Spider-Man: Homecoming

5 Films That Feature the Staten Island Ferry

Most tourists visiting New York City typically ignore the southernmost borough, Staten Island. In fact, many New Yorkers who’ve lived in the city their whole lives have never been, either. However, the boat that takes 24 million people per year from Manhattan to Staten Island and back again — the Staten Island Ferry — is one of the city’s most famous, most visited landmarks.

Traveling between the Big Apple’s two island counties by boat is a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1700s, when Cornelius Vanderbilt made his first profit sailing fellow Staten Islanders to downtown Manhattan. The iconic orange fleet of ships have been in service nearly as long, and are as much a fixture of New York Harbor as the Statue of Liberty. Look out the windows from New York Film Academy’s Battery Park campus in downtown New York City, and chances are you’ll see a ferry or two making their way to port, just yards away from the school.

It’s no surprise then that the Staten Island Ferry has appeared in many New York-based films. Sometimes, the ferries provide the setting for a key scene, sometimes they make brief cameos as part of the city’s backdrop, sometimes they’re the focus of the movie.

In the fourth film of Blumhouse’s Purge franchise coming out this summer, Staten Island takes center stage as the testing grounds for The First Purge. Don’t be surprised if the borough’s namesake ferry makes an appearance or two before Purge Night reaches dawn. In the meantime, here are five other films that predominantly feature the Staten Island Ferry:

(Warning: may contain spoilers!)

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The second act centerpiece of Peter Parker’s very own entry in the MCU was so epic and action-packed that it became the focus of much of the film’s marketing and film trailers. Far from his friendly neighborhood in Queens, and far from the skyscrapers he could web-sling to for escape, Spider-Man found himself in the middle of New York Harbor battling Michael Keaton’s villain, the Vulture.

After the ferry is completely split in two, Spider-Man must work quickly to hold the entire, massive ship together with his own webs and Spidey-strength. At the end of the day, the ship is saved and its passengers kept dry, but only after some help from Marvel’s other iconic New Yorker, Tony Stark.

Working Girl

Working Girl was a box-office smash in the 1980s, back when Hollywood wasn’t completely dominated by superhero and sci-fi franchises. The romantic comedy, directed by legendary Mike Nichols, starred Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, and Harrison Ford.

Griffith’s sympathetic lead, Tess McGill, is a secretary from Staten Island who, like a lot of Staten Islanders, commutes every morning to Wall Street for work. The film’s iconic opening sequence featured Griffith, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, taking the Ferry along with an army of morning commuters. The scene featured Carly Simon’s Let the River Run, which ultimately went on to win the Oscar for Best Song and solidified the Staten Island Ferry’s place in Hollywood history.

Who’s That Knocking At My Door?

The title may not ring any bells, but 1967’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door?, originally titled I Call First, is legendary for being the first feature film by director Martin Scorsese. Starring a very young, fresh-faced Harvey Keitel, the film deals with Catholic guilt as well as love and heartbreak for Italian Americans in downtown Manhattan, themes that would be even more fleshed out six years later in Mean Streets.

The film centers around the relationship between Keitel’s character, J.R., and his unnamed love interest, played by Zina Bethune. The audience’s engagement with these two characters relies on a key opening scene in the film — a lengthy, sometimes awkward conversation where the two leads meet while commuting on the Staten Island Ferry. In its own twisted way, it may even be one of Hollywood’s first meet cutes.

Notably, Scorsese’s first feature was filmed over several years, originally as part of his student film. Prolific Hollywood director Martin Brest also shot his student film, Hot Dogs for Gauguin, on the Staten Island Ferry, starring then-unknown actors Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman — solidifying the Ferry as a go-to location for New York film students.

Ferry Tales

While the Staten Island Ferry is a huge attraction for tourists visiting New York City, its greatest use is transporting commuters back and forth across the harbor. Many Staten Islanders work in Manhattan, whether as Wall Street brokers, with the NYPD, or in any number of white- and blue-collar jobs. These commuters often take the ferry every morning at the same time, and start to recognize one another and even form friendships.

In 2003 the documentary short Ferry Tales was released, featuring the stories of some of the women who got to know each other in the powder room of the ferry while getting ready for work in the city. These women came from all sorts of diverse backgrounds but, for twenty-five minutes each morning, bonded over their shared commute and shared stories both with one other and with the documentary crew, including subjects as heavy as divorce, domestic violence, and the struggles of single motherhood.

