Throughout the history of cinema, the city of New York has played host to a number of award winning films, from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the diverse boroughs of The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.

A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year is the latest movie to be set in the city and follows the life and struggles of small-time businessman Abel Morales in the crime-ridden neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Here we take a look at the top 8 films set in New York City.

- A Most Violent Year (2014)

The ethics of an honest man collide with the brutal violence of 1980s New York, a time when the city is experiencing a spike in criminal activity. Small businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) fights to make himself a living, support his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) and protect his interests.

Always looking for a way to expand his business, Abel nevertheless strives to keep things honest and to do things by the book. However, when he becomes the target of opportunistic thieves, he takes matters into his own hands to track down those responsible.

Directed by America's latest visionary, JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year echoes classic New York crime thrillers whilst fostering immediate respect as an independent drama of its own significant merit.

A Most Violent Year

- Mean Streets (1973)

Also available on Blu-ray for the first time from the 18th May, this classic crime drama directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, showcases the Little Italy district of New York following the trials and tribulations of Charlie (Keitel).

Driven by a deep rooted desire to become a gangster like his uncle (Cesare Danova) but a conflicting one to live his life like St. Francis, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) takes on the erratic, unbalanced Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) as a personal penance, intervening to ensure Johnny Boy pays off his debt to the local loan shark Michael (Richard Romanus). 

Despite promising girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson) that once he strengthens his standing in the criminal underworld they'll be able to leave Little Italy, his dealings with Johnny Boy only work to further trap him in the world he wants to leave behind.

Mean Streets

- 12 Angry Men (1957)

This trial film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 unnamed men (identified by number) as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant, 'The Boy', in a New York courthouse on the basis of reasonable doubt. Eleven of the jurors vote for conviction, each for their own reasons. The sole hold-out is Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda.

As Fonda persuades the weary jurors to re-examine the evidence, we learn the back story of each man. Notable for its almost exclusive use of one set, the jury room, 12 Angry Men's increasing tension is built impressively by sweaty close-ups, gritty monochrome realism and one-set claustrophobia.

Fonda's doubts about the accused's guilt gradually overcome the rather less-than-democratic prejudices of the other eleven members of the jury.

12 Angry Men

- The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather is often considered to be the ultimate gangster film and a touchstone for Western cinema. The Sicilian Mafia family, the Corleones, headed by 'don' Vito (Marlon Brando), control New York in the late 1940s era of organised crime.

When 'Don' Vito barely survives a gunshot wound courtesy of a drug-trafficking rival, his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) takes it upon himself to avenge his father and re-establish Corleone supremacy in New York. The Godfather's vision of the city is fittingly grounded in real locations, from Manhattan's New York State Supreme Court steps to the Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the great gangster movies of all time and is as much loved today as it was when it was first released.

The Godfather

- Taxi Driver (1976)

Often considered one of the greatest films of all time, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver takes us around New York in Travis Bickle's (Robert De Niro) yellow cab. Mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran Travis becomes a night time taxi-driver in New York where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action.

When he attempts to save a preadolescent prostitute (Jodie Foster) in East Village, Manhattan, things get bloody.

Taxi Driver remains one of the highlights of Scorsese's directing career and the finest film to come from the Scorsese/De Niro partnership. The movie went on to be nominated for four Oscars - including Best Picture and Best Actor. Amazingly, the film was overlooked and Scorsese didn't even get a nod for Best Director.

Taxi Driver

- Gangs of New York (2002)

Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio go head-to-head in a Martin Scorsese historical epic, Gangs of New York, the tale of a power-struggle in nineteenth-century New York City - a time when the city earned its identity as a cultural melting pot and an epicentre of political corruption.

In 1846, as waves of Irish immigrants poured into the New York neighbourhood of Five Points, a number of citizens of British and Dutch heritage who were born in the United States began making an open display of their resentment toward the new arrivals.

After the murder of his Irish father (Liam Neeson) by Bill ;The Butcher' (Day-Lewis) of the 'Native Americans' gang, Amsterdam (DiCaprio) returns to avenge his father and bring the Five Points back to the Irish immigrants gang, 'The Dead Rabbits'.

Gangs of New York

- Birdman (2014)

A Hollywood superhero has-been attempts to turn back the clocks and restore his integrity by directing a play on Broadway.

Birdman is filmed with distinctive style; a single shot portraying comically painful and indulgent conversations concerning the integrity of the art of acting in the concourses of a backstage Broadway theatre - however we are also treated to an hilarious detour onto busy Times Square when Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is locked out of the theatre dressed in only a snug pair of y-fronts.

Birdman cleaned up at this year's Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Director for Iñárritu.


- Whiplash (2014)

Miles Teller and JK Simmons play out one of the most intense on-screen student-pupil relationships of all time in this drum-smashing drama.

Andrew Neyman (Teller), an ambitious jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York, is driven to become one of the great drummers by his physically and psychologically abusive mentor, Fletcher (Simmons).

Simmons is awesome and terrifying in equal measure, and deservedly won this year's Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, whilst the film won Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.


Other honourable mentions include Do The Right Thing, American Psycho, King Kong, Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story, and Serpico.

A Most Violent Year is released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from 18th May.

Tagged in