Laying low in the canyons
Goin' nowhere on the streets
With their Spanish names
Makin' love with the natives
In their Hollywood places..."
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, La La Land, or simply L.A.— y any of its names, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciúncula note is one of the world's most famous cities and home to much of the United States' film and television industry. It is the second largest city in the country behind only New York City, though it gets bonus points for being the largest metropolitan area in the US contained entirely within a single state.note Los Angeles County is the most-populous county in the US, with almost twice as many people as #2, Cook County, IL.note
A Quick History
Los Angeles was first built in 1781 by Felipe de Neve as an outpost for travelers, cattle ranchers and the Spanish military, but mainly as a city for the Tongva people. In fact, Downtown Los Angeles had the site of the Tongva capital, Yangna note , for centuries. Although planned on a grid, the massive hills nearby forced the streets to radiate out medieval-style from a central marketplace. Despite a tiny population, the town was staggeringly diversenote , and by the time of the Mexican-American War, it housed as many Italians, Chinese and Americans as native Mexicans.
Los Angeles was the site of a single battle, which lasted 45 days and was an American defeat. New, square city blocks were laid out alongside awkwardly shaped farmland that was to be maintained right downtown. This plan failed spectacularly. Either way, LA essentially became Dixie-west, with a mostly southern, pro-slavery population. This was so pervasive that in the Civil War, fortresses were built to keep people from trying to invade (culturally very Northern) San Francisco.
The Southern Pacific railroad managed to change all this. In 1869, a railway was built to the harbor at San Pedro and the population exploded. An arguably bigger change came in 1913, when the city completed the Los Angeles Aqueduct, securing its ability to grow far beyond its natural limits. (It's been estimated that the Los Angeles Basin, in its natural state, has only enough water to support a population of about 200,000.) The city finally came of age in 1917. That year, many local institutions were formed, Los Angeles became the largest city in California and the 10th largest in the United States. It boasted a vast metropolitan rail system (today's Metro Rail taken Up to Eleven) as well as a finely tuned municipal system, which together gave LA the biggest, best public transit system in the world. For what happened there, see Who Framed Roger Rabbit. LA's golden age was at the end of this era, which many people know from Film Noir.
Los Angeles began to decline in The '50s as crime increased, inner-city neighborhoods fell into disrepair, and huge numbers of people fled to the suburbs.note Tom Bradley was elected as the nation's second African-American big-city mayor in 1973 and held office for two straight decades, overseeing the city surpass Chicago as the country's #2 city. However, things didn't really pick up. Symptoms of what would later be known since as AIDS would be discovered in 1981 (the city's bicentennial), and L.A. has since been one of the original top three highest reporting American cities for it—next to New York and now just before San Francisco—in descending order. The 1984 Olympics were a highlight,note but eight years later came another low point in the city's history: the 1992 Riots, which kicked off shortly after four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force on Rodney King during his arrest after they were videotaped beating him by a man with a camcorder. The local and national news played this tape many, many times on TV between the arrest and eventual trial and acquittal, leading many to believe the court had let police officers get away with an obvious violent crime. The riots over it got so bad at one point that the governor of California requested assistance from the Army and Marines to restore peace, and Bradley retired not long after.note
While '92 was a definite low point, things generally started to improve in the city proper since then. The old rail system began rebuilding in The '90s (construction has sped up significantly since the Great Recession) and people no longer need cars in the inner city like they once did. The subprime mortgage bust, rise of telecommuting, and creation of more jobs in former "suburbs" in Orange County and the Island Empire have likewise helped to reorient some of the region's troublesome traffic patterns, but they have also led to greater concerns of even more people and money being drawn out of the city proper in the coming years.
Geography and Culture
Los Angeles has been described as the biggest small town in the country instead of its second-largest city due to its fairly unique urban geography. As with many cities in the American West, it experienced explosive growth after World War II. With the rise of car culture at the same time, Los Angeles raced outwards in all directions, blanketing the land with Suburbia. To cope with the sheer vastness of the place, the local lexicon splits the megalopolis into a patchwork of neighborhoods, former cities that voluntarily merged to access the city's waternote , and still-independent cities completely surrounded by L.A. on all sidesnote . Generally, L.A. is divided into the following areas: Downtown L.A., East and Northeast L.A., South L.A. (formerly and infamously known as South Central), the Harbor Area (the area surrounding Long Beach, including San Pedro and Carson), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX, recognizable for its Space Age Theme Building), Greater Hollywood, Wilshire (including the Miracle Mile and La Brea tar pits), the Westside (including Venice, Century City, and Bel Air), and the San Fernando and Crescenta Valleys (Sunland and Tujunga). Surrounding all these unique neighborhoods is a vast region of neighboring cities often referred to as "Greater Los Angeles", a nearly continuous urban unit that stretches out into Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties in well over 30,000 square miles of sprawl. Don't worry, it can be rather confusing even for the millions who live in this region; this article focuses on L.A. proper and its internal cities. For more information on those outlying cities, you'll have to visit the California page.note
A nice advantage to this sprawl is that most of the city isn't especially crowded or cramped compared to many others of its size. Most houses have at least a small backyard, and the climate lends itself well to gardening. Bordered by Pacific Ocean on one side, LA has glorious weather for most of the year, is full of sunshine and trade-winds, and is also relatively insect-free. Los Angeles is also one of the United States' great food cities, with food trucks being a common form of dining for people of all neighborhoods and economic classes, a practice that the city encourages rather than trying to get rid of, and chefs such as Roy Choi being household names. Sometimes described as "the least European city in America", Los Angeles' cultural roots are overwhelmingly Latin American, Asian, and Middle Eastern. Owing to the postwar boom and its unique automobile culture, Los Angeles can be described as the home of the drive-thru. Name a fast-food chain subjected to Burger Fool style parody, and odds are it was founded somewhere in the greater L.A.-O.C.-San Diego area. A handful of such chains include McDonald's, Taco Bell, Del Taco, Jack in the Box, Wienerschnitzel, Fatburger, In-n-Out, Rubio's, El Pollo Loco, Tommy's, and Carl's Jr.
