There are about a billion movies about LA out there, from Sunset Boulevard to (sigh) Entourage: The Movie, but every list that's attempted to rank them has come up against arguments of subjectivity. Which is why we decided to make it more fair, and have a bunch of people who ACTUALLY MAKE MOVIES rank the best movies about LA.
Our method was to get a top 10 from a bunch of people who do different things in the film business, crunch the numbers, giving each #1 10 points, #2 nine, and so on. We ended up with a list of 67 total nominees (none of which were Entourage: The Movie) and a clear top 10. All ties were decided by us, because some things in life do need a little subjectivity.
And, lest you doubt our methodology, here was the extremely qualified panel: Jennifer Semler, VP production, Lava Bear Films (The Rover, The Forest); Jessica Bendinger, writer, Bring It On; Christina Won, executive producer, Birdman & Zach Meyers (co-creative directors, Rabbit Hole LA); David Ansen, lead programmer, Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival; Rob Benedict, actor, Masters of Sex; Bettina Sherick, founder, Hollywood in Pixels; Joel Schaller, VP, Arsonal Interactive; Dan Curry, head writer, The Eric Andre Show; Sophie Cassidy, VP of production and acquisitions, Open Road Films; Abby Ex, SVP acquisitions, Focus Features; Keri Safran, artistic director, Stupid Songs musical comedy troupe and actress, I Love You, Man; and John Zois, director of worldwide acquisitions, EuropaCorp.
10. Nightcrawler (2014)
Last year's ultra-creepy Jake Gyllenhaal movie about a sociopathic news photographer is the most recent movie to make the top 10.
The experts say: "We acquired this movie off a seven-minute promo in Cannes and you could tell immediately that it captured the dirty underbelly of LA that had never really been portrayed in a movie before. Ever wonder what the deep Valley looks like at 1am?" -- Sophie Cassidy, VP of production and acquisitions, Open Road Films
9. L.A. Confidential (1997)
This double-Oscar winner is a lesson in film noir -- and acting, with a cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger.
The experts say: "This modern noir is an engaging mystery, has some of the most interesting characters ever, and has great twists." -- John Zois, director of worldwide acquisitions, EuropaCorp
8. Boogie Nights (1997)
So much iconography: Rollergirl. Dirk Diggler. "Sister Christian." Etc. Etc. Etc.
The experts say: "This movie came out when I was in eighth grade; one of my best friends and I bought tickets to a PG movie and snuck in to see this instead. I went to an all-girls school and was pretty sheltered, so let's just say that I had never seen anything like it before..." -- Sophie Cassidy, VP of production and acquisitions, Open Road Films
"I saw this in college with a group of friends. This one guy hated it and I stopped being his friend after." -- Dan Curry, head writer, The Eric Andre Show
7. Mulholland Drive (2001)
This surreal, sexy David Lynch film is a sort of dreamscape, but it somehow hits on the bizarre characters that seethe underneath the city's exterior.
The experts say: "I remember when this came out and audiences were polarized -- you either loved it or didn’t get it. For some reason that I still have trouble explaining, I fell on the side of 'yes, it’s so bizarre but it all adds up for me.'" -- Rob Benedict, actor, Masters of Sex
6. Double Indemnity (1944)
This Billy Wilder mystery was a surprise contender -- especially considering that other revered black-and-white classics, like Sunset Boulevard, didn't make the top 10.
The experts say: "The classic LA detective story and literally one of the best movies ever made. You can catch a glimpse of old Downtown LA in the car chase down 5th and Olive, the iconic Hollywood Bowl, and there is something super intriguing about the mysterious 'Hollywood Hills' house at 6301 Quebec. Houses in films about LA (Laurel Canyon, Sunset Boulevard) seem to have special meaning. We shut ourselves away in this city -- in private, controlled spaces. There is often mystery and beauty lying behind the gated driveway for those who can find their way there. Houses are their own characters in these films. Also, no one is more beautiful than Barbara Stanwyck in this movie. " -- Christina Won, associate producer, Birdman
5. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Mark it, dude: not only did Thrillist recently visit a bunch of spots from the Coen brothers' film, but a majority of our panel put it on their list -- though in spots that couldn't push it to top-three status.
The experts say: "I saw this at a matinee on opening day in an empty theater in upstate New York. I drank White Russians for a month after. I felt kinship -- I fucking hated the Eagles too! The next year I went out to California for the first time and discovered both In-N-Out and Ralph's were real. " -- Dan Curry, head writer, The Eric Andre Show
"Released before I ever stepped foot in LA, it educated me about Ralph's, Malibu, and the importance of being In-N-Out adjacent." -- Jennifer Semler, VP production, Lava Bear Films
4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Sure, Phoebe Cates' nude scene was fap fodder for generations (and generations!) of pre-Internet boys, but far more than that, the imminently quotable comedy captures a slice-of-life of being an LA teen in a way only one other movie has since (more on that in a second).
