When Opening Credits Star the NYC Skyline

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lower Manhattan skyline, New York City (acmace/flickr)

One of the most beautiful of movie stars, whose glamour has graced thousands of films, is the New York City skyline.

There it is, again and again, in opening credit sequences, establishing shots, and as backdrop to stories of romance, careers, crime, heartbreak, and more—the full gamut of stories movies can tell. And often those skyline scenes are accompanied by music that evokes the cosmopolitan hubbub of our fair city.

David Garland has gathered music composed for city scenes from several films, ranging from the razzle-dazzle zestiness of Alfred Newman's score for "How to Marry a Millionaire," to Andre Previn's lonely-in-the-big-city music for "Two for the Seesaw," David Carbonara's moody sounds for "Mad Men," and others.

Here are three examples. Tell us your favorite, or leave your own suggestions in the comments box below.

Two for the Seesaw (1962) opening credits (music by Andre Previn)

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) trailer (with Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" and "New York") (Skip to 1:40 in)

The Naked City (1948) opening credits

Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (1979)

Comments [14]

Leïla from Paris, France

My favourite NYC movie is definitely "Fred & I", released in 2001. So many delicious scenes : when the couple is walking at 2am around the city to find a bar, the "shall i come to your place or not" hesitation scene in front of the Plaza fountains, the first lunch at the Moma, the crazy sex scenes at Fred's place, the rooftop chilling, the movie theater scene when Fred can't concentrate on the movie because of her mini skirt..and so many other scenes...I just love that movie !

Apr. 18 2013 11:00 AM
Ben from Bronx, NY

"An Affair to Remember," "The Lost Weekend," and "Mirage" starring Gregory Peck and Diane Baker all open with the Manhattan Skyline. So, I believe, does "Young Man with a Horn," starring Kirk Douglas.

Apr. 14 2013 09:12 PM

The Broadway Melody of 1929 opens with wonderful aerial shots of New York on the eve of the Depression. It's an early talkie, and I don't recall the opening score, but the views are worth checking out if nothing else.

Apr. 13 2013 09:50 PM

While I don't dislike any of the proffered choices, I think there can only be one movie that distills the true essence of New York City and provides a real sense of this metropolis: Jason takes Manhattan a/k/a Friday the 13th, Part VIII.

Apr. 12 2013 03:40 PM

They are all good, my favorites are:
1- Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (1979)- Great music and great narration
2- Naked City- A great Narrator

Apr. 12 2013 01:50 PM

Thanks everyone for the great comments and suggestions. You can see the opening to "Manhattan" above.

Apr. 12 2013 10:55 AM
Dawn from Albuquerque, NM

My favorite opening scene with NYC is still West Side Story with the camera panning up and down the city then finally focusing on the projects where the new Lincoln Center would eventually rise above the debris. Also I agree with Greg Winter about the opening to Woody Allen's Manhattan

Apr. 12 2013 10:28 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

I like the opening in the film based on the play "The West Side Waltz" that was shown on CBS between Thanksgiving and Christmas many years ago. It starred Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minelli, Jennifer Grey, Kathy Bates and many others whose faces are well-known.

Apr. 12 2013 10:03 AM
Bernie from UWS

How about The Warriors from 1979, with its shots of the elevated subway line at Coney Island and the gangs getting ready to brawl? To me it epitomizes NY in the 70s as much as Woody Allen's Manhattan does.


Apr. 12 2013 09:56 AM
Dawn from West Milford, NJ

My favorite (even though it does not show the actual skyline) is the opening scene to Breakfast at Tiffanys - Audrey Hepburn, Tiffany's and New York City - need I say more?

Apr. 12 2013 09:38 AM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

The Naked City has been my favorite, followed by Woody Allen's Manhattan. Both are incredibly nostalgic for me, every note is evocative.

The New York of The Naked City is the New York I grew up in. I swear, you can practically feel the summer heat on the city sidewalks. I watch that movie and my grandparents are alive again, my police officer grandfather working his 3 to 11 shift at a midtown precinct house, accumulating the great New York stories he would tell till the day he died.

We saw Manhattan the night before we moved out of New York to the Jersey Shore in 1979. I looked at my husband and said "What on earth have we DONE?!?!" But we moved anyway and raised four children at the Shore, which they have expressed much gratitude for. Although I suppose no place is absolutely perfect and we have been happy here, there is nothing like New York. And that is what these movies express.

Apr. 12 2013 09:09 AM
Cat D'Arcy from Minot, ND

I have two favorites! The opening shot of West Side Story and the opening shot of Melanie Griffiths' Working Girl, which skims across the water from Staten Island and of course shows the twin towers,

Apr. 12 2013 07:50 AM

West Side Story. Woody Allen's Manhattan.

Apr. 12 2013 07:01 AM
Greg Winter from Port Washington, NY

How could you leave out the opening to Woody Allen's Manhattan, scored to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue?

C'mon, the definitive opening sequence.

Apr. 12 2013 06:42 AM

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