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11 Movies That Were Famously Shot in Los Angeles

A List of Films Shot on Location in LA

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'What movie wasn't shot in LA,' you ask sarcastically? Well, these days with production companies trying to cut costs, more and more scouts are gearing their crews towards locations in Canada and elsewhere (remember this was Governator Arnold's pet cause--returning the film industry to LA?). Well, there was a time when most film shoots were taking place in town. Anyway, this start-up list of 10 movies shot in Los Angeles is just a primer. There are of course many other films that have immortalized our fair city as a cinematic backdrop.

LA Story

LACMA Museum of Art Los Angeles

This list should certainly begin with the most famous (or at least most obvious) film shot in Los Angeles: Steve Martin's two hour inside joke: LA Story (1991). I'm not just including this one because--as a rebellious teen--I snuck on set and managed to get paid for extra work on this film. Well, perhaps. In any case, the most famous scene location (still in existence) is the LACMA one in which Martin skates through the museum. Other by-gone spots: Tail o' the Pup and the Hard Rock Cafe in the Beverly Center

Swingers

This sleeper classic about a bunch of hep LA Daddy O's helped launch the careers of Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston and Heather Graham. Shot-wise it's an homage to Hollywood and Los Feliz. I actually lived in the so-called 'party house' in this film. But many of my friends and I also hung out in one of this flick's glorified locations: The Dresden. Another Swingers hot spot was The Derby where some grand nights of swing dancing took place.

Clueless

Clueless is another '90s movie that featured a lot of LA inside jokes. Most notably the 'everywhere in LA takes a half an hour to get to' line. Let's of course not forget one of the most famous locations in this Alicia Silverstone teen comedy: the mini-mart where Cher gets held up for her designer duds ("It's an Alaia"). That was Circus Liquor on the corner of Vineland and Burbank in The Valley. 

Pretty Woman

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
Photo

Who can forget all the famous shots in this '80s romantic comedy that showcased Beverly Hills; most notably those of Rodeo Drive and The Beverly Wilshire Hotel? And its opening and closing scenes were shot around Hollywood Blvd. and Las Palmas. As a bonus aside, one of the film's stars Richard Gere, was in American Gigolo years earlier. That flick featured the old Polo Lounge (pre-renovation) in The Beverly Hills Hotel and quite a few shots of the flats of BH as well.

The Music Box

The Silver Lake Reservoir in Los Angeles
Stephen Clark

Way back when, during the classic black and white era of Hollywood, Laurel and Hardy were the kings of comedy. The odd pair were in a film called The Music Box in 1932. It just so happens that that movie offers some very early glimpses into the Silver Lake neighborhood (as in long before it was Hipster Central). In fact, a set of steps depicted in it are today clearly marked with signage at Descanso Drive and Vendome Street.

Somewhere

History of Celebrities and the Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood Los Angeles
Wikipedia Commons (copyright free)

Sofia Coppola has a special knack for capturing a sense of place in her movies like Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. Although Somewhere was perhaps not my favorite, it is no exception. In this case, the place (and centerpiece for the entire film) was The Chateau Marmont, a hotel in which Coppola spent a lot of her childhood. 

Valley Girl

"Julie's cool. Randy's hot. She's from the Valley. He's not." Who could forget this '80s tale of star-crossed lovers; in this case a girl from the Valley and a guy from Hollywood? This classic movie which stars a young Nicolas Cage, is like a mini-tour of Sherman Oaks and Hollywood. Featured locations include: Du Par's Diner, The Viper Room, The Del Amo Fashion Center mall, Will Rogers Beach, and Harvard-Westlake School (Harvard School at the time).

Lions for Lambs

Los Angeles Times Newspaper Building Downtown LA
Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons/Minnaert

This political thriller pretty much bombed at the box office despite starring the revered Meryl Streep and ever-popular manic leading man Tom Cruise. Regardless, the political thriller offers some inside views of the famous Los Angeles Times building in Downtown.

Coming to America

About Randy's Donuts in LA

If you were coming to America (as this movie's title implies) for the first time, wouldn't you want to take a gander at a giant donut? Bigness is, after all, what this great country's all about. Eddie Murphy's character discovers this firsthand in this 1988 film which includes Randy's Donuts in Inglewood as a backdrop. 

Strange Days

Convocation Spiritual Conference at Bonaventure LA
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

This is another one that makes it on this list for personal reasons. Yes, I'm also an extra in this one thanks to some clever rave promoters who put together a combo film shoot (depicting millennium New Year's Eve) and crazy outdoor techno party. That crescendo NYE scene in Strange Days (1999) is shot in Downtown LA. Other non-crowd shots took place at the Bonaventure Hotel. Beyond Downtown, Strange Days was also shot at the old Sunset Tower Hotel in W. Hollywood (a must-see for Art Deco fans). 

Annie Hall

This Woody Allen film is too adored not to be included in this list. And since he's the quintessential New Yorker, it was interesting to experience his take on Los Angeles in the early days--namely the late '70s. The most famous LA scene in this movie is the one shot at the old Source restaurant at 8301 Sunset Blvd in W. Hollywood. That truly LA vegetarian eatery has of course long packed up its wheatgrass and closed its doors (much to former patron extraordinaire Fabio's dismay). It was replaced with a Cabo Cantina. 

Grease

Grease was the word...in LA. This John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John musical was set in quite a few locations around Los Angeles. An early love scene between the hot couple was shot at surfer-friendly Leo Carillo State Beach. And that school that everyone wished they could have attended, Rydell High, was in fact Venice High School. The drive-in scene (in which Travolta's character gets stranded) took place in Burbank at the Pickwick Drive-in on Alameda.

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