visit the city through its movies

New York It is that city that never sleeps in which, if you can do something, you can do it anywhere, as Frank Sinatra used to sing. We know its ‘skyline’ perfectly thanks to its films and all we held our breath on 9/11, as if they had touched something that really belongs to all of us. Because in reality, the Big Apple has managed to sneak into the collective imagination and it seems to be a bit of everyone. Thousands of communities converge in it, people who walk quickly through its streets without looking into each other’s eyes, and their neighborhoods carry the characteristic idiosyncrasy of that city that floats among the waters and that looks at its Statue of Liberty every morning.

On more than one occasion we have felt like a character from Woody Allen o Hitchcock even without knowing her, we fell in love with her apartments with Jack Lemmon y Shirley Mclaine and we would have liked to be Spiderman to climb its buildings. Although right now it is not a singular occasion nor is the dollar devalued, in New York there is a march, and in order that in the future we can travel or return, we propose a walk through its streets and neighborhoods with the help of some of his most characteristic films.

The Manhattan Bridge

If there is an iconic location that appears on a movie poster, it is that distant, misty Manhattan bridge, with the shadows of the protagonists of ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984) walking down a dark street. Sergio Leone’s film takes place in the eastern part of Brooklyn, next to the beginning of the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. To be more exact, the area of ​​Brooklyn through which Robert de Niro and others move is known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), between the bridges of Brooklyn and Manhattan and the Brooklyn – Queens Expressway.

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Fragment of ‘Once upon a time in America’.

We can start there. The Manhattan Bridge was opened to traffic at the beginning of the last century: in 1909, built by the polaco Ralph Modjeski. Although you will have seen it in many films, such as the one already mentioned, it is worth visiting it in person and photographing it. You can do it on foot, starting with the Chinatown area, which by the way also deserves its own visit. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level (divided between two roads). The lower one has three lanes.


Since we have crossed the Manhattan Bridge, we will have to walk through the area. If there is a person who has contributed to New York becoming a fetish and in the romantic city that beats to the melodies of George Gershwin and that we all imagine, it was Woody Allen. “He adored New York City. He idolized it out of all proportion. No, let’s say he romanticized it out of all proportion.” In films like ‘Manhattan’ (1979), ‘Annie Hall’ (1977) ‘Mysterious murder in Manhattan’ (1993) or the recent ‘Rainy Day in New York’ (2020) its characters roam the Big Apple, that metaphor of contemporary decadence.

Still from ‘Manhattan’.

There is so much to see in Manhattan. But let’s go by parts, we could say that almost all the famous symbols of New York City They are in that area: Central Park, the Empire State Building, Times Square or Wall Street, for example. If you were wondering what appears in the iconic image in which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton see the sunrise sitting on a bench in ‘Manhattan’, is the Queensboro Bridge (connecting Manhattan to Queens) the one who was immortalized.

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Can you have breakfast at Tiffany’s?

For some people, New York City is that image of Audrey Hepburn in a black evening dress and sunglasses, having breakfast in front of the Tiffany’s jewelry store on Fifth Avenue. while ‘Moon River plays in the background‘. This symbol of the country’s economic boom is one of the most expensive streets in the world (the avenue is between 34th and 59th streets and begins in Washington Square Park).

Audrey Hepburn having a red day in ‘Breakfast at Diamonds’.

In addition to Tiffany’s, if you walk around the area you can find Chanel, Cartier, Gucci, Christian Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton or other brands. There are also some of the most important buildings (Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center or the New York Library). And if you’re wondering, yes, you can enter the jewelry store that is huge.

Climb the Empire State Building

Since we were talking about the most iconic buildings in the area, it is inevitable to remember King Kong perched on the Empire State Building as if it were his private viewpoint. The 1933 movie helped make the building famous around the world, and it had actually been built just two years earlier, in 1931. Its story is quite unique: It took just 410 days to build and the plans were made in two weeks. Also, as it was built during the Great Depression, most of its offices were unoccupied.

Frame with King Kong perched on the Empire State Building.

It is an area in which there have been many suicides: one of the most famous was that of the young Evelyn McHale, which would be photographed by Andy Warhol. In case you are interested, there are two viewpoints inside: one on the 86th floor and the other on the 102nd. It is open until dawn.

The suicide of Evelyn McHale photographed by Andy Warhol.

