Lonely Planet Writer

NYC on film: some of the best documentaries about the Big Apple

New York City is the kind of town that’s a perfect backdrop for the movies – from Woody Allen’s Manhattan to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, its bridges, avenues and skyscrapers lend themselves spectacularly to the cinematic form. But it’s not just fictional narratives that flourish on the big screen; a city full of character, it also lends itself especially well to documentaries.

Woody Allen's Manhattan
Woody Allen’s Manhattan

Right now, a new documentary about the diamond brand Tiffany and its iconic Fifth Avenue store has been garnering great reviews online. You can find out more about that here, but it also got us thinking about other fantastic NYC-based docs that are a must-see for any Big Apple aficionados.

Bill Cunningham New York

Dogwoof Documentaries
Dogwoof Documentaries

The recently deceased New York Times photographer is the star of this documentary about his life and work, and follows him as he cycles around the city that never sleeps shooting the sartorial treats that catch his eye.

Paris Is Burning

Academy Entertainment / Off White Productions
Academy Entertainment / Off White Productions

Filmed in the mid to late eighties, this documentary examines the underground ball culture that gave the world vogueing, and looks behind the scenes at some of the luminaries of the movement. Essential viewing to get to the heart of why NYC is such a cultural smorgasbord.

Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorfs

Berney Films
Berney Films

The department store Bergdorf Goodman has been on Fifth Avenue since 1899, and many of fashion’s biggest players rose through the ranks there. This sweet documentary is full of gossipy stories from industry insiders about what goes on in one of the world’s most famous shops.

Every Little Step

Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

NYC and musical theatre go hand-in-hand, and this 2008 film follows the casting process for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line.

Man On Wire

mow

This 2008 biographical doc follows Philippe Petit’s 1974 death-defying high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center, and was a major critical and commercial success.

The September Issue 

Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions

New York is synonymous with fashion for many, and this eye-opening doc follows Vogue’s senior staff as they prepare to put out their biggest issue of the year. Think The Devil Wears Prada, only non-fiction (and without a makeover montage).