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There’s No Better Set Than New York City

An iconic scene was shot on nearly every corner of the city.

Recent New York filming locations. Graphic: Marcus Peabody/Data from Mayor’s Office of Media And Entertainment, Microsoft, and the City of New York
Recent New York filming locations. Graphic: Marcus Peabody/Data from Mayor’s Office of Media And Entertainment, Microsoft, and the City of New York

New York is not the easiest place to shoot a movie. (That’s why they invented Hollywood.) The city is crowded, cranky, and expensive. So why do filmmakers keep coming back? Because the city has an energy you can’t get anywhere else: the bebop beat, the sidewalk theater, the sense that the unpredictable is just around the corner. The architecture’s not bad either. As a veteran location scout put it to me, you get millions of dollars in production value just by setting up the camera.

From the early days of silent shorts, the movies have always loved shooting on New York’s streets. The industry’s migration to the West Coast dampened things somewhat — films like Rear Window were made entirely on studio back lots — though even then productions sometimes earmarked a few days to get footage of the actual city. But as cameras got smaller and more mobile, the movies gradually returned to New York. And the city welcomed them, if not quite with open arms (prevent people from parking on select blocks of the Upper East Side and you will hear about it), then at least with an open mind — as well as some attractive tax incentives. The number of features shot in the boroughs every year rose from roughly 70 in the late ’70s (as James Sanders notes in Celluloid Skyline) to more than 300 in 2016.

Consider this map a love letter to the New York of the movies and the hardworking location scouts, production assistants, and other professionals who bring it to life. In blue in the map above, we have pinpointed the past four years’ worth of film permits from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. (The data came organized by Zip Code; dots have been placed broadly inside the corresponding areas.) In red in the map below, we have highlighted more than 50 special locations from New York cinema history. Some are iconic onscreen moments that require little explanation. Others are the character actors of the cityscape, recurring settings you might never have noticed. And we included places where celluloid preserves a long-vanished incarnation of the city, a record of what certain neighborhoods looked like before they were transformed by money, power, and fashion.

We began this project in February 2020, just before the coronavirus sent us into a quarantined hibernation. But almost two years later, the map feels strikingly appropriate for the COVID era: As the real city shut down, the imaginary version from the movies helped keep the spirit of New York alive.

Tap or click each number on the map below to read more.


101 Park Avenue

Gremlins 2. Photo: Warner Bros.

The modernist office blocks that fill up Midtown are often criticized for their anomie-inducing interchangeability, but watch enough New York City movies, and you start to notice one specific tower over and over again. It’s got a Corbusian concrete plaza outside, a spacious, well-lit lobby inside, and a floor plan that resembles an octagon sliced in half, then given a nudge. It’s 101 Park Avenue, and it’s been the onscreen workplace for everyone from Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King to Rebel Wilson in Isn’t It Romantic, Susan Sarandon in New Year’s Eve to Liam Neeson in The Commuter, Richard Gere in Arbitrage to Adam Sandler in Click.

“You make three or four movies, and all of a sudden everybody wants to be there,” says Peter Kalikow, the 79-year-old real-estate mogul who owns the building and has offices on the 25th floor. Like any good salesman, he’s happy to talk about why filmmakers keep showing up to 101 Park. It helped, he said, that when it opened in 1982, the tower was one of the first new skyscrapers built in the area in years. Add in the location, only a few blocks from Grand Central, and the orientation of its offices, which are set 45 degrees or so off the grid, and you get views that are “very dramatic.” The building also features a wide, flat roof, originally designed as an emergency helipad, which has been used in films as diverse as Entrapment and Friends With Benefits.

It helps, too, that Kalikow is a movie lover. In the ‘70s  he’d rented a floor in an apartment building he owned to the movie Love and Disorder, starring Carol O’Connor (“who was fluent in four languages, including Italian”), and Ernest Borgnine (“who was a piece of shit”), and found it “a very pleasant experience.” There’s a certain thrill you get when you host a film shoot, he says. He tries to be accomodating to crews — the building’s web site features a page specifically for those who’d like to shoot there — and he’s found them very accomodating in turn. In more than 30 years of shoots, he has no real horror stories.