But before you pack your bags and move, take into account that this package, especially in the city proper, comes with a side order of mediocre air quality,note famously bad traffic, expensive real estate, and all the headaches that come with sharing 500 square miles (~1,000 square kilometers) with millions of your fellow human beings, all of whom want your parking spot. L.A. is sometimes called the "City on Wheels"—public transportation is far, far behind most cities its size and walking anywhere in Los Angeles is ill-advised. You really need to buy a car to live here, and because of the decentralized nature of the sprawl, long work commutes of 50 miles or more are common.
When you visit, be sure to look for the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Bowl, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (sometimes called the Taj Mahony, after a bishop purported to have an inflated sense of self-worth), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (don't call it The Gehry Hall, no one will know what you're talking about), Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, and the fantastic shopping in the Fashion District of Downtown LA—which is polluted, noisy, and a concrete jungle, but the prices are so good. The actual skyline of Los Angeles is relatively small for a city of its size (the common expression is that while New York built up, L.A. built out); there are still quite a few notable skyscrapers spread out across the landscape. Lots of other attractions and tourist traps associated with Los Angeles (such as Disneyland) are located in outlying Orange County, which is technically part of the L.A. metro area but is culturally rather distinct.
The film district is mostly in the San Fernando Valley nowadays; the neighborhood of Hollywood itself is mostly tourist attractions and below-the-line parts of the industry (editing, effects, props, lighting, post-production). Disney and Warner Bros.' studios are all in the Valley, with Paramount the only studio still physically based in Hollywood (though Sony is also on the Westside). Universal is based just outside Hollywood in - wait for it - Universal City.note The Valley is also the center of the American adult entertainment industry (the HBO series Pornucopia estimated that 90% of all American porn is produced or shot there), leading to monikers like "Porn Valley" and "Silicone Valley". The non-filming parts of The Industry may, of course, be done anywhere, but Kirk's Rock is conveniently located just a half hour's drive to the north.
Los Angeles has its own electric power company, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is separate and distinct from Southern California Edison, the power company used in most of the other cities in Southern California.note The link between water and power is due to the fact that nearly all of LA's water comes from the other side of a mountain range. Most of the city's water does not have to be pumpedthe Los Angeles Aqueduct operates solely by gravity, using a mixture of surface canals and tunnels. Because of this, the city can use that water to run hydroelectric generators, both along the route and at the reservoirs where it stores the water. By contrast, many of the city's suburbs, which get their water from a project built and run by the state of California, do use water that has to be pumped over at least one mountain range, and sometimes more than one. Pumping all that water uphill takes an enormous amount of electric power, and the water rushing downhill on the LA side runs hydroelectric generators to get most of that power back. As part of the project, the state maintains reservoirs at the top of the hill, running the uphill pumps during the night hours (when power is cheaper), and sending the water downhill during the daytime hours (where the same power could be sold back at a profit). This setup played a crucial role in the movie Chinatown.
Every July, the Los Angeles Convention Center hosts Anime Expo, aka AX, the largest anime-themed Fan Convention in North America, with an attendance of 81,000 in 2014. Because of the convention's ties with the anime and video game industries, many anime localization announcements, as well as some video game announcements, are made at the various industry panels held at AX. Also held at the LACC is the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3. A trade show rather than a convention, with only those in the game and game journalism industries allowed to attend, E3 is where many video game companies demonstrate and showcase their upcoming games and game systems.
If you want to confuse a local, ask about the Los Angeles River. You've probably seen it. If you watched Terminator 2 you may remember the scene where the T-1000's semi truck crashes off of the road and chases John Connor down a concrete drainage channel with an inch of water in it. That would be "El Rio de Los Angeles." It was also the location of the big race scene in Grease, and an emergency space shuttle landing in The Core.
The famous Griffith Observatory (and Griffith Park itself), located 8 miles north-west of the civic center overlooking Hollywood, has been in more films than most actors have. It is the site where Arnold arrived by time warp in The Terminator, where The Rocketeer blasted off to fight Nazis on a blimp, where the Transformers perched, where MacGyver (1985) lived in the show's pilot, and where James Dean had his famous knife fight and shoot-out in Rebel Without a Cause. It also appears in Charlie's Angels, Yes-Man, Dragnet... you get the idea. Just down the road a bit is the famous tunnel where Marty fought Biff in Back to the Future Part II, also serving as the entrance to Toon Town, and down the hill a bit is the entrance to the Adam West-era Batcave.
Angelenos' most famous Verbal Tic is probably using the definite article before freeway numbers: "Take the I-5 to the I-10, and get off just before you hit the 605." Another one to listen for is that they seldom use "Hollywood" as a metonym for the TV and movie industry, as opposed to a place name. One might live in Hollywood, but you'll work in "the Industry."
