Disappointing photos show what your favourite movies and TV shows get wrong about living in New York

IMDb/Warner Bros.Despite what ‘Girls’ and ‘Sex and the City’ want us to believe, living in New York on a writer’s salary is the furthest thing from glamorous.
  • New York City has long been the dream destination of many an aspiring city dweller, thanks to countless movies and TV shows set in Manhattan.
  • But cinema’s New York City, with all its glittering lights, coffee shops, and beckoning fire escapes, is a far cry from what the city is actually like.
  • Here’s what movies and television got glaringly wrong about what it’s like living in the Big Apple.

New York City has long been immortalised in film and television, inspiring generations of people to flock to the city that never sleeps.

But newcomers to the city soon learn that what they saw on the screen is often a distorted version of reality.

The most glaring of the inaccuracies? How easily these characters can afford the rent in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country (lookin’ at you, Carrie Bradshaw.)

Other things, like hanging out on fire escapes and having an entire circle of sofas in a coffee shop just for you and all your friends, show that the New York in the movies and TV is a far cry from reality.

Here’s what movies and television got terribly wrong about living in the Big Apple.


Outsiders are constantly drawn to the glittery allure of New York City both on and off the screen.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Sometimes the fact that a movie is set in New York is deemed reason enough to watch it, terrible plot aside.

IMDb/Warner Bros.Above: ‘New Year’s Eve,’ whose star-studded cast include Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron, has a whopping 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes


But movies and TV shows oftentimes turn a blind eye to the actual realities of living in the Big Apple…

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

…like hailing a taxi. Holly Golightly easily lets out a screeching whistle to hail one down. But a lot more goes into the task, like making eye contact with the taxi driver and positioning yourself appropriately on the street.

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: Trip Savvy


It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies.


As for the subway, it’s rare —and not recommended — to ride in a car all by yourself, especially at night. Sorry, Tony.

IMDb/Paramount PicturesAbove: John Travolta’s character in 1977’s ‘Saturday Night Fever’

Source: Huffington Post


In reality, navigating through the city by any form of public transportation is less than pleasant.

Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Source: New York Post


Living in New York means you’ll most likely be taking the subway to get to work. The system is notorious for being crowded and unreliable, clogged with 1.7 billion people riding the subway annually.

Source: MTA and New York Post


But of course not every movie or show gets this wrong. The CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” was pretty spot on in its “Subway Wars” episode.

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Source: Gothamist


They all argue which methods of transportation, like the bus, taxi, subway, or a good old-fashioned jog, could get them to a restaurant seven miles away the fastest…

IMDb/CBS

Source: Gothamist


…and then all sprint off to see who is right.

IMDb/CBS

Source: Gothamist


In the process, Robin completes two key tasks that her friends deem requirements to declare yourself a true New Yorker…

IMDb/CBS

Source: Gothamist


…like stealing a cab from someone who needs it more than you do…

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Source: Gothamist


…and crying on the subway without feeling self-conscious.

Source: Gothamist


The show also accurately describes the notoriously garbled subway announcements from the conductor, like delays and transfer updates, that riders can never understand.

Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Source: IMDb and New York Post


Another hit sitcom depicting the lives of Manhattan dwellers, though with less of a grip on reality, is “Friends.”

IMDb/Apple

Source: IMDb


The Central Perk coffee joint, Rachel’s seminal haircut, Ross teaching us how to carry furniture up a staircase — the show is held near and dear to our hearts.

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: IMDb


But the show is far from accurate when it comes to living in New York, like the gang somehow having enough time to sit around casually in a coffee shop all day. Don’t they have jobs…?

IMDb/NBC

Source: IMDb


And even when they do go to work, how do a coffee barista and a chef collectively make enough to afford a two-bedroom West Village apartment, which would have cost around $US2,350 in 1993?

IMDb/NBC

Source: The New York Times


Today that apartment would go for more than $US6,000 a month…

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


… and combined, a chef and barista in New York, on average, would earn around $US6,631 before taxes today. Someone explain this.

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Payscale, Payscale


The show’s way around this plot hole was that Monica inherited the rent-controlled apartment from her grandmother…

IMDb/NBC

Source: Bustle


…but it’s still not plausible that you could live in a New York apartment for ten years without rent costs rising. And rent-controlled apartments in New York are incredibly rare.

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Bustle, Curbed


The show falls short in other areas as well, like the same circle of sofas in your favourite coffee shop always being open for use…

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Time


…when in reality it’s hard enough to snag one seat in a coffee shop let alone six for you and your friends.

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

And there’s no way Ross would be able to lug a monkey around New York City (that’s definitely illegal.)

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Time and AMNY


On the newer end of the spectrum is HBO’s comedy-drama series “Girls” depicting the lives of millennial twenty-somethings in New York City.

