This might be hard to believe, but there was a time when people thought that superhero movies were just a passing faze. Shocking, but true. While Bryan Singer’s 2000 film X-Men is credited with rebooting the genre, it was Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man that assured moviegoers (and more importantly movie studios) that superhero movies were going to become a really big deal.
The first of the three Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man movies was the first to gross over $100 million dollars on its opening weekend. The film also help launch the careers of Tobey Maguire, Kristen Dunst and James Franco. In celebration of the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we look back at the NYC locations featured in the first film.
1. Low Memorial Library
Our story begins with a nerdy kid named Peter Parker, who gets picked on by everyone except for the girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson and his super rich friend Harry Osborn. Peter’s high school class is on a field trip to visit a genetics laboratory, where his life will change forever. The genetics lab itself was shot in Los Angeles, but the exterior was shot on the steps of Columbia University‘s Low Memorial Library.
Named after University’s former president Seth Low’s father Abiel Abbot Low, it was the first building to be built when Columbia moved from Park Place to Morningside Heights. Originally the university’s library, Low now serves as administrative offices. It was also featured in the classic NYC film Ghostbusters, which was the focus on a previous Film Locations post.
2. Peter & Mary Jane’s Homes
The house to the far right, 8839 60th Road in Queens is where Peter Parker lives, with his loving Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Mary Jane Watson, Peter’s girl-next door lives, well next door, at the 8837 60th Rd with her alcoholic and abusive father.
3. Norman Osborn’s Apartment
The Osborns know how to live in style. The home to Norman Osborn and his son Harry is part of the Tudor City apartment complex. It is one of the more unique neighborhoods here in New York City, with 16th century revival skyscrapers clustered around a series of gardens in Midtown East.
4. The New York Public Library Main Branch
One of the most important aspects of Spider-Man’s origin is the advice Uncle Ben gives Peter Parker when he first becomes a superhero: “with great power, comes great responsibility.” The quote, written by Stan Lee in 1962, is still one of the most iconic lines written in the history of comic books. It is a line that Peter first ignores, but carries with him his entire life due to his uncle’s tragic death at the hands of someone Peter could have easily stopped. In Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film, the famous line is delivered by Uncle Ben here outside the main branch of the NYPL in Bryant Park.
5. Chrysler Building
Photo by Dark Cyanide
Peter Parker disguises himself to get $3000 for a car to impress Mary Jane. When the promoter of the wrestling event stiffs Peter on the money, he lets a robber get away with the money. That robber happens to run into Uncle Ben parked outside the Library waiting for Peter. Out of desperation, the robber shoots and kills Uncle Ben. Peter web-swings his way across the city to get revenge on the man who killed his uncle. When he finally corners him, he realizes who it is: the man who robbed the promoter. The robber kills himself accidentally, causing Peter to vanish before the NYPD can find him. Peter sulks on top of one of the gargoyles perched on the top of the Chrysler Building.
6. Moondance Diner
Peter Parker runs into the love of his life outside the Moondance Diner, her current place of employment. The iconic diner, with its attention-grabbing sign, was on 80 Sixth Avenue, between Grand and Canal Street in Soho for almost 75 years. Due to rising rents, the owners of the diner were forced to close it down, and even after attempts to keep its doors open, it was sold and trucked off to La Barge, Wyoming. The James Hotel currently occupies the space where the Moondance Diner once stood. The diner has been featured in numerous television shows set in New York City.
7. Harry and Peter’s Apartment
Harry and Peter are out of school and rooming together in a loft on Broadway and West 4th. Here Peter reveals to Harry that he lost his job to Dr. Connors (The Lizard). Norman offers Peter a job, but Peter wants to be his own man, something that his later nemesis highly admires. When asked what he will do for money, Peter spots the cover of The Daily Bugle giving out a reward for pictures of Spider-Man.
8. The Daily Bugle
The Daily Bugle, the premiere fictional newspaper in NYC. Run by loud-mouthed editor J. Jonah Jameson, it is the only paper in the city that publishes exclusive, clear photos of Spider-Man. Who, you may ask, is the person taking these great photos? Well, Peter Parker is obviously. Peter shoots himself fighting crime throughout the city.
The vertical Beaux-Arts building, for anyone unfamiliar with NYC, is actually the Flatiron Building in downtown Manhattan. It is one of the symbols of NYC, and one of the most photographed buildings in the entire world. The building’s unique design comes from Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who wanted the building to be unlike other NYC skyscrapers.
9. Rockefeller Center Roof Gardens
Norman Osborn as The Green Goblin causes havoc in Times Square and Spider-Man is the only one who can stop him. After the Goblin retreats, Spider-Man must save Mary Jane from certain doom, for what seems like the third time in this movie. Swinging through the city, Spider-Man touches down with the love of his life at the Rockefeller Rooftop Gardens. For almost 75 years, five gardens have been kept on the rooftop of five of the Rockefeller Center buildings. You can spy them from the Top of the Rock, though they’re closed to the public.
10. Roosevelt Island Tramway
Im homage to one of the most iconic Spider-Man comic book stories, The Green Goblin holds the woman Peter loves hostage and threatens to throw her off a bridge. Instead of Gwen Stacey, we have Mary Jane and instead of the George Washington Bridge, the stand-off takes place at the Roosevelt Island Tramway.
The Tramway, which was renovated in 2010, connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan. It was the only commuter aerial tramway until 1974. It was also the last place in the city to actually accept tokens. The tramway has be featured in virtual form also in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Film stills © Columbia Pictures. To learn what happened when he got bit by a radioactive pizza slice, contact the author @TatteredFedora