The New York subway opened in 1904 and made its first screen appearance shortly thereafter. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (see review) may be the definitive subway movie, but the transit system has made plenty of memorable cameos over the years.
INTERIOR NEW YORK SUBWAY
(American Mutoscope & Biograph Co., 1905)
The great Billy Bitzer’s camera tracks behind a subway car from 14th to 42nd Street, ultimately turning its gaze on passengers at Grand Central.
ON THE TOWN
(Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1949)
Kelly, Sinatra, and Jules Munshin spot Miss Turnstiles (Vera-Ellen) boarding the subway at 50th Street. The train doors shut them out, so they catch a cab driven by unflappable flirt Betty Garrett and floor it to Columbus Circle—only to not notice as their Beatrice exits the station.
PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET
(Samuel Fuller, 1953)
Thinking he’s stealing an ordinary wallet, subway pickpocket Richard Widmark smoothly lifts a chemical formula that’s secretly being passed among American Communists.
(Woody Allen, 1971)
The Woodman struggles to read Commentary on the Lex line as two thugs—one an uncredited Sly Stallone—attack the old woman sitting next to him. Pretending not to notice, Woody kicks away her crutch for good measure.
(Walter Hill, 1979)
In a film filled with subway inaccuracies, the best comes when Swan (Michael Beck) walks in front of Gray’s Papaya as he enters the 96th Street subway station. (It’s actually the 72nd Street station in disguise.)
DRESSED TO KILL
(Brian De Palma, 1980)
Pursued by a razor-wielding trannie, Nancy Allen’s hooker-turned-sleuth makes the unfortunate decision of riding between cars while the train is in motion.
(Ivan Reitman, 1989)
A river of slime flows through the tunnels of the pneumatic transit system, an 1870 subway prototype. When the Ghostbusters investigate, Ray (Dan Aykroyd) knocks out a power line, causing a citywide blackout.
(Adrian Lyne, 1990)
Battle-scarred Vietnam vet Tim Robbins, locked in a Bergen Street subway station, tries to cross the tracks.
(Guillermo del Toro, 1997)
Mutant-cockroach-battling geneticists hunker down in an abandoned subway station—a vast, neo-Gothic underground cathedral.
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
(Whit Stillman, 1998)
Ode to ’80s nightlife concludes with an impromptu, uptown-bound “Love Train.”