With its acutely angled facade, 101 Park can look almost sinister from certain vantage points, and its onscreen appearances often have a villainous sheen. In one of its earliest roles, it was the headquarters of a backstabbing law firm in Brewster’s Millions; a few years later it was the Trump Tower analogue in Gremlins 2. At this, Kalikow shrugs, “My favorite car is the Ferrari,” he says. “It’s always the villain’s car.” More important, he says, is that a production shows off the building “the right way” — which means no protest scenes in the plaza outside, say. “The only time I broke the rule, and I’m sorry I did it, was when they crashed that flying saucer into the plaza,” he says of the skyscraper’s cameo in The Avengers. (It was actually the Avengers’ Quinjet.) “The destruction of an office building, that breaks my heart.”


Cortlandt Alley

Barry. Photo: HBO

New Yorkers like to believe that, whatever makes a city a city, we’ve got the most of it.  But we must admit there is one area where our rivals have us beat — alleys, which are prevalent in places like Chicago and Pittsburgh, but not so much a thing here. This is tough for filmmakers, who have all sorts of scenes they would like to shoot in gritty, yet secluded urban settings. Luckily there’s Cortlandt Alley, a three-block stretch south of Canal Street that offers productions the closest thing they’ll get to a menacing alleyway in Manhattan. Using permit data from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting*, here is a decade’s worth of movie shoots in Cortlandt Alley at a glance:

  • December 16, 2012: The bodybuilding documentary Generation Iron.
  • February 18, 2013: The Kickstarter-funded hip-hop drama Nu Moses.
  • March 21 and 24, 2013: The French immigration drama Under the Starry Sky.
  • September 25 and November 17, 2013: The Quvenzhané Wallis version of Annie.
  • February 23, 2015: The sci-fi rom-com Bad Vegan and the Teleportation Machine.
  • April 30 to May 6, 2015 and July 9 to July 11, 2015: The sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, starring Megan Fox.
  • September 9, 2015: The Kickstarter-funded body-disposal comedy Serious Laundry.
  • October 12, 2015: The kidnapping drama By Any Means.
  • October 25, 29 and 30, 2015: The romantic drama The Broken Ones.
  • April 25 and 26, 2016: The young-Obama Netflix film Barry.
  • April 29 and 30, 2016: The German literary adaptation Return to Montauk.
  • July 1, 2, and 13, 2016: The misbegotten Steven King adaptation The Dark Tower.
  • October 9, 2016: The Chinese romance Love Is a Broadway Hit.
  • November 5, 2016: The low-budget comedy Deadman’s Barstool.
  • July 14 and 15, 2017: The 9/11 drama Windows on the World.
  • November 10, 2017: A second Megan Fox movie, Above the Shadows.
  • November 13 and 14, 2017: The Chace Crawford vehicle Nighthawks.
  • November 30 and December 1, 2017: The Chinese romance In a New York Minute.
  • April 24, 2018: Lone Scherfig’s ensemble drama The Kindness of Strangers.
  • July 5 and 6, 2018: The Vanessa Kirby amnesia indie Italian Studies.
  • October 21, 2018: A project that appears to be the Chinese romance Somewhere Winter.

*2011’s The Smurfs, the 2014 action film The Anomaly, and the 2015 Dakota Johnson environmental drama Chloe and Theo all appear to have shot in Cortlandt Alley as well, but did not appear in the city’s dataset.


Shakespeare Steps, the Bronx

Photo: Warner Bros.

In his acclaimed study The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, Sulieman Osman compares the urban landscape to a “palimpsest,” a site of multiple layers of meaning all competing for legibility. Take, for example, the steep stairs that connect Shakespeare and Jerome Avenues in Highbridge. For those who lived in the neighborhood, they were a site to work out, an inconvenience to avoid, or background noise that carried no meaning whatsoever. Then Joaquin Phoenix thrusted his pelvis to “Rock and Roll Pt. II.” Now, to some locals’ annoyance, they are forever and always The Joker Stairs.


