Long Island: A Prolific Film Setting

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has characters traveling from Rockville Center to Montauk, as well as their own memories.

Long Island has a rich history on film. There are obvious cultural staples such as the Corleone estate in The Godfather and Jim Carey and Kate Winslet’s Hamptons romance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, there are countless other films that also use Long Island as its setting.

Here are our picks for some of the best films that take place on Long Island:

The Roaring Twenties (1939)

The Roaring Twenties is a notable gangster film that marks the perfect end of the post-code gangster flick. It eventually led into the crime films of the 1940s, forever dubbed as “film noir.”

Walsh’s film expertly condenses the 20th century up until that point and provides a great overview as to why so many men turned to bootlegging and a life of crime. Starring James Cagney as the gangster with a heart of gold, Humphrey Bogart as the vicious crook, and Priscilla Lane as Cagney’s love interest – who he nicknames “Mineola” during their rides on the Long Island Rail Road together.

The Honeymoon Killers (1970)

Leonard Kastle’s first – and only – film was inspired by the infamous “Lonely Hearts Killers” Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck. The film chronicles their romance and travels swindling one unsuspecting single woman to the next. They attempt to quit this life and live in the quiet suburbs of Valley Stream, unfortunately they end up growing quite bored and continue on with their hustling with Martha’s jealousy boiling to fatal proportions.

Francois Truffaut has cited The Honeymoon Killers as his favorite American film of the 70s and it can be argued that it was the last genuine “noir.” Thanks to Criterion’s DVD and Blu-Ray release the film’s audience has only grown over the years.

The Landlord (1970)

Hal Ashby’s directorial debut is a poignant and thought-provoking portrait of race in America that still resonates well into the 21st century.

Beau Bridges plays a trust fund heir who becomes bored of his idyllic living in his Long Island estate and decides to invest in Brooklyn housing. His initial proprietor intentions were to evict the tenants and create a luxury abode for himself, however; his attitudes begin to change once he becomes closer to his tenants.

Despite this premise The Landlord is not an easy solvable racism movie. It raises a lot of important questions about race, class, and identity. Not to mention it was a direct response to easily digestible message pictures such as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?    

Husbands (1970)

From legendary Director/Actor/Long Island native John Cassavetes is his seminal classic Husbands.  The film would mark his first collaboration with legendary performers Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara who would later star in Cassavetes’ subsequent work such as A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Opening Night.

The movie centers on three middle aged men living on Long Island who -after the death of their close friend – decide to go on an impulsive binge drinking and womanizing tour of New York and London. Husbands may not end up being your cup of tea but the performances are top notch and the influence it had on independent cinema is unquestionable.

Also worth checking out is the Dick Cavett interview conducted before the film’s release:

Trust (1990)

Long Island native Hal Hartley gained quite the reputation as an independent visionary. A true auteur with a distinct style and someone who has continued to make the films he wants to make without ever succumbing to the big Hollywood tentpoles.

Hartley has made 13 films over the years but his quintessential one would have to be his sophomore outing Trust. The movie is just firing on all cylinders from the acting, the writing, and the score. Also, any performance from Adrienne Shelly is a treasure.

For those interested Hal Hartley is selling the film along with The Unbelievable Truth and Simple Men as part of The Long Island Trilogy box set.

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