Eureka! 10 Movies Set in California

Monday, November 14 by Joseph Gibson

Sometimes, moviegoers, like the Joads in “The Grapes of Wrath,” have to set off to ol’ California for better prospects. Luckily, there are lots of movies set in California, probably because of the movie industry’s home base being there. Even if you wouldn't live in California if they paid you, there's a good chance you'll enjoy some of these examples of Californian cinema: It IS a nice place to visit, after all.

  1. "Vertigo" Alfred Hitchcock's romantic thriller is not only a personal portrait of psychological unrest, but one of the definitive movies set in California for being a perversely documentarian time capsule of a San Francisco in 1958. That San Francisco is long gone, now, but any viewer that wishes to can go back, thanks to "Vertigo."
  2. "Die Hard" One of the defining aspects of "Die Hard" is that John McClane, the New York cop played by Bruce Willis, is completely out of his element among a bunch of rich people in Los Angeles. So it's all the more satisfying when he has to defeat a crazy terrorist played by Alan Rickman, because it serves as kind of a "screw you!" to the establishment. Take that, establishment!
  3. "The Big Sleep" Detective Phillip Marlowe is from Los Angeles. So he knows that it's not the place where dreams come true, not really. In "The Big Sleep," he's played by Humphrey Bogart, and he gets a face full of the seediness that goes on behind the scenes in LA. He also gets to carry on romantic banter with Lauren Bacall, so maybe it evens out.
  4. "3 Women" One aspect of California that you almost never see in movies is the desert. Of course, in reality, California is ALL desert, but the really dusty parts usually get tucked away in favor of Hollywood glitz. Not in Robert Altman's film, which follows life in a more rural area of California in the form of two employees at a health spa. There are different theories on why it's called "3 Women" instead of "2 Women," but that's a discussion for another time.
  5. "The Mark of Zorro" The California of antiquity is on display in the "Zorro" movies. This is the best of the bunch, starring Douglas Fairbanks who romances and swashbuckles his way through corrupt officials and other assorted villains. Who knows if California was ever really this adventurous, and who cares? It's entertaining as hell to watch and that's what matters.
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