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Choose or I'll shoot! Let's pick the 50 best L.A. movies ever

November 10, 2011|Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times staff writer
  • Harrison Ford stars in "Blade Runner," which offers a harrowing view of a future Los Angeles
Harrison Ford stars in "Blade Runner," which offers a harrowing… (Warner Bros. Pictures )

Books can teach you plenty about Los Angeles. In fact, we’ve been getting readers to help us make lists of the best L.A. fiction and nonfiction. But as many people will tell you (just before asking you to read their screenplay), this is a movie town.

So if I’m a stranger in town and I need movies to school me, what films would you suggest? What films show and say the most about Los Angeles, from the way it looks to the way it behaves, where it’s been and where it might be headed? What are the most emblematic L.A. movies ever?

Yes, “Chinatown” for the past. Yes, “Blade Runner” for the future. But what else?

This list-in-progress is the beginning of our answer. We’ll count on you, readers, to tell us what else we’ve missed and what we’ve overrated.

As you read through the list, you’ll see that we’re biased against movies in which Los Angeles plays someplace else (like 1958's “Touch of Evil,” in which Orson Welles had Venice stand in for a Mexican border town). We’re skeptical of sequels. And we’d rather not include more than one film per director.

We’d rather not. But Robert Altman, James Cameron, Blake Edwards, Quentin Tarantino and Billy Wilder make that difficult, as you can see from their repeat appearances here.

Anyway, here we go, our choices fortified by counsel from Calendar section movie maven Susan King but uninformed (or untainted, if you prefer) by any input from actual Los Angeles Times film critics. Right now, this first-draft list is in no particular order, but that’ll change after we hear your likes and dislikes.

Use the comments section below to identify your three favorite emblematic L.A. movies, but don't stop there. Next, name three others that we should kick off this list. With your help, we’ll whack this list in half and come back in a while with a new version, reliable as a campaign promise, scientifically sound as a racetrack hunch.

1 “L.A. Story” (1991), director Mick Jackson.

2 “Stand and Deliver” (1988), Ramon Menendez.

3 “Sunset Blvd." (1950), Billy Wilder.

4 “Training Day” (2001), Antoine Fuqua.

5 “The Omega Man” (1971), Boris Sagal.

6 “Angels in the Outfield” (1994), William Dear.

7 “Heaven Can Wait” (1978), Warren Beatty, Buck Henry.

8 “Heaven Can Wait” (1943), Ernest Lubitsch.

9 “Pat and Mike” (1952), George Cukor.

10 “2 Days in the Valley” (1996), John Herzfeld.

11 “American Gigolo” (1980), Paul Schrader.

12 “The Rocketeer” (1991), Joe Johnston.

13 “Mildred Pierce” (1945), Michael Curtiz.

14 “Inside Daisy Clover” (1965), Robert Mulligan.

15 “Going Hollywood” (1933), Raoul Walsh.

16 “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986), Paul Mazursky.

17 “The Late Show” (1977), Robert Benton.

18 “California Split” (1975), Robert Altman.

19 “The Last Tycoon” (1976), Elia Kazan.

20 “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987), Tony Scott.

21 “10” (1979), Blake Edwards.

22 “S.O.B.” (1981), Blake Edwards.

23 “Show People” (1928), King Vidor.

24 “Stand-In” (1937), Tay Garnett.

25 “Ed Wood” (1994), Tim Burton.

26 “California Suite” (1978), Herbert Ross.

27 “Harper” (1966), Jack Smight.

28 “Welcome to L.A.” (1976), Alan Rudolph.

29 “Annie Hall” (1977), Woody Allen.

30 "Double Indemnity" (1944), Billy Wilder.

31 “The Long Goodbye” (1973), Robert Altman.

32 "To Live and Die in L.A." (1985), William Friedkin.

33 "Chinatown" (1974), Roman Polanski.

34 “The Limey” (1999), Steven Soderbergh.

35 “Heat” (1995), Michael Mann.

36 “The Terminator” (1984), James Cameron.

37 “L.A. Confidential” (1997), Curtis Hanson.

38 “Magnolia” (1999), Paul Thomas Anderson.

39 “Boogie Nights” (1997), Paul Thomas Anderson.

40 “Boyz N the Hood” (1991), John Singleton.

41 “Grand Canyon” (1991), Lawrence Kasdan.

42 “Crash” (2004), Paul Haggis.

43 “Mi Vida Loca” (1993), Allison Anders.

44 “(500) Days of Summer” (2009), Marc Webb.

45 “Volcano” (1997), Mick Jackson.

46 “Die Hard” (1988), John McTiernan.

47 “Los Angeles Plays Itself” (2003), documentary by Thom Anderson.

48 “Gone in 60 Seconds” (1974), H.B. Halicki.

49 “The Way We Were” (1973), Sydney Pollack.

50 “The Kids Are All Right” (2010), Lisa Cholodenko.

51 “Friends with Money” (2006), Nicole Holofcener.

52 “Lords of Dogtown” (2005), Catherine Hardwicke.

53 “Dogtown and the Z-Boys” (2001), documentary by Stacy Peralta.

54 “The Big Lebowski” (1998), Joel Coen.

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