In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section New York City and Cinema

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Edited Collections
  • Early Cinema to the Second World War
  • Auteurs
  • Experimental and Underground Cinema
  • The City Symphony
  • New York Film Culture
  • Boroughs and Neighborhoods
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Key Films
  • Contexts: Urban, Cultural and Architectural History

Cinema and Media Studies New York City and Cinema
Lawrence Webb
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0287


New York City has played a vital role in the history of American cinema. This bibliography draws together divergent strands of scholarship that approach the topic of New York City and cinema from multiple perspectives. The iconic cityscapes and distinctive cultural milieux of New York have provided both setting and subject matter for countless movies, whether filmed on location or recreated in Hollywood studios. There is a significant body of work that addresses New York onscreen, analyzing urban narratives and Genres and the use of locations, architecture, and specific areas of the city. This work has explored how cinema has engaged with the changing nature of New York over time, and investigated the representation of the city’s neighborhoods and ethnic groups. An important subsection of this scholarship pursues New York’s special relationship with particular film genres, such as The City Symphony, Musicals, Film Noir, and the Romantic Comedy. In the critical literature, New York has frequently been associated with the work of specific directors, including Sidney Lumet, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee, as well as key figures in experimental film such as Shirley Clarke, Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol. New York has also been an important site for film production and exhibition. Although the American film industry has been predominantly based in Southern California since the 1910s, New York has always been Hollywood’s second city. In the studio era, it was home to the studios’ corporate headquarters and a string of highly profitable first-run theatres. Although filming in the city has waxed and waned, New York has always played an influential role as a regional production hub, a source of talent, and a center for film criticism. The city can claim a pivotal role in the development of early cinema, and it therefore holds a privileged place in histories of early film production and exhibition. New York has also operated in multiple ways as a counterpoint to Hollywood and a crucible for independent or alternative film culture. Experimental filmmaking has flourished in New York, especially in the mid-20th century, and the city has long operated as a vital hub for independent distribution as well as fostering a network of underground and nontheatrical exhibition spaces. This is addressed in intersecting bodies of work on experimental and independent film, and on New York Film Culture. There is now an extensive critical literature on the wider relationship between cinema and the city (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies article The City in Film by Pamela Robertson Wojcik for a more general cinema-city bibliography). This bibliography only includes sources that focus (in whole or in part) on New York City in particular.

General Overviews and Edited Collections

There are few books that provide a general survey of New York and cinema, as much of the scholarship in this area is organized around specific historical periods, geographical areas, Genres, directors, or themes. Sanders 2002 provides perhaps the broadest vantage point on the history of New York as setting and visual landscape for Hollywood films and is a crucial starting point for work on the subject. The essays in Pomerance 2007 provide a varied set of entry points to the topic of New York on screen. Harris 2011 is a useful, if selective, source of information on filming locations.

  • Harris, Scott Jordan, ed. World Film Locations: New York. Bristol: Intellect, 2011.

    Accessible, illustrated guide to selected New York films and their locations, with maps and stills. Includes short profiles of New York filmmakers and key landmarks. Popular rather than scholarly, but may provide a useful reference guide for students.

  • Pomerance, Murray, ed. City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

    Anthology of essays that address various aspects of New York’s image on screen. Includes essays on films by Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Sidney Lumet, and Roman Polanski.

  • Sanders, James. Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. New York: Knopf, 2002.

    Panoramic overview of New York and film across the 20th century, focusing on the relationship between the real city and the “mythic city” of the movies. Combines substantial, carefully researched sections on topics such as Hollywood production design with shorter chapters that map out a typology of screen spaces—from apartments, tenements, and lofts, to stations, skyscrapers, and nightclubs. Accessible yet scholarly. Beautifully illustrated with 328 black and white images.

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