In 1897, the first major American film studio was not based in Hollywood, as one would expect: it was in Midwood, Brooklyn. Vitagraph Studios, which was purchased by Warner Bros. in the 1920s, was one of the country’s most prolific studios, churning out silent films with the biggest stars of the day. Since those early days of filmmaking, Brooklyn continues to play an important role in the motion picture industry. Pulling from Filmed in Brooklyn, a new book by Margo Donohue that explores the history of film in the borough and the iconic movies shot there, we take a look at the most used Brooklyn film locations that have appeared in the most important films of the last century.
On February 14 at 12 p.m., join us for a virtual talk led by Margo Donohue, author of Filmed in Brooklyn from History Press. Donohue spent two years writing, researching, photographing, and watching over 250 movies filmed in Brooklyn, her favorite place in the world. A few of the movies covered include hits like Saturday Night Fever, Goodfellas, and The Warriors, along with other works by famous directors such as Spike Lee, Darren Aronofsky, and Noah Baumbach. This live-streamed virtual event is free for Untapped New York Insiders. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and gain access to a full calendar of in-person and virtual experiences!
Filmed in Brooklyn: Virtual Talk
1. Brooklyn Bridge
Since its opening in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge has been a symbol of the borough. As Donohue writes in the book, “There is nothing quite like the original Brooklyn Bridge to symbolize the manufactured structures that fulfill a basic need and are also so achingly beautiful. It is very New York, very American, and a crowning jewel of the borough for its residents.” The bridge and the Promenade, which opened in 1950, have appeared in dozens of films, including a handful by Marvel. Some date back to the 1940s, such as On the Town and It Happened in Brooklyn, others like C”mon C’mon were released in 2021.
Donahue continues, “The bridge can be a place of excitement and uncertainty, with chase scenes like in Godzilla, The French Connection, and Fantastic Four. Watching a site where millions travel back and forth, the action is interrupted by (fictional) mass destruction, as we see in The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, and Cloverfield. The symbol of the bridge being destroyed means a part of America is harmed as well.”
Destruction came the bridge in 2007’s I Am Legend, as Will Smith and his dog fight mutants across the city. In Spider-Man 2, Peter tries to save Mary Jane while fighting an enemy on the bridge, a fairly common plot point in Marvel films. The bridge has also served as a setting for many romantic scenes in films such as Enchanted, with Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey, Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet, and Sex and the City: The Movie.