Did a full day walking tour of LA. Our tour guide Damien was very knowledgeable & passionate about giving us all the information in a clear & concise way. The tour was very well planned & organised & was not tiring.
We did The Real Hollywood tour & loved it! The tour was at a great pace & the guide (Vicky) was very knowledgeable & made the tour fun. Thank you!
Stuart was so knowledgeable & was worth the day with him. I had been to LA multiple times before but this is the first time I had taken a tour – so thrilled to have this experience with my mom & sister. I would recommend this tour again & again.
We had an amazing DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Damien & Dante… thank you very much from the Italian girls… very interesting & funny… absolutely recommended!
This tour was awesome! Stuart is very knowledgeable, likeable & fun. The stops on the tour were very interesting & I learned a lot. I’ve been on quite a few tours of this nature & this was one of my favorites – highly recommend!
Did a walking tour of LA (LA in a Day). Vicky started us off with the Hollywood tour & Damien (who is also the owner) was our guide for the rest of the day. The entire day was awesome, I suggest this tour. There isn’t that much walking, to be honest. It’s very fun!
My boyfriend & I took the DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Stuart as our guide & had the most amazing time! We had experiences we will never forget! We were able to see parts & people of Los Angeles that we never would have without Stuart. I give this 10/10. If we visit again, this will be at the top of our to do list!
Absolutely amazing! Highly recommend taking both The Real Hollywood Tour & the Central Downtown LA tour! Our time in LA wouldn’t have been the same. Great way to learn about the city, see it from a different angle, explore the local life & learn about its history & filming industry. Damien our guide was fantastic!
Sylvie was our host & was fantastic. She had a lot of local knowledge & gave her unique perspective as someone who had moved to the area many years ago, so she had an outsider’s as well as an insider’s perspective. The tour gave us a great overview of Santa Monica & Venice & set us up for a great rest of the day.
We took 2 tours, the Santa Monica & Venice Bike tour (with Sylvie) & the Real Hollywood tour (with Damien). Both were great & highly recommended. Sylvie & Damien were informative, knowledgeable & easy to talk to. They were like you were with friends. We were traveling as a family of 4 with 2 boys (15 & 12). We all enjoyed the tours.
12 Movies Set in Downtown LA
Thousands of movies have been filmed in Los Angeles – it's been the world capital of the entertainment industry for over a hundred years, after all. However, that’s way too many to consider and, frankly, some of them weren’t very good, so we’ve brought you a list of twelve great movies set in downtown LA.
If you’re visiting consider watching these films either before or after your visit, they’re all classics and you can probably catch them on a streaming service or Youtube. It’s fun to spot locations that you’ve been to when they pop up in movies and some of these films, such as Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, are based on real events and actual Los Angeles history.
Films Made in Downtown Los Angeles
THE KID (1921)
The Charlie Chaplin classic was filmed around old Chinatown (where Union Station is now) and on Olvera Street (for the final chase scene). Chaplin needed a slum area as a location and at the time this neighborhood looked perfect (much of it was to be shortly demolished). He also used downtown LA as a location in his 1931 classic City Lights, when Chaplin drives through Pershing Square mid way through the movie. The premiere for City Lights was at the magnificent Los Angeles Theatre, in downtown’s Historic Theatre District.
We visit the area on our LA: Food + History + Design Tour.
If you're interested in Charlie Chaplin's Los Angeles, read this article, which lists eight key locations in the city that are particularly associated with him.
SAFETY LAST! (1923)
Another comedy classic, in this case starring Harold Lloyd, in which our hero has to climb the outside of an office building to get his girlfriend back. In those early movie-making days stuntmen didn’t exist and neither did special effects, so that’s actually Lloyd himself climbing the fifteen story building (although a professional acrobat did some of the more dangerous sequences).
Safety Last! used numerous locations throughout downtown and you can see what it was like back in the 1920’s. Harold Lloyd himself used to live in the Bradbury Mansion on what was then Court Hill (since demolished), in front of City Hall, just a few blocks away.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
So many movies set in downtown LA seem to be noir movies (probably because the directors’ loved the neighborhood as a location), and Double Indemnity is a fine example of the genre. It is in fact, along with Chinatown (see below), widely regarded as one of the greatest film noirs ever made. Fred McMurray’s shady insurance salesman’s office is on Pershing Square and he visits Olvera Street for dinner (and it still looks almost the same today).