Major Sports Teams
- The Los Angeles Dodgers are the city's main Major League Baseball team, arriving in 1958 from Brooklyn (to the eternal dismay of many Long Islanders). They have carried on the old Brooklyn tradition of Every Year They Fizzle Out - the Dodgers have now lost more World Series than any other team (14), half of those to their old cross-city rivals, the New York Yankees. Their strongest rivalries are with the Yankees and the other team that they once shared New York with, the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers' first decade in Los Angeles was their best as a team, earning three World Series titles in 1959, 1963, and 1965, in large part due to legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax. They were often competitive through the 1970s and early 1980s, but only managed one World Series win in the strike-shortened 1981 season. After Kirk Gibson's "One Good Swing" in 1988, it took them nearly 30 years to even get back to the World Series. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, they performed with consistent indistinction, but a new ownership group in the early 2010s led to them consistently winning their division but no World Series championship until the COVID-shortened season of 2020, the franchise's seventh World Series championship. Their home field, Dodger Stadium, is now the third-oldest in Major League Baseball, and is isolated on top of mountainous Elysian Park, a location famous for being wonderfully central yet frustratingly inaccessible. Incidentally, Los Angeles has produced more active MLB players than any other city.
- The Los Angeles Angels (MLB)... don't actually play in Los Angeles. At least, not anymore. Founded in 1961 by Gene Autry, and taking their name from a minor league team that used to play in LA until the Dodgers arrived, they initially did play in LA itself until they got their own ballpark in Anaheim, at which time they renamed themselves the California Angels, a name they used for the next 30 years. When the stadium was renovated in the mid 90s, the city of Anaheim insisted on them adopting "Anaheim" as part of their name (even though the "Angels" part is a clear reference to LA). The team, at the time owned by Disney, became the Anaheim Angels, but when current owner Artie Moreno bought them, he wanted to emphasize the team as an LA-metro area team, so he brought back the Los Angeles Angels name, with "of Anaheim" tacked on to the end (and rarely used). Eventually that was dropped. The team has largely had streaks of solid years mixed between periods of middle of the pack finishes, though they did win the 2002 World Series, and current star Mike Trout is a frequent candidate for best all-around player currently in the game.
- The Los Angeles Rams (NFL) have had a traveled history. They initially started in Cleveland but moved to Los Angeles in 1946 as the first ever professional sports team on the West Coast. The Rams won the NFL Championship in 1951 and stood as one of the NFL's most star-studded teams for many decades; fittingly for a Hollywood team, they were the first team to have all of their games televised. They played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until they also moved to Anaheim in 1979. They kept the "Los Angeles" name until 1995 when, after several years of decline and competition from the city's other sports offerings, they packed up and moved to St. Louis... just two months before their biggest competition, the Raiders, also left town. The franchise won its only Super Bowl in Missouri but returned to LA in 2016 when NFL owners approved the Rams to move back to Los Angeles after the city had gone two decades without a pro football team. The team played at the Coliseum until the 2020 opening of SoFi Stadium, the most expensive sports venue ever built, in Inglewood.
- The Los Angeles Chargers were founded in the AFL in 1960, but moved to San Diego one year later. After spending the overwhelming majority of their existence there (but spending two decades as Southern California's only NFL team), the Chargers came back to LA in 2017, playing in Carson at the current home of the LA Galaxy until joining the Rams at SoFi Stadium for 2020.
- The Las Vegas Raiders, who played in LA from 1982-1994 and have the only Super Bowl ever won by an LA team, still have many Angelenos' hearts, despite having moved back north to Oakland. They had also been in the relocation discussion, but with most NFL owners and executives solidly of the opinion that three teams are too many in one market, the Raiders ended up passing over the potential return to LA to go to Las Vegas instead.
- The Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) are one of the city's two basketball teams. Relocated from Minneapolis in 1960s, they have consistently been among the best teams (with 12 championships in Los Angeles) and many of the game's biggest stars (Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, to name just a few). The Lakers made their arena, the Forum in Inglewood, world famous before they moved to the also-iconic Staples Center downtown.
- The LA Clippers (NBA) are Los Angeles' other NBA franchise. Their home arena is also Staples Center, making it the only venue that hosts two NBA teams. Relocated from San Diego in 1984 (hence the naval nickname), the Clippers were famous for being one of the worst teams in basketball (they've never won a championship), largely because they were owned by cheapskate slumlord Donald Sterling until he was caught on tape spouting blatant racism and was forced to sell. Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer spent $2 billion dollars to buy the team (which, again, was a laughing stock, second-rate team). Now they're looking at building a new arena to call their own next to the new NFL stadium and have seriously stepped up at becoming a significant player in the league (though they'll likely never fully escape the shadow of the Lakers).
- The Los Angeles Kings are Los Angeles' NHL franchise. Like the Lakers, they played in the Forum before moving to the Staples Center. Created in 1967, the Kings labored in relative obscurity, though they started to become well known in 1982 with the Miracle on Manchester and exploded in popularity when "The Trade" brought Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, to the Kings; effectively turning Los Angeles into one of biggest cities for hockey overnight. They came close to getting a Stanley Cup win in 1993, if it weren't for Marty McSorley being called for an illegal stick. After their Con Man manager Bruce McNall was forced to sell the team in 1994, the Kings went through a period between Every Year They Fizzle Out and Butt-Monkey for the next 2 decades. Starting in the 2010s, they took a MAJOR level in badass, managing to win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 and become one of the most dominant teams in the NHL.
