Known for its pulsing creativity, it’s no wonder Brooklyn has captured the imagination of so many filmmakers. While it may be a far cry from Manhattan, there’s no shortage of cultural sites, buzzing streets and architectural oddities. From Coney Island to Bedford-Stuyvesant, it’s been the inspiration and setting for a whole range of movies. Experience this edgy district vicariously and take a look at these famous movies filmed in Brooklyn.
7 Famous Movies Filmed in Brooklyn
1. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Best movie locations: Stuyvesant Avenue
This cult-classic is so synonymous with Brooklyn, that the district’s authorities renamed a whole street ‘Do the Right Way’. Directed, written and produced by Spike Lee, the movie chronicles a hot summers day in Brooklyn. As the clock ticks, racial tensions hit boiling point. Most of the movie was filmed in Bedford-Stuyvesant, on the block between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street.
Sadly, you won’t be able to visit Sal’s famous pizzeria since it was constructed on set. But you can take a stroll across town to Mookie’s pad, Mother Sister’s house and the FM 108 We Love Radio Studio, where DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel Jackson) hosts his show.
2. Brooklyn (2015)
Best movie locations: Coney Island
Surprisingly, a lot of the romantic period drama Brooklyn was actually shot in a studio. The movie follows Eilis Lacey, a young Irishwoman who emigrates to Brooklyn after WWII. Since it was too difficult and expensive to revert modern-day Brooklyn to the ’50s, producers settled on a set in Montreal instead. But one of the movie’s most iconic scenes was filmed in the New York district.
Take a stroll to Coney Island, where Tony took Eilis to celebrate passing her exams. The whole scene was shot in two days on the boardwalk and the beach. They stripped out all post-1951 buildings and added in people with CGI to make the beach look busier, but it’s otherwise very recognisable.
3. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Best movie locations: Bay Bridge, Lenny’s Pizza, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
With its hip-swinging moves and shimmying flares, this iconic film fuelled global disco fever in the late ’70s. The film stars John Travolta as Tony, an Italian-American from Brooklyn who wants to dominate the dance floor. This feel-good classic was filmed across Brooklyn but there are a few truly iconic destinations you’ll want to visit.
First up, head to Lenny’s Pizzeria on 86th Street. Order two slices of pizza, Tony style. Take a peek at Phillips School of Dancing, where Tony meets his new dancing partner. Last up is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which holds some serious significance for Tony and where he sees his future.
4. Goodfellas (1990)
Best movie locations: 32nd & 80th Street
Goodfellas tells the story of Henry Hill, who grew up in Brooklyn and turned to a life of crime to survive. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, it’s one of Hollywood’s most famous gangster films. It was actually adapted from Nicolas Pellegi’s 1986 novel, and fans of both the movie and the book should head to Brooklyn to get up close to some of the characters’ local haunts.
The movie’s opening scene depicts a young Henry looking out of his window in Brooklyn. That same house is still standing on 32nd street. Other locations include the site where Tony ‘got whacked’ on 80th street and Smith-Ninth Street Stations. There are dozens more locations dotted around the district. If you want to see them all you can even take a dedicated Goodfellas tour of the city.
5. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Best movie locations: The Pink Palace
Set in post-WW2 Brooklyn, Sophie’s Choice tells the story of a Nazi camp survivor who is unable to come to terms with the trauma of her past. Meryl Street won a Best Actress Oscar for her heart-wrenching performance. While many of the movies filming locations no longer exist, you can still visit the iconic ‘Pink Palace’. It featured as the boarding house where the three main characters lived. The crew painted the house raspberry pink for the movie, but today it’s a more mundane red and grey. Still the same bricks and mortar though — and definitely worth a snap.
6. Uptown Girls (2003)
Best movie locations: Coney Island
If you were a teen in the early ‘noughties, you’ll be familiar with this classic chick-flick. The film centres around Molly (played by Brittany Murphy). She’s a spoiled wealthy woman who loses her inheritance and ends up striking up an unlikely friendship with a difficult child. Most of the movie is filmed in Upstate New York, but one of the movies most tender moments is shot on Coney Island. Remember the teacup carousel? You can take a ride on the very same one today.
7. The French Connection (1971)
Best movie locations: Sitwell Avenue, Malboro Housing Project, Wyckoff Avenue
One of movie history’s most famous car chases was filmed in Brooklyn. If you haven’t seen it, the movie sees a pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a ‘French Connection’. It took over five weeks to shoot the cars tail-spinning between bay 50th and 80th along the Sitwell Avenue track.
As well as the Sitwell Avenue track, you can also visit Popeye’ home in the Malboro Housing Project. Sal & Angie’s restaurant is now a very good Mexican restaurant called Mesa Azteca, on Wyckoff Avenue — worth a trip in its own right!