10. 'L.A. Story' (1991)
Perhaps no film is better at cheerfully skewing the city than this screwball comedy from Steve Martin (who starred and wrote the screenplay). From stationary bike parks, to freeway gunfights, to ATM muggers (who have a line as long as the ATM itself), this is the absurdity of Los Angeles at its finest. Especially notable is the young Sarah Jessica Parker as a characteristically enthusiastic Valley Girl.
In most other places in the world, it would not be very difficult for a bus to remain above 50 mph. However, anyone who has navigated the congested traffic and unending road construction in Los Angeles knows that it is next to impossible. And thus, Jan De Bont's tour-de-force 1994 thriller achieves the unthinkable by putting the lives of innocent commuters in the dangerous hands of L.A.'s freeways.
8. 'Mulholland Drive' (2001)
Several movies have depicted Los Angeles as glamorous, absurd or dangerous. However, David Lynch's bizarre 2001 masterpiece manages to do all three, often at the same time. The movie generated a collective "Huh?" from audiences. But it was impossible to ignore. Containing a breakout performance from then-unknown Naomi Watts, some unforgettable sex scenes and a handful of creepy surrealist visuals, this is one of Lynch's finest.
7. 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'(1988)
Robert Zemeckis' 1988 murder mystery may take place in a parallel universe where cartoons and humans co-exist. However, if it weren't for all of the animated characters, this film, still cutting-edge and hilarious over 20 years later, would be an accurate representation of 1930's Los Angeles, right down to the dissembling of its trolley line to make way for a crazy invention known as "the freeway".
6. 'Boyz 'N The Hood'(1991)
John Singleton's gritty 1991 film took the Los Angeles crime film and turned it on its head by showing the brutal violence of LA's South Central neighborhood. After this, a floodgate of "life on the streets" films hit the market, but this one, with performances from Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube (before they went on to do a number of terrible films), is the best.
5. 'Boogie Nights'(1997)
Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 epic takes a blistering look at a different kind of entertainment industry. "Boogie Nights" manages to depict the porn industry in an even darker light than usual, with brutal performances and a breakneck style. This also shows a culturally declining Los Angeles in the 1970's, as the poolside parties and Corvettes gave way to desperation and that, ahem, infamous final shot.
4. 'The Big Sleep' (1946)
That Raymond Chandler does not have a museum in L.A. is a travesty. Crime seemed incredibly seductive in his colorful prose. There were a number of film adaptations, but 'The Big Sleep' is by and large the best, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall helping Chandler's dialogue leap from the page to the screen. Don't worry too much about the complicated plot. Just enjoy the ride.
3. 'L.A. Confidential' (1997)
With pitch-perfect direction, a beautiful screenplay, and a number of star-making performances (including Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce), Curtis Hanson's 1997 crime drama looks at the dark underbelly of 1950's Los Angeles and finds a town filled with corrupt cops, outlandish journalists and prostitutes cut to look like movie stars. This was the Los Angeles no one talked about, and it was not pretty.
2. 'Sunset Boulevard' (1950)
During the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, Billy Wilder's 1950 classic obliterated all glitz and glamor associated with the movie industry, and showed the damning effects of fame and fortune, especially when both run out. Gloria Swanson's performance as washed-up silent film star brought crazy to a whole new level, and its darkly comedic screenplay is still one of the best indictments of Hollywood to date.
1. 'Chinatown (1974)
Roman Polanski's 1974 nostalgic murder mystery is so flawless that it is now taught in screenwriting classes. Jack Nicholson's nuanced performance (cut-up nose included) and the famous plot twist ("She's my daughter! She's my sister...") make this one an instant classic, while its story about the distribution of L.A.'s water supply gives a unique look at the City of Angels.