As Jonah Goldberg recently noted, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mayor John Lindsey, while driving New York City into the ground, was praised by his defenders for fulfilling his vow to “‘throw open the city to producers from Hollywood,’ ushering in a renaissance in New York filmmaking.” At City Journal, Michael Anton has a “Back to the Future Film Festival,” a thorough round-up of the hellspawn that craptacular era in New York’s existence dredged up for all of America to see on the big screen:
The times in New York are about to get, as they say, “interesting.” Having elected a liberal dopier than David Dinkins and John Lindsay combined, New Yorkers are in for a wild ride. It’s been pointed out that fully one-third of the city’s population is under age 24 and another third between 25 and 44. That means that at least a third has no memory of the Dinkins or Lindsay eras at all—and well over half have no memory of the financial crisis, the welfare spike, the crime wave, the crack epidemic, the Crown Heights riots, the “vibrant” old Times Square, and the whole panoply of scum and villainy that for the better part of two decades made New York so gosh-darn “colorful.” And that’s only if you assume that everyone who lives here was born here. But New York’s fantastic run over the last 20 years has attracted a lot of out-of-towners, so the actual number of ignorant rubes in for the shock of their lives is higher. Well, all these transplants are about to discover, the hard way, that they aren’t in Kansas anymore.
For anyone wishing to get acclimated ahead of time, New York’s colorful past has been amply recorded on film. What follows is a short tour through some of the most memorable, classic films of Old New York—not Edith Wharton’s but Travis Bickle’s.
Three caveats: first, please don’t consider this list exhaustive. It’s meant merely to be representative. Second, I’m including only films that were actually shot on location in New York. Hollywood back lots just can’t provide the same flavor. Third, I’m not including period pieces. Only films actually set and shot during New York’s Rust Age will be considered.
So, in chronological order, here we go.
Read the whole thing, and then head to Netflix to watch the horrorshows unfold.
Or simply stop by a Big Apple near you, possibly starting next year.