20 Central Park Movie Moments You Can Reenact IRL
Earlier this summer the Central Park Conservancy published a post about Central Park in the Movies, as part of this year’s Central Park Conservancy Film Festival. In keeping with their exploration of the beautiful, iconic, and imminently recognizable sights of New York City’s most famous greenspace, we decided to further explore the coolest film locations in the park, and we added a few new ones to the CPC’s list. From Buddy the Elf showing off his snowball throwing skills near Pinebank Arch to Jay Gatsby confronting Tom Buchanan at The Plaza Hotel, Central Park is one of the most filmed locations in the world, with over 305 movies filmed there as of 2011.
Learn more about the real-life filming locations of some of America’s (and Central Park’s) most iconic films, below.
Located in the lower Southeast quadrant of Central Park, Bethesda Terrace is likely one of the park’s most photographed (and certainly most busy) settings for a photo-op. 1908’s Romeo and Juliet was the first movie to ever be filmed in Central Park, with scenes depicted in front of Bethesda Fountain. In 1976’s Marathon Man, Thomas Levy (Dustin Hoffman) visits the terrace (as well as the Reservoir and Delacorte Clock), and in 1979’s Hair, a song and dance sequence for “Ain’t Got No” features “several shots of Bethesda Terrace’s intricate carvings, which represent the four seasons and, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day,” according to the Central Park Conservancy. The fountain also makes a cameo in the 1992 sequel to Home Alone, wherein Kevin, running from the “Sticky Bandits”, hops into a horse carriage in front of Bethesda Fountain. Most recently, the same backdrop was featured in 2012’s The Avengers and in 2008’s 27 Dresses, in which Bethesda Fountain and the Boathouse restaurant serve as the backdrop to Jane (Katherine Heigl’s) continuous marital misgivings.
The Mall consists of four rows of towering American Elm trees that are both botanical marvels and one of the most serene alleys in the park. Forming a cathedral-like canopy on the south side of the park, many of Hollywood’s most iconic “walking” and “park bench” scenes have taken place on this one quarter-mile strip. 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s features a shots of several rows of benches in front of the nearby Naumburg Bandshell, at the north end of the Mall. In 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer Dustin Hoffman’s character Ted Kramer teaches his son Billy (played by Justin Henry) to bike on the Mall. In 2002’s Maid in Manhattan, dual protagonists Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes sit on a bench in the course of one of their many intimate conversations. A bench on the Mall is also where Dylan and Jamie (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis) decided to conduct their “friends with benefits” experiment in 2011’s Friends With Benefits.
Arguably the most famous movie ever filmed in Central Park is 1989’s When Harry Met Sally, beginning most notably when Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) has lunch with her friends at Loeb Boathouse. (Boathouse’s Lakeside Restaurant serves meals all day long and was featured in this scene against the fiery backdrop of bright orange Autumn foliage.) Five years earlier, in 1984’s Ghostbusters, Louis Tully falls prey to a demonic “Terror Dog” at the Tavern on the Green restaurant, which is also still in operation and available for lunch and dinner. Earlier, in 1962’s Manchurian Candidate (the one starring Frank Sinatra) the same boathouse is depicted conspicuously without rowboats (and there’s no indication in the movie of where they went, though its clear that movies filmed in Central Park typically do so in the early morning and late evening in order to avoid drumming up spectators).
The slope on a hill overlooking the lake is a recognizable (if little discussed) corner of Central Park that is great for picnic dates, doing yoga, people watching, or stretching out after a long run. As one of several backdrops in the aforementioned Marathon Man, Cherry Hill also features prominently in 2011’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in which Thomas Schell (played by Tom Hanks) and Oskar Schell (the then-adorable Thomas Horn) play together on a swing set which doesn’t actually exist in real life on the hill. (Editor’s note: Thomas Horn is still adorable, he’s just older now. Another fun fact: he also won on “Jeopardy!” during Kids Week with an earning of $31,000 after wagering $12,000 during Final Jeopardy. He speaks fluent Croatian, and knows some Mandarin and Spanish.) In 2007’s August Rush, things get similarly whimsical when August Rush (Freddie Highmore) conducts the New York Philharmonic on the nearby Great Lawn.
Bow Bridge casts a romantic view over the lake in Central Park, and it’s also the setting where Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) meets with the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) in 2007’s Spider Man 3. In 2007’s Enchanted, a song and dance sequence for “That’s How You Know” features a handful of Central Park locations including Bow Bridge and the rowboat-filled lake in front of Loeb Boathouse. Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey) are also seen near Bethesda Fountain and Columbus Circle– two backdrops that are, in and of themselves, enchanting.