100 Hours of Amazing Los Angeles

50+ movies set in LA

"Los Angeles Plays Itself" title card
"Los Angeles Plays Itself" | Photo: YouTube

From classics and blockbusters to cult favorites and documentaries, here are more than 50 movies set in Los Angeles for you to stream at home - or better yet, to enjoy at your local movie theatre.

LA Coliseum 1984 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony for the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | Photo: IOC

16 Days of Glory (1985)

At the 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, along with numerous track & field events. As the main stadium of the '84 games, the Coliseum is featured throughout 16 Days of Glory, the 1985 documentary directed by acclaimed filmmaker Bud Greenspan. Other LA venues in the film include UCLA's Pauley Pavilion (gymnastics) and the Uytengsu Aquatics Center (then known as McDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium) at USC.

"500 Days of Summer"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "500 Days of Summer" | Photo: 500 Days of Summer, Facebook

500 Days of Summer (2009)

One of the sleeper hits of 2009, 500 Days of Summer features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen, who is reminiscing about his 500-day relationship with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Critics and fans alike praised the chemistry between the two leads, as well as the effective use of Downtown LA locations. You can't help but sing along as Tom struts to Hall & Oates’ "You Make My Dreams."

Scene from "The Artist" at the Bradbury Building in Downtown LA
Scene from "The Artist" at the Bradbury Building  |  Photo: @filmtourismus

The Artist (2011)

An homage to the silent movie era, The Artist takes place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the lives of silent film star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), and the chorus girl he discovers, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). At the 84th Academy Awards, The Artist made history when it took home the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Dujardin). The Artist also won for Costume Design and Original Score.

The Bad News Bears (1976)

One of the Top 10 highest-grossing films of 1976, The Bad News Bears stars Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker, a beer-guzzling former minor league pitcher who manages a team of misfits in the North Valley Little League. The youngest winner in Oscar history, Tatum O'Neal (Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon) plays the Bears' star pitcher, Amanda Wurlitzer. Jackie Earle Haley was 15 years old when he played the mini Harley-riding Kelly Leak; Haley would later earn a Best Supporting Actor nod for his performance in Little Children (2006).

Filmed throughout LA and primarily in the San Fernando Valley, The Bad News Bears features Mason Park in Chatsworth as the home field of the Bears. The scoreboard and other memorabilia from the movie are on display at the Valley Relics Museum, aka the "Smithsonian of the Valley."

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

The biggest box office hit of 1984, Beverly Hills Cop catapulted Eddie Murphy to superstardom. As Axel Foley, Murphy dominates the screen with subversive humor, endless charisma and his trademark laugh. LA landmarks featured in the film include The Biltmore (standing in for the "Beverly Palms Hotel") and Beverly Hills City Hall as the police station. The soundtrack - featuring the worldwide hit single "Axel F" - topped the Billboard album chart and won the GRAMMY for Best Score Soundtrack.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Make yourself a White Russian and watch the Coen brothers' cult classic, starring Jeff Bridges in his signature role as "The Dude," a stoner slacker who has improbably become the inspiration for not only an annual holiday (Day of the Dude) and namesake festival but a religion as well. The Big Lebowski is filled with oddball characters, quirky dialogue, LA landmarks, and even a musical dream sequence.

The Big Sleep (1946)

Based on Raymond Chandler's novel, The Big Sleep boasts an A-Team of Golden Age Hollywood talent: stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; director Howard Hawks; and co-writer William Faulkner. Filmed entirely on the Warner Bros. backlot, The Big Sleep is as famous for its convoluted plot as it is for the real-life chemistry between the legendary Bogie and Bacall. The great Dorothy Malone has a breakthrough role as the Acme Book Shop proprietress.

Blade Runner (1982)

LOS ANGELES: NOVEMBER, 2019. As the opening titles for Blade Runner fade, a stunning dystopian landscape comes into view - it's the LA of the future, but ironically Blade Runner is now set in the past. The Bradbury Building, Union Station and Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House are among the real-life landmarks featured in the perpetually dark and rainy megalopolis. Several versions of Ridley Scott's visionary classic have been released over the years - be sure to watch "The Final Cut" for the optimal experience.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

The feature film debut of writer-director John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood is a coming of age story of three friends growing up in South Central LA. The critically acclaimed movie offered breakout roles for Cuba Gooding Jr, Ice Cube, Nia Long and Angela Bassett. It's been more than 30 years since the film's release, and the finale is as powerful as ever.

