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New York Movies - (1980's - 1990s)

Updated on January 23, 2015

Love New York? Love Movies?

#3 Lens in Our Series on New York

There are probably a few people like me out there, who get homesick, and need to see a great movie set in New York City. There's some kind of magic about New York, and it even transpires onto film. The Hudson, bagels, taxis, Central Park, noise, the Flatiron Building, hot guys in suits (!), the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, you know the drill.

If you need to get lost in "the City", here you go.

Enjoy! Please email me if you have titles to add!

Carnegie Deli

Carnegie Deli
Carnegie Deli

New York City, according to Wikipedia

New York City (officially the City of New York) is the largest city in the United States, with a metropolitan area that is among the largest urban areas in the world. The city serves as one of the world's primary global cities, exerting a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture, and entertainment. The city is also an important center for international affairs, hosting the United Nations headquarters.

The city consists of five distinct boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. It is the most densely populated major city in the United States, with an estimated 8,274,527 people within an area of 304.8 square miles (789.43 km2).The New York metropolitan area is also the largest metropolitan area in the country, with an estimated 19,750,000 people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2) in three states.

New York is largely unique among American cities for its high use of mass transit, and the overall density and diversity of its population. In 2005, nearly 170 languages were spoken in the city and 36% of its population was born outside the United States. The city is sometimes referred to as "The City That Never Sleeps" due to its extensive 24-hour subway system and constant bustling of traffic and people, while other nicknames include Gotham and the Big Apple.

Founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624, it served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the nation's largest city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, has been a dominant global financial center since World War II and is home to the New York Stock Exchange. Today, the city has many renowned landmarks and neighborhoods that are world famous. The city has been home to several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Empire State Building and the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.

New York is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art, abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting, and hip hop, punk, salsa, disco and Tin Pan Alley in music. It is also the home of Broadway theater.

1980s - The ones you MUST see

Desperately Seeking Susan [VHS]
Desperately Seeking Susan [VHS]

(1985) This likeable, feminist screwball comedy about several incidents of mistaken identity is remembered more as the film that made Madonna a movie star. She's flip, hip, and energetic as Susan, the wild tramp with whom bored, suburban New Jersey housewife Roberta Glass (Rosanna Arquette) becomes obsessed after reading of her sexual conquests in the personal ads.

 
Moonstruck [VHS]
Moonstruck [VHS]

(1987) Quote: Ronny Cammareri: Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bull$*#%. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!

 
Sea of Love [VHS]
Sea of Love [VHS]

(1989) After a career slump that plagued him through most of the 1980s, Al Pacino made a stellar comeback in this taut 1989 thriller, playing a weary New York police detective who falls in love with the woman (Ellen Barkin) who is the prime suspect in the murder case he's investigating.

 

When Harry met Sally Trailer

1980's - MUST-see list, continued

When Harry Met Sally...
When Harry Met Sally...

(1989) Nora Ephron wrote the brisk screenplay for this 1989 romantic comedy, director Rob Reiner made a nicely glossy New York story (very much in a Woody Allen vein) out of it, and Billy Crystal's unstoppable charm made it something really special. Crystal and Meg Ryan play longtime platonic friends who keep dancing around their deeper feelings for one another, and Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher are their respective pals who fall in love and get married.

 
Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edition
Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edition

(1982) One of the touchstone movies of the 1980s, Tootsie stars Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a dowdy, middle-aged woman to get a part on a hit soap opera. The scheme works, but while he/she keeps up the charade, Hoffman's character comes to see life through the eyes of the opposite sex. The script by Larry Gelbart (with Murray Schisgal) is a winner, and director Sydney Pollack brings taut proficiency to the comedy and sensitivity to the relationship nuances that emerge from Hoffman's drag act. Great supporting work from Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Bill Murray, and pre-stardom Geena Davis. But the film finally belongs to Hoffman, who seems to connect with the character at a very deep and abiding level.

