Famous Nathan

Directed by Lloyd Handwerker

A Coney Island-inspired, densely-layered visually dynamic documentary portrait of the life and times of the original Nathan's Famous, created in 1916 by filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker's grandparents, Nathan and Ida Handwerker. 30 years in the making, Famous Nathan interweaves decades-spanning archival footage, family photos and home movies, an eclectic soundtrack and never-before-heard audio from Nathan: his only interview, ever as well as compelling, intimate and hilarious interviews with the dedicated band of workers, not at all shy at offering opinions, memories and the occasional tall tale.


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  • ★★★★ review by brianwi on Letterboxd

    This film is more of a meandering feature-length home movie than a traditional doc. Luckily there are plenty of hilarious "old Brooklyn" character interviews and amazing Coney Island scenes along the way.

  • ★★★★★ review by Justin Swanson on Letterboxd

    Beautiful. A passion project of Lloyd Handwerker, one of the grandson's of Nathan Handwerker, who immigrated from Poland in the early 1900s and started Nathan's Famous.

    It would seem like a simple documentary concept - telling the story of a successful fast food chain. But with Lloyd's intimate connection to the subject matter, coupled with what must have been hundreds of hours of film he had compiled over the last 4 decades interviewing his family members, a rich story emerges. The struggle of an immigrant, the development of a family business, the struggles of the second generation to carry on the business, and the inexorable march of time that stoops men and women and leaves all of us behind.

  • ★★★½ review by Mark on Letterboxd

    Good homemade doc, doesn't quite live up to the brand or Nathan Handwerker. The loyal employees really stood out, many working there decades or their whole working life. Not bad for an overgrown hot dog stand.. Unfortunately and to no one's surprise, some family members cared more about profits than people and the brand went downhill. Today, some faceless corporation gives us an average product at best.

    Wish this would have had more about Nathan, a bit too much time spent on his greedy, no business sense brother. 3.5 / 5 stars.

  • ★★★½ review by Dustin Baker on Letterboxd

    Almost immediately veers away from what could have been a Food network or History Channel fluff piece into a tale of a man trying to understand who his grandfather really was and what drove him. It becomes so much more engrossing thanks to the intimate personal angle of the film about a subject that just so happens to have made a lasting cultural impact as well. And the historical photos and footage of the area as always strikes a chord in me.

  • ★★★½ review by Derek Abbott on Letterboxd

    (Viewing Format: Netflix Streaming, 1.78:1 HD)

    [2016 Challenge: 1/366]

    It's interesting that a documentary about Nathan Handwerker, the man behind Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, directed by his grandson, would be such an even-handed, warts and all, portrait.

    Many of the interviews appeared to be done in the 1980s and 90s.... back before Coney Island had gone through its thorough Disney-style cleansing. Most of the subjects didn't really want to talk about the in-family conflicts and controversies, but I still got a good sense of the family story.

    It's not the most polished doc, and there was too much cheesy stock footage, but it's a good watch. Especially if you like stories about New York in the twentieth century.

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