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5 Iconic New York Locations Featured in Oscar-Winning Movies

Written by Javier Peinado

When it comes to Oscar-winning movies, it’s actually hard to imagine a film where the city of New York doesn’t play a significant part in it. But, how about those who got the specific Academy Award of Best Picture of the year they were released? Yep, that sought-after recognition makes the list quite a bit shorter. Can you remember 5 of them? No? Worry not, avid moviegoer. Next time you find yourself enjoying all the Big Apple has to offer, just keep this list handy to relive some big cinematic moments at these Oscar movie locations in NYC!

East Harlem (West Side Story, 1961)

Commonly considered one of the best musicals of all time, Hollywood’s adaptation of this beloved Broadway classic about the rhythmic feud between the Jets and the Sharks featured an emblematic Manhattan neighborhood during its iconic initial sequence.  Although most of the movie’s scenes were filmed inside the Samuel Goldwyn Studio — aka The Lot — at  West Hollywood, the filmmakers set the opening dance scenes at 110th St, right between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. Fun fact: some scenes were also shot in front of a tenement building that was about to be demolished…in order to make space for the construction of Lincoln Center!

Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (The Godfather, 1972)

You better keep reading now, because we’re about to make you an offer you can’t refuse…to dive into the real locations where The Godfather was filmed, of course! An atemporal masterpiece to many generations (and counting), the first installment of the epic drama of the Corleone family showed us a good deal of New York from beginning to end. It’s precisely at the epic climax of the movie when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)  attends his nephew’s baptism as the baby’s godfather…while all hell breaks loose outside as part of a citywide “housecleaning” put in place by the man himself. Spoilers aside, the interior of the church where such baptism takes place is no other than the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, a stunning temple located in Manhattan’s NoLita which serves as the “first” St. Patrick’s before its most famous and visited iteration “moved” to the heart of Fifth Avenue.

East Village (The Godfather Part II, 1974)

Everybody thought movie sequels weren’t any good…until The Godfather Part II won the Academy Award to Best Picture, that is! Something major indeed, considering the first installment of the Corleone saga already got the same recognition just two years before. There are a lot of iconic scenes we could choose from this movie, but one of the most remembered has to be when a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) assassinates the old-timer racketeer Don Fanucci using the St. Genaro street celebrations that take place every year at Little Italy as the ideal setting. Then, how come we’re referring to Manhattan’s East Village instead? Good question. As it turns out, Sixth St. (between Avenues A and B) was conveniently transformed into the festive and colorful Mulberry St. of 1917 thanks to period dressing and healthy doses of moviemaking magic. So, next time you find yourself pub-crawling Alphabet City’s dive bars, remember that it used to be the true birthplace of the Corleone criminal empire. How cool is that?

Lenox Hill (Annie Hall, 1977)

Few award-winning movies spell “New York” as much as this Woody Allen’s film. From Brooklyn’s Coney Island to Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, the story of comedian Alvy Singer is a true New York classic on its own right. Since it’d be a gigantic endeavor to name all the places visible in the movie, we’ll focus on Annie Hall’s apartment, the one with the impressive rooftop and, apparently, “spiders and bad plumbing”…

Located at East 68th St. & Madison Avenue, right in front of Central Park, it’s hard to imagine a fanciest neighborhood to live in than this affluent area right below the city’s Upper East Side, filled with art galleries and elegant townhouses and apartments anywhere you look!

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St. James Theatre (Birdman, 2014)

We put an end to our knickerbocker movie tour by closing the curtain at the very heart of Manhattan’s Theater District. Just a stone’s throw away from Times Square is the theatre where Michael Keaton ran from the backdoor to the front, making his way through the usual crowd of people passing by, in only his underwear. The St. James Theatre is also one of the venerable theaters located alongside 44th St., right next to the Majestic, the Broadhurst, or the Shubert to name just a few of the entertainment landmarks you can find between 7th and 8th Avenues. The St. James is really present in the movie: we can appreciate not only its exterior, but the stage, dressing rooms, orchestra seats, and lobby too. So, if you booked cheap last minute flights to enjoy a good play at the entertainment capital of the world, this is a good option to fans of theater and movies alike!

About the author

Javier Peinado

Born in Barcelona. Raised in Madrid. New Yorker at heart. When he is not geeking out at a comic book convention or binge-watching superhero shows, this bilingual journalist loves to discover secret venues and hidden places around the world to fill his insatiable wanderlust. He also digs into ghost-busting, Bigfoot-hunting, and UFO-sighting. The truth is out there.

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