We live out our childhoods in suburbs and towns and leafy little villages. Then, as we grow through puberty and start to busy ourselves with the person we're meant to be, we start watching movies – the ones that represent big city life in that hyper-idealised way; the energy and diversity and intensity of it all, the sheer size and scale of the built environment.
Movies depict the world's greatest cities as exactly that – places against which you can define yourself. Places that could swallow you whole, chew you up and spit you out. But where stuff tends to happen that couldn't – wouldn't – happen anywhere else.
In the best films, the city becomes a protagonist, more than a setting in which characters and dramas play out. Unlike Friends, where bird's-eye shots of the New York skyline were cut with endless scenes in Central Perk (in fact, a studio in Los Angeles), the city becomes the film’s driving component, the location indivisible from the narrative.
But which are the best city films? The ones that, once watched, seep into your memory of a place, the way you'll think about it and refer to it from that moment on? The films that make a place feel tangible, recognisable, instead of foreign and far away. Some films just wouldn't work if they weren't so embedded in their city. But they are and, as a result, they're almost perfect.
Here's Refinery29's selection of the best city films...