 

Wall Street Trailer

Other super hits from the 1980's

Wall Street [VHS]
Wall Street [VHS]

Michael Douglas won an Oscar for perfectly embodying the Reagan-era credo that "greed is good." As a Donald Trump-like Wall Street raider aptly named Gordon Gecko (for his reptilian ability to attack corporate targets and swallow them whole), Douglas found a role tailor-made to his skill in portraying heartless men who've sacrificed humanity to power. He's a slick, seductive role model for the young ambitious Wall Street broker played by Charlie Sheen, who falls into Gecko's sphere of influence and instantly succumbs to the allure of risky deals and generous payoffs. With such perks as a high-rise apartment and women who love men for their money, Charlie's like a worm on Gecko's hook, blind to the corporate maneuvering that puts him at odds with his own father (played by Sheen's offscreen father, Martin). With his usual lack of subtlety, writer-director Oliver Stone drew from the brokering experience of his own father to tell this Faustian tale for the "me" decade, but the movie's sledgehammer style is undeniably effective. A cautionary warning that Stone delivers on highly entertaining terms, Wall Street grabs your attention while questioning the corrupted values of a system that worships profit at the cost of one's soul.

 
Working Girl [VHS]
Working Girl [VHS]

Melanie Griffith had a fling with stardom in this Mike Nichols comedy about an executive secretary (Griffith) who can't get her deserved shot at upward mobility in the brokerage industry. Hardly taken seriously by male bosses, things aren't really any better for her once she starts working for a female exec (Sigourney Weaver, never more delightful), a narcissist with a boy-toy banker (Harrison Ford) and a tendency to steal the best ideas from her underlings. When Weaver's character is laid up with a broken leg, Griffith poses as a replacement wheeler-dealer, flirting with Ford and working on a new client who doesn't suspect the deception. Nichols brings a lot of snap and sass to Kevin Wade's smart script about chafing against class restrictions and perceptions. Sundry scenes are played quite charmingly, especially those of Griffith and Ford's mutual pickup in a bar and Joan Cusack's championing of Griffith's crusade. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress (Griffith), and two Supporting Actress awards (Weaver, Cusack); Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run" won the Oscar.

 
After Hours [VHS]
After Hours [VHS]

This well-regarded cult film is a tense Kafka-esque tale concerning what happens to a likable computer guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time in the city that never sleeps--New York. This is a New York infested with bizarre characters vividly brought to life by a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Griffin Dunne's wonderfully controlled comic performance as Paul Hackett is the glue that holds this increasingly surreal film together. Scorsese utilizes a full array of independent and underground film techniques, including special film speed manipulations, angles, and edits, deftly capturing the strange rhythms of an after-hours New York City. Many will find the jokes clever, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Some, however, will find the film an excruciating series of staged circumstances setting up a sadistically cruel dark nightmare of horrors. And there are a few lines of dialogue so poorly written they remind you how unbelievable the thin story really is. But forgive the film these few lapses--overall it's a wild, surreal ride. The most offbeat character is the beehive-sporting, Monkee-obsessed neurotic played to perfection by Teri Garr. And the moment when Griffin Dunne uses his last quarter to play Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is" and dances with Verna Bloom while an angry mob searches SoHo for him is an inspired bit of lunacy.

 
Big [VHS]
Big [VHS]

A perfect marriage of novel but incisive writing, acting, and direction, Big is the story of a 12-year-old boy who wishes he were older, and wakes up one morning as a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks). The script by Gary Ross (Dave) and Anne Spielberg finds some unexpected ways of attacking obvious issues of sex, work, and childhood friendships, and in all of these things the accent is on classy humor and great sensitivity. Hanks is remarkable in the lead, at times hilarious (reacting to caviar just as a 12-year-old would) and at others deeply tender. Penny Marshall became a first-rate filmmaker with this 1988 work.

 
Crossing Delancey [VHS]
Crossing Delancey [VHS]

A sweet tempered urban love story, Crossing Delancey argues that true love may be in the first place you look. Amy Irving is a single Jewish woman working at an upscale bookstore on the Upper West Side of New York. As much as she longs to be a part of the intellectual literary scene, she is tethered to her roots on the Lower East Side, where her old-fashioned grandmother is forever trying to fix her up. Irving has her eye on a handsome brooding author, but her grandmother enlists the help of a local matchmaker to fix her up with Peter Riegert, a quiet Jewish man who runs a pickle stand in the neighborhood. Soon she must decide what it is she really wants out of life and what love really means to her. Though a very traditional love story, Crossing Delancey has its moments of soul searching drama and an unlikely romance.

