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The Best Movie Scenes In Los Angeles

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There are great movies about Los Angeles, and great scenes that happen to take place here but here are some of our favorite scenes that embody the best and worst of the city—and, of course, all those Hollywood cliches we'll never live down. We picked clips that we could find online, which is one reason some of our favorite scenes didn't make the cut, but suggest your own in the comments. For the ultimate take on filming in Los Angeles, we recommend Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself, which screens periodically around town and is available on YouTube.

BLADE RUNNER
Blade Runner takes place in the not-too-distant future when humanity has already begun to flee dreary, dystopian life on Earth. Once upon a time, Los Angeles was hawked to Midwesterners as a sunny land of infinite possibilities, but in this clip developers in distant colonies are targeting Angelenos who want a fresh start: "A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure." In Blade Runner, the city has literally been built up and it's no longer sunny. It's barely recognizable except for a few key locations—like the 2nd Street Tunnel, Ennis House and Bradbury Building—that have been used in a thousand movies and commercials but never fail to make us think of this noirish, slow-burning science fiction masterpiece.

SWINGERS

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Truly, Angelenos can be such snobs about geography.

ANNIE HALL

Recently, Woody Allen swore that he actually likes visiting Los Angeles. He claims the city has grown on him now that we have nice places to eat and an opera and all those other markers of Real City Life. But no one else has left behind such a legacy of memorable one-liners skewering the city like Allen. In this scene, he perfectly embodies the archetypical New York visitor who hates unseasonable sunshine and bemoans the lack of culture. He volleys with the recent transplants and converts, delivering this line: "There's no economic crime, but there's ritual, religious cult murders, you know there's wheat germ killers out here."

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TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.

What's a list about Los Angeles movie scenes without an epic car chase scene through workaday Los Angeles? This one in To Live And Die In L.A. kicks off near the 6th Street Bridge, heads through the industrial side of downtown, down (and back up) the embankment of Los Angeles River and finally onto the wrong side of the 710 freeway. The Secret Service agents, who are coloring outside the lines in order to catch a counterfeiting mastermind, manage to escape this time. But you have to laugh when a newscaster on the radio announces that despite the fact you've been watching over a minute of near-constant pile-ups, the whole thing should only cause a "few minutes" delay.

WATTSTAX

On August 20, 1972, Memphis' Stax Records held a music festival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Mel Stuart (yes, the guy who directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) documented the occasion that brought together the community and some of the best R&B, gospel and jazz singers of the day. The resulting documentary Wattstax captured those performances, but it also ventured outside the walls of the Coliseum and included reflections on life for black Americans by Richard Pryor. In this clip, Jesse Jackson leads the crowd with an invocation and the National Black Litany.

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THE MUSIC BOX

This short probably doesn't seem very "Los Angeles" unless you've lived here. But one of Edendale's wonderful, long staircases provides the backdrop to this classic by Laurel and Hardy. Those stairs are now called the "Music Box Steps," and it's quite a workout getting to the top even without lugging a music box that seems to have a mind of its own.

THE BIG LEBOWSKI

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Sometimes it's impossible to pick just one scene that screams "Los Angeles" from the scores of amazing (and ironically amazing) movies that take place here. Lebowski is one of those. But the montage of the desert to the East, the 24-hour taco stands, car washes and the voiceover describing the MO of the Dude ("quite possibly the laziest [man] in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the running for worldwide") embodies a certain ethos of Los Angeles where "you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don't have to be embarrassed by yourself."

CHINATOWN

The slummy neighborhood of Chinatown comes to symbolize the very noir idea that all the good intentions in the world will get you nowhere and will probably only make things worse. Chinatown the movie tackles the history of Los Angeles' Owens Lake water grab before the city became a booming metropolis, though some critics have said that its reading of local history turned out to be overly conspiratorial and, well, wrong. Screenwriter Robert Towne's script had a happy ending, but it's hard to blame Roman Polanski, who escaped the Holocaust and lost his wife Sharon Tate in the Manson murders, for giving the film a darker edge and ending it this way: "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

ESCAPE FROM L.A.

Whether out of geographic convenience, ideology or the constant natural disasters that wrack us in real life, Los Angeles has been typecast as a doomed city in Hollywood. The opening from Escape From L.A. gives us a lot of bang for our buck: the city is immoral, criminal and it's drifting from the mainland (but hey, at least the surfers have adapted to the high-speed chases).

A MUDDY ROMANCE

This might not be an iconic Los Angeles scene, but we have to give props to director Mack Sennett for creating a pretty silly film centered around the real-life draining of Echo Park Lake about a hundred years ago. The bumbling Keystone cops make an appearance in this silent short.