Between social distancing and frigid temperatures, getting outside to explore the city just isn’t happening right now. Fortunately, you can still soak up some of that ambience from the comfort of your bed/couch—by way of these iconic new york movies.
The 22 Best New York Movies of All Time
1. moonstruck (1987)
A classic rom-com that’s managed to hold up over time, despite the fact that it’s more than 30 years old. (And Cher won an Oscar for it, NBD.)
2. ghostbusters (2016)
Yes, yes, we know it’s not the original but we happen to think that Kate McKinnon in all her madcap glory is even better than the OG version.
3. sylvie’s Love (2020)
This sweet romance has a near-perfect rating and it’s easy to see why: With dreamy music, stellar performances and beautifully shot, this Amazon Prime flick set in 1950s Harlem ticks all the boxes.
4. citizen Jane: Battle For The City (2016)
Feel like becoming a more involved New Yorker but not sure where to start? Get inspired by this documentary about activist Jane Jacobs, who went head-to-head with city developers in the ’50s and ’60s over their plans to build a highway through downtown Manhattan. (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel even gave her a shout-out.)
5. elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013)
Starring the late, great Broadway legend (and onetime mother of Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock), this hilarious flick about Elaine Stritch gives audiences a riveting glimpse into her life at age 86.
6. fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016)
OK, we realize the “New York” in which the movie takes place is a bit of a stretch. But you will catch an appearance of the gorgeous (and rarely glimpsed) City Hall subway station.
7. fame (1980)
Follow a group of High School of Performing Arts students as they try to make it big in the Big Apple. And we dare you not to sing along to the ever-so-catchy title track.
8. frances Ha (2013)
Fans of Lady Bird and Little Women can keep the Gerwig lovefest going with this 2013 charmer (which she co-wrote) that captures a sometimes painfully familiar slice of 20-something life in NYC.
Watch on Hulu
9. landline (2017)
Jenny Slate and ’90s nostalgia, all wrapped up in one dysfunctional Manhattan family portrait? Consider our Prime subscription renewed.
10. Taxi Driver (1976)
If you’ve never seen this psychological thriller about a disturbed veteran (Robert De Niro) working as a nighttime taxi driver, then consider this the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with this Martin Scorsese classic (if only so you can finally get the “You talking to me?” references).
Watch on Netflix
11. do The Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee is the star, writer, producer and director of this 1989 drama set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood that the New Yorker described as “two hours of bombardment with New York-style stimuli.” And while the film is more than 30 years old, its messaging about race and gentrification is very much still relevant today.
12. breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Based on Truman Capote’s novella, this romance starring George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn was mostly shot on the Paramount lot but there are a few key scenes shot in NYC, including the famous Fifth Avenue jewelry store. Grab a coffee and a croissant, sit back and enjoy.
13. west Side Story (1961)
While much of this urban love story (a modern-day take on Romeo and Juliet) was shot on a soundstage, the energy is pure NYC and the opening sequence (where two gangs duke in out from West 68th Street to 110th Street set to the Leonard Bernstein score) is a scene you’ll never forget.
14. when Harry Met Sally (1989)
When we think of quintessential New York movies, When Harry Met Sally is top of our list. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen this Nora Ephron classic, we’ll happily rewatch this romantic comedy again and again (if only for *that* scene).
15. working Girl (1988)
Melanie Griffith proves that bigger is better in this 80s romance where her talent, energy, and hair reach gravity-defying heights.
16. rent (2005)
This movie adaption of the Broadway musical follow as group of New Yorkers in the early 90s as they struggle with work, relationships and the effects of the AIDS epidemic on their community. Is it as good as the original show? Well, no, but you’ll still enjoy belting out the lyrics to Seasons of Love.
17. if Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
You’ll want to keep the tissues on standby for this stunning film based on the James Baldwin novel and set in 1970s Harlem. Childhood sweethearts Tish and Fonny dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.
Watch on Hulu
18. grey Gardens (2009)
No, not the acclaimed 1975 documentary that introduced the world to Jackie O.’s eccentric relatives and their Hamptons estate (though if you haven’t seen it, go watch immediately). This 2009 HBO film stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore (as Big and Little Edie, respectively)…so, yeah. No further explanation needed.
19. paris Is Burning (1990)
Seven years in the making, this riveting documentary chronicles New York’s ballroom subculture in the 80s and the racism, poverty, and discrimination African American and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women faced.
20. inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Or as we like to call it, two hours of Oscar Isaac’s face. (Just kidding, it’s also a very good movie, and Greenwich Village features prominently.)
21. andros In The City (2020)
Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a feature-length film. Enter this sweet 18-minute short about two strangers who connect in Brooklyn during the pandemic.
22. the Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Kermit the Frog and pals want to take their stage act to Broadway, but navigating the Big Apple isn’t easy. Fun, charming and filled with NYC shots of Sardi's, Central Park and the Empire State Building.