From Oscar winners to cult classics and documentaries, Los Angeles has appeared in generations of sports films. Read on for the best sports film locations you can visit in LA - along with locations from two critically acclaimed TV series. (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)
NOTE: Hours and opening dates change frequently. Check individual websites for updated information.
16 Days of Glory (1985)
Located at Exposition Park, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened in 1923 and is the only facility in the world to host two Olympiads (X and XXIII), two Super Bowls (I and VII), one World Series (1959), a Papal Mass, and visits by three U.S. Presidents: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The Coliseum's incomparable sports legacy will continue in 2028 when LA hosts the XXXIV Olympiad.
At the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Coliseum hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, and 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.
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). Matthau had won in the same category for The Fortune Cookie (1966).
Filmed throughout LA and primarily in the San Fernando Valley, The Bad News Bears features Mason Park in Chatsworth as the Bears' home field. The scoreboard and other memorabilia from the movie are on display at the Valley Relics Museum, dubbed the "Smithsonian of the Valley" by The Washington Post.
Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
It's not hyperbole to say that modern skateboarding was born in Dogtown - an area that spans Venice Beach and Ocean Park. In the 1970s, a group of young surfers known as the Zephyr Competition Team (aka Z-Boys) started attracting attention for their new style of skateboarding. The Z-Boys changed skateboarding culture forever when they dropped into residential pools that were sitting empty due to the severe drought in Southern California. They were the first skateboarders to catch air and paved the way for global icons like Tony Hawk.
Co-written and directed by Z-Boys founding member Stacy Peralta, Dogtown and Z-Boys is a 2001 documentary about the pioneering crew, featuring vintage footage and photos, contemporary interviews, narration by Sean Penn, and a groovy '70s soundtrack. Peralta also co-wrote Lords of Dogtown, the 2005 film inspired by the Z-Boys story.
The Z-Boys legacy is on full display at the Venice Skatepark, which attracts visitors from around the world. Opened in October 2009, the 16,000 square-foot skatepark welcomes pros and amateurs alike to drop in for a session - photographers and videographers capture every move, and tourists get to experience the homegrown sport that's grown from Westside backyards to a worldwide phenomenon.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Based on a true story, Ford v Ferrari stars Matt Damon as legendary automotive designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as his British driver, Ken Miles. They lead an American-British team on a mission to build the Ford GT40 and take on the dominating Ferrari racing team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Ford v Ferrari received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Director James Mangold and Production Designer François Audouy agreed that Southern California was "the heart of the film" and its "visual backbone." The Le Mans start- and finish-line grandstands, pits and garages were recreated at Agua Dulce Airpark, a private airport in Santa Clarita. The Porsche Experience Center in Carson stood in for the test track in Dearborn, Michigan. The Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn was replicated at a 15,000 square-foot former steel factory in Downtown LA - complete with an assembly line, conveyor belt system, and 20 vintage Ford Falcons.
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.
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"), located 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.
Point Break (1991)
Directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, Point Break has everything you could ask for in a '90s LA movie. Keanu Reeves stars as rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, who goes undercover to bust the "Ex-Presidents" - a crew of bank robbing surfers led by Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze. There's also Bodhi's ex-girlfriend, Tyler (Lori Petty), who teaches Johnny how to surf; Gary Busey as Johnny's veteran partner, Angelo Pappas; Anthony Kiedis shoots himself in the foot; and one of Keanu's best lines: "Vaya con Dios."
Malibu locations have a starring role in Point Break, from Latigo Beach - a hidden gem with the "nice point break" that gives the movie its name - to Leo Carrillo State Beach and Neptune's Net as the coastal cafe where Tyler works and Johnny asks her for lessons.
While the stars learned to surf in Hawaii, you can book a lesson with Aqua Surf School at Malibu's world-famous Surfrider Beach. The first World Surfing Reserve, Surfrider Beach is renowned for its right-break and has appeared in numerous movies, including Big Wednesday and Beach Blanket Bingo.
