Suggest to me movies drenched in New York grit
August 12, 2019 9:09 PM   Subscribe

I’ve recently become obsessed with movies from the 60s and 70s that feature New York City during its “drop dead” years. Stuff like Joe, Midnight Cowboy, and of course Taxi Driver. My appetite is insatiable and now I want/need more. Ideally any flicks from that approximate era that feature the grime, the grit, and lots of street life shot verite if possible. Thanks!
posted by Senor Cardgage to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
The original Taking of Pellam 123.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 9:11 PM on August 12 [14 favorites]

If you liked Taxi Driver, check out Scorsese's Mean Streets and New York, New York and Gangs of New York.
posted by effluvia at 9:12 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

Warriors come out to plaaayaaye!!!
posted by brookeb at 9:12 PM on August 12 [12 favorites]

Dog Day Afternoon
The Panic in Needle Park
posted by holborne at 9:14 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]

The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon.
posted by pilot pirx at 9:16 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]

Three Days of the Condor
posted by holborne at 9:20 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]

The first two seasons of The Deuce recreate that era of Times Square pretty well.
posted by Beardman at 9:32 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]

Rosemary’s Baby; Superfly; maybe Saturday Night Fever?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:53 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]

Marathon Man. And all a little later (1980+), but Prince of the City, Cruising and Bad Lieutenant.

(And yes, definitely Dog Day Afternoon and French Connection.)
posted by caek at 9:55 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

Escape from New York is from 1981 and is a sci-fi flick, but it was, director John Carpenter said, inspired by "the sense of New York as a kind of jungle" in the 1970s that of course is the same dominant theme running through all the various ("real life") movies you mention.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:28 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]

Downtown 81
Decade of Fire - a documentary about this "drop dead" era and the economic crisis in the Bronx as told with lots and lots of archival footage
Abel Ferrara films like Ms 45 (1981, tw: rape), Driller Killer (1979) and King of NY (1991, although made after "Bronx is Burning", it features a shootout on Pell St in Chinatown)
Doin Time in Times Square (1991) - artist and filmmaker Charlie Ahern documentary as shot from his times sq apartment window
80 Blocks from Tiffany's
Born in Flames
posted by stachemaster at 11:08 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]

Nthing The French Connection. Enjoy the disorienting sight of a Twin Towers-less skyline!

Dropping down the scale of artistic accomplishment considerably, Across 110th Street has all the squalor you could ask for.
posted by praemunire at 11:23 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

for a Netflix series look at "The Get Down"
which is about the rise of hip hop and disco in NYC in the '70's
posted by alchemist at 11:42 PM on August 12

The Landlord from 1970 -- a wild serious comedy about a preppy white guy whose family can't deal with his falling in love with an African American woman and her community. (It's directed by Hal Ashby but the screenplay was by the African American filmmaker Bill Gunn, adapted from a novel of the same title by an African American woman. )
posted by nantucket at 1:29 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Most of the big ones have been mentioned, so I'll add:

Klute (1971)
The Incident (1967)
Black Caesar (1973)
The Seven-Ups (1973) - some of the same people who were involved in The French Connection
Death Wish (1974) - n.b. it's brutal and fascist, but definitely epitomizes the kind of film you're talking about

and you should look at early 80s too:
Smithereens (1982) - Susan Seidelman's first film, her next one was Desperately Seeking Susan
Wild Style (1983) - fiction film but in doc-style about hip hop and graffiti artists by Charlie Ahearn, who stachemaster mentioned above
Style Wars (1983) - crucial documentary about hip hop & graffiti artists

There's a doc called Blank City (2012) that looks at the No Wave scene filmmakers of the late 70s and some that came after in the early 80s.

The first season of Kojak, before they moved production to LA, is actually pretty good and has lots of location shots.
posted by theory at 1:56 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]

Gloria is everything you desire and Gena Rowlands too.

Also OMG you MUST see the Eyes of Laura Mars...where Faye Dunaway plays a fashion photographer obsessed with violence (photos by Helmut Newton)'s insane. There's a photo shoot that's also a giant car accident in the middle of Columbus Circle.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:08 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Second on The Seven Ups!
The Panic in Needle Park
Liquid Sky It’s out of your date range but I couldn’t help myself!
posted by lemon_icing at 2:15 AM on August 13

The President's Analyst - cult film from 1967 featuring a gritty NYC opening scene.
After Hours - Featuring a very different 1985 Soho.
posted by rongorongo at 3:45 AM on August 13

Enjoy the disorienting sight of a Twin Towers-less skyline!


Seconding The Warriors, mentioned above. It's a cartoonish look at things, but does get gritty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on August 13

The New York City section of Jim Jarmush's "Night on Earth" - section featuring Armin Mueller-Stahl and Giancarlo Esposito playing a very non-Gus Fring character.
posted by rongorongo at 4:01 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

This is shaping up to be a great list. FYI, the genre you’re looking for is New Hollywood.
posted by thejoshu at 4:24 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

One of my all-time favorites - The Goodbye Girl
posted by Mchelly at 5:02 AM on August 13

Yet another vote for Dog Day Afternoon. Checks all your boxes—and aside from that, what a great film!!!
posted by bookmammal at 5:24 AM on August 13

Fort Apache The Bronx
posted by essexjan at 6:26 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

The Hot Rock (1972). Featuring an awesome Quincy Jones score for extra added 70s ambiance.
posted by googly at 6:38 AM on August 13

You've gotta see Little Murders (1971), a deeply black comedy about 70s NYC by Jules Feiffer featuring Elliott Gould.

