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

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Classic New York: The Films to Watch Right Now

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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

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