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The 10 Greatest NYC Friendships in Film

Can’t we all just get along? Apparently we can! In honor of the two protagonists of "Supporting Characters," we look at some of cinema’s greatest NYC friendships with all their ups and downs in the city that never sleeps.

Now on VOD and playing in select NYC theaters, Daniel Schechter's Supporting Characters is a character- driven ensemble piece that centers on the relationship between Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe), a New York film editing duo facing a number of challenges in both their professional and personal lives.  

Throughout Supporting Characters, the friendship of Nick and Darryl is put to the test, and the film makes it clear that in a high-pressure city like New York, strong friendships help you survive and thrive in the harsh urban landscape. In honor of this Tribeca Film release, we take a look at some of cinema’s greatest friendships—some lasting, some not—depicted in the context of NYC.


Midnight Cowboy/ Credit: United ArtistsMidnight Cowboy (1969)
Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck (played by Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight)

I'm fallin' apart here!

Both Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight received Academy Award nominations in the Best Actor category for their work in Midnight Cowboy. The film itself went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 1969, largely due to their performances. Voight plays Joe Buck, a naïve Texan, who moves to New York City to pursue his dreams of becoming a hustler. Of course, he soon finds that he is hopelessly in over his head, unable to find work, broke and humiliated by his so-called clientele. After hustling Joe, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) takes pity on him and invites him to crash at his place. Rizzo, a crippled con man with a bad cough is likewise in need of a friend, and together he and Joe form a surrogate family. The film features many famous sequences in the New York streets and at landmarks like Times Square before the duo head off to Miami as the film bleakly closes.

Mean Streets/ Credit: Warner BrosMean Streets (1973)
Charlie and Johnny Boy (played by Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro)

What’s the matter with you?

One of the most tumultuous friendship in  cinema has to be the one between Charlie and Johnny Boy from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is a good Catholic boy growing up in Little Italy and working for the mob, of course.What’s stopping him from moving up the corporate ladder, so to speak? His friendship with Johnny Boy (one of Robert De Niro’s first major roles), a two-bit gambler who owes money to all the major loan sharks in town. As Johnny’s behavior grows increasingly erratic, Charlie’s relationship with Johnny’s epileptic sister, Teresa, starts to intensify. Shooting all over Manhattan, Scorsese skillfully builds a believable relationship between these two men despite their differences in temper and intelligence. Out of loyalty to Johnny Boy and Teresa, Charlie abandons his faith and his ambitions to help Johnny Boy stay alive while dodging his creditors. His efforts turn out to be in vain, but if that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is. 

Times Square/ Credit: Anchor BayTimes Square (1980)
Pamela and Nicky (played by Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson)

 I just can’t live like you anymore.

Though out of print for years, Times Square is a quintessential New York movie that has been criminally underseen. Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson star as two girls from different sides of the track—Pamela (rich) and Robin (poor)—who meet in when they are both being evaluated in a mental hospital The two girls form an unlikely bond and break out together to live on their own in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of Manhattan. Amazingly, they successfully form a punk rock band called "The Sleez Sisters" that becomes an underground hit with the help of a sympathetic DJ (played by Tim Curry). Pamela and Robin wander the streets around Times Square (pre-Giuliani) trying to find themselves and growing up much too quickly. Once Pamela decides to return to her family, the film ends with the girls performing one last concert from a rooftop in Times Square before parting as friends.

The Pope of Greenwich Village/ Credit: MGMThe Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
Charlie and Paulie (played by Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts)

Outgrow him? I dunno Diane, Maybe WASP's outgrow people. I'm Italian. We outgrow pants, not people. 

Have you had that friend who you know isn’t good for you but you just can’t let them go? For Charlie (Mickey Rourke), that friend (and cousin) is Paulie (Eric Roberts). Charlie is working as a waiter in Greenwich Village with aspirations of owning his own place when he is fired, along with his co-worker and best friend, Paulie, because their boss discovers that  Paulie has been skimming checks. Jobless, burdened with alimony, and needing to support a pregnant girlfriend, Charlie reluctantly goes along with Paulie’s half-baked plan to steal money from a local business. The robbery goes bad, a cop is killed,and the two discover that the loot belongs to a gangster.  Adversity does not alter the friendship, however, and the connection between the two men is powerfully conveyed by the remarkable performances of both Rourke and Roberts.

Working Girl/ Credit: 20th Century FoxWorking Girl (1988)
Tess and Cynthia (played by Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack)

Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will.

Taking place in Staten Island and Manhattan, Working Girl follows Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith, never better), an ambitious nobody who dreams of leaving the secretarial pool for a executive position but is thwarted by sexist colleagues at every turn. Her best friend, Cynthia (a hilarious Joan Cusack), supports her every aspiration, even when she realizes that Tess is moving further and further away from their life on Staten Island. Cynthia gives Tess tough love throughout the film but always stands by her. The scene in which Tess calls Cyn to announce her promotion is all the more joyous because of their close connection. Not surprisingly, both Griffith and Cusack were both nominated for Oscars.

