From comedies to musicals to (lots of) noir to Quentin Tarantino, Musement shares ten of the best films set in Los Angeles.
There’s no business like show business. Whether or not you’ve been to Hollywood, it’s easy to fantasize about the City of Angels and to get caught up in the intrigues of Tinseltown. And if you can’t get there in person, there’s probably no better way to bask in its allure than indulging in the industry for which it’s most famous.
Here are ten of the best films set in Los Angeles you can watch to get your fill.
1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, 2019
Set in 1969, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood portrays characters nesting on three different spots of the Hollywood totem pole: Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski (Margot Robbie and Rafal Zawierucha) as their stars are rising; Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a has-been of sorts trying to prevent his career from going belly up; and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Dalton’s ever-reliable stand-in. All portrayed with Quentin Tarantino’s signature flair.
2. Chinatown , 1974
Speaking of Roman Polanski, his 1974 neo-noir mystery is a classic. Set in 1937, the film stars Jack Nicholson in one of his finest roles: J.J. Jake Gittles. A private detective, Gittles gets tangled into investigating the shady behavior of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as it undertakes construction of a potentially unsafe reservoir. This classic is a must-see for any cinephiles who take themselves seriously.
3. La La Land, 2016
Damien Chazelle’s wildly original, dazzling musical stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Mia and Sebastian, an actress and a pianist who fall in love while trying to establish their careers. We watch them struggle against the backdrop of this city that represents the dreams and aspirations of the countless many who flock here seeking their big break. Plus, many of the city’s signature sites and landmarks make a cameo.
4. Mulholland Drive, 2001
Named for a road in the Los Angeles mountains, David Lynch’s surreal noir film is the story of Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring young actress who came to Hollywood to realize her dreams, and an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) she meets along the way. In this “love story in the city of dreams,” Los Angeles has as much of a leading role as the actors.
5. Sunset Boulevard, 1950
Offering a glimpse of Tinseltown’s darker side, this classic noir mystery stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an aging silent film star, and Joe Gillis, a hard-luck screenwriter who becomes a kept man of sorts as he works with her on a project. The film begins with his dead body and the story is then told through flashbacks.
6. The Big Lebowski, 1998
Jeff Bridges stars as the slightly dead beat Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a bowler who gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity with a millionaire of the same name. With this unforgettable crime comedy, the Coen Brothers take us on a wild ride around L.A. that’ replete with endless laughs along the way.
7. L.A. Confidential, 1997
There’s just something about L.A. and noir, and this film is neo-noir at its finest. A murder mystery, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential is set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood. Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger, the enrapturing film will have you at the edge of your seat.
8. Clueless, 1995
As if a list of films set in L.A. would ever be complete without Clueless. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, Clueless tells the story of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a wealthy and popular high school student who takes the new girl under her wing and gives her a makeover. No matter your age, Clueless, considered one of the greatest teen films of all time, never gets old.
9. L.A. Story, 1991
Steve Martin penned and starred in this whimsical comedy/drama/fantasy/satire. Martin plays Harris K. Telemacher, a weatherman stuck in a bit of rut and looking for a spark of excitement to spice up his life. The film pokes fun at the city’s superficial side, but from a place of love as it’s evident that Martin adores his city.
10. Pulp Fiction, 1994
Another Quentin Tarantino classic. This memorable film features a cast of characters who are prominent figures in the drugs and game world, starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman. To sum it up in a single word: Epic!