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.
We all know Los Angeles has been the home base for moviemaking for over a century, which means we’ve gotten to see some of our favorite spots immortalized on film over the course of our lives. If you’re stuck inside and missing all those sights and sounds you love so much, we’ll be taking a look at some movie night choices you can make featuring a variety of time periods and genres. Let’s start off with Netflix. For the most part, this streaming service features more recent fare, but we’ve found some selections you might’ve just skipped right past.
Blade Runner (1982)
“LOS ANGELES — NOVEMBER, 2019” reads the opening shot of the ultimate L.A.-based sci-fi film, a Philip K. Dick adaptation by director Ridley Scott that proved to be a box office failure in the wake of his previous hit, “Alien.” However, “Blade Runner” has since become a major cult classic. This story of reluctant cop Harrison Ford hunting down replicants — superpowered bioengineered beings — in a rain-drenched, noir-inspired City of Angels is more potent now than ever and features masterful use of downtown’s Bradbury Building.
The Bling Ring (2013)
It’s unlikely anyone will ever name this as their all-time favorite Sofia Coppola film, but there’s an undeniable kick to be found in this 2013 dramatization of the real-life story of a band of young Valley burglars who targeted the homes of celebrities around the Hollywood Hills, most famously Paris Hilton, from 2008 to 2009. It’s a tale stranger than fiction that could’ve only happened here. And for the icing on the cake, you get to see Emma Watson shake off her Hermione Granger image as a SoCal girl gone very, very wrong.
The Craft (1996)
You’ll find more L.A. bad girls here but with a supernatural twist in this stylish, oh-so-mid-’90s look at an impromptu coven of Catholic school teen witches. They start off using spells to get even but then turn on each other with stormy results. California native Fairuza Balk gets all the great material here as the wildly unstable and sassy Nancy, but you also get a nice pre-“Scream” team-up from Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich — plus a sweet, nostalgic soundtrack featuring the likes of Heather Nova, Tripping Daisies and Sponge.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy made a triumphant comeback in 2019 with one of his best-ever performances in this wildly entertaining biopic of Rudy Ray Moore, the Godfather of Rap. A love letter to the dreamers out there who can find immortality without a single dime from Hollywood, the film also features a gallery of powerhouse comic performances including Wesley Snipes as a hilariously vain D’Urville Martin and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Rudy’s spiritual sister in shock comedy, Lady Reed.
Everybody was caught off guard in 2011 by this ultra-cool, stylish and riveting crime film from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. “Drive” stars Ryan Gosling shaking off his teen heartthrob image once and for all as a getaway driver/movie stuntman rocking one of cinema’s all-time greatest jackets. As an added bonus, comic actor Albert Brooks most definitely doesn’t go for laughs here as one of the most chilling villains of the past decade — and the L.A. location footage is to die for.
End of Watch (2012)
Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña spent months doing ride-alongs with real LAPD officers — and witnessing several real crimes — to prep for this gritty, doc-style snapshot of life on the streets shot in many L.A. locales you never see captured on film. If you feel bad not being able to go outside, this movie might be just the cure to fix that.
The Invitation (2015)
The Hollywood Hills have never seemed more sinister than in this nerve-jangling, slow-burn horror gem from director Karyn Kusama. This story of a divorced couple’s dinner party from hell is one of the most haunting genre offerings in recent years and really sneaks up on you with a jolting finale not easily forgotten.
Molly’s Game (2017)
A never-better Jessica Chastain shines in this directorial debut by Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. The movie follows the life of underground poker tycoon Molly Brown as she gets tangled up with the FBI and Russian mobsters. Snappy and smart, it’s a vivid portrait of a real-life criminal enterprise from recent L.A. history — even if the city itself is played by Toronto.
Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
Wanna see something really weird? How about a throwback ’80s teen comedy set in L.A., except the whole thing was shot in Phoenix, Arizona. Get over that aspect though and you’ll get a fun ensemble cast including a young Chris Pratt, Anna Faris and Topher Grace, plus recreations of late-’80s staples like Suncoast Video and a great period soundtrack that’ll have you reaching for a Members Only jacket.
We Are Your Friends (2015)
There aren’t too many movies out there about the Los Angeles DJ scene, but this one does a fine job of capturing the subculture circa 2015, complete with EDM beats, drugs and plenty of coverage of every nook and cranny in the Valley. Zac Efron stars as a wannabe record producer looking to do more than just get people moving, but it all takes some crazy turns including a very, very bad house party.