormones and childhood debauchery that’s bold and unwavering in its approach. Amazon

The Warriors

There have been a great number of gang-related movies that have taken place in New York, but few have reached the same cult status as The Warriors. Visually stimulating and oddly fun, the story follows the escapades of a gang from Coney Island and uses the Bronx and other boroughs as a sort of dystopian arena. Amazon iTunes

The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale gets its name from a large diorama in New York’s American Museum of Natural History which plays a part in the film. Just like the two creatures tangled up in a battle in the piece, Bernard and Joan Berkman are locked into a messy fight of their own as they separate and throw their family into chaos. The film takes place in Brooklyn and features great performances from Jeff Daniels and a young Jesse Eisenberg. Amazon iTunes

The Pope of Greenwich Village

Set in an Italian section of Greenwich Village, The Pope of Greenwich Village uses the streets of the city as a backdrop for the scheming duo of Paulie and Charlie who struggle to move up and leave the area behind. It’s bursting with classic New York grittiness and determination. It also happens to be one of Mickey Rourke’s best performances. Amazon

The Godfather Part II

It doesn’t just take place in New York, but it would be odd for any movie that pushes 3 hours to stay in one place. Still, New York is the backdrop we most often think of when it comes to the second installment in the Corleone story. Oh, and just as a side note, it might be the greatest movie ever made. Amazon iTunes

Man on Wire

Man on Wire is a film about Philippe Petit who pulled off what’s been called “the artistic crime of the century.” Back in 1974, Petit snuck to the top of the World Trade Center and walked between the towers on a wire without a safety net. Not only is the film nerve-racking, but it’s also oddly inspiring. Amazon iTunes Netflix

Do the Right Thing

Summer in the city is very different from summer in the suburbs. Spike Lee captures that blazing asphalt feel in his 1989 film Do the Right Thing. Brooklyn serves as a sweaty racial and social battleground in one of Lee’s finest works. Amazon iTunes

Midnight Cowboy

If you’re looking to experience the seedy underbelly of New York, Midnight Cowboy might be the best and most entertaining portrayal of it. The city takes center stage as a Texas cowboy (Jon Voight) is tossed upon the hectic streets with a slick New York con man (Dustin Hoffman) at his side. Amazon iTunes

King of New York

King of New York makes this list not for the story itself, but for the raw portrayal of the New York underground. With late night shootouts and wild car chases, the bright lights of the big city descend upon a large portion of the Christopher Walken-led film. Amazon iTunes Netflix

The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson used many locations in New York to film his 2002 oddball comedy. While a lot of names were changed—Gene Hackman was actually staying at the Waldorf at the beginning of movie—the spirit of the city was very much still the same. Amazon iTunes

Saturday Night Fever

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the role Brooklyn plays in Saturday Night Fever. As Tony Manero gazes at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge dreaming of moving up in the world, the Brooklyn discos serve as his playground. Amazon iTunes

Taxi Driver

Not only one of the best New York movies ever made, simply one of the best movies ever made. It’s a creepy trip inside the mind of a disturbed man and the urban chaos that surrounds him. Scorsese just knows how to capture the energy of New York. Amazon iTunes