The Gray’s Papaya on 8th Street

Gray’s Papaya in The Back-Up Plan. Photo: CBS Home Entertainment

R.I.P. to the hot-dog chain’s Greenwich Village location, which closed in 2014, but lives forever onscreen in The Back-Up Plan and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.


The Gray’s Papaya on 72nd Street

Gray’s Papaya in You’ve Got Mail. Photo: Warner Bros.

The original Gray’s Papaya storefront on the Upper West Side holds the distinction of being the most photographed budget hot-dog provider in the city, popping up in the background of The Warriors and Die Hard with the Vengeance, and serving as a location for cheap dates in You’ve Got Mail and Down to Earth.


33rd Street and Sixth Avenue

Photo: Edison Manufacturing Company and Ralf & Gammon Company

It’s hardly the most picturesque location today, but Herald Square occupies a notable place in movie history. As James Sanders details in Celluloid Skyline, this was the site of the first film ever to be shot in New York City, when Edison employee William Heise took an early motion-picture camera to 33rd and Sixth and shot a brief snippet of street footage on May 11, 1896. It’s on YouTube!


United Nations Building

Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alam/Alamy Stock Photo

As the United Nations usually has more important things to do than play host to film shoots, the 2005 thriller The Interpreter was originally going to be shot on a set in Toronto. Initial results looked unpromising, so director Sidney Pollack decided instead he’d try to convince then-secretary-general Kofi Annan to let production into the General Assembly building, something the UN had never before allowed. “I think most important was some kind of reassurance that I wasn’t going to have a sex party on the floor of the United Nations,” Pollack told CNN. “I wasn’t going to do an exploitation piece that would embarrass them.” Annan eventually agreed; to avoid getting in the way of actual international diplomacy, the movie shot on weekends for three months.


88-39 69th Road

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The home of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) in Spider-Man.


36 Fuller Place

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The home of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in The Amazing Spider-Man.


43-25 43rd Street

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The home of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Homecoming.


Hoyt-Schermerhorn Subway Station

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Photo: New Line Cinema

For Brooklynites, Hoyt-Schermerhorn is best known for two things: 1) It’s the station where you inevitably get stuck waiting for a transfer, and 2), it’s the one that has those creepy abandoned platforms. They’re remnants of the brief period when the station served as one of two stops on the Court Street Shuttle, which was canceled due to low ridership in 1946. But downtown Brooklyn’s loss was Hollywood’s gain, as the vestigial mini-line has given productions the opportunity to shoot on the subway without making commutes any less convenient than they already are. The extra platforms at Hoyt-Schermerhorn have hosted The Warriors and the ‘90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (The disused Court Street station has been turned into the New York Transit Museum, but it serves as a filming location, too.) And the spur between them was the site of the thrilling subway action in the original Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three.


The Ansonia

Uptown Girls Photo: MGM

This Beaux-Arts apartment building on the Upper West Side has its own tumultuous history, of which its cinematic resume is only a sidebar. But what a resume! Onscreen residents have included Michael Douglas in Don’t Say a Word, Brittany Murphy in Uptown Girls, Halle Berry in Perfect Stranger, and, infamously, Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female.


Fifth Avenue Between 64th and 65th Streets

Sunday in New York Photo: MGM

Two Janes, one block. For a fitting illustration of the way Movie New York changed between the ‘60s and ‘70s, check out this stretch of Fifth Avenue, which as Chuck Katz notes in Manhattan on Film, was coincidentally a location for two separate Jane Fonda movies released eight years apart. In 1963’s Sunday in New York, she’s a single gal catching the bus during a weekend adventure, in a scene as bright and romantic as a French musical. In 1971’s Klute, she’s a jaded prostitute confronting an out-of-town P.I. (Donald Sutherland) with “the sin, the glitter, the wickedness” of the city.


