After Hours (1985)
What it’s about: Expect After Hours to be the first of a few Martin Scorsese entries on this list. The black comedy follows a New York City worker’s night of mishaps, where one unfortunate event leads to another; a part of the “yuppie nightmare” sub-genre. Set in Soho, After Hours is both an ode to nights out roaming Manhattan’s streets, and Murphy’s Law.
Landmarks/areas: Unsurprisingly, Soho has changed a lot since the ‘80s with many of the film’s original locations now gone, but the energy of this moment in time remains captured on film.
What it’s about: Juice tells the story of four young men navigating life in Harlem. Ernest R. Dickerson makes his writing and directing debut, moving on from his work as Spike Lee’s cinematographer throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, while Tupac Shakur stars in his first acting role.
Landmarks/areas: Juice was almost entirely shot on the streets of Harlem, with Dickerson explaining that it’s, “About the perils of growing up black in the ghetto. If I can accurately show that without the Hollywood wrappings, then I’ve done what I set out to do.”
Wall Street (1987)
What it’s about: The name says it all – Wall Street’s heady tale of greed and ambition in the finance world in 1980s New York simultaneously acts as a seduction and warning against capitalism. Michael Douglas’ portrayal as Gordon Gekko earned him his only Oscar for acting.
Landmarks/areas: Naturally Wall Street is rooted in downtown Manhattan’s Financial District, however the film also covers locations in Midtown and Central Park. Impressively, the film was granted access to shoot on the actual floor of the New York Stock Exchange during trading hours, with only 45 minutes allowance to shoot the entire scene.
What it’s about: Based on Mario Puzo’s book of the same name, The Godfather needs no introduction.
Landmarks/areas: For a movie as epic in stature as The Godfather — both in story and legacy — it’s only fitting that it covers locations across all five boroughs of a city as epic as New York. Manhattan’s St. Regis Hotel, Radio City Music Hall, New York County Courthouse, and a few smaller spots are featured, while the First Calvary Cemetery in Queens was used as the site for Don Corleone’s funeral. The Italian restaurant Louis where Sollozzo and McCluskey are killed was in the Bronx but is no longer open. Also in the borough is the Lincoln Hospital. The Jones Beach Causeway on Long Island — where Sonny is gunned down — was actually recreated at Floyd Bennett Field, an old disused airfield in the south east of Brooklyn, as well as a few interiors filmed in Brooklyn. The Queensboro bridge makes an appearance and perhaps most surprising is the fact that the massive Corleone family compound, which is seen extensively in the film’s opening during Connie’s wedding, is located in Staten Island in the affluent Emerson Hill neighborhood. The production team created the house’s perimeter by putting up fake gates at the end of the cul-de-sac, making the plot of land appear even bigger. Staten Island’s Mission of the Immaculate Virgin church also appears at the end for the christening, however the interior was filmed at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
Mean Streets (1973)
What it’s about: Another Scorsese, this time his directorial debut. Mean Streets set the tone for much of Scorsese’s oeuvre, tackling his oft-visited themes of Italian-American identity and the seedy underbelly of New York.
Landmarks/areas: While the name and narrative aims to tell the stories of Little Italy, many of the film’s scenes were actually shot in Belmont, the Italian community in the Bronx. However, Little Italy’s Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street is unmistakeable, while former neighborhood bar Vulpe was turned into a Tuscan restaurant for the film.
We Own the Night (2007)
What it’s about: A tale of two brothers on opposite sides of the law, We Own the Night explores the Russian crime underworld of New York, starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix.
Landmarks/areas: Native New Yorker James Gray was insistent that We Own the Night should be filmed in NY instead of the common stand-in Toronto, despite the meticulous task of shooting in 1980s period design. The final result is impressive, with many nondescript locations from across four of five boroughs providing the backdrop. One famous landmark that fit the movie’s retro style was Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side.