Nov 122012

This is the ninth post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. This week, Chris Elena makes a first attempt at listing his favourites. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts Chris is going to pick his 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why he likes them. Up this week is The Best Films Set In…New York!


Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

In what might just be one of the most powerful movies ever made, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver feels closest to a love letter to the city he adores, fears and admires. The city itself just about shares the role of protagonist along with De Niro. The streets are dirty, dark, fierce, yet even with some of the shady inhabitants (who Travis Bickle so greatly detests) roaming around, there’s still beauty to be found. This film IS New York.



Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006)

If we’re talking love letters to New York, here’s one of the greatest…yet Shortbus is only remembered for its naughty bits. This speaks more about the inhabitants of New York and how they’re still piecing together what happened to their beloved city after 9/11. It always hits home how strong community is in New York despite all the blows it’s taken…. Pardon the pun.


do the right thing

Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

Speaking of the inhabitants in New York, here’s the favored city seen through the eyes of Spike Lee…and it’s hot as hell. We see a community descend into madness throughout the course of one day. Race, morality and respect are questioned and challenged, and there is dancing and energy in the streets. This is the New York many imagine, and it just goes to show how its dedicated locals will always stick together and endure the city as one. Now that’s the truth, Ruth.


The Wackness

The Wackness (Johnathan Levine, 2008)

Now this is how you encapsulate the 90’s. No boy bands or Nirvana mentioning, but instead we follow a teen walking the streets of a sepia-looking New York, selling weed with the help of his therapist (Ben Kingsley, in one of his best performances), who listens to hip hop, and hopes to lose his virginity sooner than later. Coming of age dramedies don’t get better than this, The Wackness is the true pinnacle and not once forgets the influence of the city that surrounds these characters.



Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)

More of a universal word on the media and its ruthless ferocity. What many call a satire (yet writer Paddy Chayefsky merely calls truth), this is perhaps the greatest screenplay ever written. Despite being a commentary on the media and television as a whole, New York is embraced and acknowledged, most memorably in the scene where the local New Yorkers shout out their windows “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”, filling the congested city air with anger, sadness and frustration.


There were MANY this time around that didn’t make the cut. Eyes Wide Shut being the main one. Other notable mentions were: Serpico, Watchmen, The Royal Tenenbaums, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai, Manhattan, Planet Of The ApesBreakfast at Tiffany’s, Escape From New York and about 570 others. They were all amazing suggestions yet there were only room for five. So, what did I miss?

By Chris Elena

  8 Responses to “The Best Films Set In….New York”

  1. Hey! I thought I was the only person who liked THE WACKNESS. We agree for once, Sir. 🙂

  2. Great post! I’m sorry to say the only one of these movies I’ve seen is Taxi Driver.

  3. The only one I can think of that I would have put in is Shame, but this is pretty super!

  4. Great list, Chris! The only major one I definitely would’ve included would be Woody’s Manhattan, but you gave it an honorable mention so fair enough!

    And you are absolutely right, Taxi Driver IS New York.

  5. Katia,

    Ahah I’m sure we’ve agreed on movies before! (Margaret, which should’ve been in the honourable mentions. But thanks for reading!

    And hell yes to THE WACKNESS! It deserves its place, great movie

  6. Stephanie,

    Understandable, I went for a pick or two that many haven’t seen in hopes that they would one day venture out to see them.

    You also just so happened to have seen the film that best encapsulates New York and its existence!

    Thanks for reading 🙂

  7. Ruth,

    Aw you! Thanks for checking out the list (as always).

    I was so close to throwing it in there, but it’s just too damn new! These flicks have been with me for a while but I can safely say it came very close (no pun intended).

  8. Alex,

    I NEED to see Manhattan, I was going to before making this list, but it’d be cheating as its 5 of my favourites already that just so happen to be set in New York, but i’m pretty excited to see it.

    Once again, thanks for reading and the kind words! No New York list is ever written or invented without the mention of Taxi Driver!