Tour the Cinematic Sites of our Picturesque Neighborhood
The winter months in New York practically beg us to stay in bed, curled in a blanket, watching the films that warm our hearts despite the cold just outside. Luckily, we can explore the picturesque settings of our neighborhoods from the comfort of our homes through the many films that were shot here. Today we take a (virtual) tour of some of the iconic films that took place on streets we know, love, and will be happy to walk once again come springtime.
East 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B – The Godfather II (1974)
During the filming of The Godfather II, East 6th Street between Avenues A and B was transformed into the 1917 Little Italy of Vito Corleone’s childhood before his reign as patriarch of the Corleone family and iron-fisted New York Mafia boss. The images above, from the Carole Teller Godfather Part II collection in our historic image archive, capture the carefully crafted chaos of the shoot. The Godfather Part II was the first sequel to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, in addition to five other Academy Awards, cementing its status as one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and of New York City.
Caffe Reggio (119 MacDougal Street) – The Godfather II (1974)
Caffe Reggio opened its doors in 1927 and quickly made history as the first cafe in America to serve a cappuccino. Almost 100 years later, little has changed inside the cafe, which is full to the brim with over 80 original works of art, including a 16th century painting by a student of Caravaggio, and classically ornamented with tin ceilings, marbled tables, and iron chairs. Stepping through the door feels like stepping back in time, and movie-lovers across the world will no doubt recognize the interior from films such as The Godfather II, Shaft, Serpico, and Inside Llewyn Davis.
Various East Village Locations – Ragtime (1981)
Ragtime weaves a complicated and bittersweet tapestry of life during the turn of the 20th century in New York. The film follows characters from seemingly disparate origins, including a gifted African American ragtime pianist, an imaginative street artist and immigrant father, and a sheltered but discontented housewife, whose lives become intertwined as they search for belonging.
Scenes from the film were shot throughout the East Village in 1980, which was made over to depict the bustling streets of an immigrant, working class neighborhood. Images by Carole Teller from our historic archive give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into this transformational cinematic feat.
Minetta Street and Minetta Lane – If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk follows the journey of a young Black woman who seeks to prove the innocence of her lover, who was wrongly charged, before the birth of their child. Baldwin’s time in Greenwich Village is apparent in this work, which acts as both a love letter to and an unflinching portrait of the neighborhood and New York City during the 1970s. The film captures the promise and roughness of the city, and one of its most pivotal scenes sees the young lovers stroll through Minetta Street, an intimate bend in Greenwich Village that was shaped by the babbling brook that once coursed through the neighborhood.
Julius’ Bar (159 West 10th Street) – The Boys in the Band (2020)
After a decade-long campaign led by Village Preservation, Julius’ was successfully designated a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in November 2022. As the city’s oldest gay bar and the location of a 1966 “Sip-In,” which protested the criminalization of bars and spaces which served LGBTQ+ patrons, Julius’ has long been a safe haven and place of celebration for queer New Yorkers.
The Boys in the Band, a fictional exploration of the relationships and friendships between 7 gay men in New York before Stonewall, was first published as a play only 2 years after the real life “Sip-In” at Julius’. The film, released two years later, renders a raucous and raw image of the gay milieu of the time, featuring a scene where the film’s main character enjoys a drink at the iconic bar.
First Presbyterian Church (48 Fifth Avenue) – Lady Bird (2017)
For decades, young people have held Greenwich Village as a place to dream, to learn, to truly be, and the title character of Lady Bird is no exception. A young, rebellious girl who believes herself to have outgrown the Catholic school she attends and the suburbs of Sacramento where she was raised, Lady Bird yearns to escape to college on the East Coast upon graduation. One of the film’s most pivotal and touching sequences is triggered by Lady Bird’s visit to First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue. This coming-of-age story deftly exposes the raw nerve endings of youth and contends with our ability to reckon with our past as we step into the future.
Itching for more films set in our neighborhoods? Explore Village Preservation’s ‘Film, TV Show, and Theater Locations Tour’ on our Greenwich Village Historic District Map, or our ‘Epic Greenwich Village and East Village Watch List.’
One response to “Tour the Cinematic Sites of our Picturesque Neighborhood”
Street scenes from Ragtime were mostly filmed on East 11th Street between Aves. A & B; which was transformed into the turn-of-the-century block for a number of weeks of filming. There is/was a plaque on the one-time municipal bath building commemorating the movie’s filming and Jimmy Cagney’s final role that was filmed there.