Undefended: Cities and Towns

Every now and then, people will say that such and such a city or town “becomes a character” in such and such a film. Usually, this means the locale is depicted in a particularly vivid way or has an especially striking bearing on the plot or atmosphere of the film. For this month’s Undefended, FilmFisher’s writers picked the five best cinematic depictions of cities and towns:

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Timothy Lawrence

I tried to limit myself to only one LA movie, only one NY movie, only one Michael Mann movie. As you can see, I achieved two out of those three goals:
  1. Vienna in The Third Man (1949, dir. Carol Reed)
  2. New York in King of New York (1990, dir. Abel Ferrara)
  3. Los Angeles in Heat (1995, dir. Michael Mann)
  4. Paris in Midnight in Paris (2011, dir. Woody Allen)
  5. Los Angeles in Knight of Cups (2016, dir. Terrence Malick)
Honorable mention: Fargo and its surrounding cities in Fargo (1996, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, but also Noah Hawley’s 2014-2020 television series)

Jackson De Vight

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman)
  2. La La Land (2016, dir. Damien Chazelle)
  3. Ratatouille (2007, dir. Brad Bird)
  4. Lost in Translation (2003, dir. Sofia Coppola)
  5. Insomnia (1997, dir. Erik Skjoldbjærg)

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James Valmassoi

  1. Hong Kong in Fallen Angels (1995, Kar-Wai)
  2. Paris in Before Sunset (2004, Linklater)
  3. Los Angeles in Mulholland Drive (2001, Lynch)
  4. New York in After Hours (1985, Scorsese)
  5. Rockford in Minding the Gap (2018, Liu)

Tom Upjohn

  1. Los Angeles in Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)
  2. New York City in Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)
  3. New Port City in Ghost in the Shell (1995, Mamoru Oshii)
  4. New York City in Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
  5. Rome in Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica)

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William Connor Devlin

  1. Venice in Don’t Look Now (1973, dir. Nicholas Roeg)
  2. Los Angeles in They Live (1988, dir. John Carpenter)
  3. New York City in The Warriors (1979, dir. Walter Hill)
  4. Southern Texas in Lone Star (1996, dir. John Sayles)
  5. Chicago in Candyman (1992, dir. Bernard Rose)

Joel Bourgeois

  1. Archer City, TX as seen in Peter Bogdanovich’s Last Picture Show.
  2. Paris, TX as depicted in Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas.
  3. Paterson, NJ as seen in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson.
  4. Hong Kong as seen in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express.
  5. Gotham City as depicted in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

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Travis Kyker

  1. Los Angeles in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, Quentin Tarantino)
  2. New York City in Manhattan (1979, Woody Allen)
  3. Deadwood in Deadwood: Season One (2004, David Milch)
  4. Las Vegas in Ocean’s Eleven (2001, Steven Soderbergh)
  5. Washington, D.C. in Burn After Reading (2008, Joel & Ethan Coen)

Robert Brown

  1. Hadleyville in High Noon (1952)
  2. New York City in Oliver and Company (1988)
  3. Koriko in Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
  4. JFK Airport in The Terminal (2004)
  5. Radiator Springs in Cars (2006)
Timothy Lawrence

A graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at BIOLA University, Timothy Lawrence teaches great books through Emmaus Classical Academy in Southern California. He writes essays and fiction and counts the Coen Brothers and George Lucas among his personal heroes.

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