IMDb/HBO

Source: IMDb


It’s been lauded as a step in the right direction as far as how living in the city is portrayed on TV…

IMDb/HBO

Source: The Washington Post


…but it still has its inaccuracies. We’re supposed to believe that Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Harvath, can afford a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with a freelance writer’s salary? Come on now.

IMDb/HBO

Source: The Washington Post


She mentions in the show that as a freelancer she’ll be making $US24,000 a year, which is nowhere near enough to cover her monthly rent of at least $US2,200.

IMDb/HBO

Source: The Washington Post


Kimmy Schmidt’s living quarters in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — though another extreme — is at least a little closer to reality for someone earning a lower income in New York.

IMDb/Netflix

Source: The Washington Post


Makeshift arrangements and “bedrooms” the size of a closet are par for the course for some New Yorkers.

Source: The Washington Post


In New York, living small has become somewhat of a necessary trend.

IMDb/Netflix

Source: NY Curbed


Besides Hannath Harvath, freelancer Carrie Bradshaw is perhaps the epitome of what living in New York as a writer does NOT look like.

Getty Images/HBO

Source: The Washington Post


Her life is the least believable out of the four friends of HBO’s hit series “Sex and the City.”

IMDb/HBO

Source: Newsday


Despite her art gallery curator salary of about less than $US70,000 a year, Charlotte York comes from old money, meaning she can afford her brownstone on the Upper East Side and anything else she wants.

IMDd/HBO

Source: Glassdoor and Newsday


Samantha Jones owns her own public relations firm, putting her annual salary into the seven-figure range.

IMDb/HBO

Source: PR Week


And lawyer Miranda Hobbes also enjoyed a comfortable million-dollar salary. Partners of corporate law firms make big money.

IMDb/HBO

Source: Newsday


But then there’s Carrie, with her Manolo Blahnik shoe addiction, spacious Upper East Side apartment, and otherwise fabulous lifestyle.

IMDb/HBO

Source: The Washington Post


We’re supposed to believe that writing one column a week can sustain you enough to rack up $US40,000 in designer shoes? Please.

IMDb/HBO

Source: Refinery29


There are some things the show nails though.

Getty Images/HBO

Source: Refinery29


Like becoming desensitised to what’s seen on the streets. What should be alarming to New Yorkers isn’t because, as Carrie put it, “it takes quite a bit to shock us.” Give it some time, and you’ll be in the same boat.

IMDb/HBO

Source: Refinery29


Other elements, like the four women’s love-hate relationship with the city and the perils of New York’s dating scene, is why the series is praised to this day as a classic inside glimpse of the city.

IMDb/HBO

Source: Refinery29


Another New York socialite is Holly Golightly, the Givenchy-wearing protagonist in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s…”

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: IMDb and Elle


…that lives in a beautiful brownstone on the Upper East Side.

IMDd/Paramount Pictures

Source: Observer


Rent for such an abode was in the $US120 a month range in 1960, or $US1,000 in today’s money.

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: Dollar Times


Plenty of people have attempted to debunk Holly’s ability to afford her Upper East Side apartment and to throw fabulous parties simply using the monetary gifts from her deep-pocketed suitors…

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: IMDb


…but considering the Sugar Baby trend sweeping the nation, which puts some extra cash into the hands of some financially struggling individuals, we’re not saying this is entirely implausible.

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: Business Insider


But don’t be fooled by how the movie waxes poetic about hanging out on fire escapes. Pigeon poop, among other things, renders that a little less idyllic than you thought.

IMDb/Paramount Pictures

Source: Refinery29


Also don’t be fooled by “Gossip Girl” Blair Waldorf’s easy ascent into New York’s high fashion editorial scene.

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Vogue


Wealthy background or not, transitioning that seamlessly from college to overseeing high-status fashion labels just isn’t accurate.

IMDb/Warner Bros.

Source: Vogue


In reality, climbing the career ladder is no easy feat. Job markets across every industry in New York are some of the largest in the country, meaning they’re also competitive. If you moved here to pursue a career, you’ll likely be working more than 49 hours a week.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times and New York Post


If you’ve seen “The Devil Wears Prada,” you know what this looks like.

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Anne Hathaway’s character is hired as the assistant of vicious and ruthless boss Miranda Priestly at a top fashion magazine.

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Source: IMDb


The demands of the job take a toll on Andy as her personal life unravels and work takes over completely.

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Source: IMDb


And it turns out the movie’s depiction is “scarily accurate.” Top figures in New York’s fashion editorial sphere confirm that 12-hour workdays, late night phone calls, and impossible tasks are regular occurrences.

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Source: Nylon


But at least you get to live in one of the greatest cities in the world…right?

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Source: Time Out

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