The New York City people imagine—whether they are lifelong New Yorkers or have yet to visit—is now mostly the stuff of fiction, an image dreamed up on the big screen. In recent years, some might say the city has been Disneyfied, stripped of its grit and grime in favor of coffee shop chains and gentrified boroughs. But if there's anything that immediately transports us back to the gaudy and gorgeously anti-glamorous streets we've come to associate with the City that Never Sleeps, it's the innumerable crime films that were shot there.
There's just something utterly timeless and irresistible about this dark and seedy side of NYC and, luckily for cinephiles, some of the most memorable monuments from such crime classics as "The Godfather" and "Taxi Driver" still remain. This means you can still go and visit some relics from the New York of yesteryear itself.
To help get your cinematic pilgrimage off to a start, Giggster looked at noteworthy shooting locations you can visit from the best crime movies shot in New York City. To qualify as one of the best, the film had to have at least a 7.5 user rating on IMDb.
- Location: Calvary Cemetery, Greenpoint Avenue, Queens
Calvary Cemetery is a Roman Catholic cemetery that stretches across 365 acres, making it one of the largest—as well as one of the oldest—cemeteries in the United States. The grounds are home to a few centuries worth of notable politicians and performers, as well as real-life mobsters like Stefano Ferrigno, deeming it an appropriate setting for one of the most emotionally charged scenes in "The Godfather."
It was in a section of the cemetery known as "First Calvary Cemetery" where Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) was laid to rest after suffering a heart attack while playing in the garden with his grandson. The funeral scene required 150 extras, 20 hearses, limousines, and thousands of dollars worth of flowers. As a spectacular site of historical preservation, the cemetery looks largely unchanged from how it was depicted in the movie—save for the warm, grainy camera filter.
- Location: 20 Exchange Place, Manhattan
20 Exchange Place, formerly known as the City Bank-Farmers Trust Building, is a skyscraper located in the financial district of lower Manhattan, which boasts a facade bejeweled with high-end stones. In 2006, it appeared in Spike Lee's heist film "Inside Man" as a fictional bank branch named Manhattan Trust Bank.
Once a relic of New York's wave of art deco architecture in the 1920s, it has since been modernized. Though in the film, it was restored to its former glory and made to look like a financial institution from a former time. The building is basically a location scout's paradise, not least because of the ease of the city's Made in NY marketing incentives program, but also because, according to film location scout Nick Carr, who'd previously scouted the building for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," filmmakers tend to get their run of the place here.
- Location: St. Regis Hotel, 2 E. 55th St., Manhattan
Martin Scorcese's "Taxi Driver" is an expressionistic vision of NYC in the 1970s, before the city's so-called Disneyfication. The film is a lonely and claustrophobic journey through the psyche of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), but there's some light relief when he gives Cybill Shepherd's character, Betsy, a free ride to the St. Regis Hotel on Fifth Avenue. While the city has undergone an extensive transformation since then, the St. Regis Hotel—known throughout the city for its glamour and prestige—has mostly gone untouched. The building itself is still largely the same, though the outside awning has been jazzed up a little with lights and black accents.
- Location: 1245 6th Ave., Manhattan
As lifelong residents of New York City, the Safdie brothers have been committed to depicting the city at its sleaziest and best. In "Uncut Gems," their best-known film, Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, an on-edge jeweler attempting to barter his way through midtown Manhattan's diamond district. It's a location in perfect proximity to some of New York's most iconic sights—Fifth Avenue, Trump Tower, as well as 30 Rock, where Sandler got his start on "Saturday Night Live"—and now the film has made an icon of a water fountain on Sixth Avenue in the district.
In one memorable scene, after being punched in the face by two goons, Howard gets thrown into the fountain. While filming, Sandler was spotted bloodied and drenched in the fountain by passersby; the Safdies generally like to plant their cameras across the block, making the scenes as realistic as possible.
- Location: 2415 Stillwell Ave., Brooklyn
See it once and it will be burned into your brain forever. In one of the most famous car chase scenes in cinema history, Detective Jimmy Doyle (Gene Hackman) races through packed New York City streets in an attempt to arrest a man who commandeered a subway train. Doyle's wicked temper is in full force as tires screech across the pavements of Stillwell Avenue in Brooklyn.
Director William Friedkin has famously said that the scene wasn't entirely scripted but rather conceptualized on location—and off the cuff. Apparently, one reason for this is that the district only permitted the filmmaker to use one particular Brooklyn line: the West End stretch from Coney Island into Manhattan, the West End line. Since filming, the Avenue has expanded with apartment buildings, shops, and larger roads, but it still bears a remarkable resemblance to the area in the film.
This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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