- Like baseball and (formerly) football, the LA area's second NHL team also plays in Anaheim (in fact, their arena is across the street from the Angels' ballpark). The Anaheim Ducks were originally named for a Disney movie. Seriously. After the movie turned out to be a big hit, Disney decided to buy an NHL expansion team and named them the "Mighty Ducks of Anaheim", which would be all sorts of ridiculous... except the team actually drew well and performed pretty solid for an expansion team. After Disney sold the team and the name was shortened, they really took flight, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 and being regular playoff contenders.
- The LA Galaxy (MLS) have been in the league since it began play in 1996. Even before Major League Soccer developed a large following nationwide, the Galaxy were the best-known team in the country, due in part to Los Angeles' built-in fandom of immigrants from Latin America and later due to the signing of British soccer icon David Beckham. The post-Beckham years saw them pick up a few more international stars, with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimović the most notable. They're also the most decorated franchise in the league, with 5 MLS Cups, 4 Supporters' Shields, 2 US Open Cups, and even a CONCACAF Champions League title in 2000, making them the only American team to earn a bid to the FIFA Club World Cup (even if it was canceled that year). The Galaxy play at Dignity Health Sports Park in the outlying industrial suburb of Carson.
- Los Angeles FC (MLS) are one of the newest squads in the league, taking the pitch for the first time in 2018, but they came out firing on all cylinders, reaching the playoffs in all three seasons of their existence thus far and even winning the Supporters' Shield in 2019. Unlike the Galaxy, LAFC play in the city itself, hosting their home games at Banc of California Stadium in South Central LA. With LAFC's strong showings thus far, it's easy to forget the other time MLS tried having a second team in the area...
- Chivas USA (MLS) was established in 2004, sharing the Galaxy's home field, but folded ten years later due to poor performance and lack of interest. The owner was the also the owner of the Mexican league team in Guadalajara, and assumed fans of that team in LA would flock to the MLS team (even the name "Chivas" is the nickname of the Guadalajara team). But between there not being nearly as many fans in LA as he thought, failing to understand that fans of other Mexican teams would actively shun a team with ties to a rival club, and advertising that was divisive in pushing away non-Mexican Angelenos, the club quickly turned into an embarrassment for the league and the owner was bought out.
- LA is also the present or future home of teams in the two most prominent women's professional leagues:
- The Los Angeles Sparks are founding members of the WNBA, first playing in the inaugural 1997 season. They were originally sister team to the Lakers, but were sold off in 2006. The Sparks still share Staples Center with the Lakers and (for the time being) Clippers. Three-time WNBA champions (most recently in 2016), some of their more notable past and present players include USC alums Lisa Leslie (now part of the ownership group) and Tina Thompson, Candace Parker, and sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. The team still has a number of Lakers connectionsMagic Johnson is another part-owner, and their list of head coaches includes former Lakers Michael Cooper (twice) and Derek Fisher (the current head coach), as well as Kobe Bryant's father Joe.
- Angel City FC was announced in 2020 as California's first entry in the National Women's Soccer League, with a start date of 2022. They plan to share Banc of California Stadium with LAFC. Right now, they're known for their literal army of owners, quite a few of whom have pages on This Very Wiki. The lead investors include Natalie Portman and Internet billionaire Alexis Ohanian, husband of tennis great Serena Williams (who has a smaller ownership stake of her own). Other members of the ownership group include Uzo Aduba, Sophia Bush, Jessica Chastain, James Corden, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, other celebrities who don't have pages yet, and a large cast of prominent sports figures.
- No discussion of LA sports would be complete without mentioning the two major universities in the city, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, both of which are referred to almost exclusively by their initialisms of UCLA and USC. (Just be careful with the latter one in the Deep South, as it can also refer to the University of South Carolina.) The UCLA Bruins are best known for their men's basketball team, which is almost always strong but never quite as dominant as in the late '60s and early '70s, where they won championship after championship under legendary coach John Wooden and at one point had a winning streak that spanned three seasons; however, they're good at more than just basketball, ranking #2 in Division I history in both men's team championships across all sports and in women's team championships across all sports, and as such, #2 in men's and women's combined. As for #1 in men's championships? That'd be the USC Trojans, best known for their football team, which has been strong for much of the 21st century, notably during a stretch in the mid-2000s that got vacated due to improper benefits given to a star player.
Los Angeles in FictionLos Angeles itself is often a metaphor for change, as both a positive and a negative force. People come to Los Angeles, in reality as well as in fiction, to reinvent themselves.
Like New York City, LA has appeared in thousands of works of fiction and every reader here has probably had or has an LA-based show on their regular watch list.
- 2012: The apocalypse is fully established when the whole of downtown LA sinks into the sea. In the most over-the-top way possible.
- (500) Days of Summer
- A Cinderella Story
- Akeelah and the Bee
- Alvin and the Chipmunks
- The 1994 remake of Angels in the Outfield switched the setting from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, with the then-California Angels replacing the Pittsburgh Pirates from the original 1951 version.
- Barton Fink
- Battle: Los Angeles: Ironically, not actually filmed in LA, but in Louisiana (which has the postal abbreviation LA). References an incident during World War II when antiaircraft guns opened fire on an unknown object, though in movie it's a Present Day Alien Invasion.