Car Wash (1976)

Filmed on location at the now-demolished Figueroa Car Wash in Westlake, Car Wash is a raunchy comedy that takes place at an L.A. car wash on a single Friday in July. Starring George Carlin, Bill Duke, Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Jack Kehoe, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters, and Richard Pryor as "Daddy Rich." The title song topped the Billboard pop charts and the soundtrack won the GRAMMY for Best Score Soundtrack.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in "Chinatown" (1974)
Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in "Chinatown" (1974)

Chinatown (1974)

Even if you haven't seen this neo-noir masterpiece, you already know one of the most famous lines in movie history: "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Everyone involved with Chinatown was at the top of their game - director Roman Polanski, stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, Oscar winning writer Robert Towne, and composer Jerry Goldsmith.

City of Gold (2015)

From Michelin-starred restaurants to humble street carts, Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold wrote about it all for more than 30 years. The late "Belly of Los Angeles" is the subject of Laura Gabbert's 2015 documentary, which features some of LA’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurants.

Clueless (1995)

Amy Heckerling wrote and directed this updated version of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Set in Beverly Hills, Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, the ultra-rich teen with a heart of gold who rules Bronson Alcott High School ("played" by Barack Obama’s alma mater, Occidental College). Numerous LA landmarks make appearances, including the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the Spadena House (aka the "Witch's House"), and two shopping malls - Westfield Fashion Square and the now-closed Westside Pavilion.

The Day of the Locust (1975)

Set in 1930s LA and based on Nathanael West's 1939 novel, John Schlesinger's dark and disturbing movie is a searing critique of the film industry. David Lynch fans will appreciate the absurd humor, surreal images and colorful characters - William Atherton as a movie production artist; Karen Black's aspiring starlet; her father, an ex-Vaudevillian (Oscar-nominated Burgess Meredith); and a repressed accountant played by Donald Sutherland. Familiar locations include the iconic Bronson Gate at Paramount Pictures, the "Hollywoodland" Sign, and the ubiquitous Ennis House. The climactic movie premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre has to be seen to be believed.

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Directed by Penelope Spheeris, this seminal punk rock documentary captures the LA scene circa 1979-80. Featured bands include Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, the Germs and X.

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Based on the first novel in Walter Mosley's celebrated Easy Rawlins series, Devil in a Blue Dress stars Denzel Washington as Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a laid-off World War II veteran who becomes a private investigator to pay the mortgage. As Easy's friend Mouse, Don Cheadle steals the movie in a breakthrough performance that earned him Best Supporting Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. Set in 1948, the movie features landmarks like the Griffith Observatory, 4th Street Bridge, Café Club Fais Do-Do and the Malibu Pier.

Bruce Willis in "Die Hard" (1988)
Bruce Willis in "Die Hard" (1988) | Photo: 20th Century Fox

Die Hard (1988)

"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..." On Christmas Eve, NYPD Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies to LA, hoping to reconcile with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) at a holiday party hosted by the Nakatomi Corporation. Unfortunately, a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) takes everyone hostage in order to steal $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds.

Expectations for Die Hard were low in 1988. Willis and Rickman were making their big screen debuts - the John McClane role was turned down by a Who's Who of 80s leading men, from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell and Al Pacino, who also famously turned down Han Solo in the original Star Wars.

Die Hard is now regarded as one of the all-time great action films - the McClane and Gruber characters are icons of the genre - and a beloved Christmas movie. Die Hard was one of the Top 10 highest-grossing films of 1988, and earned four Oscar nominations in technical categories.

Filming took place almost entirely at Fox Plaza, which was under construction in Century City. There were reportedly only two requests - no filming during the day and no damage from explosions.

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

Modern skateboarding was born in Dogtown - an area that spans Venice Beach and Ocean Park. Dogtown and Z-Boys is an award-winning documentary about the pioneering Zephyr Competition Team (aka Z-Boys) in the 1970s. Directed by Z-Boys member Stacy Peralta, the film is narrated by Sean Penn and features vintage footage and photos, contemporary interviews, and a groovy '70s soundtrack.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Widely regarded as the movie that set the standard for film noir, Double Indemnity was directed by Billy Wilder and co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Fred MacMurray stars as insurance salesman Walter Neff and Barbara Stanwyck is Phyllis Dietrichson, the femme fatale who wishes her husband were dead. Edward G. Robinson is the claims adjuster who suspects foul play in Mr. Dietrichson's death.

