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On Location with Iconic Californian Movies

los angeles downtownHead to the Golden State and stand on the corner with Douglas, have a drink with Crowe and go to jail with Spacey.

One of the great motivators of sightseeing in America is finding a little street downtown or a log cabin upstate where a great movie was once filmed. Having your picture taken at a setting that once lent itself to an iconic movie scene is something that you can keep forever!

Here’s a look at some of the locations from popular movies shot in California which are still accessible to travelers today and make for some great places to visit from your USA hostels.

Los Angeles

L.A. Confidential:
This gripping 1997 crime thriller directed by Curtis Hanson was shot almost entirely in real locations dotted around the ‘City of Angels’. The police department led by James Cromwell’s Captain Dudley Smith was based within City Hall, a pyramid-peaked building located downtown on North Spring Street.

Head towards 6671 Sunset Boulevard to catch a glimpse of the revolving globe of the now defunct shopping mall, the Crossroads of the World. This fantastic location was the office of Danny DeVito’s character and has also been in a host of other films and a replica has even been built by Disney, which sits inside their studio lot.

If you are staying in one of the many Los Angeles hostels and fancy a good night out, then drop by the classy joint of Boardner’s bar on 1652 North Cherokee Avenue on Hollywood Boulevard. This classic 50’s period bar indulges in low-lighting and private booths, and was the setting for Captain Smith’s reinstatement of Russell Crowe’s character.

The Usual Suspects:
Praised for its amazing plot twist, The Usual Suspects was set in both New York and Los Angeles, but filming took place entirely on the West coast. The City Hall from L.A. Confidential makes a second appearance here, also as a police station’ this time as the supposed NYC base. Downtown on 1111 South Broadway sits an old newspaper office, the Herald Examiner Building, which was used as the San Pedro police station in which the majority of the film takes place.

The Hollywood Athletics Club located at 6525 Sunset Boulevard was the pool room setting for the mysterious meeting with Keyser Soze’s acquaintance, a building that also used to be a notorious gentleman’s club and was often frequented by Charlie Chaplin.

The most unique setting in the film is the superb Korean Bell of Friendship (located in Angels Gate Park, San Pedro), which was used for the meeting between the ‘suspects’ and Redfoot and provides an outstanding view of the harbor and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

San Francisco

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 feature starring James Stewart very cleverly uses the San Francisco streets and landmarks to allude to particular narrative strands and character traits. The Golden Gate Bridge – arguably it’s most famous sight and visible from the whole city, including many San Francisco Hostels – makes an appearance as both the setting for Stewart’s love interest’s suicidal plunge into the bay and a link to the condition of vertigo itself.

You can still see the angelic white building which hosted Carlotta’s portrait in the film, which lies between the China and Ocean beaches in the northwest district at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.

One of the most interesting places to visit from the film would certainly be the Mision San Francisco De Asis. The building – which is supposed to house Carlotta’s grave – was constructed in 1791 and is the oldest structure in San Francisco; it also happens to be the mission of St. Francis, the namesake of the city.

Basic Instinct:
Paul Verhoeven’s thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone will always be remembered for one reason alone – and it’s not the fact that it was all shot in San Francisco! This ‘Hitchcockian’ homage to the city reflects Vertigo’s use of the city’s streets to allude to the plot and character traits.

The famous powder blue apartments in which that Douglas’ character resides can still be found today on the corner of Montgomery Street and the bar that the ‘boys-in-blu’ regularly frequent is the Tosca bar located at 242 Columbus Avenue, now a popular media hangout.

Although not as famous as Steve McQueen’s car chase in Bullitt, Basic Instinct’s high-speed cat-and-mouse pursuit through the streets of San Francisco is just as tense. Taking place on the steep inclines of Telegraph Hill, it climaxes with the shrine-like Coit Tower, which is open to the public and provides a great view of the city and the bay.


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