Feeling nostalgic? Looking for something new? No matter which way you feel, all these movies satisfy the urge to see our beloved L.A. through the lens of film.
The moose out front should have told you.
Best known for serving up heaps of TV shows, Hulu is also handy for screening a movie or two when you don’t feel like committing to a long-haul storyline. From beloved indies to pop culture classics, here are a few selections set in the City of Angels that make for perfect evening viewing.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut got dinged by an overly ambitious — and expensive — theatrical rollout that still carries a stigma today. But set that aside and you’ll enjoy one of the best female buddy movies in ages. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein shine as high school seniors determined to make the most of one fateful night, which turns into a crazy teen version of Scorsese’s “After Hours” set across the nocturnal L.A. landscape.
Die Hard (1988)
One of the two greatest Angeleno Christmas action films, this ridiculously entertaining spectacle made a movie star out of Bruce Willis and set the standard moviemakers still strive for to this day. Good luck going by Fox Plaza in Century City without thinking of Nakatomi Plaza.
Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
A far more modest ’88 offering, “Earth Girls Are Easy” is a vibrant musical comedy from the pen of comedian/actress/screenwriter Julie Brown, who brought us the immortal ’80s hit “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun.” Here she plays the best pal to Valley hairstylist Geena Davis, whose swimming pool ends up as the accidental landing spot for three aliens played by a very young Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
The ’80s teen movie was never the same after this watershed, episodic comedy written by Cameron Crowe and based on his real-life experiences going undercover as a high school student (which inspired his earlier book of the same name). Sean Penn got most of the attention as slacker surfer Jeff Spicoli — along with Phoebe Cates, for very different reasons — but the whole cast is packed with recognizable faces. And you get lots of great coverage of the Sherman Oaks Galleria before it turned into a post-earthquake outdoor mall.
Fyre Fraud (2019)
Everyone might be buzzing about “Tiger King” these days, but this insane documentary is just as jaw-dropping — on a ridiculously huge scale. Rushed into production just after the real-life events concluded, it chronicles the absurd fallout over a phony high-end festival in the Bahamas — which led to a massive lawsuit in California when the promised celebs didn’t show and all the attendees ended up stranded in misery. If you feel down about isolating right now, this is just the thing to lift your spirits.
Gods and Monsters (1998)
This riveting look at the final days of ostracized Hollywood director James Whale features one of the best-ever performances by the legendary Ian McKellen. The director of classics like “Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” and “Show Boat,” Whale spent his twilight years at his Pacific Palisades home where, according to this film, he had a life-changing epiphany thanks to the arrival of his new gardener played by Brendan Fraser. Not to be missed.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Quirky comedies about deeply unhinged people doing nutty things are a dime a dozen, but “Ingrid Goes West” stands out from the crowd thanks to an insanely committed performance by Aubrey Plaza as the titular character who moves from Pennsylvania to L.A. to insinuate herself in the life of an Instagram influencer. You might think twice about posting that next selfie after watching this film.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Writer John Hughes adapted “Vacation ’58,” his raucous short story about a violently ill-fated family trip to Disneyland, into the story of the Griswold family’s chaotic cross-country car trip to the fictional Wally World in California. Chevy Chase and director Harold Ramis hit it so big with this one that it spawned four theatrical sequels, but this movie has so many classic moments you’ll feel more than satisfied by the time that Lindsay Buckingham music explodes at the end.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
In a better world, this would be one of the biggest midnight movies on the planet right now. Set and shot in Oakland, or some upside-down version of it, this surreal comedy from rapper, social media tyro and first-time director Boots Riley is impossible to describe but wonderful to behold as the great, deadpan LaKeith Stanfield gets hurled into the weirdest telemarketing job ever and discovers the wonders of Danny Glover’s “white voice,” Tessa Thompson’s earrings and Armie Hammer’s — well, I’m not gonna spoil that one.
One of the definitive ‘90s indies also happens to be one of the funniest with writer/star Jon Favreau and director Doug Liman serving up a snappy and endearing look at a struggling actor getting over a failed relationship while dealing with his all-too-swaggering best friend (a career-making turn for Vince Vaughn). Sure, this film spawned that annoying swing craze that lasted here for about two minutes, but you’ll get a look at L.A. during the Clinton years and honestly, it doesn’t seem to have aged a day.