E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)

Steven Spielberg's beloved sci-fi classic is a timeless tale of friendship - a message that resonates more than ever in these uncertain times. E.T. was the highest grossing film of all time for 11 years until Spielberg's own Jurassic Park passed it. E.T. takes place in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley - Elliott's house is located in Tujunga, and the Halloween and bike chase scenes were filmed in Porter Ranch.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Directed by the enigmatic street artist Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop is an Oscar-nominated documentary about Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant living in LA and his journey into the world of street art. The film features a Who's Who of street artists, including Guetta's cousin Invader and LA-based Shepard Fairey. Since its release, there's been much debate over whether the film is genuine or a mockumentary. Either way, critics praised it and Exit Through the Gift Shop currently holds a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The first installment in the multi-billion dollar franchise known as The Fast Saga, The Fast and the Furious stars the late Paul Walker as an undercover cop assigned to infiltrate a crew of hijackers led by Vin Diesel. The movie was shot on location all over LA, from the opening scene at Dodger Stadium to the former Cha Cha Cha in East Hollywood, to Neptune's Net in Malibu. The high-octane action sequences attracted a global audience and spawned numerous sequels, a spin-off film, video games, a Netflix animated series, and theme park attractions.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Directed by Amy Heckerling and written by Cameron Crowe, Fast Times at Ridgemont High boasts a killer soundtrack and an entire generation of movie stars in some of their earliest roles, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz and three future Best Actor Oscar winners: Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage and Forest Whitaker.

Friday (1995)

Renowned for award-winning music videos like Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" and TLC's "Waterfalls," F. Gary Gray made his feature film directorial debut with this cult classic, starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. Cube and co-writer DJ Pooh drew from their personal experiences to showcase the positive side of living in South Central LA - as Cube said, they wanted their comedy to be a "hood classic" that could be watched over and over. And of course, this is the movie that gifted "Bye, Felicia" to the world.

Heat (1995)

Michael Mann's crime drama marks the first time that Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro shared a scene together - a memorable conversation in the now-defunct Kate Mantalini. The plot centers on DeNiro and his crew (Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo) as they plan and execute one final heist, with Pacino and his team in pursuit. The film's centerpiece is a Downtown LA shootout between DeNiro's crew and the LAPD - it's one of the best ever captured on film.

Warren Beatty as LA Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton in "Heaven Can Wait"
Warren Beatty as LA Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton in "Heaven Can Wait" | Photo: Warner Bros

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry, Heaven Can Wait is based on the 1938 play of the same name - it was previously adapted as 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Beatty stars as Los Angeles Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton, who is on the verge of playing in the Super Bowl but is mistakenly taken to heaven by his guardian angel (played by James Mason). Heaven Can Wait was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), and Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon); it won the Oscar for Best Art Direction.

The movie's climactic Super Bowl game between the Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers was filmed during halftime of the Rams versus San Diego Chargers preseason game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 1, 1977. Incredibly, the Rams and Steelers faced off IRL a year and a half after the film's release at Super Bowl XIV, which was held at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.

Her (2013)

Taking place in a near-future Los Angeles, Her is a romantic science fiction film written and directed by Spike Jonze. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lonely introvert who writes personal love letters for people who have a hard time expressing their feelings. Theodore, who is divorcing his childhood sweetheart, buys and falls in love with a computer operating system named “Samantha,” voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Jewel's Catch One (2016)

Opened in 1973, Jewel’s Catch One was the first exclusively gay and lesbian disco for African Americans in the country. During the club's 40-year heyday, owner Jewel-Thais Williams welcomed everyone from Rick James and Madonna to the "Queen of Disco," Sylvester. C. Fitz's documentary features exclusive interviews with Sharon Stone, Thelma Houston, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, Thea Austin, Jenifer Lewis, Rep. Maxine Waters and Bonnie Pointer.

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio face off in "The Karate Kid"
William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in "The Karate Kid" | Photo: Sony Pictures

The Karate Kid (1984)

Released in the summer of 1984, The Karate Kid became the year's biggest sleeper hit and spawned three sequels, a 2010 remake, and the wildly popular Cobra Kai series on Netflix. The film is even credited with popularizing karate in the U.S.