One of the all-time great sports films, Rocky was the top-grossing film of 1976 and received ten Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen, who also directed the first three Karate Kid movies) and Best Film Editing. Starring in the iconic title role, Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay; Talia Shire was nominated for Best Actress as Rocky's girlfriend Adrian.
Rocky takes place in Philadelphia, but the epic boxing match between Rocky and heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) was filmed at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Downtown LA. Built in 1924, the Olympic hosted boxing, weightlifting and wrestling events at the 1932 Summer Olympics. Boxing scenes from Million Dollar Baby, Raging Bull, and the 1962 film version of Requiem for a Heavyweight were also filmed at the Olympic. Today the venue is owned by a Korean American church and serves as a place of worship.
The Sandlot (1993)
“You’re killing me, Smalls!” Nearly 30 years after 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.
Dodger Stadium has appeared in decades of movies, from the Oscar-winning Rocketman to The Fast and the Furious, the first Naked Gun film, Transformers and Superman Returns. In 1966, Elvis Presley shot scenes for Spinout in the parking lot, which stood in for the start/finish line of the “Santa Fe Road Race.”
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.
According to the LA Weekly, the opening scene that introduces Billy and Sidney wasn't actually filmed at the famed Venice Beach Basketball Courts, a world-famous mecca for pickup basketball culture. In reality, the courts were recreated near the Venice Boardwalk in a parking lot off Rose Avenue. The climactic two-on-two tournament was filmed at Lafayette Park in Westlake. A court that was built for the film is still there today.
Hall of Famer Bob Lanier was the production's basketball coach and reportedly schooled Harrelson in a one-on-one game. Several NBA players appear in supporting roles, including former UCLA star Marques Johnson as Raymond; Freeman Williams as "Duck" Johnson; and Gary Payton in an uncredited cameo. Venice b-ball legend Ron Beals appears in the opening game.
All American (2018 - )
Created by April Blair, All American stars Daniel Ezra as Spencer James, a star player at South Crenshaw High School who is recruited by Coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs) to play for Beverly Hills High. In the pilot, Spencer moves into Coach Baker's house, much to the dismay of his son Jordan (Michael Evans Behling), the team's quarterback. Other key characters include Spencer's childhood best friend, Tamia "Coop" Cooper (Bre-Z); Layla Keating (Greta Onieogou), the "It Girl" at Beverly High; and Jordan's sister, Olivia (Samantha Logan).
The series is based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2011 and is a partner in LA-based Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen. The fifth season of All American will premiere on The CW on Oct. 10, 2022. Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming on Netflix.
All American is filmed at locations across LA, including Thomas Jefferson High School in South LA (standing in for South Crenshaw High) and El Segundo High School as Beverly Hills High. Scenes at the fictional Rescue Smoothies are filmed on a studio set at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. Fans can explore the legendary backlot and much more on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood.
Hard Knocks: Los Angeles (2020)
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021, Hard Knocks gives viewers a season-long inside look at an NFL team during training camp. Produced by NFL Films and HBO, the critically acclaimed series has been described by USA Today as "profoundly compelling" and has won 18 Sports Emmy Awards. Liev Schreiber has narrated every season except 2007, which was narrated by diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan Paul Rudd.
Hard Knocks: Los Angeles features two teams for the first time: the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. (The Rams were previously featured in 2016.) In addition to the real-life drama of rookies adjusting to life in the NFL and hopeful players getting cut, the series' 2020 season is unprecedented for documenting the teams' handling of COVID-19 and their frank discussions about social justice during a tumultuous summer.
Both teams tour and practice in their spectacular new home, SoFi Stadium. Located at Hollywood Park, SoFi Stadium is the largest stadium in the NFL and the first-ever indoor-outdoor stadium. SoFi Stadium hosted Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and will host the College Football National Championship Game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028.