Winter is here, and lockdown is in full effect.
Why not embrace it, dare we say, even indulge it? This month, we are focused on finding as much comfort, joy, and entertainment as we can at home. And yes, after nine months of this, it does require a little extra magic and creativity.
If you are like we are, you have already watched most of the recommended recent “made for” offerings on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu and are so overwhelmed with all the other content that you don’t know which way to turn. What now?!
Needing to go deeper and, of course, wanting to go New York, we asked acclaimed producer Donald Rosenfeld (The Remains of the Day, Howards End), to recommend (in order) some of his favorite movies set in our state... (We also recommend you watch the Emmy-award winning mini-series New York: A Documentary Film, for which Rosenfeld was a producer and Cradle of Champions, the recent documentary he helped executive produce that explores the New York Daily News Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament, the biggest and oldest in the world.)
New York has long been one of cinema’s starring locations. Here is a deep dive into the romance, glamour, hustles, and tragedies that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Get comfortable and get watching — you’re not going anywhere, right?
1. Sweet Smell Of Success, 1957: This film noir, directed by Alexander Mackendrick and starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, and Susan Harrison, follows a morally bankrupt press agent desperate for good publicity for his clients. He enlists an influential newspaper columnist who wants him to derail his sister’s romance with an up-and-coming jazz guitarist. Blackmail, infidelity, chicanery, and an examination of integrity ensue, all with New York City and its sometimes seedy underbelly as the backdrop.
2. Midnight Cowboy, 1969: Set in New York City, John Schlesinger unspools the tale of an unlikely friendship between a naive sex worker (Jon Voight) and an ailing con man (Dustin Hoffman). At the 42nd Academy Awards, it won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
3. The Godfather, 1972: The first, classic depiction in a three-part series by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather follows the Corleone family under patriarch Vito’s thumb, as he attempts to transform his son Michael, a family man, into a ruthless crime boss. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Diane Keaton.
4. Serpico, 1973: Sidney Lumet helms this biographical-crime drama starring Al Pacino. In it, we watch as an idealistic cop gets shunned for refusing to take bribes and gets placed in increasingly dangerous situations amid rising crime and corruption in New York City. After being framed for drug possession and losing the love of his life, the meaning and cost of physical bravery and moral courage is explored.
5. The Apartment, 1960: Love, laughter, and hijinks star in this Billy Wilder classic, alongside Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray.
6. Three Days Of The Condor, 1975: A political thriller starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, the story follows a CIA codebreaker who discovers his co-workers have been murdered, and he’s been drawn into a dangerous political conspiracy that threatens the country. Sydney Pollack directs the spell-binder.
7. Marathon Man, 1976: Dustin Hoffman delivers an iconic performance in a film directed by John Schlesinger. Based on the novel of the same name by William Goldman, the suspense thriller sees his character, a long-distance marathon runner, become ensnared in a dangerous plot involving Nazis, government agents, and stolen jewels.
8. Rear Window, 1954: During the pandemic, it seems we are all living a (hopefully) less creepy version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Confined to his home by injury, Jimmy Stewart focuses his attention on what he can see from his window. In his case, a possible murder, in addition to quirks and dirty laundry of course.
9. The Producers, 1967: A satirical black comedy written and directed by Mel Brooks, The Producers documents what could happen if a producer and accountant set out to stage the worst musical they can. Spoiler: a dancing Adolf Hitler is involved. Controversial from the get-go, this film that spawned a hit play has been a cult classic since its daring debut.
10. All That Jazz, 1979: A semi-autobiographical fantasy film based on director Bob Fosse’s life as a dancer and choreographer, All That Jazz follows a workaholic, chain-smoking womanizer who self-medicates his way through a creatively stagnant life. A massive coronary event could change everything. But will it? Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, and Leland Palmer star.
11. The French Connection, 1971: A New York Detective, played by Gene Hackman, and his partner, played by Roy Scheider, are on the trail of a French heroin smuggler in this fast-paced thriller. The film is defined by suave urbanity, criminal intent, gripping car chases. William Friedkin directs.
12. Network, 1976: This black comedy-drama directed by Sidney Lumet profiles an anchor in the midst of a professional and psychological breakdown; he promises to commit suicide on-air, and brings in the biggest ratings — and a whole host of ethical quandaries — of his career. Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall star.
13. Tootsie, 1982: A rom-com helmed by Sydney Pollack starring Dustin Hoffman, Pollack, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, and many others, Tootsie is a surprisingly thoughtful, though relentlessly fun, examination of gender, sex, sexuality, love, and careerism.
14. Dog Day Afternoon, 1975: Sydney Lumet
15. The Out-Of-Towners, 1970: Arthur Hiller
16. Once Upon A Time in America, 1984: Sergio Leone
17. West Side Story, 1961: Robert Wise
18. Annie Hall, 1977: Woody Allen
19. Chelsea Girls, 1966: Andy Warhol
20. My Dinner With Andre, 1981: Louis Malles
21. Saturday Night Fever, 1977: John Badham
22. Klute, 1971: Alan J. Pakula
23. The Group, 1966: Robert Wise
24. Slaves Of New York, 1989: James Ivory
25. Andy Warhol, A Documentary Film, 2006: Ric Burns
26. Ragtime, 1981: Milos Forman
27. Carnal Knowledge, 1971: Mike Nichols
28. Hair, 1979: Milos Forman
29. The Landlord, 1970: Hal Ashby
30. New York: Center Of The World, 2003: Ric Burns
Tell us which of these you enjoy most. And which movies set in New York would you add to the list?!