A few months ago, I shared with you some of the best (and worst) television programs that feature New York City not only as the setting, but almost as one of the main characters. As a now-resident of New York, I love watching movies that feature my city as the location, as I love recognizing the scenery and the points of location. It makes me feel proud and excited that I can call this great city my home!

As with anything in the entertainment field, language plays an integral part of the production. It’s also a great cultural insight, as you can learn about fashion and beauty trends through the decades, slang and phrases that are specific to the times, and even musical influences. By watching these movies, you can get an idea of not only how New York City has changed throughout the years, but you can take a trip down the English language lane.

new york movie

Here are a few of my favorite movies that take place in New York City—and I’ll share how you can apply your English translation skills with each one.

Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985

I had to include this one first because this is simply just one of my favorite movies since I was a child. Madonna was a huge cultural musical icon in the 80s, so her role in this film was a really big deal. As a kid, I used to want to dress like her, do my hair like her, and even though I was too young, I yearned to do my makeup just like her! This movie took place in both Central Park and the Lower East Side; I now live 5 blocks from the park, and my office is just blocks from this neighborhood, so it’s crazy for me to watch how the scenery has changed in the past 30 years (as well as the fashion trends—yikes!). While you’re watching this movie, pay attention to the phrases that Madonna and the other actors use—while some of them are outdated, some are still applicable today! Try a few out during your daily life, and just wait to see how people react!

Manhattan (1979)

Aptly named, this is a New York City classic. If you’re not already familiar with Woody Allen, here’s your first introduction. Largely celebrated as a director that loves to make the city one of his main characters, he made this film as a “love letter to the city.” The plot centers around a love story, but if you can, focus more on the background imagery and the finer details. Since this is in black and white, there’s a certain nostalgic nod that Woody Allen uses to New York City. If you pay attention to this, you’ll notice that the movie is more about the city than about the tale of the two people. Listen to the way people speak to each other, and since this movie is decades old at this point, you might realize that many of the phrases are outdated and no longer used—but it’s still a great way to put your translation skills to practice.

Taxi Driver (1976)

This is another one of my personal favorites. The first time I watched it I wasn’t living in New York City just yet, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the background or the scenery. I was able to understand the plot and admire the acting of the legendary Robert De Niro. Years later, once I moved to the city, I decided to revisit the film and pay more attention to the location placement and observe how the sites have changed since 1979. Heavily placed in Times Square, you should also be able to notice the changes since then, and you might marvel at how people behaved and spoke to one another once upon a time. De Niro has a beautiful New York accent, so it should be fun watching and hearing it, since I’m sure you’ve heard it before at this point, too!

There are dozens of movies out there now that feature New York City as one of its main characters, but don’t forget about some of the classics so you can see how language and the city itself has evolved over the years!

Category : New York