Set in the City: Our Top NYC Movies

The WSWD staff could talk endlessly about movies set in New York. These dozen flicks make our list of the best of the best, though.

New York City and Tinseltown go way back; it’s hard to think of a movie that doesn’t include at least one sweeping overhead view of our cityscape, a steamy makeout sesh in the streets, or aliens threatening Manhattan’s existence. (In true New Yorker fashion, though, the Big Apple always prevails.) So it’s no surprise that almost every inhabitant can point to one film that made them fall in love with the city or, if they grew up here, one that encapsulates their youth. From rom-coms to gangster tales, these are the flicks that WSWD staffers turn to when they need a reminder of how cool it is to live in NYC. What are yours?

Gangs of New York

“l’ve seen this three times since it landed on Netflix,” self-proclaimed database guru Mark Romano says of this 19th-century mobster movie from Oscar winner Martin Scorsese.

movies set in new york
Throw it back to the 1800s in Gangs of New York.


If executive editor Patty Onderko could ask just one wish of Zoltar, she’d want FAO Schwarz to reopen just so she could re-create the big piano scene from this Penny Marshall classic. “I was an ’80s kid, and this movie fueled my dreams of moving from Ohio to the big city,” she says. “Fancy parties! Loft apartments with trampolines! Free rein at giant toy stores!”


Experience adviser Amy Jovel prefers a more modern flick from Scorsese’s repertoire: Goodfellas: “It’s a classic American mobster movie starring legends like Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino; where can you go wrong?”

movies set in new york
They may be Goodfellas, but you probably shouldn’t turn to them for advice.

Do the Right Thing

Editor Jess Bender thinks it’s mandatory to watch Spike Lee’s brilliantly infuriating flick, all unfolding in the span of a scorching-hot summer day in Bed-Stuy.

movies set in new york
Man, it’s a hot one in Do the Right Thing.


Who can resist the comedic dream team of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson saving Metropolis from the paranormal? Certainly not associate editor Danielle Murphy!

Annie Hall

Based on the amount of times Stephanie Ogozalek, director of content and planning, has talked about this inventive, influential Woody Allen rom-com during our editorial meetings, we’d bank on this as her all-time favorite.

movies set in new york
Diane Keaton, as Annie Hall, is the ultimate NYC style icon.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

Most urbanites, like lifelong New Yorker and WSWD assistant Ally Schenker, wouldn’t be surprised if they saw a chicken (or specifically, Camilla the Chicken) cross the road. The beloved animal puppet protagonists hit the streets of Manhattan to try to make it big in New York, because where else would they want to make it?

The French Connection

Car chases. Crime capers. Gene Hackman. This best picture Oscar winner from director William Friedkin has it all for general manager James Luria.

movies set in new york
Don’t get in Gene Hackman’s way.

She’s Gotta Have It

We’re all raving about the Netflix adaptation of Spike Lee’s 1986 comedy, but experience adviser Andrew Goddard has a soft spot for Tracy Camilla Johns’s original take on the liberated Nola Darling.

Rear Window

This classic Hitchcock nail-biter has traffic manager Kristen Cavalieri at the edge of her seat from the moment Jimmy Stewart rolls into the frame with his binoculars for the first time. She also doesn’t mind admiring Grace Kelly’s timeless style for 112 minutes.

movies set in new york
Style and suspense served in Rear Window.

West Side Story

It was a toss-up between this and A Bronx Tale for database manager Sonia Gonzalez. In the end, though, the film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed Broadway musical remains a serious showstopper to this day.

Style Wars

“1983’s Style Wars bills itself as the ‘Original Hip Hop Documentary’ and it absolutely fits the bill,” says music expert John Seroff. “It made New York look like an open air art-fair, a madhouse adventure, a police state, and the most exciting place in the world. It’s an intoxicating document of a now unimaginably grotty and vibrant NYC and, more importantly, remains a fun and engaging watch.”

When Harry Met Sally…

Founder Arielle Tepper Madover adores this timeless rom-com from Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron for several reasons. That undeniable chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan! Carrie Fisher telling it like it is! A glorified cameo by New Yorkers’ favorite Jewish deli! But the main reason why the hopeless romantic loves it? She and her husband, Ian, would be perfect additions to the opening/closing credits sequence.

movies set in new york
The ultimate romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally…