As a couple of New Yorkers who’ve spent more time than we could possibly count speeding through a hole in the ground, we’ve each compiled lists of our five favorite New York City subway movies. There are countless films where the subway has played a significant role: The Naked City (1948), The French Connection (1971), Ghost (1990), Godzilla (1998), and Bananas (1971) just to name a few. Here are the films that have affected us in one way or another, either by transporting us to dangerous 1970s NYC (represented here by five films in on our combined lists), or thrilling us as we hide from monsters or, wowed by unforgettable cinematic moments with Monroe and Travolta.
After the lights are turned out as Father Karras falls asleep, a montage of dreamy images flash through his consciousness, mixing glimpses of his mother and her ascent and descent into death with the same surrealistic images taken from previous scenes accompanying Father Merrin in Iraq: a free-falling Christian medal: a ferocious, growling desert dog running toward the camera; Karras’ mother staring straight ahead; the pendulum of a clock swinging. Suddenly, Karras’ mother rises from an underground subway in New York City; he waves from a traffic island toward her, and though his mother calls out, she doesn’t see him. As a ghoulish, ghostly-white demonic face appears, Karras pursues his mother across traffic on a busy street and she descends back into the subway entrance.
In another scene, Karras rises up from an underground stairwell, emerging onto a train platform where the tracks shoot jets of steam and we see a soft-drink vending machine emblazoned with the words: “TRAVEL REFRESHED.” On the dirty, trash-littered platform, he turns to hear a drunk begging with outstretched hand: “Father, could you help an old altar boy? I’m Cat’lick.” Too wrapped up in his own problems and unable to be charitable in this subway encounter, the Father turns away from the wretched man whose bearded, sweaty face is momentarily illuminated in flashes by the window lights of a passing train.
William Friedkin’s police drama portrays two tough New York City cops trying to intercept a huge heroin shipment coming from France. An interesting contrast is established between ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman), a short-tempered alcoholic bigot who is nevertheless a hard-working and dedicated police officer, and his nemesis Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), a suave and urbane gentleman who is nevertheless a criminal and one of the largest drug suppliers of pure heroin to North America.
4. Cloverfield (2008)
A good portion of Cloverfield takes place underground, as the movie’s core group of friends makes their way up the pitch-black 6 train tracks from Spring and Lafayette to 59th and Lex. They are attacked relentlessly in the tunnel by quick-moving monster parasites and one of them is finally bitten. If you are like me always wonder what else lives in the subway tunnels.