Throughout the history of American cinema, few films have been as beloved and reviled as Larry Clark’s 1995 ode to teenage delinquency, Kids.
Released nationwide 20 years ago today, July 28, the movie charts the exploits of a gang of unrepentant skate punks as they drink, drug, and fornicate their way through the wild streets of New York City. In 2015, it remains a strikingly vivid window into the grit and grime of Nineties Manhattan, the final years before Rudy Giuliani’s controversial “quality of life” campaign forever transformed neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side.
But while the years have largely scrubbed the city clean — and moviegoers have become increasingly desensitized to graphic depictions of violence and sex on film — Kids and its unadulterated look at the depths of teenage nihilism is as disturbing today as it was two decades ago.
Kids was a movie that seemed at once shockingly close to reality and terrifyingly removed from it. Today, New York City has changed dramatically. It’s unlikely to find a group of teenagers perched on a bench in Washington Square Park openly passing a blunt, or a crew of kids beating a man senseless with the tail ends of their skateboards. For better or for worse, we now live in different times.
Here is a then-and-now look at the New York City locations of some of the film’s most memorable scenes.