Songs have long proclaimed NYC “the city sublime” and “the city that never sleeps,” so why shouldn’t movies sing the praises of one of the world’s greatest metropolises? Here are our favorite films that pay homage to the beauty and vitality of magical Manhattan:
MANHATTAN [MGM Home Video]
Woody Allen pens his love letter to his hometown in breathtaking black-and-white anamorphic cinematography. The parks, the bridges, the museums never looked so good.
ON THE TOWN [Warner Home Video]
The first screen musical shot on location celebrates the city where “the people ride in a hole in the ground.” For three sailors on leave, the city is a playground of high spirits and swell gals.
MEAN STREETS [Warner Home Video]
Sure, you can get your head blown off if you don’t play by the rules. But Martin Scorsese’s paean to growing up tough in the Big Apple reminds us of such long-gone treats as Times Square grind houses and doorstep bread and milk deliveries.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY [Sony Pictures Home Entertainment]
Howard Hawks’s immortal comedy features brash wiseguys, tough-talking dames, and faster dialogue than your average Gilmore Girls episode. New York’s a city with a beat, and it’s a decidedly staccato one.
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER [20th Century Fox Home Entertainment]
In this swoony romance between ne’er-do-well Cary Grant and artist-teacher Deborah Kerr, the top of the Empire State Building is “the closest thing to heaven.” Just remember to look both ways before crossing the street. —Alonso Duralde
I Hate NY
Five movies that remind us why we loathe this town “A hell of a town,” my ass. Just plain hell, thank you, is this grimy, urine-scented cesspool of the world’s sleaziest characters. Feel like you’re trapped in Abu Ghraib, only with Starbucks? Check out these five cinematic mistakes that tell the real story about this floating chamber of horrors:
MANHATTAN [MGM Home Video]
On the other hand, this movie is full of people you’d rather shoot yourself than be stuck in an elevator with. And Woody pitches woo to a teenage girl: There’s just no watching that free of the icky real-life context.
THE OUT OF TOWNERS [Paramount Home Video, 1970]
Insist on the original, please. This tourism horror movie depicts NYC as a labyrinth of garbage, muggers, unhelpful service people, and indifferent public servants. Insert joke here.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON [Warner Home Video]
You can’t even rob a bank in this town without the whole thing becoming a media circus and a poorly thought-out hostage situation. Like The Out of Towners, this movie probably isn’t screened at NYPD fundraisers.
QUICK CHANGE [Warner Home Video, VHS only]
Say you do successfully pull off that bank robbery—trying to get to JFK promises its own cavalcade of disasters. Philip Bosco’s bus driver symbolizes an entire subculture of exact-change fetishists who have been driving Manhattanites bonkers for generations.
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS [20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, VHS only]
Bring me your busty, your ambitious, your talented, and watch Broadway turn them all into boozy, pill-popping lunatics. It’s like Sandra Bernhard says: “Ah, New York, New York. If you can make it there, you’ll fail everywhere else.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 8, 2005