- Blade Runner and its sequel
- The Big Lebowski
- The Big Sleep
- Boogie Nights
- Born in East L.A.: At the start, anyway.
- Boyz n the Hood
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The San Fernando valley.
- Captain Marvel: The title heroine lands here when she first arrives on Earth.
- Cars: The final race is at their Expy of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
- Cats Don't Dance
- Cheech and Chong
- The Craft
- Crown Vic
- Dark Blue
- Detonator (2003)
- Die Hard
- Drag Me to Hell
- Drive (2011)
- Earth Girls Are Easy
- Ed Wood
- Encino Man
- Escape from L.A. is set in a dystopian future where The Big One (the next big West Coast earthquake, rumored to hit a 10 or more on the Richter scale, which is supposed to happen "any day now") hit, splitting California in two. Los Angeles has become an island where those who break the laws of an America gone fascist are sent.
- The Fall
- Falling Down
- The Fast and the Furious
- Hardcore first (and largest) California city that George C. Scott's Jake Van Dorn travels to while looking for his missing daughter (San Diego is next and followed by ending in San Francisco) who got into that state's porno scene.
- How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
- Independence Day: Los Angeles is just one of the many cities that are destroyed by the aliens in this film, but aside from one shot of a post-attack New York, L.A. is the only city that gets focus in the aftermath of the attack.
- Get Shorty
- Grand Canyon
- Hollywood Homicide
- Inland Empire
- The Iron Man film series bases Stark Industries out of LA, and Tony Stark's cliffside Malibu home is straight from the comics' LA period.
- Jack and Jill
- The Karate Kid: takes place in Reseda.
- Killer of Sheep — a memorable portrait of the urban poor of the Watts ghetto in the late 1970s
- Kiss Me Deadly
- L.A. Confidential
- L.A. Story
- La La Land is one big love letter to the city. Angelenos will have fun identifying all of the locations in the film.
- LA Without A Map
- Lakeview Terrace
- Lethal Weapon and its sequels.
- The film Los Angeles Plays Itself, done by Thom Anderson, takes a look at Los Angeles as it is shown in the movies — not Los Angeles pretending to be other cities. There is a marked divide between Los Angeles and Hollywood (even though technically Hollywood is within Los Angeles city limits) - Hollywood seems to find a perverse delight in destroying Los Angeles every chance it gets - Armageddon, Independence Day, you name it. They'd do it more, but the dearth of tall buildings makes it somewhat anticlimactic to watch. The film also suggests that only a city with an inferiority complex would allow itself to be called L.A. so frequently.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Mulholland Dr.
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- O.J.: Made in America A documentary centering on the life and criminal cases of O. J. Simpson, with much of the story focusing on his life in L.A., most notably his highly publicized murder case.
- Pretty Woman
- Pulp Fiction
- The Rocketeer
- Repo Man
- Reservoir Dogs
- Rush Hour and the middle part of Rush Hour 2
- Resident Evil: Afterlife: Alice and Claire lands on the roof of Los Angeles County Jail, where 6 survivors have holed up there since the start of the Zombie Apocalypse. All the undead in Los Angeles have congregated on the walls of the prison. Prior to this, Chris Redfield - the brother of Claire imprisoned by the survivors - was stationed in the prison as part of the U.S. military's offensive against the zombies. Once the military pulled out, Chris was left behind. Much of L.A. at this point is Scenery Gorn, with the famous Hollywood landmark and the skyline of Downtown L.A. in flames.
- San Andreas (no relation to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas): Los Angeles and the rest of California's coast (yes, even San Francisco) get destroyed spectacularly.
- Singin' in the Rain
- The Soloist
- Street Kings
- Sunset Boulevard
- The Sandlot and its sequels take place in the San Fernando Valley.
- The Terminator
- This Is the End
- To Live and Die in L.A.
- The Trip (1967)
- Turbo: First half takes place in Van Nuys.
- Under the Silver Lake: which, oddly enough, takes place mostly near the protagonist's apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood. As the protagonist's investigation continues, he finds himself all over the Los Angeles area.
- Valentine's Day
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit, kind of a kid-friendly story of Chinatown. The film invents a new city within 1930's Los Angeles, "Toontown", where all your favorite cartoon characters live, before they head out to work in the studios. However, Toontown is privately owned, and in danger of being bought out and turned into an eight-lane freeway.
Eddie Valiant: "Who needs a car in LA? We've got the best public transportation in the world!"
- The Wood (actually takes place in the suburb of Inglewood).
- Zabriskie Point: Notable for its extensive location shooting of Los Angeles circa 1970, and it's a virtual time capsule in that it features buildings and landmarks like the art-deco Richfield Tower that are no longer there.
- Zombieland: LA supposedly has the last zone free of zombies. And also hosts Bill Murray.
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! often featured Los Antelopes, Califurnia, Earth-C's Los Angeles. Los Antelopes' various neighborhoods and suburbs were often featured in stories, including Saint Bernardino (San Bernardino), Bel-Airedale (Bel-Air), Beaverly Hills (Beverly Hills) and Follywood (Hollywood), the latter where the Zoo Crew's headquarters were located.
- The West Coast Avengers from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, as well as Iron Man and Wonder Man in that period, as both title characters were members of the team, though Iron Man had moved to California before the formation of the "Wackos", with Tony Stark building a new company from scratch in LA.
