The Best Action Movie Locations in Los Angeles

Heat Bob's Big Boy Burbank De Niro filmtourismus
Val Kilmer and Robert De Niro at the Burbank Bob's Big Boy in Heat  |  Photo:  @filmtourismus

Los Angeles sees a lot of action when it comes to filming, especially when it comes to filming, well, action movies. From 80s classics like "Commando" and "Beverly Hills Cop" to more modern features like "Iron Man" and "Transformers," the LA area has been home to some of cinema’s biggest adrenaline-filled moments. Read on for a list of locations where some of the genre’s most memorable scenes were shot. Lights, camera and…action!


Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer in "Heat" | Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

"Heat" - Citigroup Center

The 1995 action movie "Heat" centered around the final heist – a $12-million bank robbery - of a group of career criminals led by Robert De Niro. The holdup does not go as planned and results in a massive shootout on the streets of Downtown L.A., with cameos by the Central Library, Millennium Biltmore Hotel and Westin Bonaventure. While the robbery scene was lensed inside of a real bank on Grand Avenue, the Citigroup Center was used for the financial institution’s exterior. When De Niro’s crew leaves the bank, they walk past the center’s geometrically-shaped North, South, East, West art installation and into one of the greatest shootouts in movie history. The 625-foot, 48-story Citigroup Center was designed by the A.C Martin & Partners architecture firm between 1979 and 1981 and originally served as the Los Angeles headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank.

Top floors of the Fox Plaza building | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Die Hard" - Fox Plaza

Perhaps the most-recognizable action movie location of all time, Nakatomi Plaza from the 1988 blockbuster "Die Hard" is known in real life as Fox Plaza, the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. It was on the 30th floor of the 492-foot building that John McClane (Bruce Willis) was supposed to attend his estranged wife’s company Christmas party (“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs!”), but instead wound up fighting German terrorists. The landmark 1987 building stands like a beacon above the Avenue of the Stars and, though not open to the public, is easily visible from Century City and its environs. Fox Plaza has appeared in several action movies over the years, including "Speed," "No Man’s Land" and "Lethal Weapon 2."

Primary image for The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites

“In the Line of Fire” - The Westin Bonaventure

In a dramatic scene from “In the Line of Fire” (1993), Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) stops a deranged Mitch Leary (John Malkovich) from assassinating the president during a campaign dinner at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. The scene takes place in the Bonaventure’s 26,000 square-foot California Ballroom, the largest hotel ballroom in L.A. The ensuing chase takes Eastwood and Malkovich through the hotel’s lobby and into one of its circular glass elevators, where Malkovich meets his bloody end. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously rode his horse into another one of the hotel’s futuristic-looking elevator cars in "True Lies."

The Crystal Ballroom at Millennium Biltmore Hotel | Photo courtesy of Michael Chen, Flickr

"True Lies" - Millennium Biltmore Hotel

At the end of "True Lies," counter-terrorism task force agent Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his wife/new partner, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), take a break from their latest covert operation to dance a stunning tango.  The scene took place in the legendary Crystal Ballroom of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. The elegant space features Austrian crystal chandeliers, a hand-painted thirty-foot ceiling and ornate balconies lining the perimeter. The room has been the site of countless filmings and historic events over the years. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded by Louis B. Mayer during a luncheon on May 11, 1927 inside the Crystal Ballroom, which is easily one of the most romantic spots in all of L.A.

2nd Street Tunnel in Downtown L.A. | Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit, Flickr

"Independence Day" - 2nd Street Tunnel

One of L.A.’s most popular action movie locales was described in a 2009 Los Angeles Times article as “probably the most recognizable city landmark most Americans have never heard of.” The 1,500-foot stretch of 2nd Street that connects Figueroa and Hill Streets in Downtown L.A. is known as the 2nd Street Tunnel. The space, which was constructed between 1916 and 1924, is lined with glazed white tiles that offer a unique on-screen backdrop and spectacular lighting. The spot has appeared in "Blade Runner," "Godzilla," "The Terminator," "Transformers," "Cellular," "Kill Bill," "Demolition Man," "Sneakers," "Lethal Weapon 2" and "Con Air," to name just a few. In "Independence Day" (1996), Vivica A. Fox and her dog are stuck in the 2nd Street Tunnel during the massive traffic jam caused by the alien attack.

Garcia House by John Lautner | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Lethal Weapon 2" - Garcia House

In what is arguably the most memorable scene from 1989’s "Lethal Weapon 2," Mel Gibson famously pulls the massive home of South African consul-general Arjen Rudd down a hill with his pickup truck. “The house on stilts" is formally known as the Garcia House and was built by prolific architect John Lautner in 1962 for jazz musician Russ Garcia. Thankfully, the unique eye-shaped structure is still standing (a model replica was built for the tear-down scene) and can easily be viewed via La Cuesta Drive in the Hollywood Hills.

