The city has been explored as a theme in movies since the early days of cinema, appearing as both a setting and a protagonist in films by renowned directors like Fritz Lang, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Roberto Rossellini and Quentin Tarantino. In one of the first films ever made, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1925), the Lumière brothers already show the modern urban environment as an important element and part of the contextualization.
Yet the cinema and the city have an extensive relationship, each influencing one another. The influence of architecture (especially modern) in the settings and cities of films can be seen in movies like Jacques Tati’s My Uncle (1958) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), while the influence of cinema in architecture and buildings can be seen in the work of architects like Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Bernard Tschumi.
We have compiled a list of 10 films in which the city plays a much more important role than just the mere setting, acting as a true protagonist of the plot.
1. Alphaville, Jean Luc Godard (1965)
2. China Town, Roman Polanski (1974)
3. Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese (1990)
4. Hiroshima My Love, Alain Resnais (1959)
5. Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola (2003)
6. Manhattan, Woody Allen (1979)
7. Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1927)
8. The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino (2013)
9. The Third Man, Carol Reed (1949)
10. Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders (1987)