Miss the crime-ridden city of the 1990s? New York City crime is alive and well — in the movies.
With dozens of films made in and about New York, there’s a crime film good enough to satisfy the most discriminating viewer.
There are a few that are just better than the rest. Everyone will have their list of personal favorites. Here’s another list to toss into the pile.
One of the finest films from the 1970s, Serpico is the actual story of Frank Serpico. Serpica fought corruption in the NYPD and was nearly killed because of his work. Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar. New York City in 1973 is the second lead in the movie. No soundstage or backlot could result in the grittiness seen in the movie.
A 1948 classic, The Naked City, is the original modern New York crime story and the one against all other are judged. Shot in black and white, The Naked City still inspires moviemakers, writers, and directors with its raw documentary style.
Joe Buck, played by Jon Voight, heads to New York from Texas hoping of earning a living as a male prostitute. It doesn’t go so well. Become friends with a local conman, “Ratso,” Buck finds he’s doomed. The 1969 movie is a story about loneliness, the lack of a real American Dream and how New York City tromps on dreamers.
Walter Matthau’s character, Zachary Garber, is a transit police officer and tries to save a hijacked train car. Everyone in the movie is relaxed and lacking maliciousness regardless of the big money states, numerous hostages and everything else thrown it. Taking of Pelham inspired Quentin Tarantino when he wrote Reservoir Dogs — another story about friendly robbers.
Run All Night was a snapshot of New York City in 2014. The movie didn’t make a splash when it was released for a variety of reasons. This overlooked gem will find new life on cable with its pained performance by Liam Neeson and Ed Harris.
Michael Martin wrote Brooklyn’s Finest for a screentest he didn’t win. He still sold the script for $200,000 and the movie was shot on the streets of the city. Telling the story of three very different cops, the film is a gritty crime drama playing closer to Aesop’s fable. It ends with the inevitable hailstorm of flying bullets and wrecked cars.
The movie is a classic and was nominated for ten Academy Awards. Al Pacino, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, boycotted the awards ceremony as he believed he should have been nominated for Best Actor. That award went to Marlon Brando for his role in the movie.
Martin Scorsese’s epic about Henry Hill became the template for a suite of movies to follow including Scorsese’s Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. With bittersweet joy derived from the final act, the movie is almost a collection of short films in themselves.
No list of Top New York Crime movies would be complete without Taxi Driver. Travis Bickle, a misanthropic Taxi Driver and shellshocked from Vietnam, scares aways his dates, suffers from insomnia and is unable to fit into society. With multiple interpretations of the film’s meaning and especially the ending, there’s a reminder to the viewer: In a city of millions, you never know what’s going on the lives of people you pass in the street.