Stuyvesant Avenue Between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street

Photo: Universal Pictures

As street signs today will proudly tell you, this was the Bed-Stuy block where the bulk of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was filmed. While the area has been heavily gentrified in the 30 years since — the white guy in the Larry Bird jersey was a glimpse of the future — most of the houses on the block are remarkably unchanged. But don’t come looking for the location of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria: That was a set constructed on-site.


Otto H. Kahn House

The Verdict Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Upper East Side opulence rarely gets more ostentatious than with these neighboring 91st Street mansions, which are frequently filmed together as a unit. Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow lived here in A Perfect Murder, as did Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osbourn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Neither of those used the interiors, but for a glimpse of what they’re like inside, check out The Verdict, where the Kahn mansion plays the offices of the Archdiocese of Boston, and Working Girl, where the Burden mansion plays a wedding venue.


Benjamin N. Duke House

The First Wives Club Photo: Paramount Pictures

Anyone who’s visited the Met has likely wondered about the red-brick mansion that sits just across Fifth Avenue. So has Hollywood — it’s doubled as the home of Maggie Smith in The First Wives Club, Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry, and one of the baddies in The French Connection. In real life, the property was bought by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 2010; when he put the 20,000-square-foot home up for sale five years later, the world finally got to look inside.


Harry F. Sinclair House

Great Expectations Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

This French Gothic mansion has long served location scouts looking for a bit of old-world glamour. (It does the same in real life, too, where it’s the home of the Ukrainian Institute of America.) It’s most famous as the residence of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe in Cruel Intentions — a fitting choice for a movie based on a French novel — but the outside has also acted as the home of Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations, while the inside was used as Hugh Jackman’s palace in Kate & Leopold.


The Apthorp

Heartburn Photo: Paramount Pictures

“I honestly believed that at the lowest moment in my adult life I’d been rescued by a building,” Nora Ephron once wrote about this luxury apartment complex on the Upper West Side. So of course, when it came time to shoot her autobiographical drama Heartburn, she decided to use its palatial courtyard as a location — as did Funny Farm, The Cotton Club, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Meanwhile, Network used the interior as the home of William Holden.


43 Fifth Avenue

Just My Luck Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

You probably wouldn’t live in a building purely because of its entrance, but that’s why you’re not a character in a movie. The stately awning of this Greenwich Village co-op has made it the home of Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Lindsay Lohan in Just My Luck, and Catherine Keener in Please Give. Imagine them all stuck in the elevator together.


17 Little West 12th Street

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Glenn Close, cinematic gentrifier! 13 years before Samantha Jones moved in, Close’s character in Fatal Attraction was the first voracious blonde to call the Meatpacking District home. Though the deserted streetscape Michael Douglas stumbles home from was located on Little West 12th Street, interiors seem to have been filmed around the corner at 675 Hudson Street, which in real life was also home to an S&M bar called The Hellfire Club. (Bridget Fonda visits in Single White Female.)



Photo: Paramount Pictures

*Makes list of New York City filming locations* “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” “Well, that’s one thing we’ve got.”


58th Street and Sixth Avenue

Photo: United Artists

In Midnight Cowboy, this intersection is the “here” in “I’m walkin’ here!”


285 Prospect Park West

Photo: Warner Bros.

Brooklyn in a nutshell: The Windsor Terrace storefronts that played backdrop to Al Pacino’s antics in Dog Day Afternoon have since been torn down and replaced with million-dollar condos.


Seagram Building

Photo: United Artists

Mies van der Rohe’s Modernist landmark occupies a prominent place in architectural history, but in films like Scrooged and Baby Boom, it’s mostly been used to epitomize the soul-sucking corporate lifestyle.


Gunther Building

Two Weeks’ Notice Photo: Warner Bros.

For the first few years of the new millennium, it seemed like every movie character lived in Soho. Many of them even lived in the same building on Broome Street, whose onscreen residents include Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks’ Notice, Amanda Peet in Igby Goes Down, and Kerry Washington in I Think I Love My Wife.


Plaza Hotel

Home Alone 2 Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

The epitome of high-class living, as seen in Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, Barefoot in the Park, Bride Wars, Home Alone 2, Metropolitan, Network, Scent of a Woman, The Way We Were, and many more.