The experts say: "Script by Cameron Crowe. Directed by Amy Heckerling. There are no words for how profoundly influential this movie was to a generation." -- Jessica Bendinger, writer, Bring It On
"I related to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s journey as a girl growing up the same way I related to Margaret in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." -- Abby Ex, SVP acquisitions, Focus Features
"I may or may not have been in college when this movie came out. And my friends and I may or may not have tried to order a pizza and have it delivered to the lecture hall." -- Bettina Sherick, founder, Hollywood in Pixels
3. Clueless (1995)
You know every time you say, "Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes"? Yeah, that's because of Clueless.
The experts say: "Amy Heckerling’s film is such a gift. Twenty years later the movie still delivers on every level. It’s a teen film that still tickles my funny bone, and I think the story could only happen in Los Angeles. It’s like LA is a character in the film." -- Bettina Sherick, founder, Hollywood in Pixels
"One of the formative films of my youth, this movie laid out all the potential ahead of me as a tween growing up in LA. I wanted to be Cher. I wanted to be best friends with Di and Tai. I wanted to be rolling with the homies. I wanted to have a fountain go off when I realized that I was in love with Josh. But most of all, it defined what it meant to be an 'LA girl' and that was what I wanted more than anything else." -- Sophie Cassidy, VP of production and acquisitions, Open Road Films
"I was 15 when Clueless came out so this film was the epitome of wish fulfillment for my high-school self. I wanted Cher’s closet, her friends, and most importantly, her stepbrother. While I was 21 years old living in NYC I accosted poor Paul Rudd outside a bar and forced him to talk to me about filming the movie. He was very kind to not walk away and humor me for a bit. I was smitten. The opening is also one of the most economical in terms of the way it cleverly introduces the characters and the world. I point to it constantly with writers I’m working with." -- Abby Ex, SVP acquisitions, Focus Features
2. L.A. Story (1991)
One of Steve Martin's best movies is also one of the best movies about LA -- the comedy in it still feels relevant, even 25 years later.
The experts say: "I just remember Sarah Jessica Parker’s hair, rollerblades, and a car phone. Those images are burned in my brain." -- Abby Ex, SVP acquisitions, Focus Features
"Gotta get one comedy on my list, and this one is a gem." -- David Ansen, lead programmer, Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival
"The scene where Steve Martin’s character gets in his car and drives two car lengths up the block, parks, and gets out to visit his friend? That really happens!!" -- Bettina Sherick, founder, Hollywood in Pixels
1. Chinatown (1974)
In the end, it wasn't even close. Jack Nicholson's hard-boiled thriller beat out its nearest runner-up by 13 points, appearing on almost everyone's list.
The experts say: "My favorite movie of all time. It made me want to move to Echo Park way back before it was safe/cool to live in Echo Park." -- Jennifer Semler, VP production, Lava Bear Films
"'They've stolen all the water, and turned it into their dreams!' Yeesh!!'" -- Keri Safran, artistic director, Stupid Songs musical comedy troupe
"I worked with Robert Towne on a project and it was one of the only times I was seriously terrified to give notes having watched and studied the film in school." -- Abby Ex, SVP acquisitions, Focus Features
"I’ll tell you what -- everyone should watch/rewatch Chinatown as we deal with this drought. It’s a perfect study of the California Water Wars, which is playing out still today." -- Bettina Sherick, founder, Hollywood in Pixels
The full list
Dozens of movies were listed but didn't make the cut. Here's where they stacked up:
2. LA Story
4. Fast Times
5. Big Lebowski
6. Double Indemnity
7. Mulholland Drive
8. Boogie Nights
9. L.A. Confidential
11. Barton Fink
13. Pulp Fiction
14. Singing in the Rain
15. The Graduate
18. Valley Girl
19. Sunset Boulevard
22. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
23. Pretty Woman
24. Jackie Brown
25. California Split
26. Bad News Bears
27. Day of the Locust
28. The Limey
30. Mommie Dearest
31. Annie Hall
32. The Player
33. Kiss Me Deadly
34. Straight Outta Compton
36. Slums of Beverly Hills
37. Point Break
38. Los Angeles Plays Itself
40. Postcards from the Edge
42. Blume in Love
43. The Big Picture
44. Decline of Western Civ
45. Punch-Drunk Love
46. Less Than Zero
47. Taken 3
48. To Live and Die in LA
49. Swimming with Sharks
50. Enough Said
51. Training Day
52. To Sleep With Anger
53. Laurel Canyon
54. The Big Sleep
55. Beverly Hills Cop
57. Afternoon Delight
58. They Live
59. Little Miss Sunshine
60. Mixed Nuts
61. Crocodile Dundee
62. Karate Kid
63. Short Cuts
64. I'll Do Anything