Although it is one of LA’s most under-appreciated natural resources, the LA River has proved to be an extremely useful location for its film industry. Because of its stark urban wasteland appearance and flat riverbed, it has always been an ideal location for shooting. The bridges overarching the riverbed are architectural treasures (including the beautiful Sixth Street Bridge which was recently demolished) designed in the art deco style, each of which is a little different from the next. In addition, the views of the downtown skyline and the urban, industrial feel give film shots a cool minimalist aesthetic. These are the best movie scenes that feature possibly one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, the river herself.
This is probably the most well-known scene filmed in the river basin and also the one in which its location is the most recognizable. The unforgettable drag race between Danny and Leo that took place between the 1st and 7th street bridges.
This intense action movie – that was the third and final in the series of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy – had many urban locations all over the world including Chicago and New York. However, one of the best car chases features the LA River in a high speed night-time chase scene involving the police chasing Batman who is chasing the real villain Bane.
Another extremely memorable scene filmed in the culvert also stars California’s former governor and favorite body-building movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Three vehicles chase each other down the causeway in the 1991 action film at a thrilling pace while Arnold zooms by on a motorcycle.
Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman who is also secretly a getaway driver, just innocently giving a woman and her son a ride. Although the neo-noir thriller features typical chase scenes as well, the part where they cruise through the LA river is almost idyllic.
The original 1967 version of this film is a great example of LA film noir, and became a cult classic starring Lee Marvin as a criminal seeking revenge on his former partner. It all comes to a head underneath the 4th street bridge as someone is murdered against the bleak backdrop of the concrete basin.
The empty open space of the riverbed actually proved to be the perfect location to re-enact battle scenes as well, especially in this depiction of trench warfare in the 1930’s film about WWI. The bare and wide riverbed represented ‘no man’s land’ in between the fighting camps, and the bridges were used to recreate a historic German siege of a French village.
Another heart pounding high speed pursuit through dark tunnels and screeching around corners leads to the river bottom, where cars speed through the watershed as the river sprays around them. The 1985 film perfects the LA crime genre and this sequence is definitely one of the best car chases of all time.