 

Goodfellas

Goodfellas
Goodfellas

1990s - The MUST see list

There was a definite mob theme going on in the 90's!

Freshman [VHS]
Freshman [VHS]

(1990) Young Clark Kellog (Matthew Broderick) had no idea film school would drop him into the hands of a real-life Godfather, but after a street punk robs him his first day in New York City, that's just where the road leads. Marlon Brando let everyone know he was in on the joke with his hammy, good-humored performance as the bulldog-jowled Mafioso Carmine Sabatini, the man Clark's prissy, self-important professor swears was the real life inspiration of Don Corleone.

 
Goodfellas [VHS]
Goodfellas [VHS]

(1990) Martin Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas immortalizes the hilarious, horrifying life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program.

 
Bronx Tale [VHS]
Bronx Tale [VHS]

(1993) Chazz Palminteri wrote the script for this excellent story of an Italian American boy (Lillo Brancato) who grows up in the 1960s caught between the strong influences of his blue-collar, straight- arrow father (Robert De Niro) and a Mafia chieftain (Palminteri) who is his all-purpose mentor.

 
Scent of a Woman [VHS]
Scent of a Woman [VHS]

(1992) Hoo-ah! After seven Oscar nominations for his outstanding work in films such as The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, it's ironic that Al Pacino finally won the Oscar for his grandstanding lead performance in this 1992 crowd pleaser. As the blind, blunt, and ultimately benevolent retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Pacino is both hammy and compelling, simultaneously subtle and grandly over-the-top when defending his new assistant and prep school student Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) at a disciplinary hearing.

 
Six Degrees of Separation [VHS]
Six Degrees of Separation [VHS]

(1993) John Guare's hit Broadway play--about an Upper East Side couple who gets bilked by a young black man claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son--receives a terrific screen translation in this film by Fred Schepisi. Though the play was discursive and episodic, Schepisi, working from Guare's adaptation, makes it all flow like a fascinating evening listening to friends recount something that happened to them. But the story itself is also intriguing for the disparity it reveals between the wealthy, the would-be wealthy, and the have-nots yearning to be rich.

 

Liberty

Liberty
Liberty

Regarding Henry Trailer

Other great ones from the 90's

Regarding Henry [VHS]
Regarding Henry [VHS]

(1991) Get shot in the head and become a better person. This 1991 Mike Nichols (Wolf) film stars Harrison Ford as a big-shot cold-hearted lawyer who gets a bullet in his brain during a holdup. The film de-emphasizes the traumas of recovery to focus on the title character's personality change after the fact. The canny Ford gets to work from his full, familiar palette of arrogance to boyishness, and even builds Henry from top to bottom after the wounded fellow awakens with no memory.

 
The Prince of Tides
The Prince of Tides

(1991) Barbra Streisand's best film as a director is helped enormously by one of Nick Nolte's finest performances. Nolte plays a football coach who is estranged from his wife (Blythe Danner) and who enters into an affair with the psychiatrist (Streisand) of his suicidal sister (Melinda Dillon).

 
Last Exit to Brooklyn [VHS]
Last Exit to Brooklyn [VHS]

(1990) (Culled from "A viewer", on Amazon): This movie is based on Herbert Selby's cult novel from the early 1960s. The novel traces the lives of some rough urban characters (prostitutes, street hoodlums, transvestites, striking dock workers) in 1950s Brooklyn. Think of this as "On the Waterfront" without the sugar coating.

 
Green Card [VHS]
Green Card [VHS]

(1990) With the help of his lawyer, Georges (Grard Depardieu), a composer and one-time petty thief who grew up in poverty, attempts to escape his life in Paris and begin anew in America by illegally marrying Bronte (Andie MacDowell), a prim and repressed young lady from a privileged life in Connecticut.

 

The Nutcracker in New York

The Nutcracker in New York
The Nutcracker in New York

The Devil Wears Prada Trailer

What are your favorites?

Here are some gems - all from New York City! Which are your favorite? Vote now!