Gilmore Gasoline Filling Station before it became a drive-thru Starbucks | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"48 Hrs." - Gilmore Gasoline Filling Station

In "48 Hrs." (1982) detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and convict Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) stop at a San Francisco-area gas station to clean up after getting into a fist fight. At the station, Reggie confesses that he stole $500,000 during a police raid. In reality, the Art Deco gas station is located in Hollywood. It was originally constructed in 1935 as a Gilmore Gasoline Filling Station for the Gilmore Oil Company, which was founded by one of L.A.'s most influential families. The Gilmores also built the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax and the now-defunct Gilmore Field, former home of the Hollywood Stars baseball team. The Gilmore Station fell on hard times in the 90s and came close to being demolished. It was eventually saved by the Melrose Neighborhood Association and, following an extensive makeover, is now a drive-thru Starbucks. The renovation restored the property to its original glory with only minor changes to the station’s historic exterior.

Surplus City Jeep Parts Co. | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Commando" - Surplus City Jeep Parts Co.

In the 1985 action classic "Commando," John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) goes “shopping” for weapons and supplies at Surplus City Jeep Parts Co. while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter. The structure was dressed quite a bit for the filming, but it's still very recognizable from its onscreen appearance. The store also popped up in the 1984 teen comedy "The Wild Life" and in Michael Jackson’s 1991 music video for his hit song “Black and White.” With sparking smokestacks in the background, the King of Pop performed a 23-second traditional Indian Odissi dance on the street outside Surplus City. Another “Commando” locale is Mount Baldy, the spectacular setting for Matrix’s log cabin, located about 45 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Entrance to 609 E. Channel Road | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Beverly Hills Cop" - 609 E. Channel Rd.

The explosive climax of the 1984 classic "Beverly Hills Cop" took place at the gorgeous Mediterranean estate owned by drug kingpin Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). In real life, the mansion isn't located in Beverly Hills, but about eight miles west in Santa Monica Canyon. The grounds of the three-acre property at 609 E. Channel Rd. were the setting for Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) to exact his revenge for the murder of his longtime best friend, Mikey Tandino (James Russo). Though the 14,000-square-foot residence is hidden from view, its front gate and adjoining gate house - which also made appearances in the film - are visible from the road and look much the same today as they did when "Beverly Hills Cop" was filmed over thirty years ago.

Point Dume Sunset, Malibu
Point Dume Sunset, Malibu  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

"Iron Man" - Point Dume State Beach

Sadly, what is arguably one of the most recognizable and enviable residences in action movie history does not actually exist. When producers went scouting for a massive modern mansion to serve as the home of billionaire protagonist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in the first "Iron Man" movie, they could not find a pad that suited their needs. So they created one digitally using CGI and placed it on the southeastern tip of Point Dume State Beach in Malibu. All of the interiors were built on a soundstage. The mansion’s design was inspired by the architecture of John Lautner, most notably his Casa Marbrisa (also known as Arango House) in Acapulco, Mexico. The spot where Tony’s estate was situated in "Iron Man" can be accessed via hiking trails at the Point Dume Nature Preserve.

Ronnie's Automotive Service | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Transformers" - Ronnie’s Automotive Service

In the 2007 flick "Transformers," Ron Witwicky (Kevin Dunn) takes his 16-year-old son, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), shopping for a car at Bolivia’s Used Car Lot/Petting Zoo where “A driver don’t pick the car. The car’ll pick the driver.” In this case, Bumblebee picks Sam and after a little convincing (which includes Bumblebee blowing the windows out of every car on the property), Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac) agrees to a sale price of $4,000. In real life, the used car lot is a former automotive shop/gas station named Ronnie’s Automotive Service. The property has appeared in over 200 productions, including "Million Dollar Baby" and "Dodgeball." Ronnie’s shut down in 2009 and is currently vacant, but still looks much the same as it did onscreen.

Sanctuary Adventist Church | Photo by Lindsay Blake

"Kill Bill" - Sanctuary Adventist Church

One of the most famous scenes in action movie history was filmed at Sanctuary Adventist Church, a tiny Spanish-style chapel located on a lonely stretch of desert road in a rural section of Lancaster. The bloody wedding day massacre took place there in Quentin Tarantino’s popular two-part "Kill Bill" franchise. In the movies, the church was dubbed the “Two Pines Wedding Chapel” and was located in El Paso, Texas. Producers have descended upon the picturesque but desolate site, which is a real working church, countless times over the years for such movies as "Crossroads," "True Confessions," "Desert Heat" and "Nurse Betty."