- A Running Gag early on in Wonder Man had Simon's showbiz and civilian friends asking him how he could survive in LA without a car. He could just use his jet belt to fly anywhere, of course, but the thought of being able to drive others around town had never occurred to him.
- Marvel's Runaways, where one of the major plot points is the fact that the kids are in LA and not NYC. It turns out that the city's relative dearth of superhuman activity is due to the Pride secretly controlling the whole city, and their defeat is followed by an Evil Power Vacuum.
- Avengers Academy is likewise based out of LA, and sees a crossover with the Runaways.
- Kate Bishop, the second Hawkeye, starts operating out of LA near the beginning of her solo career, eventually getting her own book. This leads into West Coast Avengers (2018).
- DC Comics' series Manhunter follows Federal Prosecutor Kate Spencer, who is based out of LA.
- Most Zorro stories take place in the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, the Spanish settlement that would grow into the metropolis as we know it.
- The Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Chandler was a poet before diving into hard-boiled detective fiction, and it shows in his narrative descriptions of the City of Angels.
- Michael Connelly has written a long series of mystery and detective fiction novels in the Raymond Chandler spirit, most of which are set in Los Angeles and which display a deep familiarity with the city's history and culture.
- The Alex Delaware novels of Johnathan Kellerman and the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novels of Faye Kellerman. Since the Kellermans are husband and wife, their characters have had at least one Crossover.
- Many of LA-native Harry Turtledove's short stories and novels. In particular, The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, and "Counting Up/Counting Down" are full of references to San Fernando Valley landmarks.
- The majority of Snow Crash is set in Los Angeles. (Geographically, at least. Politically, it's mostly set in Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong, Cita di Cosa Nostra, The Farms of Cloverdell, The Clink, and, very occasionally, the United States of America.)
- The main characters of A Wind Named Amnesia visit L.A early in the story.
- In Shanghai Girls, sisters Pearl and May Chin move to Chinatown in 1938.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy and his friends travel to L.A.—- which is the current location of the Underworld. The narrator further describes the city in the most negative terms imaginable, which makes one wonder whatever happened to Rick Riordan in Los Angeles to make him hate it so.
- In They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, a group of hostile vampires takes over the city via sandstorm.
- Michael Tolkin's book The Player is a satire of "The Industry" with the main character an immoral film executive trying to find out which screenwriter is threatening him. Robert Altman directed the film adaptation, with shots all over the City of Angels.
- Los Angeles is posited as a sort of Casablanca for every conspiracy, cult, and secret society on the planet in the comedy neo-noir Mr Blank and its sequel.
- City of Devils takes place in L.A. Granted, it's an alternate 1955 Los Angeles where nearly everyone is a b-movie monster, but the city is recognizable.
- The Elvis Cole series of detective novels by Robert Crais feature L.A. heavily in most of the books, and with highly detailed scenery descriptions constant throughout the books.
- The Ahriman Trilogy takes place largely in San Pedro, the suburb of L.A. down by the port.
- The events of The Dark Artifices series take place in L.A., as the main characters live in the Los Angeles Institute and their job is to keep peace among the supernatural communities of the greater Los Angeles area.
- The Day of the Locust (and its film adaptation) is a story of Horrible Hollywood in which protagonist Tod Hackett is creating a painting in which Los Angeles' angry, bored, mostly transient population sets the city ablaze.
- White Oleander (and its film adaptation) By L.A. native Janet Fitch tells the story of Astrid Magnussen, who spends her entire teenage years bouncing around a series foster and group homes all around the greater L.A. metro area. The city, the environment, and the inhabitants of L.A. are eloquently described here.
- The Mouse Watch starts in Los Angeles. The Skamperskys live in the area, and the first Bernie sees of the Mouse Watch is the L.A. office.
- 24: The first six seasons were based out of LA.
- Angel, plus the occasional episode of its parent series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Arrested Development
- Baywatch and Baywatch Nights
- The setting of The Big Bang Theory is nearby Pasadena.
- Burke's Law
- The Closer
- Colony: Alien invaders basically turn LA County into WW2 France.
- Dollhouse is based in LA as well. Native New Yorker Joss Whedon likes his adopted city as a setting.
- Doogie Howser, M.D. is set in the Westside neighborhood of Brentwood.
- Dragnet, as mentioned in the Opening Narration: "This is the city: Los Angeles, California."
- Naturally, the radio show and The Movie were set there too.
- The famous L.A. smog was used as a sight gag on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the famous "Copper Clapper Caper" sketch, as Jack Webb gave his famous "This is the city" line, and they showed a photo of a smog-shrouded L.A. from the 50s.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air takes place in the titular L.A. neighborhood.
- The George Lopez Show takes place in the San Fernando Valley.
- Hannah Montana takes place in the neighboring beach town of Malibu.
- Insecure takes place in and around LA and does a lot of Scenery Porn of it. In particular, the gentrification of Inglewood is a minor plot point.
- Jonas LA
- Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
- The L.A. Complex has fun with this; after Abby's Alleged Car is towed in the pilot, she becomes possibly the first major character in a set-in-LA series to use public transportation regularly. Note that the show is made by people who live elsewhere.
- ''La Brea: The pilot opens at the titular tar pits, which are swallowed in a sinkhole in the opening of the pilot. The main characters end up in a primeval world while the rest of their family stays in LA.
- L.A. Law.
- Law & Order: LA
- Lucifer, with copious use of the Los-Angeles-as-change metaphor noted above.
