Best Action Movies Set in New York City


One of the greatest advantages New York City offers to the visionary directors is the endless energy running throughout the city. It is the city that never sleeps – the subways, the dingy hallways, the dimly lighted pathways, and the contrast of posh and quiet neighborhoods present infinite possibilities to shoot an excellent action movie. Rich with adventure and suspense, the action movie scenes shot in New York offer close-to-reality cinematography. 

King Kong (1933)

The original monster movie classic that tells the story of a gigantic ape brought to New York City from Skull Island. King Kong’s escape and subsequent rampage, including the iconic Empire State Building scene, have become a crucial part of film history.

Gene_Hackman - 1972

The French Connection (1971)

Based on the non-fiction book by Robin Moore (1969), The French Connection is one of the most famous action movies of the 1970s. It revolves around the New York Police Department detectives who pursue a rich heroine smuggler named Alain Charnier. This action-packed series shot on some of the famous locations around the city won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Editing. 

The movie showcases numerous car chasing scenes shot on the 86th Street Brooklyn, 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue near to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Little Italy at 177 Mulberry Street; Forest Avenue; and Grand Central Station. 

Charles Bronson - 1966

Death Wish (1974) 

One of the first movies based on vigilante action exploitation, the Death Wish (1974), is based on a novel bearing the same name by Brian Garfield. The movie revolved around how Kersey, an architect, swears to take revenge for his wife’s murder and his daughter’s abuse by becoming a fearless vigilante. The movie is set in New York City, which provided an excellent backdrop to all the late-night crimes and planning for revenge. It was also criticized for openly advocating vigilante and thus raising the crime rate.

Some of the New York City locations shown in this movie include 33 Riverside Drive (Kersey’s apartment); Cypress Hills Cemetery in Cooper Avenue; Riverside Park located at West 99th Street; Mill Neck Manor School; and more. 

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) 

Perfectly filmed in the backdrop of New York City’s Subway Station wherein a group of criminals hold passengers hostage, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), is rated as one of the top action movies. It made a staggering 18.7 million as compared to its budget of 3.8 million dollars. While the scenes depicting exterior street shots above the hijacked subway station were filmed at the Park Avenue South, the movie also utilized a famous 19th-century mansion in Riverdale Bronx. The scenes of the train were shot at the IND Fulton Street Line in Brooklyn at an abandoned Court Street station. 

Taxi Driver (1976) 

The film, Taxi Driver, excellently portrays the destitute conditions of New York City after the Vietnam War. It is set in the times when the streets of New York City were brimming with anger and people lacking morality to snatch whatever they want and from whoever they desire. Starring Robert De Niro, the movie showcases the gradual descent of a taxi driver who commits several crimes. The movie made an exceptional earning of 28.4 million dollars against its budget of only $1.9 million. 

Some of the New York locations shown in the movie include 7th Avenue; The Olcott located at 27 West 72nd Street, Manhattan; Belmore Cafeteria at 407 Park Avenue South, Manhattan; and more.

The Warriors (1979)

A cult classic that follows a New York City gang trying to return to their home turf after being framed for murder. The film is a depiction of gang culture and the urban landscape of the city in the late 70s.

Escape from New York (1981)

The movie portrays crime-ridden New York City where the rising crimes have resulted in the conversion of the whole Manhattan Island into a maximum-security prison. The action-packed story of the movie depicts how this maximum-security prison is infiltrated and hijacked by the terrorists. Making 25.2 million dollars against the budget of 6 million, Escape from New York was one of the super hit movies of its times.

Some of the city’s most famous locations shown in the movie are East River (near Brooklyn Bridge), Statue of Liberty, and Liberty Island.

Ghostbusters (1984)

A blend of comedy and action, this cult classic follows a team of scientists who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. The film is famous for its humor, special effects, and the memorable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene.

Die Hard (1988)

Although primarily set in Los Angeles, this iconic action film starring Bruce Willis as NYPD officer John McClane has become synonymous with the genre. McClane’s one-man stand against terrorists in a high-rise building set a new standard for action movies.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

A poignant action film about a professional hitman who takes in a young girl after her family is murdered. Set in New York City, the film explores their growing bond and his efforts to protect her from corrupt DEA agents.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

Filmed in the majestic city of New York, Die Hard with a Vengeance is one amongst the famous Die Hard franchise movies written by Jonathan Hensleigh. The film made a staggering 366 million dollars and is packed with back to back action that keeps you glued to the screen and on the edge of your seats. The film has a star-studded cast including Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. There is a huge following of the Die Hard film series. 

