Gritty, Grimey New York City - Early 70's to Mid 80's

A list of movies filmed on location on the streets of NYC circa 1970 - 1985. It started off as a topic in the recommendations message board and I decided to make a list out of it so others could enjoy this troubled part of NYC's past. The movies range from straight-up classics (The French Connection) to straight-up nonsense (1990 Bronx Warriors), but they all share one unique characteristic: a gritty, grimey atmosphere that can't be reproduced on a Hollywood soundstage. Enjoy.
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1.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A naive hustler travels from Texas to New York to seek personal fortune but, in the process, finds himself a new friend. (113 mins.)
“ Even though this was filmed pre-1970, I had to include it. ” - dr.gonzo-4
 
2.
Shaft (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter. (100 mins.)
Director: Gordon Parks
 
3.
The French Connection (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection. (104 mins.)
 
4.
Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
In New York, South Bronx's main police precinct is nicknamed Fort Apache by its employees who feel like troopers surrounded by hostiles in a wild west isolated outpost. (125 mins.)
Director: Daniel Petrie
 
5.
Mean Streets (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob. (112 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
 
6.
Crazy Joe (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
The rise and fall of a Mafia gangster, based on the life of murdered New York gangster "Crazy" Joey Gallo. (100 mins.)
Director: Carlo Lizzani
 
7.
Hell Up in Harlem (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A gangster in Harlem must rescue his ex-wife, who has been kidnapped by the Mafia. (94 mins.)
Director: Larry Cohen
 
8.
The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Follows the lives of heroin addicts who frequent "Needle Park" in New York City. (110 mins.)
 
9.
Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head... (97 mins.)
Director: Ossie Davis
 
10.
Claudine (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
In the 1970s Harlem, garbage collector Roop feels intimidated by the idea of dating Claudine who is a single mother of six on welfare. (92 mins.)
Director: John Berry
 
11.
The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
A woman begins to suspect that her brother is possessed by a voodoo spirit. (105 mins.)
Director: Waris Hussein
 
12.
Three the Hard Way (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
The story involves a white supremist plot to taint the United States water supply with a toxin that is harmless to whites but lethal to blacks... (89 mins.)
 
13.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus. (125 mins.)
Director: Sidney Lumet
 
14.
Aaron Loves Angela (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  
In New York City, a young black boy and Puerto Rican girl fall in love despite objections from each other's families. (99 mins.)
 
15.
Marathon Man (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A graduate history student is unwittingly caught in the middle of an international conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, an exiled Nazi war criminal, and a rogue government agent. (125 mins.)
 
16.
Serpico (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
An honest New York cop named Frank Serpico blows the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. (130 mins.)
Director: Sidney Lumet
 
17.
Super Fly (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
The daily routine of cocaine dealer Priest who wants to score one more super deal and retire. (93 mins.)
 
18.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away? (104 mins.)
Director: Joseph Sargent
 
19.
Black Caesar (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Tommy Gibbs is a tough kid, raised in the ghetto, who aspires to be a kingpin criminal. As a young boy... (87 mins.)
Director: Larry Cohen
 
20.
Willie Dynamite (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A social worker tries to get a pimp to change his ways. (102 mins.)
Director: Gilbert Moses
 
21.
The Education of Sonny Carson (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A gifted young man is caught up in gang life. (104 mins.)
Director: Michael Campus
 
22.
Report to the Commissioner (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Police officer Patty Butler, alias "Chicklet," is the live-in girlfriend of Thomas 'Stick' Henderson to gather evidence. Detective Bo Lockley is instructed to try to find her, not knowing she's also a cop. (112 mins.)
Director: Milton Katselas
 
23.
Shaft's Big Score! (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Shaft is back to find the murderer of an old friend on the cold hard city streets with a little help from his new friends. (104 mins.)
Director: Gordon Parks
 
24.
Taxi Driver (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, while attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process. (113 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
 
25.
They Might Be Giants (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In a Manhattan psychiatric hospital a man, convinced he is Sherlock Holmes, is treated by a female doctor who happens to be named Watson. (98 mins.)
Director: Anthony Harvey
 