- Martial Law
- Men of a Certain Age is set and filmed in Granada Hills, out in The Valley.
- Modern Family
- NCIS: Los Angeles
- New Girl is possibly the only television show set in Downtown Los Angeles (the Arts District, to be exact) that isn't about cops or lawyers.
- Noah's Arc
- Most episodes of Perry Mason.
- Though not the 1980s1990s TV movies, most of which were set in Denver.
- Power Rangers with the city of Angel Grove, explained by California being founded by the British Empire.
- And while they had adventures worldwide, the Power Rangers Operation Overdrive team is based in San Angeles.
- The Rockford Files.
- Six Feet Under
- Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was filmed in "Beautiful Downtown Burbank".
- Three's Company took place in Santa Monica, which is surrounded on three sides by Los Angeles.
- V (2009)
- Victorious takes place in Hollywood.
- You had it's second season take place in LA, using the LA-as-change metaphor for Joe's entire reason for moving there.
- You're the Worst
- Zorro (1957)
- Zorro (1990)
- 24/7 Spyz: "El Lame".
- Bad Religion: "Los Angeles is Burning".
- Indeed, their first studio album was called How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (which receives a Call-Back in the above song). The cover image was just a shot of L.A.
- Billy Joel: "Los Angelenos".
- The Briggs: "This is LA".
- Cheech and Chong: "Born in East LA".
- Concrete Blonde: about half of their songs, but "Still In Hollywood", "Roses Grow" and "God Is A Bullet" more than most.
- Counting Crows: "Goodnight L.A.", "Come Around".
- The Doors: "LA Woman".
- The Eagles: "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Hotel California".
- Eagles of Death Metal: "Wannabe in LA".
- Frontman Jesse Hughes told The Sun January 30, 2009: "You know when you're someplace and you want to be somewhere else. But when you're not in that place, you want to be there. That's LA. It has its skeletons but when you leave it, s—t, all you want to do is go back."
- Frank Sinatra: "LA is My Lady". Compared to "My Kind of Town" and "New York, New York", it seems Los Angeles got the short end of the stick when it comes to Sinatra homages to American cities. This synthesizer driven funky crooner number will throw off both the biggest Sinatra fans and proudest Angelenos.
- Frank Black, "Los Angeles".
- Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore, but moved to the high desert exurb of Lancaster as a teenager, and started his career in Echo Park. References to LA are ubiquitous in his work, from "Trouble Every Day" (written about the Watts riots) to Joe's Garage, which takes place "in a garage in Canoga Park" to "Valley Girl" to the live album Just Another Band From L.A....
- Funeral Party: "New York City Moves to the Sound of LA". Not an indictment or glorification of either city, just an observation on the continuous, free-flowing nature of music and popular culture itself.
- Guns N' Roses: "Welcome to the Jungle".
- (from Songfacts) This song is about Los Angeles. It exposes the dark side of the city many people encounter when they go there to pursue fame. Guns N' Roses knew this side of the city well: in 1985, they lived in a place on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles that they called "Hell House." The house was often filled with drugs, alcohol and groupies.
- Hollywood Undead: "No Other Place"
- My Chemical Romance: "Battery City" is a ridiculously thinly-veiled version of Los Angeles in the "Danger Days" universe.
- Meat Loaf: "Los Angeloser".
- Panic! at the Disco: "LA Devotee"
- Rancid: "L.A. River". It's about people coming to LA, not making it out and getting caught up in all sorts of bad stuff. The LA River is the backdrop.
- Randy Newman: "I Love LA".
- Newman was asked to write a song about Los Angeles as a theme to the 1984 Olympics held there. Instead, he wrote a tongue-in-cheek "homage" to the car-cruising, sun-worshipping LA culture, complete with mentions of a "Big nasty redhead" and a "Bum down on his knees." LA officials didn't think this was the image they wanted, but Newman released the song anyway. For a while it was the adopted theme song for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. (from Songfacts)
- Also plays when the LA Dodgers win at home.
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers make a lot of Los Angeles references in their songs, which may or may not be coded drug references.
- X: "Los Angeles". This song is about a very racist woman who feels compelled to leave the city for a less diverse environment.
- Songs about how much Los Angeles sucks seems to be a popular theme for indie rockers from the Pacific Northwest.
- Death Cab for Cutie has "Why You'd Want To Live Here" off of The Photo Album, asking the obvious question. Ironically, lead singer Ben Gibbard ended up moving to Los Angeles; apparently, marrying Zooey Deschanel is the reason why one might want to live in LA.
- The Decemberists have "Los Angeles, I'm Yours", a delightfully snarky attack on the lifestyle of certain Angelinos. The song was penned while lead singer/songwriter/etc. Colin Meloy was visiting his sister, who lives there. Hmm....
- LA, LA, Baby! by the The Jonas Brothers for Jonas LA.
- tool's song "Ænema" is one giant Take That! at the city which fantasizes about it being buried beneath an ocean. This song is an Homage and Shout-Out to Bill Hicks, as mentioned below.
- Tupac Shakur, "To Live and Die in L.A."
- Kendrick Lamar featuring Dr. Dre, "Compton".