West Side Story (Full Screen Edition)
West Side Story (Full Screen Edition)

This brilliant (The New Republic) film sets the ageless story of Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950s New York. Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and scripted by Ernest Lehman, the film combines Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's unforgettable score ( Maria, America, 'somewhere, 'tonight ) with Robbins own exuberant choreography to achieve an exhilarating work of art (Saturday Review). A love affair is fated for tragedy amidst the vicious rivalry of two street gangsthe Jets and the Sharks. When Jets member Tony (RichardBeymer) falls for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the Sharks leader, it's more than these two warring gangs can handle. And as mounting tensions rise, a battle to the death ensues, and innocent blood is shed in a heartbreaking finale.

 
Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

This motion picture event from acclaimed director Martin Scorsese earned 10 Academy Award(R) nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, along with 5 Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Song! Leonardo DiCaprio (TITANIC), Cameron Diaz (CHARLIE'S ANGELS), and Daniel Day-Lewis (THE BOXER) star in this epic tale of vengeance and survival! As waves of immigrants swell the population of New York, lawlessness and corruption thrive in lower Manhattan's Five Points section. After years of incarceration, young Irish immigrant Amsterdam Vallon (DiCaprio) returns seeking revenge against the rival gang leader (Day-Lewis) who killed his father. But Amsterdam's personal vendetta becomes part of the gang warfare that erupts as he and his fellow Irishmen fight to carve a place for themselves in their newly adopted homeland!

 
Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

At 26, Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is slipping slowly into isolation and violence on the streets of New York City. Trying to solve his insomnia by driving a yellow cab on the night shift, he grows increasingly disgusted by the people who hang out at night: "Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets." His touching attempts to woo Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a Senator's campaign worker, turn sour when he takes her to a porn movie on their first date. He even fails in his attempt to persuade child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) to desert her pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) and return to her parents and school. Driven to the edge by powerlessness, he buys four handguns and sets out to assassinate the Senator, heading for the infamy of a `lone crazed gunman'. DVD BONUS FEATURES INCLUDE: "Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver" Featurette "Producing Taxi Driver" Featurette "Influence and Appreciation" Documentary Robert De Niro, Oliver Stone, Roger Corman and others pay tribute to Scorsese and the film "God’s Lonely Man" Documentary "Travis’ New York Locations" Featurette Storyboard to Film Comparisons with Martin Scorsese Introduction New Feature-length Commentary by Writer Paul Schrader New Feature-length Commentary by Professor Robert Kolker "Taxi Driver Stories" Featurette "Making Taxi Driver" Documentary Animated Photo Galleries "Including Scorsese at Work" Photo Montage Original Screenplay Read Along

 
The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence

Martin Scorsese does not sound like the logical choice to direct an adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel about manners and morals in New York society in the 1870s. But these are mean streets, too, and the psychological violence inflicted between characters is at least as damaging as the physical violence perpetrated by Scorsese's usual gangsters. At the center of the tale is Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), a somewhat diffident young man engaged to marry the very respectable May Welland (Winona Ryder). But Archer is distracted by May's cousin, the Countess Olenska (a radiant Michelle Pfeiffer), recently returned from Europe. As a married woman seeking a divorce, the countess is an embarrassment to all of New York society. But Archer is fascinated by her quick intelligence and worldly ways. Scorsese closely observes the tiny details of this world and this impossible situation; this is a movie in which the shift of someone's eyes can be as significant as the firing of a gun. The director's sense of color has never been keener, and his work with the actors is subtle. That's Joanne Woodward narrating, telling us only as much as we need to know--which is one reason why the climax comes as such a surprise.--Robert Horton

 
The Devil Wears Prada (Widescreen Edition)
The Devil Wears Prada (Widescreen Edition)

Based on the hilarious best-selling novel, this sinfully funny movie starring Academy Award(r) winner Meryl Streep* and Anne Hathaway is "sensationally entertaining in every way" (maxim). As assistant to impossibly demanding New York fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Streep), young Andy Sachs (Hathaway) has landed a job that "a million girls would die for." Unfortunately, her heaven-sent appointment as Miranda's personal whipping girl just might be the death of her!

