Netflix and chill with any of these 17 movies co-starring a neighborhood near you

By Christina Campodonico, Andy Vasoyan and Joe Piasecki

Windward Avenue in the late 1950s stood in for a Mexican border town in Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil”

Hollywood is the traditional home of movie magic, but Westside communities have played an important part in cinematic history since The Tramp’s very first film appearance in 1914. If you’re stuck indoors over the holidays, maybe check out one of these films to show off your neighborhood or see what it looked like back in the day.


“Alex of Venice” (2014)

The magic of Venice is that even on the bad days, it still manages to glow. A golden light dapples this indie family drama directed by “The Mindy Project’s” Chris Messina and set amongst Venice’s Craftsmans, canals, walk streets and boardwalk. In the film, a workaholic wife and lawyer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) living in Venice tries to keep her multigenerational household together after her husband abruptly leaves. Watch to remember that your family isn’t the only one with problems and what sunshine feels like when you’re visiting your relatives in those snow-covered parts of the country. (CC)

Watch it on Amazon Video or Fandango Now.


“The Big Lebowski” (1998)

“Do I look like I’m f-ing married? The toilet seat is up, man!” A case of mistaken identity and a soiled rug in The Dude’s minimalist Venice bungalow launch a comedic take on Chandler-esque L.A. noir that’s become a cult classic, in the parlance of our time. The apartment in the film is on Venezia Avenue just off Venice Boulevard. The Coen Brothers’ real-life inspiration for The Dude, Jeff Dowd, lives even closer to the beach. These days either place would probably be out of The Dude’s price range, but that’s just, like, our opinion, man. (JP)

Watch it on Amazon Video, Fandango Now, iTunes or Google Play.


“The Circle” (2017)

Playa Vista stands in for Silicon Valley (not much of a stretch) in a timely thriller about a social media company running amok over individual privacy, with Emma Watson playing the eager-turned-reluctant protégé of TED-Talk-from-Hell visionary Tom Hanks. The ending is deeply unsatisfying, but Playa Vista locals will recognize The Circle HQ and delight in the 15 seconds of Beck concert footage shot at the Central Park Bandshell. (JP)

Watch it on YouTube, Amazon Video, Vudu, iTunes or Google Play.


“Forrest Gump” (1994)

Loveable everyman Tom Hanks won an Oscar as loveable simpleton Forrest Gump, whose antics include, among other things, spontaneously jogging across America. Gump eventually ends up at the Pacific Ocean, by way of the Santa Monica Pier. As a pensive, bearded Gump looks for answers out over the blue waves, he might have taken comfort to know that eventually that very pier would proudly host its own Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant. (AV)

Watch it on Netflix.

Clockwise, from left: A production still from “Touch of Evil,” the first appearance of The Tramp, a scene from “The Circle” shot on Waterfront Drive in Playa Vista, Palisades Park in “Xanadu,” and the film that took Tom Hanks to the Santa Monica Pier

“Grease” (1978)

The musical that launched a thousand couples’ Halloween costumes, “Grease” proudly stakes a claim as one of the most recognizable teen movies of all time. While the ’50s era greasers and gals cavort and cajole across a slew of hotspots, it just wouldn’t be a high school movie without, you know, an actual school. Enter Venice High School, which served as the stately facade for that all-American institution of learning, Rydell High. (AV)

Watch it on Netflix.


“Ingrid Goes West” (2017)

“Parks and Recreation” comedienne Aubrey Plaza produces and stars in this take on a darker side of the Instagram-filtered #VeniceBeach lifestyle. Ingrid, a fresh-out-of-the-mental-ward woman loaded with a huge cash inheritance, moves to Venice to befriend (i.e. stalk) her new favorite Instagram star, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). From there, the picture-perfect façades of Venice — the beach, the boardwalk, the boho-minimalist-hipster bungalows — give way to the desert landscapes of Joshua Tree. (CC)

Watch it on Amazon and iTunes.


“Kid Auto Races at Venice” (1914) & “Sugar Daddies” (1927)

Warm up your binge watching with a silent film short set amidst a children’s go-kart race in Venice. Wearing his signature bowler hat and baggy pants, Chaplin’s The Tramp makes his film debut and disrupts the race at almost every turn, leading to comedic interactions with the cameramen filming the contest and a couple of close calls. Pair with Laurel and Hardy’s silent film short “Sugar Daddies,” with a sequence set in the long-gone Venice Amusement Pier’s fun house, and you’ve got a dynamic double feature of truly vintage comedy. (CC)

Watch them on YouTube.