Coney Island

Brooklyn Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

The Brooklyn amusement park provided a celebratory — or sometimes grimly ironic — backdrop for Annie Hall, Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream, The Warriors, The Wiz, and many more.


Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8

Photo: Columbia Pictures

This Tribeca firehouse served as the Ghostbusters’ HQ, and became so synonymous with the film that when star and co-writer Harold Ramis died in 2014, fans turned it into an unofficial memorial.


American Museum of Natural History

Malcolm X Photo: Warner Bros.

The Central Park West institution provided an educational day out for characters in Election, Malcolm X, The Nanny Diaries, One Fine Day, Splash, and The Squid and the Whale, … and a night in at Night at the Museum, of course.


The Dakota

Photo: Paramount Pictures/William Castle

“I’ve heard of hellish experiences with co-op boards, but this is ridiculous!” — line cut from the first draft of Rosemary’s Baby.


Brooklyn Bridge

On the Town Photo: MGM

John Augustus Roebling’s suspension bridge has been sauntered across onscreen by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in On the Town, Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, and Bruce Willis in both The Siege and Hudson Hawk. To film a chase scene in the latter, production got permission to shut down the bridge’s eastbound lanes for five nights, causing traffic havoc in Lower Manhattan. (“Hudson Hawk might have justified this trauma had it made passable use of its license,” sniffed the Times. “It didn’t.”) In this they were outdone by I Am Legend, which shut down the bridge for six nights for a flashback scene that required a thousand extras, the National Guard and the Coast Guard, multiple helicopters, and permits from 14 different government agencies.


47th Street Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Photo: Netflix

The Safdie brothers spent years absorbing the frenetic culture of the Diamond District before making Uncut Gems. (“It’s a very consumers’ materialist world — me not being able to buy anything there was actually like a major inhibitor of getting deep in with anyone,” Josh Safdie told Vulture.) Only the exterior scenes of Adam Sandler wheeling and dealings were shot on location. Sandler’s shop was a set, malfunctioning door and all.


392 South 5th Street

Photo: ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col/©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col

Everyone knows that Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem moved to Queens to find his queen in Coming to America. What they might not know is that his grubby walk-up was actually shot in South Williamsburg.


Queensboro Bridge

Photo: Warner Bros.

It was here that Wesley Snipes dropped some poor fool into the East River in New Jack City with the immortal send-off, “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!”


Bethesda Terrace

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictu

Probably the most photographed corner of Central Park — the Mayor’s Office of TV and Film couldn’t say for sure — the area surrounding Bethesda Fountain has popped up in Enchanted, Godspell, Hair, and plenty of other films that are not colorful movie musicals.


Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

Photo: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock Photo

As the 1964 World’s Fair fades from living memory, it seems likely that the greatest legacy of its remaining pavilions will turn out to be the role they played in the climax of Men in Black.


Staten Island Ferry

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

If you’ve ever wanted to cosplay as Melanie Griffith, you’ve got two options: 1) legally adopt Dakota Johnson, sure to be an arduous legal process, or 2) hop aboard New York’s best free tourist attraction and pretend you’re in the opening sequence of Working Girl.


110 Longfellow Avenue

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Though it’s supposed to be somewhere on Long Island, the Corleone family compound in The Godfather was actually shot on Staten Island. And thus their long running war continues.


339 Convent Avenue

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

The Hamilton Heights section of Harlem is famed for its whimsical Wes Andersonian mansions, but only one of them is actually the home from The Royal Tenenbaums — this one!


160–164 West 129th Street

Photo: Off White Productions Inc.

Harlem’s Imperial Lodge of Elks was the site of many of the drag balls seen in the landmark documentary Paris Is Burning. The building still exists, but it’s now a church.


7B, a.k.a. Horseshoe Bar, a.k.a. Vazacs

The Godfather Pt. II Photo: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Movie productions don’t typically venture as east as Alphabet City … unless they’re shooting at this bar near Tompkins Square, which has served as the cinematic dive par excellence for decades. The smokey, unpretentious watering hole has popped up in The Godfather Pt. II, Angel Heart, both Crocodile Dundee movies, and The Night Before. The exterior even played the Life Cafe in the “La Vie Boheme” section of the Rent movie.


