The 50 Best New York City Movies

21. The Naked City (1948)

Director: Jules Dassin
Leading Actors: Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart
NYC Neighborhoods Featured: Upper West Side; Dumbo, Brooklyn; Long Island City, Queens

If you weren't clear on where The Naked City is set before the film begins, it won't take but five seconds before the narrator tells you, from a weird, Twilight Zone-like perspective, that the movie you're watching was filmed entirely on location, with extras made up of real New Yawkers, et cetera. The intro would feel too congratulatory, if it weren't for the strength of the film. The Naked City is a straightforward noir, and though it's a well-paced mystery with sufficient twists, it's the city's enormous presence that makes the picture a classic. The whodunit is cut up with interstitials of citizens in habitat, children playing in open hydrants, women dress shopping, couples at the club, but dubbed with an audio track full of their (imagined) thoughts. Think Man with a Movie Camera crossed with Wings of Desire, plus the flare of Hitchcock. The murder at the film's heart spells real change for a quiet fraction of the city's population, and yet, as the newspaper exclaims that that crime has been solved, the camera pans to show the papers lining a gutter before they're swept up, just another story in a city of millions. —GT

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