“Knocked Up” (2007)

Arguably the high point of Judd Apatow’s stoner/man-child movie canon, one of the key scenes features Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl awkwardly getting breakfast at Swingers Diner in Santa Monica after a drunken encounter. The setting is great, but the two show a remarkable incompatibility. Barring any, uh, unexpected consequences, that’s probably where this ends, right? Order up: one comedic will they/won’t they, and a side of whacky pregnancy shenanigans. (AV)

Watch it on Amazon.


“Made in Venice” (2016) & “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (2001)

A love letter to Venice’s skateboarding scene, “Made in Venice” by filmmaker Jonathan Penson and co-produced by local skate culture luminary Jesse Martinez chronicles the evolution of Dogtown and its skating community’s decades-long struggle to convince L.A. City Hall to build a skate park off the Venice Boardwalk. Watch for a crash-course on SoCal skate history and to get inspired about the power of civic engagement. Pair with original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta’s Sean Penn-narrated documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” — about the rise of the Zephyr skateboard team — for a double dose of non-fiction. (CC)

Visit or rent “Dogtown and Z-Boys” on YouTube.


“Spawn of the Slithis” (1978)

By many critical accounts, this horrendous horror film about a monster born of mutant slime and terrorizing Venice and Marina del Rey should probably have never been committed to film. What it does offer is vintage views of the marina and Venice during the 1970s, when grungy hippies roamed the boardwalk and the canals were pre-posh and gritty. The Helmsman statue at Burton Chace Park makes a cameo, and there’s a cool action sequence of the turtle races at Brennan’s Pub. It’s worth a look to see what Venice and Marina del Rey looked like before people started calling it Silicon Beach. (CC)

Watch it on YouTube.


“Speed” (1994)

Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and a Big Blue Bus hurtle towards destiny after a madman plants a bomb that will detonate if they travel below 50 miles per hour. That’s a tall order for a movie set in L.A. during rush hour, but the non-copyright-infringing “Santa Monica Intercity Bus Lines” vehicle manages it. Come for the absurd, thrilling action and shout-outs to Venice (including the Firehouse restaurant and the Ballerina Clown), stay for the wish-fulfillment of traffic being forced to move so you don’t slow down. (AV)

Watch it on HBO Go.


“The Sting” (1973)

Old-time Hollywood hunks Robert Redford and Paul Newman team up in this Academy Award-winning film about a pair of conmen who devise an elaborate scheme to swindle a mob boss who killed their friend. Set in 1930s Chicago, much of the classic caper was shot in Greater Los Angeles — including the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, where Newman’s character lives, works and operates a carousel. (CC)

Watch it on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes or Vudu.


“Touch of Evil” (1958)

Venice stands in for a Mexican border town in an extended single-take opening tracking shot along Windward Avenue and Speedway in Orson Welles’ film noir thriller. You’ll notice there used to be a lot more of those pillars outside Bank of Venice. Muralist Jonas Never pays tribute to the sequence in his Touch of Venice mural on Windward. (JP)

See the opening sequence on YouTube or watch the whole film on Amazon Video.


“The Truth about Cats & Dogs” (1996)

Janeane Garofalo plays an animal expert and radio host who dispenses pet advice on air in this rom-com update of Cyrano de Bergerac, co-starring Ben Chaplin and Uma Thurman. When Garofalo’s self-conscious character Abby develops a flirtation with one of her listeners (Chaplin), she sends her beautiful neighbor Noelle (Thurman) to court him and pretends to be one of Noelle’s friends. In a scene with her love interest at O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Santa Monica, Garofalo spills salsa all over herself. (CC)

Watch it on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube or Vudu.


“Xanadu” (1980)

“Xanadu” may have flopped 37 years ago, but the Oliva Newton-John and Michael Beck-led movie about a roller disco and a mysterious muse has since spawned a cult following, making it a fun throwback film to group-watch (or hate-watch) with assorted friends and family. Look out for these local spots: The mural featuring the Nine Sisters in the dance number “I’m Alive” was added to the east end of Dudley Avenue, just off the Venice Boardwalk, in post-production. And Newton-John whizzes up on her roller skates to kiss Beck in Santa Monica’s Palisades Park later in that same number. (CC)

Watch it on Amazon.