Early in the 2001 filming of the documentary, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 occurred, giving everyone on the ferry — and the film crew — an unobstructed front row view of one of the most horrific attacks to ever occur on American soil. Along with appearing in and winning several film festivals, Ferry Tales went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 2003.

The Dark Knight

Technically, the Staten Island Ferry doesn’t appear in Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film. Instead, the third act climax revolves around the Gotham Island Ferry — two, in fact. However, you wouldn’t need an eagle eye or be from Staten Island to recognize the iconic orange ships — with the exception of the first word painted on the side, these boats are Staten Island Ferries both inside and out.

Whereas most of Gotham City in The Dark Knight was filmed in and based on Chicago, the island boroughs and harbor were more clearly modeled on New York — a trend that was even more fleshed out in the third film, The Dark Knight Rises. The final, master plan of Heath Ledger’s Joker involved strapping bombs to two escaping ferries — one loaded with innocent evacuees, the other with convicted felons. The Joker gave each group the opportunity to save themselves by blowing up the other boat. Christian Bale’s Batman held faith that neither side would give in so easily, and was ultimately proven right, much to the Joker’s disappointment. It’s a safe bet to assume the real life commuters of the Staten Island Ferry would make the same choice.

Interested in studying film or acting just yards away from the Staten Island Ferry? Check out the programs New York Film Academy has to offer HERE.

Fan Favorite Performances From Blockbuster Season

There’s no better time to be a movie fan. This year there were plenty of fantastic films released during the summer, which means a number of notable acting performances that will have us talking throughout this awards season.

In case you missed them, this is your call to catch up on recent stand-out blockbuster performances:

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”

These days there’s no shortage of movies based on our favorite comic book heroes. In fact, it’s now normal to have several superhero movies release during the summer. But if there’s one actress who many thought didn’t have what it takes to become the next DC Comics superstar, it’s Gal Gadot. Of course, the Israeli actress and model proved everyone wrong by impressing with her performance as one of the most iconic female superheroes we know.

While Chris Pine’s performance as Steve Trevor was praised, Gadot proved she was the perfect fit as Wonder Woman by making the heroine feel strong yet genuine and compassionate.

Fionn Whitehead & Harry Styles in “Dunkirk”

If there’s one thing the industry can agree on, it’s that Christopher Nolan knows how to make good movies. His latest, a World War II epic about the British military’s celebrated evacuation, already has more than $166 million in box office and nothing but positive reviews. One of the most remarkable things about “Dunkirk” is that it was the film acting debut for two of the main characters.

Although it was their first major acting gig, both Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles impressed with their roles as young Allied soldiers. Like many celebrities who reached stardom in another industry, there were low expectations for Styles. Instead, most reviewers praised his convincing performance.

Andy Serkis in “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Ever since his critically acclaimed role as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, Andy Serkis has become the top motion-capture actor on the planet. Working on big films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Serkis’ movies have grossed more than $8 billion dollars worldwide. Did we mention you’ll also see his work in the upcoming “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi?”

Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis once again blew audiences away with his performance as the leader of the apes.

Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

This summer was not good for fans of R-rated comedy. From “Trainwreck” and “Snatched” to “The House” and “Baywatch,” several movies that promised to keep us laughing during the hottest months of the year ended up underwhelming. Only “Girls Trip” delivered thanks to its many comical situations and well-chosen cast.

Despite working alongside renowned co-stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish managed to steal the show and keep viewers laughing throughout the film. Her role in the film is considered Haddish’s breakout role and one of the reasons the R-rated comedy has earned more than $100 million

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

There will always be skeptics when a new actor takes the role of a beloved superhero. Considering that the last film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” underperformed at the box office and received mixed reviews, there was even more pressure on Tom Holland to bring Peter Parker to life in yet another attempt at a Spider-Man film reboot.

Tom Holland received acclaim for his performance as the Webslinger in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is considered by many to be the best film in the franchise to date. Holland’s good looks and acting abilities also helped him win “Choice Summer Movie Actor” and get nominated for Choice Breakout Movie Star at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick”

It just wouldn’t be summer without a few romantic comedies thrown into the mix. On paper, “The Big Sick” sounds like the many other movies in this genre that you’ve already seen. There’s the nice guy falling in love with a girl he thinks is too good for her but goes for it anyway, resulting in a rollercoaster of emotions.

But what makes this movie unique, hilarious, and worth watching even if you hate romantic comedies is Kumail Nanjiani’s performance. His excellent chemistry with co-star Zoe Kazan and knack for melding humor with heartwarming moments is one of the reasons “The Big Sick” is seen as a revitalization of the genre.

The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.