When you ask anyone to name some of the world’s most exciting, vibrant and famous cities, the chances are that the Big Apple will reach the top of many people’s lists. An iconic destination like no other, it is little wonder that NYC has featured prominently in countless TV series, stage shows and movies over the years – so, on your next holidays to New York, why not plan to visit a few of the beautiful locations that have been used as memorable backdrops for so many of our favourite flicks?
Below, we’ll show you where you can soak up the big screen history in the city that never sleeps and give you some reminders of which films these places are famous for.
New York Public Library
Ghostbusters: In one of the most memorable scenes from a truly memorable movie, the New York Public Library (NYPL) became a star itself when Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and co. burst into the reading room and dealt with a pesky poltergeist - or tried to, at least. Click here to read more about how you can explore the real room yourself on a guided tour.
The Day After Tomorrow: It’s fair to say that the library’s appearance in this film doesn’t quite have the same humour as the Ghostbusters scene! Set in an apocalyptic New York that is being destroyed by extreme weather, leading character Sam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) ducks inside the library after standing on the steps and seeing a storm surge approaching.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: This is the only film on our list that has a scene in which the library is being used for its intended purpose! In this classic romcom starring Audrey Hepburn, the champagne-loving socialite Holly Golightly is introduced to the more tranquil world of books by Paul, her lovestruck suitor.
Taxi Driver: Today, Times Square is a fun and vibrant haven of entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. In the 1970s, however, this was far from the case; in this masterpiece directed by Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro plays a disillusioned taxi driver whose trade is largely based in the morally decaying Times Square area – see the film first, then see how far the place has come since!
Midnight Cowboy: Times Square was certainly a fascinating place in the second half of the 20th-century, even if this wasn’t exactly for the right reasons. For another reminder of how completely the world-famous intersection has been transformed from its lowest point into a thriving visitor landmark, check out the shocking but excellent Midnight Cowboy from 1969 that follows the lives of two small-time hustlers based in the heart of the big city.
Captain America: The First Avenger: For a brief but memorable glimpse of the Times Square we know and love today, be sure to watch this Marvel Studios epic, which – although mainly set during WWII - reaches its dramatic conclusion amid the noise and lights of the modern-day ‘Crossroads of the World’ (not that we want to give anything away…).
Empire State Building
King Kong: Are there any more iconic movie moments involving New York than when Kong, the giant ape, scales the outside of the Empire State Building, gripping the helpless Ann (played by Fay Wray) in his hand? In fact, are there any more iconic movie moments full stop? There’s nothing quite like admiring the incredible view from the top of ‘ESB’, so make sure you fit this into your trip to New York – although we’d recommend taking the lift!
Elf: Just so you know what to expect when you arrive in the lobby of the Empire State Building, don’t forget to see this beloved Christmas film before you set off for NYC…that’s one excuse for watching it again, anyway! This is where everyone’s favourite elf, Buddy (Will Ferrell), memorably introduces himself to his biological father.
Sleepless in Seattle: We’ve already mentioned that heading up the Empire State Building is a must for any visitor to New York, but this is even more so if you are also a fan of this timeless rom-com starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. For the ultimate romantic gesture, take your loved one to the 86th-floor observation deck and enjoy gazing out across this glorious city from a great height; neither of you will forget it.
Kramer vs. Kramer: Many pivotal scenes in this high-quality family drama, which won five Oscars in 1979, take place in and around the magnificent setting of Central Park. Take a walk through the beautiful Mall esplanade and see where one of the movie’s most heart-warming moments was filmed, when Dustin Hoffman’s character teaches his son how to ride a bike.
Enchanted: This Disney film is an unusual mix of live-action and animation which pays homage to (and pokes fun at) classic princess tales like Cinderella. An amazing musical number, ‘That’s How You Know’, sees the main characters – and dozens of supporting cast members – sing and dance their way through Central Park’s landmarks, with the finale taking place in front of the Bethesda Fountain.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins: A charming family comedy starring Jim Carrey, this movie features several famous NYC spots but is most notable for shining a light on the lovely Tavern on the Green restaurant. An unexpected slice of culinary perfection in the heart of Central Park, this picturesque establishment has been open since the 1930s and plays a major role in the film.
Statue of Liberty
X-Men: The Statue of Liberty is arguably the world’s most instantly recognisable landmark, and its beautiful yet imposing presence was used to great effect in this blockbuster smash from 2000. A visually stunning fight at the top of the statue is where this epic feature reaches its climax.
Titanic: Most of us have seen Titanic at some point, but not everyone will remember that the Statue of Liberty has a role in one of the film’s most poignant moments. When Rose (played by Kate Winslet) disembarks in New York after surviving the disaster, she gazes up at the monument for the first time and - presumably inspired by the promise of freedom ‘Lady Liberty’ represents - decides to change her name, both to honour her lost lover and in order to start a new life.
Planet of the Apes: We may see only the top half of the Statue of Liberty at the end of this classic sci-fi, it may not be in its usual setting, and it may only appear for a few seconds; nevertheless, it is no exaggeration to say that the slow reveal of the statue’s crown and torch still stands up as perhaps the best-delivered twist in cinematic history.