CATEGORIES FeaturesWith the release of his cop drama 'Brooklyn's Finest,' out this Friday, director Antoine Fuqua continues the fine tradition of movies set in New York City's most colorful -- and currently hippest (sorry, Manhattan!) -- borough.
Indeed, Brooklyn has had a starring role in some of Hollywood's most acclaimed films, as well as several outstanding indies. From crime dramas to character studies, these movies, like Brooklyn itself, represent diverse neighborhoods and ethnicities, as well as distinct eras. While we can't possibly include all movies that are set in the County of Kings, here are some of the most noteworthy: With the release of his cop drama 'Brooklyn's Finest,' out this week, director Antoine Fuqua continues the fine tradition of movies set in New York City's most colorful -- and currently hippest (sorry, Manhattan!) -- borough.
Indeed, Brooklyn has had a starring role in some of Hollywood's most acclaimed films, as well as several outstanding indies. From crime dramas to character studies, these movies, like Brooklyn itself, represent diverse neighborhoods and ethnicities, as well as distinct eras. While we can't possibly include all movies that are set in the County of Kings, here are some of the most noteworthy:
'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' (1945)
Elia Kazan's classic film, based on the popular Betty Smith novel, follows the travails of young Francie Nolan (Peggy Ann Garner) who lives with her impoverished Irish-American family in a turn-of-the century Williamsburg tenement. The struggling clan's survival is mirrored by a tree that grows in the backyard despite tough conditions. Sentimental but realistic.
'The French Connection' (1971)
Though William Friedkin's multi-Oscar-winning crime thriller is set all around New York City, its famous car chase -- perhaps the most memorable film chase ever -- takes place in Bensonhurst, with Detective 'Popeye' Doyle (Gene Hackman) in chaotic pursuit of a hitman who's escaped onto the elevated subway train above. Incredibly, this dangerous stunt was filmed without permission from the city! Ah, the lawless '70s...
'Dog Day Afternoon' (1975)
Another tense crime drama -- hey, Brooklyn doesn't have a tough reputation for nothin' -- Sidney Lumet's 'Dog Day Afternoon' is based on the true story of an eccentric bank robber who holds up a Chase Manhattan branch in Gravesend to finance his lover's sex change surgery. As the agitated but sensitive perp whose robbery devolves into a hostage situation and media circus, Al Pacino gives one of the performances of his career. ("Attica! Attica!")
'The Lords of Flatbush' (1974)
It may not have been the most profound movie to come out in '74, but this low-budget indie helped launch the careers of Henry 'The Fonz' Winkler and a pre-'Rocky' Sylvester Stallone, as well as providing a relatively realistic depiction of the titular neighborhood and its young denizens. At the time, it was refreshing addition to the era's raging '50s nostalgia.
'Saturday Night Fever' (1977)
Based on a New York Magazine article, 'Saturday Night Fever' is a gritty yet entertaining look at the then-burgeoning disco scene in working-class, largely Italian-American Bay Ridge. John Travolta's portrayal of the rough-edged but smooth-dancing Tony Manero, who dreams of breakin' outta his humdrum existence, launched the former sitcom star into the Hollywood stratosphere. Responsible for disco's (and the Bee Gees') domination of the airwaves for years to come.
Another Italian-American family is the subject of 'Moonstruck,' perhaps the most feel-good film ever to be set in Brooklyn. John Patrick Shanley's excellent screenplay tells the story of a mousy Brooklyn widow (an Oscar-winning Cher) who falls in unexpected love with a baker (Nicholas Cage, back when he was sexy-crazy) who's so wildly romantic she has to tell him to "snap out of it!" Additional great performances by Olympia Dukakis (another Oscar) and Danny Aiello, plus the backdrop of beautiful brownstone Brooklyn Heights (and, OK, maybe a little Manhattan) make this one of the best rom-coms ever.
'Do the Right Thing' (1989)
No director has set more movies in Brooklyn than Spike Lee ('She's Gotta Have It,' 'Crooklyn,' 'Clockers'), who spent his formative years in the borough and based his production company in Fort Greene. This groundbreaking, controversial 1989 film, starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and John Turturro, remains his masterpiece. A startling portrayal of the simmering racial tensions of 1980s Bedford-Stuyvesant.
A Park Slope cigar shop presided over by Harvey Keitel is the heart of 'Smoke,' an offbeat and beautifully nuanced film co-written by Brooklyn novelist Paul Auster and director Wayne Wang. William Hurt is excellent as the grieving novelist who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young local, but all the neighborhood characters -- and their individual stories -- are memorable.
'Little Odessa' (1994)
James Gray's grim, haunting first feature, about a Russian mob hitman who returns to his family and the old neighborhood (Brighton Beach) features heart- and gut-wrenching performances from Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Edward Furlong, and Tim Roth as the prodigal son/violent mobster. Though steeped in local atmosphere, it's no 'Brighton Beach Memoirs.'
'The Squid and the Whale' (2005)
Noah Baumbach's funny/painful semi-autobiographical film is set in the gentrifying Park Slope of the 1980s. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are totally believable as a bitter, pompous professor and his resentful writer wife whose messy divorce wreaks havoc on their sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline). Significant detail: Linney's character gets to keeps their townhouse while her husband moves to a shabby place on the other side of Prospect Park. The trauma!
'Half Nelson' (2006)
Ryan Gosling's reputation as an amazing actor was cemented with director Ryan Fleck's bleak indie (based on his short film 'Gowanus, Brooklyn') about the odd friendship between an idealistic, crack-addicted young Brooklyn teacher and one of his students, nicely played by Red Hook's own Shareeka Epps. Filmed in East New York, Fort Greene and other BK hoods, 'Half Nelson' is provocative and uncompromising.