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10 iconic filming locations in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is flooded with sites that have appeared in movies, TV shows, and even music videos. Some locations have been used numerous times, while other locales are memorable for a single acclaimed scene.
Giggster researched L.A. filming locations and highlighted 10 places across the city from famous films that you can visit—complete with address—on a cinematic pilgrimage.
Filmmakers sometimes use particular sites that have a range and can be used during any period, such as the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Some film locations, such as the John Sowden House, are used for their aesthetic appeal. In the case of the Sowden House, detailed fixtures such as an ornate fireplace and sculptured concrete walls lent an air of historical authority to Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.”
Sometimes a particular LA location may be set decorated to represent a location in another state or even another country if it’s more affordable for the filmmaker to go this route. Whatever the reasoning is, for the storyteller all that matters is securing the ideal film location.
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Multiple movies at Santa Monica Pier
- Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier
The iconic Santa Monica Pier, one of California’s most popular piers, opened to the public in September 1909. It took 16 months to build the pier, which is now known for its amusement park (Pacific Park) that houses a solar-powered landmark Ferris wheel, which opened in 1996, and fishing remains a recreational favorite for many who visit.
The pier provides filmmakers with ocean views, sandy beaches, and a boardwalk—so it makes sense why this landmark location has been the backdrop for countless films, commercials, and other productions.
The pier appears in “Beverly Hills Cop III” in a scene where backup officers investigate a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot on the West End of Colorado Avenue. And in the Oscar-winning 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” the pier appears in a scene after Gump takes off running “for no particular reason” and runs straight to the ocean.
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The ‘Casablanca’ airport
- Location: Van Nuys Airport, 6590 Hayvenhurst Ave.
Van Nuys Airport, located in the San Fernando Valley, was built in the 1920s by a group of Californians who formed a corporation. From the 1930s, Van Nuys became a popular location for filming; the airport’s owners were quite welcoming to filmmakers, as it proved to be profitable for the airport. Most of the 1942 romantic drama “Casablanca” was shot at a soundstage in Burbank, but the hangar used in the scene where Capt. Strasser (Conrad Veidt) arrives was filmed at Van Nuys Airport.
Over the years, the hangar has gone through many changes, having moved to another location, and even being destroyed and then replaced. During WWII, the U.S. government used the airfield as a military installation, and in the 1950s, the California Air National Guard built new facilities; the airport didn’t actually gain its present name until 1957.
Other productions filmed at Van Nuys Airport include the 1999 John Travolta film, “The General’s Daughter” and Michael Bay’s 2001 historic drama “Pearl Harbor.”
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Theodore’s apartment lobby and the airplane art installation from ‘Her’
- Location: Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave.
The Pacific Design Center opened in 1975, establishing West Hollywood as a design district. The center serves as a meeting space for creatives for screenings, lectures, special events, and yes—even as a filming location.
In the 2013 Spike Jonze film, “Her,” there is a scene where Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) stops to marvel at an airplane installation at the Pacific Design Center, portrayed as an art plaza in the flick.
A majority of the filming for “Her” took place over the summer of 2012, with most scenes shot in LA.
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Ava Gardner’s house in ‘The Aviator’
- Location: John Sowden House, 5121 Franklin Ave.
The John Sowden house, designed by architect Lloyd Wright, is a 6,000-square-foot mansion situated on a busy street that runs through the heart of LA. The home encompasses Mayan and Aztec design features and commands attention due to its unique exterior and visible location. John Sowden, the original owner of the residence, was a painter and photographer and only lived at the house for a few years. He asked his friend Lloyd to design the house.
The seven-bedroom, four-bathroom mansion gained popularity in the 1940s as it’s believed to be the site of the real-life alleged murder of Elizabeth Short and other victims in the Black Dahlia case.
The home was famously used as a shooting location to depict Ava Gardner’s (played by Kate Beckinsale) home in the 2004 film, “The Aviator.” Other productions that have been filmed at the residence include the 1998 TV movie “Brave New World,” and the 2012 film “Ruby Sparks.”
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Multiple movies at Grand Olympic Auditorium
- Location: 1801 S. Grand Ave.
This Grand Olympic Auditorium was built in the 1920s, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s was home to some of the biggest headlining events in sports such as boxing, wrestling, and roller derby.
