New York City has been the backdrop for some of the most memorable big screen love stories of all time. Walking around the city constantly brings you face-to-face with total recall moments of an onscreen meet-cute, knee-melting cinematic kiss, or heart-wrenching lovers’ quarrel. In honor of Valentine’s Day and Oscar season (a somewhat star-crossed but surefire duo unto themselves), we’re paying tribute to 14 iconic romantic NYC movie spots that make us fall in love all over again.
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Breakfast at Tiffany’s
That rain-soaked alleyway lip lock between Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard is one of the greatest movie kisses of all time, but at the beginning of the movie the real New York love story was between Holly Golightly and Tiffany and Co.
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The Way We Were
Of course Barbra Streisand’s Katie would row the boat while Robert Redford’s Hubbell relaxes on a beautiful day at the Central Park Lake in The Way We Were.
When Harry Met Sally
The epic New Year’s kiss in When Harry Met Sally was in a crowded downtown ballroom, but when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, shouldn’t it be it with spectacular views of Manhattan all around you? Whether it’s the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, getting engaged on Valentine’s Day, or any New York minute, the rooftop at The Knickerbocker’s St. Cloud is an unparalleled romantic NYC destination.
A full moon over New York City, La Bohème and the glamour of the Metropolitan Opera House… who wouldn’t be moonstruck? Although Cher’s Loretta lived in Brooklyn Heights, worked at a neighborhood funeral home that was actually in the West Village, and got engaged to Danny Aiello’s Johnny at what is now Cafe Cluny (also in the West Village), it was the moment that she got out of the cab in front of Lincoln Center that her dalliance with Nicholas Cage’s Ronny joined the pantheon of iconic NYC movie romances.
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Barefoot in the Park
Barefoot in the Park offered a stylish glimpse into late-1960s Greenwich Village, and many of the locations look quite similar today. Corie (Jane Fonda) and Paul (Robert Redford) Bratter’s newlywed apartment at 111 Waverly Place is still there, as, of course, is Washington Square Park, from which the movie gets its title — although we don’t recommend dumping a rubbish bin over your head like Redford’s shoeless Paul did.
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Love Affair / An Affair to Remember / Love Affair (again) / Sleepless in Seattle
The top of The Empire State Building has been the MacGuffin in at least four major cinematic romances: Love Affair (both the 1939 and 1994 versions), An Affair to Remember (1957) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). There’s no denying the building’s legendary status and spectacular views but, if film canon is to be believed, it tends to be a place where big romantic gestures turn into missed connections.
Although the modern NYC fairy tale apartment where Issa Rae lived in The Photograph is not open to the public, you can visit The Queens Museum where she worked. Located in a building that once housed the United Nations, and on the grounds of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, The Queens Museum is famously home to the Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square foot metropolis in miniature that originally replicated the city as it was in 1964, but has had periodic updates over the years.
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Most of the Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal romance in Love Story takes place in Cambridge, but after the couple graduate from Radcliffe and Harvard (for which Fordham University in the Bronx was a stand-in) and move to New York, there are some great shots of Fifth Avenue and two particularly poignant scenes at Central Park’s Wollman Rink.
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Falling in Love
Falling in Love is in the same genre as An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle, only instead of being centered around the Empire State Building, it’s about Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro as commuters who keep crossing paths and missing each other at Grand Central Station. Thanks to movie magic, the recurring scenes of Metro North trains and crowded 1980s train platforms seem sweet and romantic.
Saving Face is a 2004 cult classic about two Asian women falling in love. Their first date was filmed at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York’s longest-running off-Broadway theatre, which showcases the work of women, artists of color, artists over 60 and un-homed artists.
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Transplant Eliza Doolittle to the Staten Island Ferry and you’d have Working Girl. In fact, it’s hard to think of the movie without picturing Melanie Griffith’s scrappy secretary Tess McGill, gazing at Manhattan from the prow of the ferry in her 1980s shoulder pads and commuter sneakers, but her romance with Harrison Ford’s sweetly supportive Jack helps this Mike Nichols rom-com stand the test of time.
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If you happen to be walking near 102 Prince Street in Soho and hear the strains of Unchained Melody, don’t be alarmed. It’s just because it was the home of Molly (Demi Moore) and Sam (Patrick Swayze) in Ghost. Fans of the movie can pose outside their building, which still has the instantly recognizable large windows and iconic cast iron façade that once characterized Soho’s architecture.
Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack actually skated at Central Park’s Wollman Rink in the 2001 movie, Serendipity, but at Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park, they could have skated for free, brought their own frozen hot chocolate, and cozied up in a private igloo.
West Side Story
While the original West Side Story movie sets consisted mainly of empty lots, chain-link fences and nondescript alleys in and around Hells Kitchen, the 2021 remake moved around a bit more: most romantically to The Cloisters, where Maria and Tony profess their love for one another and sing One Hand, One Heart.
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