Central Park, with so many iconic and beautiful locations, is one of the most-filmed locations in the world.
The annual Central Park Film Festival starts at dusk today, with one week of FREE outdoor screenings of films with a connection to NYC. Films at this year’s Central Park Film Festival include The Wiz, The Godfather and Saturday Night Fever.
In honor of the Central Park Film Festival and New York City’s most famous movie star, here’s a look at five of the most popular film locations and their movies.
Considered the heart of Central Park, Bethesda Terrace surrounds iconic Bethesda Fountain and a striking arcade with a Minton tile ceiling. To keep as much of Bethesda Terrace open as possible during its busiest times of day, film shoots often occur here early in the morning or late in the evening.
You have seen Bethesda Terrace in these films:
- Hair (1979): A song and dance sequence for “Ain’t No Go” features several shots of Bethesda Terrace’s intricate carvings, which represent the four seasons and, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.
- Home Alone 2 (1992): Kevin is chased by the Wet Bandits and jumps into a horse carriage in front of Bethesda Fountain. You won’t be able to recreate that scene – horse carriages don’t actually cross in front of the fountain as shown in the movie.
Four rows of American elm trees form a cathedral-like canopy over this heavily trafficked, quarter-mile pedestrian path called the Mall, which is the only intentional straight line in all of Central Park. The Mall provides a perfectly picturesque cinematic setting for chats on a bench and long walks, and it’s simply beautiful in any season.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Naumburg Bandshell, at the north end of the Mall and the only Neo-Classical building in the Park, makes an appearance. Though the movie shows several rows of benches in front of the Bandshell, benches aren’t there today (except for special events).
- Kramer vs. Kramer (1979): Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) teaches his son Billy (Justin Henry) to bike on the Mall. This movie was released the year before the Conservancy’s creation, so the Mall looks very different today. Now, you’ll find fences protecting the landscapes and much healthier lawns.
Bow Bridge is one of the City’s most romantic settings – film crews may even accidentally happen upon an engagement or wedding here. So it’s fitting that Bow Bridge is often the setting for love, romance, and the occasional broken heart. It’s also one of the most peaceful places in NYC, which is why it’s the cover of my recent NYC travel guidebook.
- Spider-Man 3 (2007): A jolly Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) meets with the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), on a quiet Bow Bridge. If you’re planning a meetup on Bow Bridge today, don’t expect to find it so empty – it’s one of the most popular sites in the Park. NOTE – This is one of the films with a connection to NYC featured in this year’s Central Park Film Festival
- Enchanted (2007): A song and dance sequence for “That’s How You Know” features a handful of Central Park hot spots. When Bow Bridge is on the screen, you’ll spot plenty of rowboats navigating the Lake. That’s indeed what the Lake looks like on a beautiful day, thanks to popular rowboat rentals at nearby Loeb Boathouse.
In addition to renting rowboats, visitors at the Loeb Boathouse can hire an authentic Venetian gondola or dine with views of the Lake. The Loeb Boathouse that New Yorkers and visitors know so well today opened at the Lake’s northeastern tip in 1954, after the Park’s original boathouse fell into disrepair and was torn down.
- Manchurian Candidate (1962): See the Loeb Boathouse in its early days – with no rowboats! – in this thriller starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, timely again today since it’s about sinister foreign intervention and manipulation of a US presidential candidate.
- When Harry Met Sally (1989): Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and friends dine at the Boathouse with gorgeous fall foliage in the background. Recreate the scene at the Boathouse’s Lakeside Restaurant, which serves meals all day long. Of course, another memorable scene in that movie was filmed at Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side.
A gentle slope overlooking the Lake with views of the Ramble, Cherry Hill is a popular spot for sunbathing and picnicking. It provides the perfect setting for conversations and relaxation, with the recognizable Lake in the background.
You have Cherry Hill in these films:
- Marathon Man (1976): Looking for a movie that features several Central Park scenes? Cherry Hill is just one of the locations you’ll find Thomas Levy (Dustin Hoffman) visit. This movie also features the Reservoir, Bethesda Terrace, and the Delacorte Clock.
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) and Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) play together on a swing set on Cherry Hill. The swing set was built for the movie – there are no swing sets to be found on this landscape.
Spider-Man 3, The Godfather, and and other films featuring New York City are on the line-up next week at the annual Central Park Conservancy Film Festival. The Film Festival is free and features showings in Central Park and Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park.
This posting is adapted from one on the Central Park Conservancy website.
Images courtesy Central Park Conservancy
Evelyn Kanter’s book Peaceful Places NYC is available on Amazon. For autographed copies, please contact [email protected]