15 LA Crime Films You Need to See: From 'Heat' to 'Nightcrawler'
Whether it's Chinatown or South Central, the sunny but dangerous streets of Los Angeles have been home to some of the most memorable crime films of all time. As ‘Taken 3’ extends Liam Neeson's killing spree to LA, let’s look back at the city's most must-see crime dramas.
Training Day (2001)
Police corruption has long been an issue in the Los Angeles of the movies and 'Training Day' offers further cinematic proof. Ethan Hawke stars in this riveting crime drama about a rookie cop taken under the wing of a corrupt cop played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Double Indemnity (1944)
Billy Wilder's film noir masterpiece finds Fred MacMurray's insurance salesman wrapped up in Barbara Stanwyck's scheme to collect big on her husband's life insurance. The well-structured screenplay and its clever dialogue puts this LA-set caper at the top of the must-see pile.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
This time, director Billy Wilder sets his sights on the movie industry's tarnished and tragic underside. This dark comic tale centers on a screenwriter (William Holden) whose Hollywood dream turns into a nightmare after he accepts a writing assignment from a deranged and murderous former movie star (Gloria Swanson).
'Drive' proved to be one of the great surprises of 2011. Ryan Gosling stars as a quiet but talented stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. Between Gosling's haunted performance and Nicolas Winding Refn's stylish direction, the film quickly earns its place among the greats of LA crime cinema.
Three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson stars as private eye Jake Gittes, who is hired by a mysterious woman (Faye Dunaway) to investigate the adulterous activities of the chief engineer of the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Gittes soon finds himself up against one of filmdom’s most formidable villains, the very wealthy and powerful Noah Cross (John Huston).
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Director William Friedkin matches the intensity of his NYC-set 'French Connection' car chase with an L.A. chase that takes place on the freeway during rush hour, which any Angeleno will assure you is no place to be if you’re trying to get somewhere fast.
A seasoned cop (Robert Duvall) and his rookie partner (Sean Penn) find themselves caught in the middle of L.A.'s gang wars in this box office hit that brought the city's issue with gang violence to national attention and ushered in a wave of urban crime movies like 'Boyz N the Hood' and 'Menace II Society.'
Boyz N The Hood (1991)
More than 20 years later, John Singleton's first feature film still packs a heavy, and relevant, emotional punch. If 'Colors' was among the first films to shine a light on gang violence and racial strife in South Central, 'Boyz' established itself as one of the best. Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ice Cube star as two young men from the hood following very different, but very violent, trajectories.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro appear together for the first time on-screen for Michael Mann's L.A.-set crime thriller about a master thief (De Niro) and seasoned detective (Pacino) who share an obsessive devotion to their careers and a tragic neglect of their loved ones. The film's commitment to gritty realism comes to a head in its signature Downtown shootout, when the climatic bank job goes violently wrong.
Jackie Brown (1997)
A money-smuggling stewardess (Pam Grier), a black-market gun runner (Samuel L. Jackson), an aging bail bondsman (Robert Forster), a trigger-happy ex-con (Robert De Niro), a federal agent (Michael Keaton), and a stoner chick (Bridget Fonda) are all hot on the trail of a half million dollars in Quentin Tarantino's very cool SoCal crime thriller, based on a book by the late Elmore Leonard.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Guy Pearce star as three cops with vastly differing approaches to handling crime in a city where Hollywood glamour and police corruption collide. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, which many felt it should have won over that little movie in which ship and iceberg collide.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
What began as a failed television pilot turned into a dreamy L.A. crime classic starring Naomi Watts as Betty, an eager young actress who moves to Hollywood and ends up embroiled in a bizarre near-murder mystery. Or is she actually a bitter, failed actress named Diane who had her girlfriend murdered? Only director David Lynch knows for sure.
'Heat' director Michael Mann’s second film on our list stars Jamie Foxx as a cab driver taken hostage in his own cab by a contract killer, played by an eerily calm and calculating Tom Cruise. Los Angeles emerges as the film’s third lead character as Mann takes us on a nocturnal journey through the city after dark.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tarantino's second film on this list is arguably the director's best. The Oscar-winning script chronicles one of the most religious hitmen ever made (Samuel L. Jackson), his partner (John Travolta) and a crime boss' wife (Uma Thurman) as their various stories intersect -- often in bloody fashion -- in one of the best movies ever made.