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’80s flashback: Iconic films set in New York City

With the ’80s making such a smashing comeback, the time is ripe for a nostalgic tour of iconic films set in New York during the decade. You can even tour NYC landmarks in the process!

Stack of VHS

where stars Were born

With the ’80s making such a smashing comeback, the time is ripe for a nostalgic tour of iconic films set in New York during the decade. You can even tour NYC landmarks in the process!

In fashion, the 1980s are back in a big way — from neon and acid-washed denim to lace and bustiers. Let’s not forget that New York City, a formidable fashion capital, put a lot of those trends on the map largely through cultural ambassadors like NYC transplant Madonna, but also through film. Remember the teased bangs, Reeboks and “power shoulders” in Working Girl?


Ghostbusters (1984)

The Plot: Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray play down-on-their-luck parapsychologists who open a ghost-catching business that takes off as paranormal activity increases in the city. When Gozer, an ancient god of destruction, threatens to bring about the end of mankind in the form of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the Ghostbusters save the day.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Unforgettable Moment: The Ghostbusters team gets their first gig when a librarian spots a ghost in the New York Public Library, but the apparition of an old lady changes into a terrifying form and scares them away.


The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

The Plot: The Muppets gang has Broadway dreams for their variety show Manhattan Melodies, but when they arrive in New York, their hopes are dashed and their motley crew disperses. Kermit, after a series of misadventures, ultimately succeeds in finding a producer for the show… only to lose his memory after getting hit by a car. Miss Piggy whips him back into shape (by slugging him, no less), the gang reunites and the show goes on.

Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Unforgettable Moment: Kermit climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and hollers out that he and his friends will soon be on Broadway.


Crocodile Dundee (1986)

The Plot: American newspaper reporter Sue Charlton travels to the outback of Australia to research a story about a legendary crocodile hunter, Mick (otherwise known as Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee, played by Paul Hogan). After he rescues her from one of the toothy creatures, she invites him to visit her in New York, where Aussie-out-of-water antics ensue and the rugged reptilian hunter wins her heart.

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Unforgettable Moment: Mick goes to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, which gives this not-so-city-slicker an unbelievable panoramic view of the unfamiliar urban habitat.


Wall Street (1987)

The Plot: It’s all about ’80s excess in this financial thriller, in which Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young, hungry stockbroker, all but sells his soul to his idol, corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), whose unscrupulous dealings and fast-paced lifestyle lure Bud in. But when business strikes too close to home, Bud ultimately turns on Gekko at his own expense.

Wall Street (1987)

Unforgettable Moment: Bud has his ultimate confrontation with Gekko in Central Park, and his wiretaps, which record the whole thing, ensure that Gekko will pay for his greed.


Big (1988)

The plot: Tom Hanks stars as Josh Baskin, a 12 year old transformed into a 30 year old by a magical Zoltar Speaks wish machine at a carnival. He becomes a whiz kid toy designer at a top toy company in New York, and dates Elizabeth Perkins along the way — but ultimately realizes that being a kid wasn’t so bad.

Big (1988)

Unforgettable Moment: The piano duet on the gargantuan, foot-operated keyboard at FAO Schwarz, the legendary toy store on Fifth Avenue.


Working Girl (1988)

The Plot: Melanie Griffith is a working-class secretary who uses her moxie to rise above humble circumstances and take a shot at success in the business world. When her boss and rival, played by Sigourney Weaver, breaks her leg and is temporarily incapacitated, Griffith’s character seizes the opportunity to pitch a business idea that ultimately lands her a dream job in an office overlooking Manhattan.

Working Girl (1988)

Unforgettable Moment: The opening sequence of Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry set to Carly Simon’s song Let the River Run.


When Harry Met Sally (1989)

The Plot: Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s characters explore the question “Can men and women ever just be friends?” over a series of encounters in New York City over a dozen years. Though their clashing perspectives repeatedly push them apart, their love for one another ultimately triumphs one New Year’s Eve when they finally admit they can’t live without each other.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Unforgettable Moment: The famous scene in which Meg Ryan’s character fakes an orgasm in the middle of Katz’s Delicatessen, a Lower East Side landmark famous for its pastrami.

More New York City travel

Traveling NYC on a budget
New York’s hidden bars
Top 4 celebrity-spotting hotels in New York

Photo credit: Katz’s Delicatessen, Beyond My Ken via Wikipedia

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