Juice/ Credit: Paramount PicturesJuice (1992)
Bishop, Q, Raheem, and Steel (Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, Khalil Kain, Jermaine Hopkins)

I’ve known a lot of killers since they were kids.

It’s an inevitable that at times friendships in this city turn sour as Juice, a crime drama set in Harlem illustrates in dramatic fashion. The film tracks the disintegrating relationships among four best friends who begin to hang out as kids, forming a gang called  “The Wrecking Crew,” stealing records, and avoiding the cops and Puerto Rican gangs that hassle them. Tupac Shakur gives a tour de force performance as Bishop who craves the gangster lifestyle and the “juice” (aka the power). His friends—Q, Raheem and Steel—reluctantly go along with Bishop’s plan to rob the bodega of a man who gives them no respect but balk after Bishop executes the shop owner. In an altercation Bishop accidentally shots and kills Raheem in front Q and Steel. Q and Steel say nothing to the police, but their friendship is forever destroyed, which eventually leads up to a final and deadly showdown between Bishop and Q. It’s a sad tale of a New York City friendship gone horribly awry.

Leon: The Professional/ Credit: Columbia PicturesLéon: The Professional (1994)
Léon and Matilda (played by Jean Reno and Natalie Portman)

Bonnie and Clyde didn't work alone. Thelma and Louise didn't work alone. And they were the best.

Perhaps one of cinema’s most unlikely friendship takes place between a cleaner (or hit man) and a precocious and neglected 12 year old girl. In her breakout role, Natalie Portman plays Mathilda, a girl who fortuitously escapes the massacre of her whole family by corrupt DEA agents. Her neighbor Léon (Jean Reno), a distant, isolated presence, gives her shelter and the twoform a tight bond. Mathilda needs Léon, but what surprises Léon most is how much he grows to need her. As the pair battle more rogue DEA agents, Léon tells Mathilda that she has given him “a taste for life.”  Unfortunately he dies in the process helping Mathilda avenge her family and escape to a peaceful life.

Walking and Talking/ Credit: Miramax

Walking and Talking (1996)
Amelia and Laura (played by Catherine Keener and Anne Heche)

My best friend is getting married. It’s probably what’s making me sick.

One of the most underrated indies of the mid ninetes, Walking and Talking is celebrated filmmaker Nicole Holofcener’s debut feature. Anchored by strong performances from Catherine Keener and Anne Heche, the film follows the evolving friendship between the perpetually single Amelia (Keener) with an affinity for cats and Laura (Heche) who is about to get married. Both women, who grew up together, experience the types of changing relationships among their peers and friends that the city breeds. Through terrible dates, cold feet, and general bad behavior, Amelia and Laura stick by each other, resulting in one of the most honest conversation about the changing nature of friendship on screen: “We used to talk about things! You used to need me, for Christ's sake.” Not even the neuroses and hang-ups that living in the city can bring can sever their enduring friendship.

25th Hour/ Credit: Buena Vista Pictures 25th Hour (2002)
Monty, Frank, and Jacob (played by Edward Norton, Barry Pepper and Phillip Seymour Hoffman)

Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.

Famous, among many other reasons, for being one of the first movies about post-9/11 New York City, the 25th Hour is the story of Money Brogan (Edward Norton) who is a convicted drug dealer about to serve a seven year prison sentence. Naturally, he calls his best buds together for one big last night out: Frank (Barry Pepper, never better), a fast talking Wall Street trader, and Jacob (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a sad-sack high school English teacher. They have known each other since the playground days and they try to feign a good time at this somber occasion. Over the course the night, the three men dredge up past issues and express feelings of guilt, anger and sadness about Monty’s situation and their own personal failures. Not for the faint of heart, this emotional journey of three men’s friendship over the course of nearly three decades is expertly told through the landscape of the New York streets.

The Vistor/ Credit:Overture FilmsThe Visitor (2007)
Walter and Tarek (played by Richard Jenkins and Haaz Sleiman)

You can't just take people away like that. Do you hear me? He was a good man, a good person. It's not fair! We are not just helpless children! He had a life! Do you hear me? What's the matter with you?

The Visitor took the independent film world by storm when it was released in 2007, most notability for Richard Jenkins Oscar-nominated performance as Walter Vale, a widowed college professor who reluctantly agrees to present a paper at an NYU conference. When arriving at his Manhattan apartment, he finds two illegal immigrants—the Palestinian-Syrian Tarek (a revelatory Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend. Walter, lonely and isolated from the world, allows the couple to stay with him and develops quite a bond the pair. Sensing his loneliness, Tarek teaches Walter how to play the drum, and Walter slowly returns to life after joining a drum circle in Central Park. When Tarek is mistakenly arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he is sent to a deportation center and Walter fights for his release, alongside his family and friends. Truly, their cinematic friendship proves that New York City is the greatest melting pot in the world.


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