We’ve all had that moment — we’re watching a movie and suddenly we can’t help but yell, “I’ve been there!” in the middle of a crowded theater. Oh, we haven’t all done that? Whoops!
Whether or not you feel compelled to yell about it, if you live in Brooklyn, chances are you recognize places in movies constantly. Because the borough is such a popular filming location, it’s common to walk through a neighborhood and encounter some sort of set (and, if you pay attention, spot a celebrity!). The following are some of the most recognizable landmarks from famous films that you can visit tomorrow. Or next week. Or just whenever you have time.
The Brooklyn Bridge
There’s a shot of New York City’s most famous bridge in pretty much every single movie set in the city. It’s prominently featured in many, including Manhattan, The French Connection, Enchanted, Sex and the City, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, The Siege, *and a bunch of action movies in which it explodes (including *I Am Legend, Cloverfield, Godzilla *and *Deep Impact.) Fortunately, as of this writing it is perfectly intact and probably crowded with tourists.
Another popular filming location, Brooklyn’s biggest park can be seen in several movies, including classics like Sophie’s Choice and…not classics like A Winter’s Tale. Its famous boathouse is featured in Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the Edith Wharton classic The Age of Innocence.
Next to the Brooklyn Bridge, this is perhaps the most famous and most frequently used filming location in all of New York City. It can be seen in Beaches, Uptown Girl, Requiem For A Dream, Brooklyn *and my personal favorite *Two Weeks Notice, just to name a few. *Two Weeks Notice *features the famous Childs Restaurant Building on the Boardwalk as Lucy’s (Sandra Bullock) beloved Coney Island Community Center, which is set to be destroyed by her boss, wealthy developer George (Hugh Grant). Wow, what a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and watch it now — it’s a modern classic rom-com! (Yes, I realize it came out 16 years ago, but I saw it in theaters, so as far as I’m concerned it’s modern.)
Stuyvesant Avenue in Bed-Stuy
Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee’s most enduring film, is about a (very hot) day in the life of the residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Filmed mostly on Stuyvesant Ave. between Lexington Ave. and Quincy St., you’ll find few of the film’s notable locations (Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, for example, was simply a facade for the movie), but the block is a landmark unto itself.
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
Though this isn’t the real headquarters of the aforementioned society (it’s on Prospect Park West), you’ll find a plaque in front of a building on 16th street between 5th and 6th avenues in Park Slope bearing this title. The sign is there because the building served as the home of Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) in The Royal Tenenbaums, who supposedly lived in the Ethical Culture Society. The building is featured in the scene when Royal (Gene Hackman) asks his estranged wife Ethel (Angelica Huston) for a divorce.
Bensonhurst Elevated Railway
One of the most iconic moments in movie history, The French Connection’s car chase scene was filmed under the Stillwell Line in Bensonhurst. If it looks real when Gene Hackman’s police detective zooms all over the streets under the elevated subway line, nearly mowing down everyone in his path, that’s because the production reportedly failed to clear the streets before filming and one of the car crashes that occurs during the chase was actually real. I don’t recommend you recreate the car chase, but go walk around the area if you’d like — just make sure you look both ways.
The pink palace in Ditmas Park
While no longer pink, the beautiful house shared by Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol’s characters in Sophie’s Choice is still standing on Rugby Road in Ditmas Park. If you’ve never seen the movie you should. First of all, Meryl Streep gives one of the most remarkable performances in film history. Secondly, you may, like me, be throwing around the term “Sophie’s choice” without knowing its true, horrifying meaning. Do you know how many times I said, “it’s a real Sophie’s choice” when discussing ice cream flavors before I actually watched the movie and found out what it meant? Too many.
The Verrazano Bridge
In Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta’s character Tony Manero takes his love interest to the waterfront to gaze at the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. It’s a very sweet scene, despite the fact that Tony spends most of it talking about a worker who died while building the bridge and ended up buried in the cement.
This iconic Brooklyn neighborhood was showcased in James Grey’s romantic drama Two Lovers, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw. There are no immediately recognizable landmarks from the film to visit, but it captures the spirit of the neighborhood, and to be honest I just really love this movie. So please see it because a) I think you’ll really like it and b) if we ever meet in person, I’m going to want to talk about it, so you should be prepared.
The Moonstruck house
This movie won Cher an Oscar — what more do you need to know? One of the great classics of Brooklyn cinema, its most famous location was Cammareri Bros Bakery in Brooklyn Heights, which unfortunately closed a few years ago. Fortunately, its second most famous location, the Castorini family home located at 19 Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, is still standing so you can walk past and scream, “snap out of it!” at any time. (Please don’t do that. People live there so you should be quiet and should respect their home.)
This quiet neighborhood is featured in many films, including Spike Lee’s aptly titled Red Hook Summer. It was most recently showcased in a little movie called Hearts Beat Loud, about a man named Frank (Nick Offerman) whose local record store is failing as his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) is getting ready to leave for college. The movie captures the uniqueness of Red Hook as Frank spends a lot of time drinking at Sunny’s bar and noting how the area is changing — along with his life. Still in select theaters, I went into this movie thinking it would be a nice, lighthearted father-daughter story, which it was, but I also sobbed through half of it. Go see it and then head to Red Hook and congratulate yourself for recognizing so many locations.