L.A. is one of the most filmed cities in the world. Even if you have never been to the city yourself, you will probably already feel like you know it well. There are many sides to L.A., and different movies have appeared over the years that provide a unique glimpse into the city’s culture. But which movies have done the best job in depicting the City of Angels? Here are 10 of the best.
1. L.A. Confidential, 1997
Covering corruption, celebrity, drugs, prostitution, organised crime and racism, this Academy Award-winning film depicts L.A. in 1953. A lot of preparation went into making sure that the period detail of the city was accurate, but it was shot in a contemporary style to avoid being too nostalgic. If you want to experience the seedy underbelly of Hollywood glamour, this film is hard to beat.
2. Collateral, 2004
Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise star in this film about a hitman (Cruise) who uses a cab driver (Foxx) to transport him around L.A. over the course of a night so that he can carry out his sinister work. Director Michael Mann gives L.A. a sleek look, exploring areas of the city rarely seen on the big screen, and the nighttime setting almost makes it look beautiful.
3. The Big Sleep, 1946
Humphrey Bogart plays a detective in this atmospheric classic directed by Howard Hawks. The film noir converts L.A. into a mysterious world full of intrigue and suspense. It has numerous references to corruption and the way that the glamorous veneer hides the seedy underbelly. Even though it was made over half a century ago, the same themes are still widely portrayed in L.A. films.
4. Boys N The Hood, 1991
This film depicts the violent world of South Central, where survival is all that matters. Director John Singleton grew up in South L.A., and his experience of the area shows through in the film, which depicts gang tensions and violence. It was particularly relevant as it came out at the same time as the footage of the Rodney King beating that triggered the L.A. Riots.
5. Swingers, 1996
Jon Favreau wrote and starred in this hit film that looked into the hip scene in L.A. at the time of the swing revival. The main characters are all struggling actors, and they spend their nights visiting hotspots such as the Derby and the Dresden Lounge in the Los Feliz neighbourhood. It captured the moment perfectly and also launched Vince Vaughn’s career.
6. Training Day, 2001
This grim and brutal film takes the audience on a tour of the bad areas of L.A. through the eyes of rookie cop Ethan Hawke. Writer David Ayer grew up in the areas depicted in the film, in which Denzel Washington plays the corrupt cop who rules the streets, and it is thrilling and horrifying in equal measure.
7. Down in the Valley, 2005
This is another film where the director uses his own experiences of L.A. to depict the city. David Jacobson grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where the film is set, and this inspired him to create this disturbing story of a rebellious teenage girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and her affair with a wandering cowboy (Ed Norton), which perfectly captures the long, hot days of summer for the bored youth of the valley.
8. The Big Lebowski, 1998
This film from the Coen brothers introduces us to a whole range of wild and wacky characters on the fringes of society, including crazy war veterans, eccentric artists, cowboys and, of course Jeff Bridges’ unforgettable Dude. It may not be the standard L.A. movie, but it seems to go behind the obvious to reveal a very different kind of L.A scene.
9. Speed, 1994
This all-action blockbuster sees L.A. as the setting for a classic Hollywood tale of heroes, villains and fast-paced excitement. We are taken on a roller coaster ride through L.A. at breakneck speed as Keanu Reeves does his best to save Sandra Bullock and the other hapless passengers on a bus that will explode if it goes below 50 mph. LAX and other well-known places in the city appear throughout the film, although most of them just flash by as the bus continues its thrilling ride.
10. L.A. Story, 1991
With all of the corruption, gangs and villains in L.A. films, it’s nice to see a rather different take on the city in L.A. Story. Here, the city is depicted as an enchanting place where Steve Martin is on the search for love. It is a celebration of L.A. as well as being satirical at the same time.
Experience the Real L.A.
L.A. has been depicted in so many movies that you may feel well acquainted with it even if you have never been there. But if you want to form your own opinion of this most famous of cities, visit it for yourself. Hire a car using a service like Alamo and take your own tour of the city to see what really makes it tick, and decide for yourself whether the movies do it justice.
Amy Sawyer is a freelance journalist from the UK
- Frank Darabont Confirms ‘L.A. Noir’ Retitled ‘Lost Angels’; Reveals Simon Pegg’s Role (screenrant.com)
- The Business of Screenwriting: Living and writing in L.A. (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
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