Times Square

Vanilla Sky Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archi/Alamy Stock Photo

The center of everything, seen hustling and bustling in Captain America, Center Stage, and Closer, to name just three. But for Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe and his team achieved the ultimate special effect: a completely empty Times Square, filmed in a three-hour stretch of a Sunday morning, just after dawn. “We rerouted buses, stopped pedestrians, each block and in each direction,” says location manager Andrew D. Cooke. “I had to make deals with every store.” (In fact, he made multiple deals — production first wanted all the shops closed, then decided it’d look better if they were open.) Onscreen it’s a seamless effect, but in real life, the city still managed to sneak through in the form of a pair of joggers. “This guy and his buddy, they ran out. Somehow they’d gotten past security. They didn’t know Tom Cruise would be running down Seventh Avenue, and they went: Oh! They turned around and ran back.”


Lexington Avenue Between 52nd and 53rd Streets

Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stoc/Alamy Stock Photo

One of the most famous New York movie moments never appeared onscreen at all. One night in 1954, Billy Wilder’s The Seven-Year Itch commandeered a block of Midtown East to shoot the iconic scene in which Marilyn Monroe’s dress is lifted by a blast of air from a subway grate. (A special effect aided by a hidden fan.) Over a thousand horny New Yorkers showed up to catch a glimpse of the star, and photographs from the set became a media sensation months before the film was ever released. But you won’t see any footage from that night in The Seven-Year Itch. Claiming that the sound wasn’t any good in New York, Wilder re-shot the scene on the Fox backlot. But that had always been the plan; the location shoot was simply a savvy publicity stunt.


The Original World Trade Center

King Kong Photo: Paramount Pictures

Before their tragic demise, the Twin Towers were not especially beloved among New Yorkers, and it’s telling that, while the Empire State Building has been the site of countless memorable scenes, the World Trade Center hardly touched the cinematic imagination the same way. Their biggest moment in the spotlight came in the 1976 King Kong remake, where they proved a desultory location for the ape’s big climb. “The flat tops of the twin towers … offer nothing to grab on to,” notes James Sanders in Celluloid Skyline, “almost nothing to do at all, in fact, except jump from one tower to another, which the great creature inevitably proceeds to do.”


Katz’s Deli

Photo: Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock Photo

It would ordinarily be a bad thing for a restaurant to become associated with a little death, but not so for this Lower East Side institution, where Meg Ryan’s orgasmic antics in When Harry Met Sally have kept customers coming again and again.


86th Street and 20th Avenue

Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alam/Alamy Stock Photo

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — where the 10 miles from Manhattan might as well be a million. As John Travolta struts in time to the beat of the Bee-Gees, checking out girls and snagging a slice, 86th Street is his catwalk.


Empire State Building

King Kong Photo: AA Film Archive / Alamy/Alamy Stock Photo

It is New York in a nutshell: an Art Deco masterpiece reaching ever upwards, whose call has been heeded by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, and King Kong and Fay Wray (with the help of some Hollywood miniatures) in King Kong.


Grand Central Terminal

North By Northwest Photo: MGM

A utilitarian location for characters on the move in North By Northwest and Midnight Run, Grand Central also became a site of true beauty in The Fisher King’s magical waltz scene.


135 Central Park West

Photo: Orion Pictures

When movies shoot in New York residences today, they prefer the HGTV look. “They like those big kitchens, the big islands, opening up into a den or a great room,” says location agent Debbie Regan. But to get a glimpse of the way people used to live, turn on Hannah and Her Sisters, where the title character’s labyrinthine pre-war apartment was played by Mia Farrow’s own.