26.
The Warriors (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In the near future, a charismatic leader summons the street gangs of New York City in a bid to take it over. When he is killed, The Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down. (92 mins.)
Director: Walter Hill
 
27.
Wild Style (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Legendary New York graffiti artist Lee Quinones plays the part of Zoro, the city's hottest and most elusive graffiti writer... (82 mins.)
Director: Charlie Ahearn
 
28.
Night of the Juggler (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A tough, New York City ex-cop relentlessly searches for his kidnapped teenage daughter whom is held by a twisted psycho after mistaking her for the daughter of a wealthy businessman. (101 mins.)
Director: Robert Butler
 
29.
Cruising (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A police detective goes undercover in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men. (102 mins.)
 
30.
Smithereens (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A narcissistic runaway engages in a number of parasitic relationships amongst members of New York's waning punk scene. (89 mins.)
Director: Susan Seidelman
 
31.
80 Blocks from Tiffany's (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Depicts the daily life of gangs within the context of the South Bronx. Deals primarily with two African American and Puerto Rican gangs known as the "Savage Skulls" and the "Savage Nomads". (67 mins.)
Director: Gary Weis
 
32.
Beat Street (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
An aspiring DJ, from the South Bronx, and his best friend, a promoter, try to get into show business by exposing people to hip-hop music and culture. (105 mins.)
Director: Stan Lathan
 
33.
1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
In a post-apocalyptic New York City, a policeman infiltrates the Bronx, which has become a battleground for several murderous street gangs. (92 mins.)
 
34.
South Bronx Heroes (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.1/10 X  
A young man just released from prison and living with his sister crosses paths with two children, also brother and sister, who are on the run from their child pornographer foster parents. (85 mins.)
Director: William Szarka
 
35.
Gordon's War (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Four Vietnam Vets go to war against the drug dealers and pimps of Harlem. (90 mins.)
Director: Ossie Davis
 
36.
Death Wish (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark. (93 mins.)
Director: Michael Winner
 
37.
Across 110th Street (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Two New York City cops go after amateur crooks who are trying to rip off the Mafia and start a gang war. (102 mins.)
Director: Barry Shear
 
38.
After Hours (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An ordinary word processor has the worst night of his life after he agrees to visit a girl in Soho whom he met that evening at a coffee shop. (97 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
 
39.
Prince of the City (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted. (167 mins.)
Director: Sidney Lumet
 
40.
The Driller Killer (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.0/10 X  
An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill. (96 mins.)
Director: Abel Ferrara
 
41.
Ms .45 (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A timid and mute seamstress goes insane after being attacked and raped twice in one day, in which she takes to the streets of New York City after dark and randomly shoots men with a .45 caliber pistol. (80 mins.)
Director: Abel Ferrara
 
42.
The Brother from Another Planet (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A mute alien with the appearance of a black human is chased by outer-space bounty hunters through the streets of Harlem. (108 mins.)
Director: John Sayles
 
43.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A Brooklyn teenager feels his only chance to succeed is as the king of the disco floor. His carefree youth and weekend dancing help him to forget the reality of his bleak life. (118 mins.)
Director: John Badham
 
44.
Trading Places (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires. (116 mins.)
Director: John Landis
 
45.
Year of the Dragon (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A police detective cracks down on organized crime in Chinatown after the murders of Triad and Mafia leaders. (134 mins.)
Director: Michael Cimino
 
46.
Wolfen (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A New York cop investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks. (115 mins.)
 
47.
The Hot Rock (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Dortmunder and his pals plan to steal a huge diamond from a museum. But this turns out to be only the first time they have to steal it... (101 mins.)
Director: Peter Yates
 
48.
Badge 373 (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
After his suspension for the shooting death of drug runner, a New York City cop vows to keep the streets clean, any way he can. (116 mins.)
Director: Howard W. Koch
 
49.
The Seven-Ups (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A tough detective who is part of an elite New York City unit is trying to find out who killed his partner, but uncovers a plot to kidnap mobsters for money. (103 mins.)
Director: Philip D'Antoni
 
