Movies to inspire your break in L.A.
As a majority of USC students begin to spend their summer breaks in or around Los Angeles, what better way to attract some inspiration on how to spend our free time around town than with movies? Here are just a few fun ones for each of the city’s different facets: from hipsters and influencers, to hustlers and cynics.
“Ingrid Goes West” (2017)
If you, too, are horrified by the effects of influencer culture in L.A., this one’s for you. This social media satire starring Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza displays the hazardous dangers of today’s online culture, as Ingrid (Plaza) does everything in her power to emulate her favorite influencer (Olsen). The majority of the film’s color palette feels like you’re watching one big Instagram post, displaying sunny L.A. through the lens of an aspiring content creator — that is, until the plot takes a dark turn.
“Licorice Pizza” (2021)
While Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography contains a plethora of movies revolving around L.A. and the San Fernando Valley (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” etc.), this one was the perfect, average summer movie. Following the activities and business ventures of an aspiring teenage actor, his controversially older partner-in-crime and his group of friends, “Licorice Pizza” doesn’t rely on crazy plot points to depict a hot Californian summer in the middle of the 1973 oil crisis. The interactions between characters and their ambitions make this movie feel more like an authentic summer film than the rest of this list.
OK, so (technically) this one shouldn’t count because the main protagonists are still in school, but this feels like a summer coming-of-age story, so it’s staying on the list. Three friends navigating their senior year and Inglewood alike are met with a series of adventures throughout L.A., discovering mayhem and corruption at every corner. Come for the sporadic A$AP Rocky cameos, stay for the soundtrack.
“The Runaways” (2010)
If you’ve been feeling the “rockstar’s girlfriend” aesthetic, this one’s for you. This biopic recounts the beginnings of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie’s infamous girl band “The Runaways” and all of the drama that entails. While this movie also features a stellar soundtrack, it’s arguably the fashion choices of the rockers that make the film great.
“Under the Silver Lake” (2018)
From A24, starring Andrew Garfield, this movie is definitely the most interesting one on this list. “Under the Silver Lake” is the more pretentious, older sister of 2015’s “Paper Towns.” When a neighbor in Garfield’s character’s apartment complex suddenly goes missing, he takes it upon himself to find her, giving an in-depth tour of the City of Angels, from The Last Bookstore to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This movie gets extra points for the multiple Spider-Man references sprinkled throughout the runtime.
“The Nice Guys” (2016)
Set in 1977, two men (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe) investigate a young girl’s disappearance and a string of murders revolving around antipollution protests, the Department of Justice and the success of the adult film industry in the ’70s. This movie is somehow half-buddy comedy, half-mystery and fully a somewhat love letter to all the working parts that make L.A. nightlife so interesting.
Skateboarding, the ’90s, Alexa Demie — what else could you want in a movie? Jonah Hill’s directorial debut chronicles the nostalgia and phlegmatic nature of long summer days revolving around a 13-year-old boy named Stevie and a group of older skateboarders he idolizes in L.A. Kick back and travel back in time with this film.
“(500) Days of Summer” (2009)
Duh. This wouldn’t be a “Summer in L.A.” movie list without this one. Tom and Summer meet at their greeting card job downtown and grow closer together as they date in the city. Miscommunication, misconceptions and assumptions plague their time together, as the narrative showcases just how unreliable happy memories of past relationships can be. This is perhaps the most essential watch on this list if you’re dating in L.A. this summer break.
Hopefully at least one of these wins you over. Either way, here’s to a summerlong movie binge!