Central Park

There are many films that have been shot in the lungs of the city. ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Enchanted’, and any Allen fan knows that if you watch a movie that takes place in the city that never sleeps, you will have at least some shot of it. Park. Even the series ‘Friends’ gave him a little wink, with its protagonists going to have coffee every day at the famous ‘Central Perk’.

Central park is bigger than Monaco.

Its construction began in 1851. As a curiosity, Central Park is bigger than Monaco or Vatican City (It is more than four kilometers long and 800 meters wide), the best thing if you go is to reserve a whole morning to see it, so that you can walk among its many statues or see the Bethesda Fountain, which has the sculpture of an angel (who blesses the source itself).

Greenwich Village

Next stop: Greenwich Village. For many, New York is this bohemian neighborhood, with its tree-lined streets, red brick houses and coffee shops, which was in the 60s the most countercultural area of ​​the city, with its jazz cafes and rainbow flags.

The troubled Llewyn Davis walking through New York.

There have been many films shot in this area (you will probably remember ‘Rear Window’), but this time we chose the most folk: ‘About Llewyn Davis’ (2013) in which the protagonist, a musician from Unsuccessful folk tries to survive by singing songs that were never new and never got old. The neighborhood is worth visiting even for the number of figures that have passed through it: from Bob Dylan to William Faulkner, passing through Jimi Hendrix.

Times Square

Some movies like ‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969) or ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) they show us a dirty, crazy and degraded New York, a darker side of the city that we are not used to. Times Square seems to come together with all the speed of the city, a place where the inhabitants never look into each other because they don’t have time, as if it were a story by Italo Calvino.

The intersection of streets in Manhattan da lugar a Times Square, which was previously called Plaza Longacre. It is located at the corner of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and received its current name from the offices of The New York Times, which were in Building One Times Square. Today it is an icon of the city, essential, where the Broadway theaters and their large illuminated signs are located. There is everything, museums, restaurants, the recruitment center of the Armed Forces, a police stationa, a Disney store and the list goes on.

Stroll through Brooklyn

‘Brooklyn’ (2015) tells the story of the Irish migration to New York (something that dates back to the 19th century) by the hand of its protagonist, to whom Saoirse Ronan faces. The actress herself was born in the Bronx and is the daughter of an immigrant from Dublin. Brooklyn, once an area destined for workers is today one of the most indie destinations in the city, with its graffiti walls, its aquarium or the Botanical Garden.

In ‘Brooklyn’ what appears is not Brooklyn, but Coney Island.

Actually, if you want to see a movie with Brooklyn, maybe you should choose another one, like for example ‘Frances Ha’ (2012). The ‘Brooklyn’ movie It only had two days of filming in Brooklyn (the rest was filmed in Montreal), and in one of them it was used to show Coney Island. The peninsula has a large beach on the Atlantic Ocean and at the time (at the beginning of the 20th century approximately) it was a great tourist resort with many attractions, although it suffered a great decline after the Second World War. Woody Allen’s movie ‘Wonder Wheel’ It also takes place in this area that is worth a visit, even if it is for curiosity.

A walk through Jewish Williamsburg

Although we were talking about movies, we must not forget that well-known series such as the aforementioned ‘Friends’, ‘Girls’ or ‘Sex and the City’ They have also contributed to a greater or lesser extent to forging that image of the city that we all know. To get to know Williamsburg, that peculiar area where Orthodox Jews and hipsters live, it is always a good idea watch ‘Unorthodox’, series in which the protagonist, fed up with her life under the patriarchal yoke and the traditions of the Jewish community to which she belongs, decides to flee to Berlin.

Unorthodox still.

The New York of the films has served to show the rest of the world how different communities have spread across different areas of the city: Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenpoint (Polish area) or Brighton Beach (intended for Russians), and, of course, Williamsburg for the Jews. It is tremendously curious to see them dressed in black, with their kippas (for them) and their long dark skirts (for them), since the Torah demands that kind of discretion when dressing. Actually, in Brooklyn there are several Jewish neighborhoods, but the best known is this one where the Satmar community lives (they moved from Hungary during World War II). It is a very different New York from the rest, more neglected and in which it will be difficult for you to interact with someone, but, after all, you are the stranger who has sneaked into their lives for a while, to meet one more face of this fascinating city.

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