Although Staten Island ranks third in size and is the least populated of the five, there are a lot of things that make it stick out from the rest. Just for starters, it is the most expensive of all the boroughs. It also has the most “small town” characteristics and feels the least like part of New York City than any of the others.
It is home to many interesting and beautiful places, both natural and man-made. There’s the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, several museums, and a generous helping of park land throughout, 12,300 acres’ worth to be exact.
You may have heard that the largest landfill in the entire world is here too, but that is a little false. They *used* to have the largest landfill up until 2001, but now it is being converted into park land, and is scheduled for full completion by 2037.
It is for these reasons, and dozens more, that filmmakers have occasionally set up shop in the borough formerly known as Richmond (until 1975). See below for a list of some of the most famous:
Movies Filmed on Staten Island
War of the Worlds (2005)
This sci-fi Spielberg-directed movie was based upon a book written by H.G. Wells from 1897. The plot involves Tom Cruise trying to take care of his estranged children after aliens have invaded and wreaked havoc on Earth. The film takes place in New York/New Jersey and was filmed in several areas, including the Korean War Veterans Parkway.
1 h 56 min | PG-13
Working Girl (1988)
Although Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) worked in Manhattan, in this romantic comedy about moving up the corporate ladder, the main character lived on Staten Island. The opening of the movie was filmed on the Staten Island Ferry. Carly Simon’s song, “Let the River Run”, played throughout it and won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
1 h 53 min | R
Big Fan (2009)
Patton Oswalt took on the role of “world’s biggest New York Giants fan” in this dark comedy alongside Kevin Corrigan and Michal Rapaport. Although after an encounter with one of the players, he definitely might not be anymore. Locations for the movie included the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility and Richard University Medical Center.
1 h 28 min | 18+
The King of Staten Island (2020)
One would hope that a movie with a place in its name (and the word king) would have been filmed at that location. For this Pete Davidson-led, sort-of-biographical dramedy, that was the case. Just some of the Staten Island spots director Judd Apatow featured in the film included Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern and the Richmond County Bank Ballpark.
2 h 17 min | 16+
Easy Money (1983)
In comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s fourth movie, he must give up every vice he has in order to inherit a substantial fortune. Costars included Joe Pesci and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Locations were done in several states, including the New Springville area. The theme song was performed by The Piano Man himself, Billy Joel.
School of Rock (2003)
Before it was a Broadway play, Jack Black took on the starring role of Dewey Finn, the musician turned substitute teacher trying to get fifth graders to win the Battle of the Bands. Filming locations were all over New York, and Staten Islanders can spot The Cargo Cafe, Wagner College, and the St. George Theatre.
1 h 49 min | PG-13
Wonder Wheel (2017)
This Woody Allen-directed movie starred Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, and Justin Timberlake. Although the film’s setting and also its name pays homage to Brooklyn (Coney Island specifically) in the 50s, there were some scenes shot at Chinese Scholar’s Garden, South Beach, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, and the St. George Theatre. See movies shot in Brooklyn.
1 h 53 min | PG
Staten Island Summer(2015)
Another movie with Staten Island right in its name, this comedy was written by Colin Jost of SNL fame and starred Graham Phillips, Bobby Moynihan, Cecily Strong, and Ashley Greene. It portrays the final summer before college of two lifeguarding friends. The movie was shot at Great Kills Swim Club.
1 h 47 min | R
He Knows You’re Alone (1980)
If you had “Tom Hanks in a slasher movie” on your Bingo card, go ahead and mark that box off. Although not one of his most famous, this film was actually Hanks’ first-ever movie role. With a Staten Island setting, locations were done at various places like Seaview Hospital.
1 h 33 min | R
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)
A Netflix original film, this drama starred Maggie Gyllenhaal as a tired, bored, and unchallenged teacher, mother and wife. Until she meets young Jimmy, whose poetry talents both re-invigorate and also prompt her to largely overstep boundaries. The movie was set in and filmed on Staten Island.
1 h 51 min | PG-13
No, not that Neighbors movie. Twenty-three years before Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd starred in this comedy about what happens when a very normal family gets some new, not-quite-as-normal neighbors. It was Belushi’s final film role before his death in March of 1982. The entire movie was shot on Staten Island.
1 h 35 min | PG-13
Joe the King (1999)
This film was written, directed, and based upon Frank Whaley’s upbringing in a low-income, abusive household and the lengths he went to in order to fix his broken home. It starred Val Kilmer, Ethan Hawke, and John Leguizamo, among many others. Although the film was set further north, locations were done in NYC as well as Staten Island.
1 h 40 min | R
Little Children (2006)
Based upon Tom Perotta’s 2004 novel, this drama starred Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson as unhappy parents and spouses who find one another (and trouble and a sex offender) in small-town Massachusetts. Some locations were done on Staten Island in Walker Park, Tottenville High, and Kilmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn.
2 h 16 min | R
The Jimmy Show (2001)
Another Frank Whaley film, this one he also wrote and directed as well as starred in, opposite Carla Gugino as his wife and Ethan Hawke as his friend. Jimmy O’Brien is not great at his day job in a warehouse nor his evening job as a comedian, no matter any tactic he tries. The movie was filmed on Staten Island.
1 h 36 min | R
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Although it’s unlikely that any woman would want to get rid of Matthew McConaughey, this comedy paired the Southern actor with Kate Hudson who was trying to do just that. The romcom was set in NYC, with a few scenes that took place and were shot on Staten Island, such as Buono Beach, the Staten Island Ferry, and the South Beach Boardwalk.
1 h 55 min | PG-13
This thriller had Angelina Jolie in the lead role, as a CIA officer who is suspected of being a sleeper agent out of Russia and must prove her innocence. Filming locations included Washington DC, and several parts of New York State, including not only the capital city of Albany, but also filmed in the Bronx, Queens, NYC, and Staten Island.
1 h 39 min | 16+
Safe Men (1998)
John Hamburg had his directorial debut in this comedy starring Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn as two singers who become entangled with the mafia after a case of mistaken identity. The movie was set in Rhode Island with locations in both New Jersey and on Staten Island.
1 h 27 min | R
Staten Island is sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten” borough due to its isolation from the mainland, absence of subways, and not actually being connected to Manhattan until the Verrazano bridge opened in 1964. But when it comes to filming movies, it is certainly not forgotten by Hollywood.
And this is just for Staten Island. When you add in the other boroughs and then New York State as a whole, the list grows exponentially!