After moving with his mom from New Jersey to Reseda, Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) starts dating cheerleader Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue, in her film debut) - which angers her ex, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). On Halloween, Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang beat up Daniel until he's saved by his apartment's handyman, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita, in an Oscar-nominated performance), who eventually teaches him karate.

In the movie's climax, Daniel and Johnny face off in the All Valley Karate Tournament - Cobra Kai's sensei, Kreese (Martin Kove) infamously tells Johnny: "sweep the leg." That memorable finale was filmed at Matador Gymnasium (aka "the Matadome") on the campus of California State University, Northridge. Other filming locations include Leo Carrillo State Beach, where Daniel first meets Ali; Daniel and Ali go on a date at the Golf N' Stuff in Norwalk; and The South Seas Apartments, Daniel's home in Reseda.

La Bamba (1987)

Written and directed by Luis Valdez, La Bamba is an acclaimed biopic of Pacoima native Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips), the pioneering Chicano rock and roll star who died tragically at age 17 in a plane crash known as "The Day the Music Died." For authenticity, Valdez insisted on filming at actual locations from Valens' life, such as Pacoima Junior High. Los Lobos covered six Valens songs on the soundtrack, including the title track which became a No. 1 hit for the East LA band.

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel, L.A. Confidential tells the story of three LAPD officers (played by Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey) as they investigate a series of murders. Director Curtis Hanson recreated 1950s Los Angeles by filming at landmarks like City Hall, The Formosa and the Frolic Room. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, L.A. Confidential won two - Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing in Griffith Park in "La La Land"
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing in Griffith Park in "La La Land" | Photo: Lionsgate

La La Land (2016)

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone in an Oscar winning performance), an aspiring actress; and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician. From the opening freeway dance number to an unforgettable scene at Griffith Observatory, La La Land captures the magic and angst of life in the City of Angels.

L.A. Story (1991)

Steve Martin wrote and stars in this romantic comedy that follows weatherman Harris Telemacher (Martin) and his romances - the high-maintenance Trudi (Marilu Henner); free-spirited SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker); and British journalist Sara McDowel (Victoria Tennant, Martin’s then-wife). The movie is both a satire of LA stereotypes and Martin's Valentine to his hometown - admit it, you've talked to a freeway traffic condition sign too.

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan described Los Angeles Plays Itself as "the best documentary ever made about Los Angeles." After watching L.A. Confidential, CalArts professor Thom Andersen was inspired to create a feature-length video essay that takes a deep dive into the complicated relationship between LA and how it's portrayed in films. Andersen uses clips from more than 150 movies to comment on everything from the film industry to the use of modern architecture as shorthand for villainy.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Named the greatest film of the 21st century by a BBC critics' poll, David Lynch's psychological thriller stars Naomi Watts as an aspiring actress and Laura Harring as an amnesiac recovering from a car accident. Lynch has refused to explain the narrative, leaving the film's mysterious, dreamlike vignettes - such as the infamous Club Silencio sequence (“No hay banda!”) - wide open to interpretation.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino describes his ninth film as his "love letter to LA." Set in Los Angeles during the tumultuous year of 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of fading TV star Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt in his Oscar-winning role). As they struggle to find their place in a changing Hollywood, Dalton and Booth interact with real-life figures like Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee and most notably, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

The first feature film directed by Tim Burton and scored by Danny Elfman, this cult favorite continues to delight new generations of fans. From his iconic "Tequila" dance to rescuing animals from a burning pet shop, Pee-wee is the hero we need. Look for LA locations like Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and Malibu Creek State Park. "Be sure and tell 'em Large Marge sent ya!"

Point Break (1991)

Patrick Swayze as Bodhi! Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah! What more could you ask for from an LA movie? Well, there's Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis shooting his own foot, Neptune's Net, and the immortal Keanu line, "Vaya con Dios."

