Best Documentaries about New York City


A documentary is either a film or series based on real-life events. Sometimes, it also includes interviews of relevant people involved in the incidents. They are a unique combination of entertainment and information. They provide in-depth detail of the events but in a way that makes it interesting, and not boring.

Documentaries are a perfect way to learn about certain events. Several of them are based on the important parts of the world’s history, like natural disasters or wars. New York City has a famous yet fascinating past. There are a lot of documentaries that reflect the history and lifestyle of this beautiful city. The best of them are given below.

16 Acres (2012)

Directed by the infamous Richard Hankin, this documentary is for sure a masterpiece. The recovery after the incident of 11th September is beautifully portrayed in this documentary film. It revolves around the reconstruction of the World Trade Center and coping up with the destruction that the city had to go through after 9/11 attacks.

This movie debunked a lot of mysteries behind the 9/11 incident. It was named after the 16 acres of land that the World Trade Center stood on.

Dark Days (2000)

This American documentary film revolves around the life of the director, Marc Singer, when he started living with some homeless people in an Amtrak tunnel in Manhattan, New York. It follows the lifestyle and the struggles of the abandoned people living on their own without any support. It amazingly portrays the unique street life of the city.

This film explains the fact that sometimes, even great places have their shortcomings. And this documentary film shows the failings of the city of New York through its one of a kind story-line.

Treasures of New York (2015-present)

This famous series by PBS is one of the most glorious New York-based documentaries. It was released in the year 2015, and until now, it has five seasons.

The theme of the documentary is based on exploring the history, culture, and the lifestyle of the city. From the parks to the community centers, this series provides an inside view on every aspect. If you are interested in knowing about New York City, then this is definitely the right pick for you.

New York: A Documentary Films (1999-2003)

From the direction of Ric Burns, this eight-part documentary film is based on the history of New York City. It has a run time of about 18 hours, and it covers every aspect of the city.

The documentary was produced by Steeplechase Films. The focal point of making this documentary film was to highlight the historic values that this city of lights holds. All in all, investing your time watching this film would not only be informative but fun too.

The Cruise (1998)

This documentary is based on the views of Timothy Levitch, who used to be a popular tour guide in New York City. This was a low budget film with a solid background. It was released in 1998 as the debut film of the famous director, Bennett Miller.

It is a black and white film, with flat audio, and the basic music style. But, due to its simple technology, the story of the documentary grabs more attention. This is considered one of the best documentaries that are made about the city of New York.

Advanced Style (2014)

This unique documentary was inspired by the blog of Ari Cohen. He decided to start a campaign where he roamed around the city of New York in search of fashionable and stylish older women. It showed the concept of style inclusiveness and versatility.

This unique approach of Ari led to filming this documentary. It revolves around the lives of seven strong New York-based women and their fashion sense. Their lifestyle is described in this documentary in quite a powerful way.

Anyone interested in the field of fashion will appreciate the efforts that were put in by the makers to create this masterpiece.

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Directed by Richard Press, this documentary is all about the famous chronicler of the New York Times, Bill Cunningham. He spent most of his life photographing celebrities and writing about them in the paper.

He used to intimidate the icons to the point that they specially dressed for him so that he won’t critique. He was obsessed with fashion and trends in New York. He served this field for decades. This documentary is a full meal deal on the life of this fashion icon. It was released in 2010 and made a huge impact on the industry.

Paris is Burning (1990)

This documentary is all about the lives of New York’s drag queens. It revolves around their shows and lifestyle. It also features how they perform their day to day business. In short, it is an inside view of the drag community and their relations.

Directed by Jennie Levington, this documentary film proved to be revolutionary for the LGBTQ community of the country. Released in the year 1990, this documentary is now considered to be an important asset of America’s film industry.

The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry in 2016 by the Library of Congress. It is considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

New York Street Games (2010)

Released in the year 2010, this documentary film was directed by Matt Levy. It is all about the street games that the kids of New York have played for centuries. It highlights the importance of street games and the impact that they have on the development of a child’s brain.

This film also features interviews of some celebrities who discuss the role that street games played in their lives. All in all, it is a beautifully directed piece of information and entertainment.

A Study of Negro Artists (1930)

A Study of Negro Artists is a silent film that was released in the 1930s to highlight the fine-arts skills of the African-Americans. It is a 15-minute motion picture that was produced by Harlem Production. The purpose of this documentary was to promote inclusivity in the field of arts. In the time of severe discrimination, it showed how African nationals are important for the advancement of the country.

This documentary played a significant role in erasing the racial differences in America. It was screened in the New York Public Library. Indeed, it is an amazing film that has beautifully featured the diversity of color and arts.

City of Water (2007)

Based on the assumptions for the future of New York City, this film was made by the Municipal Art Society. Made in the direction of Jasper Goldman and Loren Tablot, this documentary was released in 2008. It features interviews of many important personalities of the country and their opinions on the development of the city.

Brooklyn Castle (2012)

This amazing piece by Katie Dellamaggiore revolves around the story of a high school located in the area of Brooklyn, New York. It features how the after-class activities of chess game completely changed the fate of the school.

It then follows the lives of the five best chess players of the school who are poor, but extremely talented. It displays all the hardships and struggles that were faced by the kids to become the best chess players in the country.

In the Street (1948)

This black and white documentary is a classic example of the golden era of the silent film industry. It is a 16-minute short film that features the street life of New York City.

This film was shot in a unique way, with hidden cameras placed carefully in the streets. The makers made sure to capture all the real aspects of day to day life of the citizens of New York. When this documentary was released, it proved to be a game-changer in the film industry.


New York City has a very colorful history. And the filmmakers of America truly know how to capture the essence of these life events through the lens of a camera. These documentaries wonderfully describe some of the most important times of the city.

Some of them revolve around the development and advancement of the country, while others portray the important events of history. In short, all of these are a true reflection of the culture, lifestyle, and history of New York City.

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