Five Corners is also on point and a fun one, especially given the cast. It was made in the 80s but is set in the 60s.
posted by veery at 6:52 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

Cotton Comes to Harlem — great film from the Chester Himes novel, with Godfrey Cambridge as Gravedigger Jones and
Raymond St. Jacques as Coffin Ed Johnson.
posted by ubiquity at 7:02 AM on August 13

Videographer Nelson Sullivan has some interesting videos of New York City street life, although I believe that they are from the 1980s, which is later than your preferred time period.
posted by JD Sockinger at 7:22 AM on August 13

I'd also add Frank Henenlotter's cult horror classic Basket Case: The movie is shot in and around 42nd Street and Times Square ca. 1982, and the low-budget nature of the production means that they shot all of the on-location scenes verite-style with zero permits, so all of the "extras" you see in the background are actual New Yorkers just going about their business.

I've been watching a ton of cult/B-movies over the past few years, and I've found that they can sometimes function as pseudo-documentaries of the places they were filmed, often times capturing sides of those cities (and the people living there) that aren't really seen in bigger-budget Hollywood fare.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:44 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]

Carlito's Way
posted by Calloused_Foot at 8:02 AM on August 13

Enjoy the disorienting sight of a Twin Towers-less skyline!


If you're old enough to have watched TV/movies in the late 70s, 80s, 90s, the TT would have been an icon of the filmed NY skyline, so that it is indeed disorienting to see a movie filmed and set in the 70s where they are pointedly missing (the film was completed right before they were built). If there are people on Mefi born after 2001...I don't wanna know!
posted by praemunire at 8:08 AM on August 13

I've found that they can sometimes function as pseudo-documentaries of the places they were filmed

Oh completely - see examples (neither are about New York) like Van Nuys Blvd and Ray Dennis Steckler's Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher or Las Vegas Serial Killer . Guerrilla filmmaking and found footage used for padding sometimes make these films into inadvertent travelogues or cinéma vérité documentaries.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:34 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Popi, from 1969, starring Alan Arkin. My mom took me to see it when I was 6, thinking it would be a delightful children's comedy,but the gritty NY parts were actually a bit traumatizing.
posted by newmoistness at 9:53 AM on August 13

I just saw the newly released "The Kitchen," which is set in 1978-79 Hell's Kitchen, and found it reasonably grimy.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:12 AM on August 13

If you're old enough to have watched TV/movies in the late 70s, 80s, 90s, the TT would have been an icon of the filmed NY skyline, so that it is indeed disorienting to see a movie filmed and set in the 70s where they are pointedly missing (the film was completed right before they were built).

I somehow blotted out the "70s" bit, so my thought was that "hell, you can see a Twin Towers-less skyline by looking out a window around here."

I have a weird answer that's more contemporary - the original Men In Black movie. I listened to a podcast recently that argued that part of the appeal of that film was that it presented a look at the scruffy and lived-in side of New York, even though it was more contemporary - it hit up the pawn shops and the weird t-shirt stands on the streets instead of only hitting up the landmark spots.

Also, something a little closer to the 70s - how about The Brother From Another Planet? There's a super-affecting scene I remember from the opening that's set in the ruins of Ellis Island (this was before they opened it as a landmark site).

And I seem to be going supernatural with this - how about Wolfen? This was a film from 1981, with a beat cop investigating a series of weird murders; murders they'd previously only seen infrequently among the homeless community, but had recently escalated to take out a handful of big snooty developers. There's some interesting class-consciousness talk in there, plus some stuff about werewolves or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Spike Lee's Summer of Sam (1999) captured the drop dead vibe of 1977.
posted by whuppy at 12:00 PM on August 13

Not a movie, but there are old copies of New York Magazine on Google Books, many of which are from that era and very much capture the grit/danger/toughness of the times. On mobile so hard to link, but have a Google.
posted by mippy at 1:53 PM on August 13

How about Looking for Mr. Goodbar?
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 2:11 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

'Mixed Blood' (1984) by Paul Morrisey is kinda perfect for this question, the background grit & decay of Manhattan are almost like a character in the film. It's a dark comedy, and kinda funny if you're okay with gratuitous violence & drug use.

'Brother From Another Planet' (mentioned above) deserves more critical respect, it's one of the genius underrated films of the 80's.
posted by ovvl at 4:22 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Beat Street (if 1984 isn't too late). Super cheesy and I don't know how it's aged but I loved it when it came out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:12 PM on August 13

Times Square came out in 1980 and I remember it having a really gritty vibe to it. Plus Tim Curry!
posted by drinkmaildave at 1:00 PM on August 20

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