Pretty Woman (1990)

One of the highest grossing romantic comedies in history, this modern-day Cinderella story stars Richard Gere as a ruthless corporate raider and Julia Roberts as a Hollywood prostitute whom he hires to be his escort at social events while he is in Los Angeles. Roberts' Oscar-nominated performance made her a star overnight - she became the highest paid actress in Hollywood for the better part of the '90s and early 2000s. Numerous scenes take place and were filmed in Beverly Hills, including a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive and the hotel where Roberts stays, the landmark Beverly Wilshire.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Three decades after its release, Quentin Tarantino's magnum opus continues to grow in stature. From its nonlinear narrative, to the punchy dialogue mixed with flashes of violence, to the hipster soundtrack, Pulp Fiction has profoundly influenced a new generation of filmmakers and beyond. As noted by Entertainment Weekly , it's hard to name a moment from the movie that isn't iconic: "Ezekiel 25:17," "Royale with Cheese," the Jack Rabbit Slims twist contest, and many more.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Punch-Drunk Love is a romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, a small business owner whose abusive sisters have rendered him lonely and unable to fall in love. With the help of a harmonium and the mysterious Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), he embarks on a romantic journey. Sandler earned rave reviews in his first departure from the slapstick comedies of his earlier film career. Anderson was named Best Director at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

Rebel Without a Cause has become a cultural landmark for James Dean's iconic performance as troubled teenager Jim Stark. Released a month after Dean's tragic death, the movie's all-star cast includes Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Dennis Hopper, in his film debut. The Griffith Observatory appears in several key scenes, including the famous switchblade fight and the dramatic climax.

Repo Man (1984)

Alex Cox's directorial debut is a mashup of sci-fi, punk rock musical, and a wicked satire of the Reagan administration and consumerism. Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton are perfectly cast as an apprentice repo man and his crusty mentor, respectively. The otherworldly '64 Chevy Malibu that Estevez and Stanton are trying to repossess has become a bonafide icon. The movie soundtrack boasts a title track by Iggy Pop and songs by The Plugz, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and Suicidal Tendencies.

Rush Hour (1998)

Hong Kong legend Jackie Chan finally broke through in Hollywood with this buddy cop blockbuster that co-stars Chris Tucker. Rush Hour was filmed on location throughout Los Angeles, including the LA Convention Center, Foo Chow Restaurant in Chinatown, Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, TCL Chinese Theatre, and the Capitol Records Building.

Fun fact: Rush Hour inspired Senh Duong to create Rotten Tomatoes. Duong, a Jackie Chan fan, had collected reviews of Chan's Hong Kong action movies and launched the website ahead of Rush Hour's original release date.

The Sandlot (1993)

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” In the 30+ years since its release, The Sandlot has become a cult classic that's beloved by baseball fans of all ages. Taking place in the summer of 1962, the coming-of-age story stars Tom Guiry as Scotty Smalls, who has just moved to LA with his mom and stepdad. He has trouble fitting in until Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) takes him under his wing and he's accepted by Benny's sandlot team. The boys' adventures include a game against the rival Tigers, the ghost of Babe Ruth, and "The Beast" behind the left field fence.

Though it's set in the Valley, The Sandlot was mostly filmed in Utah - with the notable exception of Dodger Stadium. The movie opens with the adult Smalls - a broadcaster with the LA Dodgers - getting ready to announce a home game against the San Francisco Giants and reminiscing about that magical summer. SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the movie, the story flashes forward to the present day. Now one of the Dodgers' star players, Benny (aka "The Jet") steals home to win the game and flashes a thumbs up to Smalls in the press box.

Cover of "Shampoo" (1975) from the Criterion Collection
"Shampoo" (1975) | Photo: Criterion Collection

Shampoo (1975)

Directed by Hal Ashby and co-written by Warren Beatty and Robert Towne, Shampoo is a sharp satire of the '60s sexual revolution that takes place on Election Day 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected president. Beatty plays a Beverly Hills hairdresser (reportedly based on Manson Family victim Jay Sebring among others) who pinballs between his ex (played by Julie Christie), his girlfriend (Goldie Hawn), and his lover (Best Supporting Actress winner Lee Grant). In her film debut, Carrie Fisher plays the daughter of Grant and Jack Warden.

Speed (1994)

Pop quiz, hotshot: did you know Speed won two Academy Awards? Jan de Bont's directorial debut stars Keanu Reeves as an LAPD SWAT officer and Sandra Bullock as a passenger on a bus rigged to explode by a mad bomber, played with gusto by Dennis Hopper. De Bont ratchets up the tension as Reeves and the LAPD match wits with Hopper. The top-notch action sequences include the freeway jump - that's a real bus, not CGI - a tense rescue at LAX and a fight on the Metro Red Line.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform "Shallow" in "A Star Is Born"
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform "Shallow" in "A Star Is Born" | Photo: Warner Bros.

