Nothing makes us prouder than seeing our city authentically reflected on the big screen. In making our list of the best Los Angeles movies, we’ve found dark thrillers and lush Hollywood romantic comedies.
The movie business is synonymous with Los Angeles. But, Los Angeles wouldn’t be as dazzling without the movie magic that inspires the city.
Here is the ultimate list of 14 best movies shot in Los Angeles:
Table of Contents
- Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman
- Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
- Duration: 100 minutes
A handful of movies reference Los Angeles car culture, from Nightcrawler (2014), in which Jake Gyllenhaal drives across the city to capture gory footage for the news show, to Speed (1994), in which Keanu Reeves must keep a bus moving at high speed at rush hour in Los Angeles.
But Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylized neo-noir enters this ranking, partly because it unites the automotive world with cinema: the film’s hero, played by Ryan Gosling and whose name is never revealed, is a driver of Hollywood stunts by day, and getaway driver by night. Not to mention, under Refn’s precise guidance, driving has never looked so good.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
- Cast: Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
- Director: F. Gary Gray
- Duration: 147 minutes
This film explores the rise of gangsta rap in the Compton neighborhood of the 1980s through the success of the NWA, a group that emerged from the area and caused a revolution.
It features Ice Cube’s son playing a young Ice Cube and an incredible performance by Jason Mitchell as Easy-E, who fights against AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic. Straight Outta Compton is one of the most faithful representations of East Los Angeles’ race war and is also an original depiction of how NWA songs inspired the uprising and fight against police brutality.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
- Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux
- Director: David Lynch
- Duration: 147 minutes
One of David Lynch’s most famous works is named after the street that runs through the mountains of North Los Angeles. It is a mystery film that investigates the identity of one of her protagonists, who does not remember who she is after surviving a devastating car accident.
Taking Lynch’s career a step further, Mulholland Drive captures the noir glamor of Los Angeles in an iconic film portrait of the city.
The Graduate (1967)
- Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels and Murray Hamilton
- Director: Mike Nichols
- Duration: 105 minutes
One of the most iconic movies ever, The Graduate follows Benjamin, a recent college graduate, as he struggles to find a place in society. At that moment he finds himself accepted and seduced by a boring housewife named Mrs. Robinson. Things get even more complicated for Benjamin when he falls in love with her daughter and has to decide if he stands up for something he wants, or if he’s drifting through life not quite sure who he is.
The movie is set and filmed in Los Angeles and the original locations are now cult destinations for fans.
La La Land (2016)
- Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Terry Walters and J.K. Simmons
- Director: Damien Chazelle
- Duration: 128 minutes
La La Land, a must-see musical that casts Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is perhaps the pinnacle of Los Angeles movie inspiration.
The 2016 Oscar winner is shot throughout the city and pays homage to everything from traffic to old Hollywood haunts. If there’s ever been a movie that epitomizes a love letter to a city, it’s La La Land’s affection for the City of Los Angeles.
Blade Runner (1990)
- Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel and Joanna Cassidy
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Duration: 117 minutes
If it weren’t for the film’s title and the familiar image of the towers of the Bonaventure Hotel looming over the horizon in the opening shot of Blade Runner, you’d think you were looking at a Bosch painting instead of hovering over the City of Angels.
Ridley Scott’s “futuristic” visual conception is a metropolitan nightmare that presents the Los Angeles of tomorrow as a glorious ruin, aptly turning city landmarks like the Union train station into a grubby police station, and the Deco Bradbury building into a battlefield drenched in acid rain.
READ ALSO RELATED ARTICLE: https://awalkerinla.com/25-best-tv-shows-set-in-los-angeles-you-will-love/
The Big Lebowski (1998)
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and John Turturro
- Director: Joel Coen y Ethan Coen
- Duration: 118 minutes
Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” is the iconic, stereotypical, and always surprising Venice Beach hippie who finds himself involved in a hostage situation.
The film also follows “The Dude’s” best friends, including the best character John Goodman has ever portrayed, a wacky Vietnam vet named Walter, and Donny, who is the strange, easy-going hero.
The psychedelic and surreal feel of this movie makes audiences wonder what exactly it’s about, but that may be the point, since “The Dude” doesn’t care much for those things. This cult classic is a tour of the city of Los Angeles: from restaurants to bowling alleys, the film shows some of the places in the city that have become iconic.
Die Hard (1988)
- Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Paul Gleason and Reginald Vel Johnson
- Director: John McTiernan
- Duration: 131 minutes
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a New York City cop, when his estranged wife and others are taken hostage on top of the elegant “Nakatomi Plaza” building, our hero springs into action with his honed urban instincts.
A classic Hollywood action movie.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
- Cast: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell and David Strathairn
- Director: Curtis Hanson
- Duration: 138 minutes
Set in the corrupt but glamorous Hollywood of the 1950s, the LA Confidential police force was complicit in covering up their own crimes. The revered legal drama won multiple Academy Awards while portraying a dark and nostalgic portrayal of Los Angeles.
Three police officers work together to solve a murder that is personally linked to all of them in some way, and in doing so they achieve their revenge. This is film noir at its finest, and this film is often compared to Chinatown for quality and tone.
- Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Roman Polanski and Diane Ladd
- Director: Roman Polanski
- Duration: 131 minutes
A private detective hired to expose an adulterer in 1930s Los Angeles finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.
This film is essential to the city’s history and expertly exposes the problems that have plagued it for decades.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, and Nancy Olson
- Director: Billy Wilder
- Duration: 110 minutes
Sunset Boulevard is often described as the best movie ever made about Hollywood and another drama in the great genre of film noir.
This film centers on an aging silent film star, Norma Desmond, and her stormy relationship with both her screenwriter and her waning fame. When the scriptwriter tries to manipulate her, she hits back, leading to a shocking ending, her former fame being replaced with madness and despair.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
- Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick and Edward Furlong
- Director: James Cameron
- Duration: 137 minutes
A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her 10-year-old son John from an even more advanced and powerful cyborg.
It is a classic and belongs in the top rank of action films. The action sequences are exciting and plain awesome. Involving an arsenal of weapons, a Harley-Davidson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, action movies don’t get better than this.
Pulp Fiction (2008)
- Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken and Bruce Willis
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Duration: 154 minutes
The quintessential Quentin Tarantino film examines drugs and gang violence in Los Angeles. This film includes memorable roles for all of its leading actors, including Samuel L Jackson and Uma Thurman (who continued to work with Tarantino on the Kill Bill films ), but especially for John Travolta, as he differs so much from the Grease character that made him so famous.