CRISS CROSS (1949)
Burt Lancaster (with an early blink and you’ll miss it appearance by Tony Curtis) is the lead in this noir movie, made just after the Second World War, in which a femme fatale (played by the seductive Ava Gardner) tempts Burt into doing something you know he shouldn’t. The movie uses a host of downtown LA locations, including many that no longer exist, such as on Bunker Hill (when it was a residential neighborhood) and Union Station.
Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston give career defining performances in a story drawn from the real life history of Los Angeles – the ‘Water Wars’. It’s often forgotten now, but this was when ‘the syndicate’, a group of rich and powerful local businessmen, took the water from the High Sierra and piped it down to Los Angeles – and made themselves even richer than they already were.
Apart from just being highly watchable, Chinatown is a great movie for the historical perspective it gives the viewer of 1920’s-era political corruption in Los Angeles.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer star in this neo-noir tale of a detective hunting super-androids through a future, dystopian, Los Angeles. It used a host of downtown locations, including the Bradbury Building, Million Dollar Theater and Union Station and it’s one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made. Blade Runner is set in 2019 – and we still don’t have flying cars – but it did prefigure scientific developments such as the increasing use of artificial intelligence.
PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
You thought Pretty Woman was set exclusively in Hollywood and Beverly Hills? Wrong! Several downtown locations appear in this romantic comedy classic – the Cicada (where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts have dinner and she accidentally throws a snail at a waiter), the Bank of America Building (the location for the business meetings) and Grand Park (where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts read poetry). Not that you need it, but we’ve given you the perfect excuse to watch it again.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) – TOP PHOTO
A brutal love letter to 1950’s Los Angeles, this gripping film, starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger filmed several pivotal scenes in downtown LA, including City Hall, the Pacific Electric Building and the location of the Nite Owl Diner. L.A. Confidential also shines a light on corruption at the L.A.P.D., which was rife in those days, opening with the real-life ‘Bloody Christmas’ scandal of 1951. Hush hush!
Starring Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise, Collateral is almost a companion piece to Heat, director Michael Mann’s earlier movie that was also set in and around downtown Los Angeles. Few directors since the Second Word War have photographed downtown as stylishly as Mann, who clearly loves the urban landscape of glass and steel towers ringed by freeways. The memorable denouement, in which Cruise’s hitman chases Foxx’s taxi driver down into the subway, takes place at 7th St Metro Center.
THE SOLOIST (2009)
Another great film about downtown, again starring Jamie Foxx, The Soloist, is one of the best movies ever made about one of the most serious issues that Los Angeles faces (and has since the 1930's) - homelessness. One could argue that we've always had a homelessness problem, even going back to the nineteenth century, but there's no question that it long ago reached crisis point.
The Soloist, features wonderfully sensitive performances by Foxx (who really should have won an Oscar for playing real-life homeless musician Nathaniel Ayers) and co-star Robert Downey Junior and it's a great movie for getting an understanding of modern homelessness in the US. The film is almost entirely set in downtown.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009) – PHOTO ABOVE
Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel appear in this kind-of romantic comedy set mostly in downtown. Los Angeles is never specified as the place where 500 Days of Summer takes place, but it’s almost a love letter to the city and uses locations such as the Bradbury Building (again), the Fine Arts Building (which we go to on our Central Downtown LA tour), the Civic Center and Bunker Hill.
LA LA LAND (2016)
For the final entry in our list of movies set in downtown LA how about this fun throwback to the type of musicals that Hollywood made all the time in the 1950’s? Lead characters Mia and Sebastian sing and dance across LA (on the freeway?!).
Want to know how influential La La Land has proved? After four years of languishing in limbo, the city managed to get its downtown funicular Angels Flight up and running in four months, because of the level of interest that was created by Mia and Sebastian dancing in it (before they had dinner at Grand Central Market, so LA).
FILM NOIR AND LOS ANGELES
If you enjoy the genre read Film Noir: a Dark Side of the City of Angels, which describes how this new style of movie (which includes several films on this list) was born in LA in the 1940's.
If you have any feedback on where to 12 Movies Set in Downtown LA, or if you have some recommendations of your own, please email us and let us know. We’ll be sure to take it into account.
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