 
Midnight Cowboy
Midnight Cowboy

A "cowboy" Joe Buck moves to New York City from Texas to make his fortune as a hustler servicing rich Park Avenue women. Shortly after arriving he is hustled by homeless con man Ratzo Rizzo who had said he would manage him for a $20 fee. Bent on getting his money back Buck finds the rapidly deteriorating Rizzo ends up feeling sorry for him and moving into Rizzos room in an abandoned building to care for him. The two remain hopeful of striking it rich with Rizzo managing Bucks career but it soon becomes obvious that they are no matches for the urban jungle.Starring: Dustin Hoffman Jon Voight Sylvia Miles and Brenda VacarroDirector: John SchlesingerProduced by Jerome Hellman; written by Waldo Salt; running time of 113 minutes; Closed Captioned. Copyright: 1969 MGM/UASystem Requirements:Full length Feature in both Pan & Scan and 1.85:1 LetterBox Formats Languages: English and French Subtitles: English French and Spanish English French and Spanish captioning for the Hearing Impaired Chapter Search Original Theatrical Trailer Dolby Digital Two Channel Interactive Film Trivia Video Format: Widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio Standard 1.33:1 (4.3) Track Info: English: Dolby Digital Surround French: Dolby Digital Surround Genre:DRAMA Rating:R UPC:027616603890

 
Seinfeld: Season 3
Seinfeld: Season 3

Relive your favorite Seinfeld moments like never before in this 4-disc set with all 22 episodes from the third season remastered in high definition for the best possible picture and sound quality! With approximately 13 hours of exclusive special features from the creative talents behind the show, this DVD is a must own!

 
The Goodbye Girl
The Goodbye Girl

Richard Dreyfuss as a struggling actor and Marsha Mason as an even more struggling actress/dancer/mother deliver comedy repartee and bitter-to-best romance in Neil Simon's lustrous charmer featuring Dreyfuss' Academy Award-winning Best Actor performance.Running Time: 112 min.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre:COMEDY Rating:PG UPC:012569504820

 
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is back! But this time he s in New York City with enough cash and credit cards to turn the Big Apple into his own playground! But Kevin won t be alone for long. The notorious Wet Bandits Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stem) still smarting from their last encounter with Kevin are bound for New York too plotting a huge holiday heist. Kevin s ready to welcome them with a battery of booby traps the bumbling bandits will never forget!System Requirements:Starring: Macaulay Culkin John Heard Joe Pesci Daniel Stern Tim Curry Brenda Fricker and Catherine O Hara. Directed By: Chris Columbus. Running Time: 120 mins color. This film is presented in "Widescreen" format. Copyright: 1999 Twentieth Century Fox. Format: DVD MOVIE Genre:COMEDY Rating:PG UPC:086162127540 Manufacturer No:4112754

 
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - Live in New York City
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - Live in New York City

Disc 1: My Love Will Not Let You DownProve It All NightTwo HeartsAtlantic CityMansion On The HillThe RiverYoungstownMurder IncorporatedBadlandsOut In The StreetTenth Avenue Freeze-OutBorn To RunLand Of Hope and DreamsAmerican Skin (41 Shots)Disc 2:BackstreetsDon't Look BackDarkness On The Edge Of TownLost In The FloodBorn In The U.S.A.JunglelandLight Of DayThe PromiseThunder RoadRamrodIf I Should Fall Behind Format: DVD VIDEO

 
Escape from New York
Escape from New York

A thrilling landmark film that jolts along at a breakneck pace, Escape From New York leapt to cult status with high-octane action, edge-of-your-seat suspense and a mind-blowing vision of a lone warrior (Kurt Russell) battling his way out of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan! Hailed as "stylish and scary" (Los Angeles Times), "dark and dangerous" (Newsweek) and "gloriously...fun" (Tyler Morning Telegraph), this fast-paced and furiously entertaining thriller grabs you by the throat and won't let go! In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted to a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the U.S. President (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken (Russell). But time is short: in 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake's missionand his lifeunless he succeeds!

 

New York Subway Map

New York Subway Map
New York Subway Map

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    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 6 years ago

      goodfellas was the best...

    • profile image

      NYThroughTheLens 7 years ago

      Great list.

    • profile image

      Motocross_Life 9 years ago

      This lens gave me a new list of movies to watch! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ali_Baba 9 years ago

      This lens took me back to the big apple - BIG TIME.

      Thank you a million.

    • profile image

      squidboo 10 years ago

      What a cool idea! Even though I'm not from New York, I do get homesick, just like the rest of us. I will definitely have to rent some of these classics. Thanks for the nice job.

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