Some of the famous New York City locations shown in the movie include 138th Street & Amsterdam Avenue; 72nd Street Subway; Wall Street Station; Federal Reserve Bank; Tompkins Square Park; and Yankee Stadium. 

American Psycho (2000)

Set in the 1980s, this film follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy New York City investment banker who hides his psychopathic ego from his friends. The movie delves into themes of materialism, narcissism, and identity in the backdrop of the bustling city.

Phone Booth (2002)

This intense thriller focuses on a public relations executive who answers a ringing phone booth, only to be trapped by a sniper’s deadly game. The film plays out in real-time, heightening the suspense and drama of the confined New York City setting.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) 

A prequel to The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), the Spider-Man 2 made youngsters and kids, alike, glued to their screens. The movie presents an intricate web of suspense-laden action scenes wherein Peter Parker combats the evils with his superhero powers. As many could relate to how fast and quick the subway system in New York City is; the movie also includes a detailed and gripping fighting scene between Peter and Octavius on the New York City Subway. Against the massive budget of $200 million, this action-packed movie made an astounding 789 million dollars on the box office. 

Some of the New York City locations shown in the movie include a New York City Subway train; Madison Square Park at Madison Avenue and East 26th Street; Columbia University; Bellevue Hospital; Rose Center for Earth & Space; and more. 

King Kong (2005)

A modern reimagining of the classic tale, this film by Peter Jackson follows a film crew to Skull Island where they discover the colossal ape, King Kong. The movie climaxes with King Kong’s capture and subsequent rampage through the streets of New York City.

I Am Legend (2007) 

Hit by a deadly virus that leaves only one person as a survivor in the whole city of New York, the movie I Am Legend, is about the survival and combat of Neville (played by Will Smith) against the mutants. Being immune to the virus, Neville keeps on surviving through the toughest fights against the mutants determined to develop a cure. The movie involves shooting one of the most expensive scenes at the Brooklyn Bridge, costing $5 million. 

As the movie required showing empty streets of New York City, numerous scenes were shot after closing some of the busiest areas of the city for a little while, such as Fifth Avenue and Washington Square Park. 

Cloverfield (2008)

A found-footage style movie that portrays a group of friends’ struggle to survive during a chaotic monster attack on New York City. The film is noted for its realistic portrayal and the suspenseful, first-person perspective of the catastrophic events.

Man on a Ledge (2012)

This thriller revolves around an ex-cop turned fugitive who threatens to jump from a Manhattan hotel ledge. While the NYPD attempts to talk him down, a larger, hidden heist unfolds, revealing that there’s more to the man’s situation than meets the eye.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) 

Part of one of the most successful and longest-running comic book series, Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) is shot in New York City and produced by Marvel Entertainment and Columbia Pictures. It involves an action-packed story about Peter Parker saving the city from a mysteriously mutated reptilian foe. The film made a staggering business of about 757.9 million dollars on the box office. 

Some of the famous locations of the city utilized in the movie include the Williams Bridge near the East River. Also, one of the most difficult rigs was built for a stunt with a series of wire along the Riverside Drive.  

Killerman (2019)

Set and filmed in New York City, the movie Killerman has Liam Hemsworth in the lead role. It is packed with action and revolves around Moe Diamond, played by Liam Hemsworth, who wakes up with no memory of his life and a lot of cash with him. The cash is, of course, laundered in the city and is illegal. 

The plot becomes interesting as a few dirty cops get involved and try to get in his way of knowing where the money came from. He scours of the streets of New York City in search for answers while chasing the bad cops away. 

21 Bridges (2019) 

Based on crimes and mysterious killing of the cops, 21 Bridges, showcases the bold step of an NYPD detective to close down the 21 bridges of Manhattan to track down the killers. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Andre Davis, the NYPD detective. This movie set and shot in New York City truly depicts the difficulty of being a detective in New York City and dealing with crimes and curbing them. 

Final Words 

It is not just about the locations; the vibes from New York City are incredibly artistic and magical as well. The Big Apple is considered a hub of activity and is known as the city that never sleeps. With its streets brimming with people from every walk of life, shooting an action-packed movie in New York City that involves street life and destruction of iconic buildings, is a great choice 

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