- 30 Seconds to Mars, "City of Angels"
- The Royal Crown Revue song, "Watts Local", is about the railroad line that ran from Long Beach to Watts from 1904 to 1958, part of the original 'Red Line' streetcar line service operated by Pacific Electric Railway (now part of Metro Rail's Blue Line). The song calls out several of the stops along the line:
Alameda, Wilmington, 103rd
Firestone is fine
Don't forget to stop at Imperial
On the old Red Line
- Bill Hicks, born in Georgia and raised in Texas, spent several years in Los Angeles and never tired of reminding his audience how much he hated it. Arizona Bay is a borderline Concept Album which repeatedly comes back to the subject of how much better off the country and the world would be if Southern California sank into the Pacific.
- Los Angeles is an important spot in the Demon: The Fallen fluff, being the city where the ex-Archangel Lucifer himself has resided since its foundation (the city name is the clue).
- Los Angeles is depicted as a haven for demonic influence in In Nomine, with no angelic tethers and few (if any) angels stationed there. (The angelic equivalent is San Francisco.)
- Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines is set in and around LA.
- Midnight Club LA
- In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the city was invaded by Cordis Die forces after Raul Menendez took control of the US military drone network.
- In Fallout, the city was devastated by nukes during the Great War, and is known as the "Boneyard" among the survivors.
- Future Cop: L.A.P.D. gives the LAPD a Transforming Mecha and a whacked-out crime wave in the future.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, one of the game's three cities is a Fictional Counterpart called Los Santos, mostly consisting of Downtown, the beaches, and the violent ghettos Carl "CJ" Johnson calls home. It's pretty accurate as most of the major landmarks are there and accounted for, even if they are under a different name.
- Grand Theft Auto V is also set in Los Santos albeit updated to fit the more contemporary setting, prominently featuring the still-violent ghettos Franklin Clinton is trying to escape from, the affluent suburbs of Vinewood (the GTA-verse equivalent of Hollywood) where Michael De Santa languishes in luxury with his dysfunctional family, and the desert countryside (based on the area around Salton Sea) where the psychopathic Trevor Phillips stalks the streets.
- True Crime: Streets of L.A.
- Police Quest IV: Open Season along with SWAT 1-3
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a level set in downtown Los Angeles (recreated for Underground 2), while American Wasteland is ENTIRELY set in L.A.
- L.A. Noire is, logically, set here. The map's pretty realistic, too (One of the first things Team Bondi had to do was remove the freeways.) They used over 180,000 photographs to map out the entire city.
- Although they added the anachronistic palm trees (they would have been saplings at the time of the game, just planted) for aesthetic's sake.
- Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever (first half) take place in Los Angeles during an Alien Invasion.
- The expansion to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (Yuri's Revenge) has the second Allied mission in Los Angeles, where the player has to stop Yuri from using the airwaves to mind control civilians and feed them to his Grinders. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has an Imperial mission based in nearby Santa Monica, also with the objective of utilizing media presence.
- L.A. appears have been converted into some sort of space colony in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and is now known as Neo Los Angeles.
- Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA features the Los Angeles track. Unlike the other courses, which have a "Fog" setting, L.A. replaces the fog with smog.
- In Police 911, the Japanese version begins in Tokyo and ends in Los Angeles. In the North American version, it's the other way around.
- The setting of 2014's Battlefield Hardline
- The final course of R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Shooting Hoops, is hosted in Los Angeles.
- The English translation of the Ace Attorney series is heavily implied to take place in Los Angeles, though it's never referred to by name. (The Japanese version, on the other hand, explicitly takes place in Tokyo).
- Overwatch has a map set in a Theme Park Version of Hollywood, with the attacking team trying to escort the limo of Omnic B-Movie director Hal-Fred Glitchbot to his trailer within the time limit, while the defending team must prevent that from happening.
- The final level of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow takes place at LAX Airport, where Sam Fisher has to stop a terrorist's attempt to spread smallpox there.
- Agents of Cracked is set in and around Cracked's real-life offices in L.A., and features the Santa Monica Pier in its opening credits.
- The Fansadox series The Great Invasion is placed in an LA invaded by China.
- We're Alive, an audio drama about a Zombie Apocalypse is set in downtown L.A.
- Behind The Veil takes place mainly in LA and the surrounding areas, and the city itself has an Anthropomorphic Personification in the form of the Lady of Angels.
- Animaniacs: the Warner sibs lived on the Warner Brothers lot, in Burbank; Slappy and Skippy Squirrel also lived in Burbank.
- When Rita and Runt go to Poland in "Puttin on the Blitz", Rita sings that it doesn't look like Burbank, more like Van Nuys.
- Slappy also does a parody of the song, "Little Old Lady from Pasadena," called "Little Old Slappy From Pasadena."
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Patchy the Pirate lives in the LA neighborhood of Encino in the San Fernando Valley.
- Dan Vs. takes place in the Van Nuys neighborhood.
- The Flintstones often features "Hollyrock," the prehistoric version of Hollywood. The adult Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm live there in several 90s TV-movies.
- Garfield and Friends: When Garfield narrated a tale about barbarians, he described the place where they lived as a Los Angeles without Mexican stores.
- Like the film it follows, Turbo: F.A.S.T.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil Marco Diaz and his family live in the fictional neighborhood of "Echo Creek", which sounds similar to the real neighborhood, Echo Park, in Central LA. It's never specified that this is LA, but there are many giveaways to this fact including sightings of neighborhood signs for Silverlake and Hollywood, the Santa Monica Pier and the La Brea tar pits which are changed to the mud pits.
Be sure to try the taco trucks!