A Star is Born (2018)

Directed by Bradley Cooper, the 2018 version of A Star Is Born tells the story of a hard-living country rock singer (Cooper) who falls in love with a young musician (Lady Gaga). From the now-classic scene at Super A Foods, where the Oscar-winning "Shallow" makes its on-screen debut; to the show-stopping performance at the Greek Theatre, LA itself has a starring role throughout this hit film.

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

The story of the rise and fall of legendary gangsta rap group N.W.A is told in Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray. The brilliant ensemble cast includes O'Shea Jackson Jr. as his dad, Ice Cube (the resemblance is uncanny); Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, and the always-enjoyable Paul Giamatti as N.W.A manager Jerry Heller. Filmed on location in Compton, the critically acclaimed movie was named one of the Top 10 films of 2015 by the National Board of Review and received an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Another classic movie, another classic line: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Sunset Boulevard is more than one of the best movies set in Los Angeles, it's one of the greatest movies of all time. Directed by Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard stars William Holden as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, who gets sucked into the demented fantasy world of former silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).

Swingers (1996)

Written by Jon Favreau in his pre-MCU / Mandalorian days, Swingers perfectly evokes the struggling actor's life in Los Angeles, and is also a snapshot of the '90s big band/swing revival and alternative lounge scene. Favreau and Vince Vaughn were regulars at the 101 Coffee Shop (now Clark Street Diner), which appears in the opening scene; when Vaughn memorably declares that Favreau is "all growns up"; and the final scene, when Vaughn mistakenly thinks another diner is flirting with him.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

CGI technology finally caught up to James Cameron's vision for the T-1000 in this sequel to his influential 1984 sci-fi classic, which gave Arnold Schwarzenegger both his signature role and his trademark "I'll be back." The Terminators' first throwdown takes place at "the Galleria," which was filmed inside Santa Monica Place and at Northridge Fashion Center for exteriors. Their running battle spans flood control channels in the Valley and a spectacular chase sequence on the Terminal Island Freeway - shout out to the stunt pilot that flew a REAL helicopter through the overpass!

Cheech & Chong in "Up in Smoke" (1978)
Cheech & Chong in "Up in Smoke" (1978) | Photo: IMDb

Up In Smoke (1978)

Counterculture icons Cheech & Chong made their feature film debut in this stoner classic. Up in Smoke was directed by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Lou Adler, who discovered and produced several albums for the comedy duo. The story takes Pedro (Cheech Marin) and "Man" (Tommy Chong) from LA to Tijuana, where they unknowingly smuggle a van made entirely of "fiberweed" to Los Angeles. Up in Smoke filmed throughout the city, including Venice, Malibu, Lincoln Heights, and the Battle of the Bands at The Roxy Theatre, which is owned by Adler.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

In the summer of 1995, moviegoers were asked, "Who is Keyser Söze?" The answer is one of the greatest twists in movie history. Directed by Bryan Singer with an Oscar-winning screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, The Usual Suspects title roles are played by Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Spacey, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The movie rewards multiple viewings - the big reveal completely changes everything that came before it.

Valley Girl (1983)

Loosely based on "Romeo and Juliet," Valley Girl is a teen rom com starring Nicolas Cage (in his first leading role) as Hollywood punk Randy, and Deborah Foreman in the title role of Julie Richman. Filming took place at Valley locations in Sherman Oaks and Studio City (the former Du-par's), as well as Will Rogers State Beach, Hollywood, and Del Amo Fashion Center (standing in for the Sherman Oaks Galleria). The soundtrack features New Wave acts like The Plimsouls and Josie Cotton (both make cameos), Bonnie Hayes, Modern English, and the Payolas.

White Men Can't Jump (1992)

Written and directed by Ron Shelton, White Men Can't Jump stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane, respectively - two streetball hustlers who start off as antagonists but eventually team up. Rosie Perez plays Billy's girlfriend Gloria Clemente, who dreams of competing on Jeopardy! Fun fact: in an interview with Shelton - he also helmed Bull Durham and Tin Cup - The Criterion Collection notes that White Men Can't Jump was one of Stanley Kubrick's all-time favorite films.