Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Best Outer Borough Movies

My previous post on Working Girl got me thinking about movies set in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. There are a number of films -- some old, some more recent, some great, some not -- set in places where the vast majority of New Yorkers actually live. Here are a few of the most memorable. Please let me know if I'm missing any really great ones. I'm sure there are some I missed that'll make me smack my head and shout "D'OH!"

The Bronx

(1955): A beautiful movie about a lonely butcher looking for love. Ernest Borgnine creates one of the greatest characters ever etched on film. It swept the 1955 Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor, Director and Original Screenplay.

A Bronx Tale (1993): Robert De Niro's directorial debut about a boy in the Bronx trying to live honestly in a world of crime.

Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981): Cops in a war zone, led by Paul Newman. Very controversial at the time.

Awakenings (1991): One of De Niro's best performances about catatonic patients brought back (briefly) to life. Based on the story of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Finding Forrester (2000): Not a great movie by any means but it does have Sean Connery saying "You're the man now dog!"

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990): Awful movie based on a great book. One of the great bombs of all times. It does, however, give you a very good idea of what the Bronx was like the late 1980s -- namely, scary.


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944): A Cary Grant classic about old ladies in Brooklyn Heights who murder people. Ronald Reagan was actually considered for the Cary Grant part at one time.

The Squid and the Whale (2005): Very funny, very sad movie about a miserable family in Park Slope. The best performance Jeff Daniels has ever given.

Moonstruck (1987): Cher's Oscar (Olympia Dukakis got one to). A beautiful film about Italians, baking, opera, and the insanity of love. Classic lines: "Where are you taking me?" "To da' bed!"

Radio Days (1987): Perhaps Woody Allen's sweetest movie. A tribute to childhood in the 1940s, classic radio, and growing up Jewish.

Saturday Night Fever (1977): Gave us John Travolta, the Bee Gees, and polyester. Best line: "You know I work on my hair 'long time and he hits it ... he hits my hair!"

She's Gotta Have It (1986): Spike Lee's first movie.

Do The Right Thing (1989): Spike Lee's best movie.

Smoke/Blue in the Face (1995): Dual movies about the lives of people who frequent a smoke shop. Harvey Keitel was never so sweet.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975): "Attica! Attica! Attica!" Al Pacino's greatest performance ever. Based on a real bank robbery gone very wrong.


Goodfellas (1990): The life of Henry Hill, a great movie about a very bad man. The best mob movie ever, Scorsese's masterpiece, and the immortal lines, "Funny? Funny how? Like I'm a clown, I amuse you, I make you laugh?"

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006): Strange but touching little movie about life in lower-class Astoria in the 1980s. Robert Downey Jr. gives a lovely performance.

Queens Logic (1991): Never saw it, no one did apparently, but it's an ensemble piece about Queens and it should really help you with that "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game.

Coming to America (1988): Eddie Murphy's funniest movies about an African prince looking for a wife in, well ... Queens! His best comic performance ever.

The Wrong Man (1956): True story about an innocent man accused of murder. Alfred Hitchcock and Henry Fonda -- need I say more?

Staten Island

Working Girl (1988): A "goil" named Tess with big dreams who gets it all.

Sisters (1973): One of Brian De Palma's pre-Carrie movies. Before she was Lois Lane, Margot Kidder starred in this psychological thriller.

School of Rock (2003): Jack Black comedy about teaching kids how to rock. It was completely filmed in this borough.


It looks like Brooklyn's got most of the best movies made about it, followed by Queens, followed by The Bronx, followed by Staten Island. But who really cares about pecking order. These movies show that some of the most interesting New York characters in movie history were from the outer boroughs.

Next up -- the best outer borough novels and TV shows.

1 comment:

  1. Robert Downey Jr's on fire again. I must add a Guide to Recognizing Your Saints to my Netflix queue.


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