Known as the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple has long served as a prominent filming backdrop in a plethora of world-famous movies and TV shows. From King Kong and Black Swan to When Harry Met Sally and the new Avengers franchise, we’ve all managed to spot Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge or the Empire State Building in some of our most-loved flicks — and this just adds to the bustling and busy city’s endless appeal. If you’re travelling abroad to visit New York, you’d be remiss not to explore at least a few famous film locations, where some of the greatest actors and actresses of all time have made their mark in Hollywood.
1. Times Square
Thanks to its continuousrole in cinema and TV, Times Square is one of the most famous NYC filming locations. Nestled in the midtown of Manhattan, Times Square has been the backdrop for famous scenes, beginning in the 1960s and ‘70s in films including Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver. It would ultimately go on to be pictured in numerous action films thereafter, with Godzilla and Transformers both filming scenes there, while major battles in both Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also took place in Times Square.
So celebrated is this famous part of New York that in 1980, a New York-based film wasreleased with the title Times Square. If that alone isn’t enough to demonstrate the fact that this is one of the most well-recognised New York City filming locations, then the list of other films in which it has been a scenic backdrop certainly is.
2. Empire State Building
Standing at 443 metres tall with 102 stories, the Empire State Building is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world and is a feature of any image of the New York City skyline. It has been involved in many films over the years, with the instantly recognisable building serving as a backdrop in virtually every movie in New York.
Perhaps its most famous involvement in a film — and certainly one of the earliest — was in King Kong, which wasreleased way back in 1933 just two years after the building was completed, and sees the giant ape protagonist Kong climb the building. Sixty years later, it wasinvolved in a famousscene in Sleeplessin Seattle when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rendezvous there on Valentine’s Day, while it has also been directly involved in numerous other films. Any trip to New York would be incomplete without a visit to the Empire State Building, and for movie buffs, that’s even more true.
3. Brooklyn Bridge
Connecting the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York City’s most recognised landmarks and has been a feature of the city since it was opened well over a century ago in 1883. Back then, of course, there wasn’t much in the way of a film industry, but in more recent years it has become almost a prerequisite for any film set in NYC to have a shot of the bridge.
Be it I Am Legend, Spiderman or Fantastic Four, anyone who has tuned in to a movie set in New York City will likely have seen this huge bridge on their television screens. As one of the most recognisable New York City filming locations, checking out the Brooklyn Bridge is a must for any touristsin the city.
4. Central Park
Central Park is a focal point of New York City for any visitors, regardless of whether or not they are interested in films. Given its prominence in the city, it’s unsurprisingly been involved in many hit productions, from Hair to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Elf and When Harry Met Sally.
In fact, there are almost too many productions to count. The International Movie Database (IMDB) cites around 800 films and television shows in which it has played a role — making this one of the most popular filming locations in NYC, and indeed the world.
5. Wall Street
Wall Street is an eight-block section of New York City which is home to the two largest stock exchanges and is one of the financial centres of the world. So synonymous is it with American financial marketsthat the term ‘Wall Street’ has become a reference to the finance industry in the USA as a whole. Given its significance in both America and globally, it’s little surprise that it has played a major role in multiple finance-related films.
The most notable of these is The Wolf of Wall Street — though much of the movie is filmed on sets, fans of the film will remember seeing Leonardo DiCaprio wandering down Lower Manhattan street. Another recent movie centred on the financial markets was The Big Short, and there are numerous scenes that show this famous street in full swing.
6. American Museum of Natural History
Fans of Ben Stiller and his Night at the Museum film series would be remiss not to visit the American Museum of Natural History during a trip to New York City. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this is the museum at which Ben Stiller’s character works as a night watchman, and where the exhibits come to life overnight.
Of course, the entire movie isn’t actually filmed at the museum, so don’t expect to wander inside and see an identical layout. There are, however, many shots of the outside of the museum throughout the course of the trilogy, and the final two movies in the series (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) are partially set there. It might not be the most recognised of New York movie locations, but given that there was an increase of 50,000 visitors to the museum over a 12-month period following the release of the initial Night at the Museum movie, there are clearly plenty of film buffs eager to take a look at it themselves.
7. Firehouse, Hook and Ladder Company 8
Firehouse, Hook and Ladder Company 8 is famous largely for its role in just one film: Ghostbusters. Located in the Tribeca neighbourhood of Manhattan, this firehouse was constructed back in 1903, when it was intended to act purely as a base for actual firefighters, rather than for a group of phantom fighters in a wildly popular movie series.
It ultimately made an appearance in each of the Ghostbusters franchise films, including the 2016 remake — making it one of the most iconic filming locations in NYC. Incidentally, though Ghostbusters was the movie series that made this location famous, it also made an appearance in Hitch as well as popular TV series’ Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother.
The firehouse went perilously close to being closed down back in 2011 in an effort by the city to save money, but it was saved largely thanks to the efforts of actor Steve Buscemi and eventual mayor Bill de Blasio, meaning that it’s still standing today – and is the scene of plenty visits of ardent Ghostbusters fans.
8. The Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Hotel is one of the most recognisable hotelsin NYC, and itsrole in numerous major filmsis one of the reasons why. This luxury hotel and apartment building is in Midtown Manhattan and has been where many movie characters have been fortunate enough to stay. Crocodile Dundee is one such example, with Paul Hogan’siconic Aussie staying there during his trip to The Big Apple.
Aside from Mick Dundee, numerous other famous people — both real and fictitious — have made film appearances there. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was partially filmed in the hotel, with both charactersfrom the movie and Donald Trump playing himself making appearances there. The Great Gatsby also shot scenes here, as did Bride Wars, Sleeplessin Seattle and plenty more, making this an obvious inclusion in any list of famous NYC filming locations.
9. Katz’s Delicatessen
For fans of When Harry Met Sally, Katz’s Delicatessen should be one of the first stops on any tour of NYC filming locations. This inconspicuous deli on the Lower East Side of Manhattan rose to prominence after the release of the 1989 romantic comedy, with one of the most memorable scenes in the movie taking place here. In the scene, which anyone who has everseen the movie will vividly recall, Meg Ryan begins loudly moaning in front of Billy Crystal to prove a point before nonchalantly returning to her dessert.
That movie saw the diner catapulted into fame, and since then it has also been included in numerous other films. From Donnie Brasco to Across the Universe and We Own the Night, Katz’s Delicatessen is now a staple of the film industry, though in the 30-plus years since, no scene shot there has rivalled that of When Harry Met Sally for acclaim.
10. Café Lalo
While we’re on the topic of Meg Ryan, let’s talk Café Lalo. If you’re a fan of When Harry Met Sally and Meg Ryan in general, there’s every chance that you’ve seen and enjoyed You’ve Got Mail, too — a 1998 romantic comedy starring Ryan and Tom Hanks. The two primary characters in this film develop an online relationship before meeting for the very first time at, you guessed it, Café Lalo.
A movie that tugged at the heartstrings of many, the popularity of You’ve Got Mail means that Café Lalo has become a commonplace to visit for tourists in New York. In fact, so popular hasit become that the café website claims that it is ‘the most famous café in NYC’. Whether that’s true is a topic for another day, but what is for certain is that it’s well and truly worth a visit for fans of Ryan and Hanks’ iconic film.
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