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The greatest Long Island movie characters of all time, ranked

Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan and John

Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan and John Cazale in Paramount Pictures' 1972 film "The Godfather" directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Credit: Everett Collection / Everett Col

Quick: What do Howard Stern, Vito Corleone and Joy Mangano have in common?

They’re all Long Islanders, of course, and they’ve all been portrayed on the silver screen. They’re some of the better-known Long Island movie characters, but there are quite a few more, including a certain fictional millionaire, a very real “Saturday Night Live” star and even a Newsday reporter. And they tend to hail from all over the region — from the posh North Shore to working-class Valley Stream.

We compiled a list that includes a few obvious choices — some real, some fictional — plus one or two you may have overlooked. Here are the 13 best Long Island movie characters of all time:


"Once upon a time, on the North Shore of Long Island, some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate." So begins the narration of this 1954 rom-com about a chauffeur's daughter (Audrey Hepburn) who is wooed by two wealthy brothers (Humphrey Bogart and William Holden). Look for a brief shot of the Glen Cove LIRR station.  

12. HOWARD RATNER, "Uncut Gems"

Adam Sandler narrowly missed an Oscar nod for playing a sleazy Diamond District retailer in this crime-drama from 2019. Not only does he live on Long Island (several scenes were filmed there), his wife is played by Syosset's Idina Menzel and his Manhattan shop was actually a set built at Gold Coast Studios in Bethpage.

11. ANDY KAUFMAN, "Man on the Moon"

Jim Carrey plays the enigmatic anti-comedian from Great Neck. This 1999 biopic nods only slightly to his local roots, but in real life Kaufman began his career as a children's entertainer (when he was eight!) and honed his awkward brand of comedy at My Father’s Place in Roslyn during the early ‘70s. His funeral was held in 1984 at Temple Beth El in his hometown.

10. RON KOVIC, “Born on the Fourth of July”

Oliver Stone's 1989 biopic of the famous anti-war activist (played by Tom Cruise) begins with Kovic's idyllic childhood in Massapequa and returns there after his tour in Vietnam and lower-body paralysis. One moment not in the film: Kovic’s anti-war speech at Levittown Memorial High School, which was interrupted by a bomb threat.


Jennifer Lawrence plays a version of Joy Mangano, the Long Island housewife who became a wealthy inventor, in David O. Russell’s fictionalized biopic from 2015. Mangano assembled her now-famous Miracle Mop in her father's Deer Park auto-shop and became a star on the QVC channel under broadcasting exec Mark Bozek, a Huntington resident who inspired Bradley Cooper's character in the film.

8. JACKSON POLLOCK, "Pollock" (2000)

Actor-director Ed Harris earned an Oscar nomination playing the hard-drinking painter who spent his final years in Springs with his wife, artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden, who won the supporting actress Oscar). Harris filmed exteriors at their actual house, just a mile from where Pollock died in a car-crash in 1956.

7. THE CORLEONES, “The Godfather" (1972)

Perhaps only locals know that novelist Mario Puzo (an eventual Bay Shore resident) based his fictional Mafia family in Long Beach. That connection isn't exactly explicit in the film by Francis Ford Coppola (a Great Neck High School and Hofstra University grad), but the director did shoot at local spots, including the Sands Point mansion Falaise (site of the famous horse-head scene) and the decommissioned Air Force base Mitchel Field (where James Caan's Sonny Corleone gets riddled by bullets).

6. JORDAN BELFORT, “The Wolf of Wall Street"

The real-life stockbroker was born in Queens, but the dirty deals that eventually landed him in prison occurred at his firm in Lake Success (he also lived in Old Brookville). Leonardo DiCaprio played Belfort in Martin Scorsese's 2013 film, which was shot in Sands Point, Bayville and Upper Brookville.

5. THE MCMULLEN FAMILY, "The Brothers McMullen"

The debut feature from Valley Stream filmmaker Ed Burns was a homegrown affair, inspired by his own life and shot largely in his family home on an initial budget of $28,000. Much of the film consists of Burns and co-stars Michael McGlone and Jack Mulcahey, as the Irish Catholic McMullen brothers, discussing love, sex and philosophy using salty language and earthy humor. Released in 1995, Burns' little film became a hit at Sundance and helped launch a new wave of indie cinema.

4. HOWARD STERN, "Private Parts"

The Roosevelt-raised shock jock plays himself in this highly entertaining biopic from 1997 that includes several early scenes of his not-so-happy childhood. There are also appearances from a few other locals, including Mineola's Jackie "The Joke Man" Martling and Baldwin's Dee Snider, of Twisted Sister.

3. JUDITH SINGER, "Compromising Positions"

Susan Sarandon plays a former Newsday reporter living in fictional Shorehaven who investigates the murder of a sleazy periodontist (Joe Mantegna). Frank Perry's 1985 comedy-mystery couldn't be more Long Island: Screenwriter Susan Isaacs is from Manhasset; the film was shot largely in Long Island by cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, then based in East Hampton; and the production company, United Artists Communications, was reportedly based in East Meadow. Good luck streaming or renting it, though you might find a bootleg version on YouTube.

2. THE LUTZ FAMILY, "The Amityville Horror"

Whether fact or fiction, the story of George and Kathy Lutz's move from Deer Park to a supposedly haunted Dutch Colonial in Amityville remains endlessly fascinating. It's the ultimate real-estate nightmare: An affluent, good-looking couple (played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder) whose dream home is plagued by flies, slime, blood and demonic voices. One of the sons, Danny Lutz, would later tell his story of childhood trauma in the 2012 documentary "My Amityville Horror." 

1. JAY GATSBY, "The Great Gatsby"

F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero remains the most famous Long Islander in cinematic history. The mysterious millionaire based in West Egg – inspired by Great Neck – has been played by four stars in four films: Warner Baxter in the lost 1926 silent, Alan Ladd in 1946, Robert Redford in the infamous 1974 turkey and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 extravaganza. That film's director, Baz Luhrmann, honored its Long Island roots by hosting a sneak preview in Port Washington in conjunction with the Gold Coast International Film Festival. 

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