There’s something glamorous about staying in a hotel, as if by simply taking residence you attain that elusive status normally reserved for stars. After all, hotels do tend to show up in a lot of movies — New York hotels most frequently of all. Hollywood has made a habit of giving our hotels leading roles. Here’s a list of film-favorite hotels to help make your stay in New York a bit more cinematic.
768 Fifth Ave., Midtown
Located on the edge of Central Park, the century-old Plaza is a New York icon, the type of stately and grand building that’s as much a part of cinematic history as it is the city’s. The hotel underwent a $450 million renovation, completed in 2007, that fully refurbished interiors and exteriors that honor the spirit of the classic. With its iconic look and innate glamour, it’s no surprise that the legendary building has provided the backdrop for some truly memorable movies over the years.
No hotel captures the Great Gatsby era quite like The Plaza, which figured prominently in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, and consequently in his famous novel and the 2013 movie. One of the movie’s key scenes takes place here, when Gatsby and Tom confront each other over Daisy (above). Of course, shooting movies at The Plaza is nothing new. In the final scene of The Way We Were, Katie (Barbara Streisand) and Hubbell (Robert Redford) meet out front, where Katie’s famous words “your girl is lovely, Hubbell,” are later echoed by Carrie in an episode of Sex and the City. The Plaza also appears in the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest where in a case of mistaken identity, advertising executive Thornhill (Cary Grant) is abducted from his Plaza hotel room. And it was home base for Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (top).
Other cameos: Almost Famous, Arthur, The Associate, Bride Wars, It Could Happen to You, Sleepless in Seattle, Scent of a Woman, Brewster’s Millions, Funny Girl
The Waldorf Astoria
301 Park Ave., Midtown
Since its Park Avenue location opened in 1931, the Waldorf Astoria has been one of the most popular New York film locations; beginning in 1945 with Week-End at the Waldorf (starring Ginger Rogers and Lana Turner), over 20 films and television shows have been filmed there. It’s also a favorite residence for both movie stars and Presidents. Marilyn Monroe sublet a suite on the 27th floor, and John and Jackie Kennedy spent the first night of their honeymoon in the Waldorf Towers. The hotel’s Guerlain Spa also offers guests the opportunity to be pampered like stars with “Red Carpet” spa treatments.
One of the most memorable scenes filmed at the Waldorf Astoria appears in Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino famously dances the tango with a much younger woman in the hotel’s private event space, The Vanderbilt Room (above). Pacino won an Oscar for his performance as a blind and irritable retired army officer, and the scene cemented the Waldorf Astoria in the annals of cinematic history. In Serendipity, the Waldorf serves as a backdrop for Jonathan (John Cusak) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) as fate brings them back together. And while in real life, many actual royals have booked rooms at the Waldorf, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is confined here in Coming to America.
Other cameos: The-Out-of-Towners, Maid in Manhattan, Random Hearts, Analyze This, For Love of the Game, The Royal Tenenbaums, Two Weeks’ Notice, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Adjustment Bureau
The St. Regis New York
2 E 55th St., Midtown
Built in 1904, the St. Regis Hotel is regarded as one of the finest hotels in the world. In addition to its countless hospitality awards and a long history of famous residents (Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had a notoriously loud fight there), the St. Regis is home to the King Cole Bar, which is credited with inventing America’s favorite brunch drink, the Bloody Mary.
The St. Regis appears twice in The Godfather: First, as the hotel where Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) spend their night in New York (above), and later where Clemenza (Richard Castellano) guns down Don Stracci (Don Castello) and his associate in an elevator.In the justice-against-your-ex flick The First Wives Club, actress Elise (Goldie Hawn) sits at the King Cole Bar and sobs into her cocktail. She’s been passed up for a leading role and considered instead for the role of that character’s mother. In a much less dramatic scene in The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea (Anne Hathway) meets potential love interest Christian (Simon Baker) at the bar to pick up a copy of the unreleased Harry Potter book.
