When Harry Met Sally (1989)

This is the most recently produced movie on our Christmas cinema watchlist. Released in 1989, it is one of only a half dozen films on our list that were shot in color, rather than our preferred black & white. It’s on the list because it ranks as one of the most lovely, romantic movies with key scenes set during the holidays. Can you think of a movie with wittier dialogue? And this year, with our theme being Christmas in New York, this is the most Manhattan of movies. As much as it is a love story about Harry and Sally, it is also a love story in and of New York.


Harry Burns first meets Sally Albright when they share a ride to New York after graduating from the University of Chicago. Their personalities are so different that they clash from the beginning. Six years later they bump into each other at an airport, and again they clash. Again, several years later they meet, after Harry’s marriage has ended in divorce and Sally has broken up with her live-in boyfriend. Sally and Harry become close but not romantic friends. Then they go to bed with each other, and each fears that sex has ruined the friendship. For a while it looks as if it has, but then on New Year’s Eve, Harry realizes that Sally is the love of his life and runs through the streets of Manhattan to propose. It ends with one of the best screen kisses you’ll ever see.


New York landmarks form the background of many key scenes in the movie: two key shots of Washington Square (when they first arrive in New York and when Harry realizes how much he loves Sally), Central Park (multiple times), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Numerous scenes are shot in Manhattan restaurants and cafes, including the legendary “I’ll have what she’s having” segment shot in Katz’s Delicatessen at 205 E. Houston St.


From the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to two scenes of Sally buying a Christmas tree from a Manhattan vendor and dragging it in the snow to her apartment, there are several key scenes set during two Christmases.


Bruno Kirby plays the young Clemenza in The Godfather, Part Two (1974). He appeared again as a buddy of Billy Crystal’s in City Slickers (1991) and was directed by Rob Reiner in This Is Spinal Tap (1984).


Other than the Gershwin tunes in the soundtrack, many performed by Harry Connick Jr., I haven’t found any direct Astaire connections.


Nora Ephrom’s witty dialogue, beautifully photographed New York scenery by Barry Sonnenfeld (especially the autumn colors in Central Park and the snow-covered sidewalks), and delightful performances by all of the actors combine to make this a nearly perfect film.