The indoor arena was used in the fight scenes for 1976’s “Rocky.” Several other films have used the Grand Olympic Auditorium as a shooting location, among them Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” and “Million Dollar Baby.” It was also the location of Elvis Presley’s last live concert. The venue, which over the years became known as the “Madison Square Garden of the West,” is now a Korean American church called Glory Church of Jesus Christ.
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Sarah Connor’s apocalyptic nightmare park in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’
- Location: Elysian Park, 929 Academy Rd.
Elysian Park is LA’s oldest public park. It is the second largest park in the city after Griffith Park. While it is well known to Angelinos as a favorable recreation location, Elysian Park was also one of the filming locations for the 1991 movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
In the film, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has a recurring nightmare about judgment day, and the scenes from the nightmare, in which atomic fallout destroys the cityscape, took place at Elysian Park.
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Multiple movies at Venice High School
- Location: Venice High School, 13000 Venice Blvd.
Venice High School is renowned for being used as the location for Rydell High School in the 1978 film, “Grease.” Filming for “Grease” began the summer of 1977 with opening scenes showing excited students on their first day of school walking across the campus and a shot of the Myrna Loy statue. The statue, sculpted in the 1920s, has become a landmark for Venice High.
A couple of the movie’s most well-known musical numbers were also filmed at Venice High—Rizzo’s (Stockard Channing) ballad “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” which takes place along the school’s outside corridor, and “Summer Nights,” where the school’s bleachers and outdoor cafeteria were used. The bleachers and cafeteria locations look entirely different today due to renovations that have taken place over the years.
Other films that have used Venice High School as a filming location include crime drama “American History X,” serial slasher flick “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” and “Matchstick Men,” the 2003 Nicolas Cage comedy directed by Ridley Scott.
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Multiple movies at The Millennium Biltmore Hotel
- Location: 506 S. Grand Ave.
When it opened in 1923, the Millennium Biltmore was called the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel. Its ornately embellished design featuring gilded moldings and marble columns has made it a go-to filming location for several movies and TV shows.
The hotel’s location—situated minutes away from the Walt Disney Concert Hall on foot and just a quick cab ride away from Dodger Stadium—and its popularity for notable film projects also helped to establish downtown LA as a vibrant entertainment hub.
For the 1982 film, “Rocky III,” the hotel’s ballroom was transformed into a boxing ring for the scene where Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) prepares for his big fight. In the 1984 action-comedy, “Beverly Hills Cop,” Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is in the hotel lobby and attempts to check-in, claiming he is a reporter for Rolling Stone. Later the hotel’s exterior can be seen as Foley attempts to evade the cops trailing him by sending a room service order to their squad car. And if that isn’t enough, the famous Slimer scene from “Ghostbusters” was filmed at the Biltmore.
Most recently, in season two of the Netflix period romance series “Bridgerton,” the Queen’s Ball was filmed in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom.
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The ‘Reservoir Dogs’ diner
- Location: Pat & Lorraine’s Coffee Shop, 4720 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Pat & Lorraine’s Coffee Shop, a cozy diner that serves breakfast and lunch, has been open since the 1970s.
In the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film, “Reservoir Dogs,” Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Brown (Tarantino), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), and the rest of the heist crew engage in a discussion about tipping and the nature of the lyrics in Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.”
This diner also happens to hold a special memory for director Tarantino. It was the first film location he ever used, and he chose the diner because it was more affordable to film there—and it was located kitty-corner from the warehouse where a bulk of the film’s runtime takes place.
- Location: 2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Since the Griffith Observatory opened in the 1930s, it has become one of LA’s most popular public locations. The Observatory and Park were inspired by Welsh-born American, Griffith J. Griffith, a former reporter and mining adviser.
The Observatory has a long history with Hollywood; its iconic status can be traced to 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause,” where James Dean both engages in a knife fight at its rear lookout and at the film’s close returns to try to rescue a disturbed Sal Mineo from harming himself. It can also be seen in the 2003 film, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” where the modern angels (Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu) find out that the villain, Madison Lee (Demi Moore), was a former angel.
In the 1991 flick “The Rocketeer,” a night scene at the observatory features a faceoff between the Rocketeer against a pack of Nazi villains. The location can also be seen as a backdrop in 2007’s “Transformers” and appeared in the 2016 film “La La Land,” starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.