Top 5 classic New York Films Guide Moonstruck Nicolas Cage Sweet Smell of Success West Side Story Kind of New York Rear Window

Grandlife guide

Classic New York: The Films to Watch Right Now

back to list

Whether you’re in the mood for romance, grit, chills and thrills or something to liven the spirits—this list of classic New York films compiled by Roxy Cinema curator Illyse Singer has you covered. 

Sweet Smell of Success 

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, this is one of the greatest films ever made. It’s Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster and it’s the true American dream, that tale of needing success and the power and intensity that New York used to run on. It was made in the late ’50s, it’s beautifully shot in black-and-white. It’s definitely a modern noir. It’s towards the tale-end of the noir genre but it’s just so great. There’s this energy and pulse, and the chemistry between Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster is really palpable in this film. It’s a great film to check out right now. 

Hitchcock’s Rear Window

This film could not be more appropriate for right now. It’s literally about a dude that’s stuck in his house and he watches all this stuff happen out his window. So I feel like it’s voyeurism at its finest and it’s kind of like what we’re all going through right now. It’s Jimmy Stewart from It’s a Wonderful Life. I think it’s one of his greatest performances of all time; it’s Grace Kelly. Many people consider this to be one of the best films ever made. It’s also beautifully shot in technicolor. It’s just a really great film to revisit especially when most of us are in captivity right now. 

West Side Story 

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s just so dreamy and so beautiful. It’s one of the best love stories, I mean, it’s Romeo and Juliet retold in a modern way through the gangs in New York in the ’60s. Natalie Wood is so incredible in it; Richard Beymer, yes, he was so beautiful and of course Rita Moreno. It’s honestly one of my favorite musicals of all time. It’s directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins who was this incredible choreographer who choreographed so many works for New York City ballet, so the dancing is some of the best you’ll ever see on film. It’s so lyrical, it’s so graceful. I never get sick of watching this movie—I’ve probably watched it 100 times. It’s been in the staple of my rotation since I was a child after my grandmother first showed it to me. There are a lot of reds and purples and really intense lighting and it captures this warmth, which I think will bring some spirit and depth to your life right now, some spirit and liveliness. Find a way to stream it, you will sing along, I always do. 

Moonstruck 

We all know my love of Nicolas Cage—the greatest actor of our time. I watched Moonstruck after I’d already been into his canon of films for a while, I don’t know why I waited so long. It’s such a classic movie that most people watch growing up. It came out in ’87, it’s Cher… But I’m so glad I watched it later in my adult years. It’s one of the best romantic comedies ever made. To me, there is no better date than going to the opera and I love that Nicolas Cage’s character takes Cher to the opera. It’s so romantic, it’s so dreamy. It captures this amazing New York family in Brooklyn and it just makes you have hope again about love. The chemistry between Cher and Nicolas Cage is so good. I think Nicolas Cage is the most charming of all time, but he’s the most charming in this movie and you’re just like, oh my god, I love you. I need to rewatch it this week. It’s so good.

King of New York 

And that brings me to another favorite of the Roxy Cinema, Abel Ferrara. In my opinion, Abel is the king of New York directors. He just makes the grittiest, most intense New York films. He has this love story and fascination with New York and it’s strange because he captures the really dark, fucked-up sides of New York in this beautiful, haunting way and all of his films are so good, but there’s something so fascinating about King of New York. To me, it’s Christopher Walken’s greatest role. He is so brilliant as Frank White. It is the first hip-hop movie, which is interesting because [Mario Van Peebles‘ 1991 film] New Jack City stole this idea. I learned from Abel that Biggy [Smalls] was so fascinated by Frank White that whenever he would check into a hotel, he would check-in under Frank White…..The best part is watching Christopher Walken dance in one of the scenes. It’s so fun. It started so many people’s careers. I think it was one of Wesley Snipes’ first films and David Caruso. It’s crazy because Wesley Snipes was homeless when he was making this film, he was living in his car. We just got to rewatch it a couple of months ago [at the Roxy Cinema] with Abel and we did this amazing Q&A after. You should watch all of Abel’s films, they’re all really great. 

WORDS Illyse Singer

You May Also Like

Paige Powell Andy Warhol Basquiet Bill Cunningham John Lennon Bob Gruen Ken Schles New York 80s Allan Tannenbaum Walt Cassidy

New York-Centric Coffee Table Books

art & design
stories
From revelrous art world celebrities to late-night voyeurism: The photo books that pay homage to our immensely photographic city.
SoHo New York itinerary soho diner king ruby's cafe brunch al fresco roxy hotel clic gallery saturdays surf nyc the webster

Weekends in SoHo

art & design
bars & nightlife
food & drink
stories
Explore the neighborhood anew with this curated guide.
Catskills Guide Upstate New York Phoenicia Diner

Top Picks for a Fall Getaway

travel
stories
It’s time to start planning your fall getaway, and we’re here to help.
St Mazie, Bemelmans Bar, new york bars, cocktails, Lucien, Dante, Grand Banks

Local Go-Tos with Maxwell Britten, Tali Lennox, Zackery Michael & Others

bars & nightlife
stories
We asked friends of GrandLife to share their neighborhood spot for drinks and what they order when they go. Here’s what they told us…
MoMa, the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum, The Met, The Metropolitan Museum, Fotografiska

Museums Reopen: Here's What to Expect

art & design
stories
A collab with David Byrne at the Brooklyn Museum, the Donald Judd retrospective at MoMA, and more to explore at New York's landmark museums this fall.
Summer Day Trips to Ignite your Senses

Summer Day Trips to Ignite your Senses

art & design
bars & nightlife
travel
stories
We round up the best day trips to set your senses alight and lull you into that holiday state of mind without venturing too far from the city.
McNally Jackson Summer Reading List New York Books

McNally Jackson’s John Francisconi shares his top 5 summer reads

art & design
reading
stories
For your reading pleasure. 
New York Stores bookstore coming soon abc home adam green brianna lance tali lennox academy records maryam nassir zadeh no.6 store shopping the realreal sincerely tommy strand bookstore mast di palo's

Local Go-Tos With Adam Green, Brianna Lance, Nikki Kynard & Others

art & design
now open
shopping
stories
We asked friends of GrandLife to share their favorite NYC stores and what they love about them. Here’s what they told us…
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel Tribeca

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013

212.519.6600