With LA’s sunny weather, breathtaking scenery and spectacular sunsets, it’s no wonder that romance seems to be everywhere in the City of Angels. Filmmakers have made romantic movies in Los Angeles for generations, and we’ve picked ten of the best, from the silent era to the near future.
Celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2023, Grease stars John Travolta and the late Olivia Newton-John in a film adaptation of the 1971 musical of the same name. Grease tells the story of a 1950s high school romance between a “greaser,” Danny Zuko (Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Newton-John). The soundtrack album was the second-best selling album of the year, and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (performed by Newton-John) received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Grease was filmed on location throughout Los Angeles, including the opening scene at Leo Carrillo State Beach; Venice High School, which stood in for Rydell; the closing carnival sequence at John Marshall High School; and the race at the Los Angeles River.
Key scenes were filmed on the studio lot at Paramount Pictures, site of the Frosty Palace set and the musical numbers "Greased Lightning" and "Beauty School Dropout."
"500 Days of Summer' - Grand Park
500 Days of Summer was one of the sleeper hits of 2009, landing on the Top 10 year-end lists of various movie critics and earning an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. Told in a nonlinear style, the movie 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 lead actors, as well as the effective use of Downtown LA locations. After their first night together, an overjoyed Tom struts to the tune of Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams and is joined by bystanders. During this popular scene, Tom passes the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, a Mid-Century landmark that was recently restored as part of the Grand Park project.
NOTE: The famous “Tom’s Bench,” located on Angel’s Knoll above Hill Street and across from the Grand Central Market, is currently inaccessible to the public. It’s still visible through a chainlink fence.
"The Artist" - Bradbury Building
The Artist is a 2011 French film made in the style of a black-and-white silent movie. The story 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). As “talkies” start to replace silent films, George’s career fades while Peppy becomes a leading lady. 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 Artist was filmed in numerous LA locations, including the landmark Bradbury Building in Downtown LA. In a symbolic scene, George and Peppy pass each other on a staircase - he is descending the stairs and she is walking up, much like the paths of their respective movie careers. The Bradbury Building has appeared in countless TV episodes, music videos and movies, including the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner.
"City Lights" - Beverly Wilshire
City Lights (1931) is widely regarded as Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece and considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. The story follows Chaplin’s Little Tramp as he falls in love with a blind flower girl, who mistakes him for a millionaire. The closing scene is often described as one of the greatest in the history of cinema. In one memorable scene, the Tramp is driving in a Rolls-Royce with “An Eccentric Millionaire.” The Tramp sees a cigar butt on the sidewalk, beats another vagrant to it, and drives away. Silent film historian John Bengtson reveals that the scene was filmed at the historic Beverly Wilshire. Built in 1928, the Beverly Wilshire has welcomed legendary long-term guests such as Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Warren Beatty, as well as President Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and the Emperor of Japan.
"Her" - Dockweiler Beach
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. The critically-acclaimed 2013 film received five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Production Design.
Her takes place in a near-future Los Angeles - the filmmakers use actual LA locations and also incorporate the futuristic skyline of Shanghai. Their vision of Los Angeles includes skyscrapers, open spaces, an expanded Metro Rail system, and Chinese language signage. Sharp-eyed Angelenos can spot Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood/Western Metro Station, the Pacific Design Center, and the Santa Monica Pier. Sun worshippers will recognize Dockweiler Beach from the scene when Theodore takes the Metro to the beach for a date with Samantha.
"La La Land" - Griffith Observatory
Written and directed by Academy Award® winner Damien Chazelle, La La Land tells the story of Mia (played by Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. La La Land received a record-tying 14 Academy Award® nominations (winning six) and won seven Golden Globe Awards®, setting a record for the most Globes ever won by a single film.
Dozens of Los Angeles locations are featured in La La Land, including the famed Griffith Observatory. As an homage to Rebel Without a Cause (which also filmed there), Sebastian and Mia visit the Observatory - an unforgettable scene takes place inside the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.
"L.A. Story" - LACMA
Steve Martin wrote and stars in the 1991 romantic comedy L.A. Story. The movie follows Los Angeles weatherman Harris Telemacher and his romances - the vain and materialistic Trudi (Marilu Henner); the free-spirited SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker); and British journalist Sara McDowel (Victoria Tennant, Martin’s then-wife), whom he courts with the help of a freeway traffic condition sign. Even as Martin pokes fun at various LA stereotypes, the movie is also a valentine to his hometown as well as to Tennant.
In one memorable scene, Telemacher roller skates through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Martin - a noted art collector - was a longtime member of LACMA’s Board of Trustees when the movie was filming.
"Pretty Woman" - Cicada
The 1990 blockbuster Pretty Woman is one of the highest grossing romantic comedies in history, directed by Garry Marshall and starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Gere plays Edward Lewis, a ruthless corporate raider who changes his ways after spending time with Vivian Ward (Roberts, in an Oscar-nominated performance), a Hollywood prostitute whom he hires to be his escort at social events while he is in Los Angeles. Numerous scenes take place and were filmed in Beverly Hills, including a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive and the hotel where Roberts stays, the Beverly Wilshire.
The business dinner at “The Voltaire” restaurant, where Vivian accidentally sends an escargot flying across the room, was filmed at Cicada (then known as Rex Il Ristorante) in Downtown LA. Request the “Pretty Woman table” for a romantic Northern Italian dinner inside the stunning Art Deco-style restaurant.
"A Star is Born"
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). Los Angeles has a starring role throughout the critically-acclaimed hit film, including the now-classic scene at Super A Foods where the Oscar-winning "Shallow" makes its on-screen debut. (Gaga and Cooper's live performance of "Shallow" at the 91st Academy Awards has racked up more than 680 million views on YouTube.)
LA concert venue appearances in the film include the duo's show-stopping "Shallow" at the Greek Theatre; the Kia Forum, and Gaga's devastating performance of "I'll Never Love Again" at the Shrine Auditorium.
"Singin' in the Rain" - TCL Chinese Theatre
Frequently described as the greatest musical ever made, Singin’ in the Rain (1952) stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Kelly and Stanley Donen co-directed the film, a lighthearted look at Hollywood in the 1920s, when the movie industry begins its transition from silent films to “talkies.” The movie is filled with classic songs and dance routines, but it’s Kelly’s performance of the title song - Don Lockwood’s exuberant declaration of his new-found love for Kathy Selden (Reynolds) - that has become one of the most iconic sequences in movie history. Incredibly, Kelly filmed the scene while he was sick with a 103-degree fever.
The TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is the setting for the bookend scenes of Singin' in the Rain. At the beginning of the movie, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont (an Oscar-nominated Jean Hagen) arrive at the theatre (then known as Grauman's Chinese) for the 1927 premiere of their latest silent film, The Royal Rascal. Near the end, the premiere of Lockwood and Lamont’s first talkie, The Dancing Cavalier, is a tremendous success.