Joel and Ethan Coen’s tale of mistaken identity and mystery gone awry centers around a Los Angeles slacker — and bowling enthusiast — played by Jeff Bridges. As Lebowski, Bridges captures a shaggy, loose L.A. that doesn’t alwaysshow up in the movies.
“Blade Runner” (1982)
We’re just 2½ years shy from embodying the dark, dystopian Los Angeles of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” set in November 2019, but there’s still plenty of time for the city to get up to speed. Harrison Ford played ex-police officer Rick Deckard, a man whose hunt of replicants left audiences wondering if they were truly human, which may just be the best allegory ever for living in Los Angeles.
John Singleton’s directorial debut at age 23 was a window into a side of Los Angeles the rest of the country could only imagine. Boasting an all-star cast including Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Regina King, “Boyz” remains a powerful look at the South Central that was.
Few would have guessed that the California Water Wars could have spawned one of the greatest films of all-time, but “Chinatown” is a testament to the power of great storytelling and the seedy underbelly that spawned the City of Angels.
Jane Austen may be rolling in her grave, but this loose adaptation of “Emma” made out-of-touch Beverly Hills teenagers look something akin to relatable, a true Los Angeles miracle.
“Die Hard” (1988)
Christmas in Los Angeles got a lot more interesting after 1988’s “Die Hard” had NYPD cop John McClane shimmying through air vents and walking on broken glass. L.A. may not have snow, but it definitely has holiday films to die for.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
Amy Heckerling just gets L.A. The director’s second entry on this list — Heckerling also wrote and directed “Clueless” — is the ultimate coming-of-age ’80s flick, based on screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s experiences going under cover at a San Diego high school. But filmed in Van Nuys and with a breakout stoner performance from relative unknown Sean Penn, “Fast Times” is all L.A., dude.
“L.A. Story” (1991)
Sweet and cynical, this satirical love story written by star Steve Martin skewers Los Angeles for all its shallow failures while still finding hope among the artifice. It’s basically Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” in film form.
“Mulholland Drive” (2001)
David Lynch’s hallucinatory noir captures everything vaguely sinister about life in Los Angeles, on the fringes of both fame and insanity. Also provides important illustration of why you never visit diner dumpsters.
“Short Cuts” (1993)
No director could capture the loosely interlocking stories of individuals better than Robert Altman, as we saw in this ’90s classic. The gold standard in films about average Angelenos (sorry “Crash”) “Short Cuts” adapts stories from Raymond Carver and infuses them with Altman’s signature style.
“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
The rainbow-hued classic to which “La La Land” owes a whole lot captured a pivotal period when Hollywood made the tumultuous transition from silent films to “talkies” as Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds danced their way into an unknown future.
This perfect action film written by two of television’s greatest scribes — Graham Yost (“Justified”) and an uncredited Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) — turned Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock into superstars and proved why no one ever uses Los Angeles public transit.
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)
Billy Wilder’s look at Norma Desmond, a faded silent film star played by Gloria Swanson, is the ultimate portrait of the Hollywood system that chews up talent and spits them out. “Sunset Boulevard” is ready for its close-up, Mr. Garcetti.
“Terminator 2” (1991)
Los Angeles was made for near-apocalyptic showdowns, as evidenced in “Terminator 2,” where then-future, now-past California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to protect John and Sarah Connor.
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)
Strangely, the film that serves as the best encapsulation of everything L.A. is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a live-action/animated mash-up that posits the real-life existence of animated characters while simultaneously bemoaning the death of the L.A. trolley car.