While Manhattan can boast film locations like The Dakota (Rosemary’s Baby) and Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 (Ghostbusters), Brooklyn has become the most in-demand setting on television, whether it’s playing itself (like on Girls and Master of None) or standing in for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Hell’s Kitchen in Daredevil and as Harlem in Luke Cage). But it was through film that Brooklyn established itself in the popular imagination and most of its famous film locations remain intact—in fact, you’ve probably passed by a few of these more than once.
Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station, The Warriors (1979)
Memorably exalted in Brooklyn writer Jonathan Lethem’s landmark essay “Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn,” this subway express station on the A, C, and G lines boasts a disused track that often appears in films—The Warriors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Taking of Pelham 123 are three of the most prominent. But the station itself is the setting for Michael Jackson’s epochal 1987 music video for “Bad” (and, of course, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody “Fat”). A proposal to rename the station in Jackson’s honor was resisted by the MTA.
Chase Manhattan Bank, Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Sidney Lument’s recreation of Brooklyn’s most famous real-life hostage situation cast a bank on Prospect Park West (between 17th and 18th Avenues) to stand in for the real Gravesend Chase Manhattan Bank that John Wojtowicz held up on August 22, 1972, in order to pay for his wife’s sex change operation (Wojtowicz was reportedly pleased with Al Pacino’s depiction of him). There’s actually not a whole lot to see at either location these days, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming some of Brooklyn’s most-visited sites of cinematic pilgrimage.
Bensonhurst Elevated Railway, The French Connection (1971)
The most famous car chase in film history was shot under this Sitwell Ave line track, from Bay 50th to 86th, with Popeye Doyle prevailing in a shoot-out on the stairs of the 62nd Street station. Fun fact about this ’70s classic: a traffic jam scene on the Brooklyn Bridge earlier in the film was shot without permission.
Cammareri Bros Bakery, Moonstruck (1987)
Cammareri Bros Bakery got a huge boost from its fame as the location of Cher’s and Nicholas Cage’s feisty romance in the most foolproof date movie of 1987: Moonstruck. And though it sadly shuttered in 2013, the 80-year-old bakery had a good run—at least it didn’t live to see 2016 rom-com-bomb My Bakery in Brooklyn try and fail to supplant its legacy in the annals of dough-based romance.
Stuyvesant Ave, Do the Right Thing (1989)
If you’re talking Brooklyn, you’re talking Spike Lee, who has set numerous movies in the borough since She’s Gotta Have It memorably featured Fort Greene Park in 1986. But it is Lee’s treatment of historically black Bedford-Stuyvesant in Do the Right Thing that gave Brooklyn its most iconic film treatment before or after; in fact, one block was recently christened Do the Right Thing Way. Don’t go looking for Sal’s Pizzeria, where Lee’s Mookie works for Danny Aiello, though—it was constructed for the movie and torn down following its racially charged climax.
Akeem’s apartment, Coming to America (1988)
Coming to America is filled with great NYC locations, as Eddie Murphy’s fish-out-of-water Zamundan prince adjusts to life in ’80s Queens (“What better place to find a queen?”). One of the most recognizable is Akeem’s apartment in Brooklyn. And the Elmhurst fast food restaurant McDowell’s where Murphy and Arsenio Hall pose as students? It’s a Wendy’s now.
Beach 115th Street, Radio Days (1987)
Although this house, which evokes a halcyon childhood in Woody Allen’s autobiographical Radio Days, is technically in Rockaway Queens, it still deserves credit not only for doubling as Allen’s childhood house in Midwood but also for narrowly surviving Hurricane Sandy in 2012. And besides, it’s closer to Brooklyn than anything in 2015’s Oscar-nominated Brooklyn, which was filmed in Canada.
10 Montague Terrace, The Sentinel (1977)
More than nearly every other film landmark on the rapidly changing Brooklyn housing market, the haunted apartment from The Sentinel remains instantly recognizable and largely unchanged, prominently positioned on the corner of Brooklyn Heights’ riverside Promenade. Meanwhile, other than featuring very early performances by Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum, the film hasn’t held up nearly as well.
McCarren Park, Vigilante (1983)
One of the joys of watching ’80s-era exploitation films is seeing now-swanky Brooklyn neighborhoods as hubs of gang violence and over-the-top urban warfare. This cult movie starring Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) might be the best of the bunch, featuring a tense fight at McCarren Park’s swimming pool and a chase sequence through an unrecognizably grim Greenpoint.
McCarren Park, 776 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, New York City, NY, USA, +1 718 218 2380
The Pink Palace, Sophie’s Choice (1982)
No mention of Brooklyn-based film spots would be complete without 101 Rugby Road, the so-called ‘Pink Palace,’ where Peter MacNicol’s Stingo woos Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice. Although the neighboring Ditmas Park boasts houses painted crazy shades of pink, the house’s current owners have opted for a more tasteful red, gray, and white.
Prospect Place brownstone, Ghost (1990)
Leave it to this squeaky clean paranormal romance to turn a row of coveted Prospect Place brownstones into the ramshackle Bushwick slum off the Myrtle J where Patrick Swayze tracks his killer. Re-watching the movie conjures a distinctly pre-Giuliani city in which Vincent Schiavelli’s subway-dwelling spirit offers advice that might just as easily be applied to the cheap-rent lofts enjoyed by Demi Moore: “The problem with you is that you still think you’re real.”