Other cameos: Miss Congeniality, Taxi Driver
5 E 76th St., Upper East Side
The Carlyle, located on the Upper East Side with views of Central Park, has a rich and presidential history. It was called the “New York White House” because of John F. Kennedy’s long-standing affinity for staying there. According to legend, Kennedy used the Carlyle’s network of underground tunnels to discreetly enter and exit the hotel unnoticed.
It’s also where Woody Allen, a frequent Carlyle guest, has filmed two of his movies. In Hollywood Ending, Woody meets with his ex-wife (Tea Leoni) for a drink at the Carlyle’s famous Bemelman’s bar (above). The bar was named for Madeline author Ludwig Bemelman, who painted its walls in exchange for a year and a half of accommodations. In Hannah and her Sisters, Mickey Sachs (played by Allen) takes his date (Dianne Wiest) to hear jazz performer Bobby Short perform at Café Carlyle. In real life, the director plays clarinet with The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band here Monday evenings.
Other cameos: Reversal of Fortune, Meet Joe Black
The Chelsea Hotel
222 W 23rd St., Chelsea
A favorite of Andy Warhol, Hotel Chelsea has an eclectic and storied past. Built in 1885, it was the tallest building in New York for two decades and became a historic landmark in 1966. It’s been home to an enviable roster of musicians, writers, artists and actors including Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsberg, and Mark Twain. Now known as Hotel Chelsea, the building closed for renovations in 2011 and is expected to reopen sometime in 2014. In the meantime, it’s worth taking in the famous facade.
Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls memorializes the Chelsea as a haven for writers and artists. The film follows the life of several “residents” of The Chelsea (only poet Rene Ricard actually lived there at the time), employing a split-screen treatment for lighter and darker scenes. Though the effect was unsettling, the film was well-received and became Warhol’s first commercial success. In Natalie Portman’s first film, Leon (aka The Professional), the Chelsea Hotel is the setting for the interior shots of Leon (Jean Reno) and Mathilda’s (Portman) apartment building. The 1986 film Sid & Nancy was also filmed at the hotel, the real-life location where Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols allegedly killed girlfriend Nancy Spungeon.
Other cameos: 9 ½ Weeks, Party Monster, The Interpreter, Chelsea Walls
The Roosevelt Hotel
45 E 45th St., Midtown
Built during the roaring 20s, the Roosevelt Hotel is a monument to prohibition-era America. It’s located near Grand Central station, and at one time underground tunnels connected the two institutions. The hotel, named for Theodore Roosevelt, has played host to aristocrats and celebrities and, of course, some unforgettable movie sets.
The Roosevelt Hotel’s Grand Ballroom is the backdrop to Gordon Gekko’s classic “Greed is Good” speech in Wall Street (above). Michael Douglas won an academy award for his performance, thanks in no small part to this rousing monologue expounding on the problems facing the private sector. Another dramatic scene filmed here takes place in The French Connection, when Detective Russo (Roy Scheider) first bumps into drug lord Frog One (Fernando Rey) outside the Roosevelt. And more recently, the hotel played a central role in Man on a Ledge, in which Sam Worthington stands on the Roosevelt’s ledge 200 feet above the street to create a diversion during a jewel heist.
Other cameos: Quiz Show, Boiler Room, Man on a Ledge, The Dictator, 1408, Malcolm X, Men in Black 3
The New York Palace
455 Madison Ave., Midtown
The New York Palace particularly stands out for it’s mix of the old and the new. The complex includes the historic 1884 Villard Mansion as well as a 55-story modern tower. It’s this blend of classic and contemporary that has made it a hit with film and TV studios (much of the drama of Gossip Girl was filmed here). The hotel also just underwent a $140 million renovation.
The striking Madison Avenue courtyard, with motifs from 15th-century Italian cathedrals, has been the setting for multiple movies. In the rom com 27 Dresses, Katherine Heigl’s character races from a posh wedding at the hotel to another one on the other side of the river in Brooklyn. Just My Luck, featuring the headline-grabbing Lindsay Lohan, also filmed in the hotel courtyard.