Red Hook Houses

Photo: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Mid-century urban renewal replaced crowded tenement blocks with the Corbusian vision of “towers in the park,” but this blatantly un-romantic version of city life proved resistant to silver-screen mythologizing. It wasn’t until 1991’s Straight Out of Brooklyn — written and directed by 19-year-old Brooklynite Matty Rich — that the movies took a long, hard look at the projects. As James Sanders notes in Celluloid Skyline, the film depicts the Red Hook Houses as a site where “violence is swallowed up by this vast and anonymous landscape … in which nearly all connection is severed between the open spaces below and the high-rise apartments above.”


56-26 Maspeth Avenue

Photo: Warner Bros.

The one-time Clinton Diner in Maspeth was the site of Goodfellas’ legendary “trombone shot” scene, an association the owners subsequently milked by renaming the restaurant The Goodfellas Diner. Unfortunately, the diner was the site of a major fire in 2018. When it reopened, there was no more food service; it was a film location only.


Washington Square Park

Photo: Warner Bros.

If you also attended NYU in the mid-2000s, one of your strongest college memories is probably being inconvenienced by Will Smith, as I Am Legend took over Washington Square Park for what seemed like an entire semester.


Plymouth and Washington Streets

Photo: Universal Pictures

Pre-gentrification DUMBO, spotted when Al Pacino takes a turn behind the wheel in Scent of a Woman. “We used to be able to block off empty streets,” says the film’s location manager Andrew D. Cooke. “You can’t really do that anymore.”


Van Brunt Street

Photo: Collection Christophel / Alamy S/Alamy Stock Photo

To bring Hubert Selby’s brutally bleak vision of postwar South Brooklyn to life, the German filmmakers behind 1989’s Last Exit to Brooklyn took over a stretch of the derelict Red Hook waterfront, even erecting a replica diner on a vacant lot. But in those pre-Ikea days, Selby’s world of ambient violence had not disappeared entirely. “One day, there was police tape up,” recalls location scout Andrew D. Cooke. “Film people, we look at that and go under it. We suddenly heard a voice: ‘What are ya guys doing? Get outta there.’ We looked down and there were two things covered with a sheet. Somebody had gotten murdered. The small thing was the head. The big thing was the body.”


TWA Terminal at JFK

Catch Me If You Can Photo: TCD/Prod.DB /Alamy/Alamy Stock Photo

Mid-century glamor, embodied in the space-age architecture of JFK’s TWA Terminal. (In 21st-century New York, the location has become a highly Instagrammable hotel.)


51 Prospect Place

Photo: TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Pre-gentrification Park Slope, as seen in Hal Ashby’s 1970 debut The Landlord, the story of a wealthy white naif (Beau Bridges) who buys a brownstone, only to befriend the Black tenants he’s trying to evict.


12-17 38th Avenue

Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archi/Alamy Stock Photo

This unglamorous corner of Queens was home to Amy Adams’s aspiring cook in Julie & Julia. (In real life, the pizza place on the ground floor is now a tax center.) The rooftop dinner was shot a few blocks away, while the interiors were in a studio.


Calvary Cemetery

Photo: Lionsgate

The preferred cemetery of John Wick, a man who knows his cemeteries.


76-02 Roosevelt Avenue

Photo: Fine Line Features

Catalina Sandino Moreno’s Colombian teen spent a traumatic few days in New York in Maria Full of Grace, finding a brief respite in Jackson Heights.


Silvercup Studios

Highlander Photo: Mary Evans/STUDIOCANAL FILMS LTD/Alamy Stock Photo

Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios usually pretends to be somewhere else; it’s where they shot interiors for Sex and the City, Mad Men, and 30 Rock, to name a few. But on the climactic sword fight in Highlander, the building got to play itself for a change — though the shots of its iconic sign being destroyed were filmed in London with a model.


Sackett Street and Henry Street

Photo: MGM

The Cammareri Bros. Bakery, where Nicolas Cage lost his hand, and lost his bride, in Moonstruck.


83-22 Baxter Avenue

Photo: A24

The Elmhurst branch of the Popular Community Bank was the site of Robert Pattinson’s seemingly successful robbery in the opening of Good Time, before he spent the rest of the movie having a very bad time indeed.

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There’s No Better Set Than New York City