50.
God Told Me To (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A New York detective investigates a series of murders committed by random New Yorkers who claim that "God told them to." (91 mins.)
Director: Larry Cohen
 
51.
Short Eyes (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A child molester sent to prison finds that criminals exact harsher justice than society. (100 mins.)
Director: Robert M. Young
 
52.
Fingers (1978)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A dysfunctional young man is pulled between loyalties to his Italian mob-connected loan shark father and his mentally disturbed Jewish concert pianist mother. (90 mins.)
Director: James Toback
 
53.
Gloria (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
When a young boy's family is killed by the mob, their tough neighbor Gloria becomes his reluctant guardian. In possession of a book that the gangsters want, the pair go on the run in New York. (123 mins.)
Director: John Cassavetes
 
54.
Maniac (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A psychopath, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree? (87 mins.)
Director: William Lustig
 
55.
The Exterminator (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
A man's best friend is killed on the streets of New York. The man (Robert Ginty) then transforms into a violent killer, turning New York into a great war zone and Christopher George is the only one to stop him. (99 mins.)
 
56.
Downtown 81 (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The film is a day in the life of a young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat, who needs to raise money to reclaim... (72 mins.)
Director: Edo Bertoglio
 
57.
Nighthawks (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Conservative street cop DaSilva reluctantly agrees to terminate an international terrorist who has demanded media attention. But DaSilva's "at-home" tactics are very much put to the challenge. (99 mins.)
Director: Bruce Malmuth
 
58.
Night Shift (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A morgue attendant is talked into running a brothel at his workplace after a deceased pimp is sent there. However, the pimp's killers don't look too kindly on this new 'business', nor does the morgue's owner. (106 mins.)
Director: Ron Howard
 
59.
Escape from the Bronx (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.0/10 X  
A rag-tag group of people must fight extermination squads amid their ruined city. (89 mins.)
 
60.
Liquid Sky (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Invisible aliens in a tiny flying saucer come to Earth looking for heroin. They land on top of a New... (112 mins.)
Director: Slava Tsukerman
 
61.
Vigilante (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Eddie Marino is a factory worker in New York City. He has a wife named Vickie and a son named Scott... (90 mins.)
Director: William Lustig
 
62.
Alphabet City (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  
A New York City drug dealer decides to get out of the business, but has to flee from mobsters. (85 mins.)
Director: Amos Poe
 
63.
C.H.U.D. (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  
A bizarre series of sudden disappearances on the streets of New York City seems to point toward something unsavory living in the sewers. (88 mins.)
Director: Douglas Cheek
 
64.
Exterminator 2 (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.9/10 X  
The flamethrower-wielding vigilante John Eastland returns to rid New York of a drug lord and his gang. (89 mins.)
Director: Mark Buntzman
 
65.
Mixed Blood (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Brazilian drug dealers in the lower east side of Manhattan start a war with a rival gang of Latino drug dealers... (98 mins.)
Director: Paul Morrissey
 
66.
The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Charlie and his troublesome cousin Paulie decide to steal $150000 in order to back a "sure thing" race horse that Paulie has inside information on... (121 mins.)
 
67.
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
A bored suburban housewife, seeking escape from her life, suffers amnesia after an accident, wakes up, and is mistaken for a free-spirited New York City drifter named Susan. (104 mins.)
Director: Susan Seidelman
 
68.
Turk 182! (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
Jimmy Lynch is angry because his older brother, who was injured as a result of an off duty fire rescue... (102 mins.)
Director: Bob Clark
 
69.
The Last Dragon (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
In New York City, a young man searches for the "master" to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as the glow... (109 mins.)
Director: Michael Schultz
 
70.
Krush Groove (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
In this movie based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings, up-and-coming manager Russell Walker manages... (97 mins.)
Director: Michael Schultz
 
71.
Rappin' (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.6/10 X  
An ex-con and break-dancer helps save a neighborhood from a greedy developer while trying to win a rap contest. (92 mins.)
Director: Joel Silberg
 
72.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
An officially "dead" cop is trained to become an extraordinarily unique assassin in service of the US president. (121 mins.)
Director: Guy Hamilton