7 Films to Watch About Downtown LA

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in "(500) Days of Summer." | © Fox Searchlight Pictures
Kayleigh Roberts

Hollywood is the movie capital of the world, which means Los Angeles is often tasked with filling in for other cities on film. With a focus on the metropolitan hub of Downtown LA, here are seven movies that feature DTLA in the past, present, and future.

Sometimes, however, the city gets to play itself—the city of LA becomes its own character—and the result is often as stunning as filmmakers hope it to be. When it comes to standing in for other locations, Downtown Los Angeles is likely tasked with filming more than any other part of the city—it’s LA’s only urban-looking neighborhood, replete with Manhattan-like high-rise buildings that span miles out. But when DTLA gets to be itself on film, the results are nothing short of incredible.

(500) Days of Summer

In 2009, Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer captured (and then broke) the hearts of romantic indie film lovers everywhere. The film starred Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but it also starred downtown Los Angeles in the early stages of its own renaissance. The romance between Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt’s characters might fizzle, but the film serves as an enduring love letter to DTLA.


2011’s Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and the only thing that might be more captivating than the action in the film is its breathtaking views of downtown Los Angeles. DTLA has never looked as simultaneously gritty and beautiful as it does when Gosling speeds through it at night in Drive.


In 2013, director Spike Jonze brought the world his vision for a near-future Los Angeles in Her. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a man who falls in love with his operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). And the entire backdrop is set against a beautiful version of LA. The views of DTLA from Theodore’s apartment and behind him as he walks through the city mirror the beauty of falling in love.

Blade Runner

Speaking of futuristic visions of Los Angeles, it’s impossible not to mention Blade Runner, which reimagines downtown LA as a flashy, advertising-filled dystopia. Since the original Blade Runner takes place in 2019, the odds of DTLA transforming into its vision of the future by the time the film takes place are more or less impossible, but it’s a version of DTLA that film lovers will never forget.

The Terminator

In 1984’s The Terminator, moviegoers were treated to several shots of downtown Los Angeles, most notably in the film’s iconic car chase scene, which takes place in DTLA (on Sixth and Seventh Streets and Broadway, specifically), and culminates in a shootout in the parking lot of the Department of Power and Water on North Hope Street. The film’s tunnel chase was shot in the Second Street Tunnel, which dives underground between Hill Street and Figueroa Street in DTLA.

They Live

Not every depiction of downtown Los Angeles in film is glamorous, romantic, or fantastical. In 1988’s They Live, John Carpenter used the dilapidation of DTLA as the backdrop in his horror/sci-fi film in what LA Weekly described as “a nightmare body-snatcher allegory about the yuppification of LA.”


Collateral might appear to be a story about a story about a contract killer and a taxi driver completing a hitman’s to-do list—and it is that on the surface. But, for Los Angeles natives, it’s also something of a twisted love letter to downtown LA. The city serves as both the backdrop for the action and a character in its own right, showing the full spectrum of what DTLA has to offer.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.