Movies to inspire you as a student in Los Angeles

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As the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles appears in some great movies. So when you’re a student living in LA and studying at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), watch some movies that give you a glimpse of the city.

See the twinkling lights, sunny streets, and dark underbelly of LA on the silver screen as part of your student experience. These are just a few to your must-see movie list.

La La Land

Shot in more than 40-plus LA locations, La La Land swept up the awards when it came out in 2017. This modern musical paints a romantic portrait of the city as it follows an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) as they struggle to fulfil their dreams, dance among the stars at Griffith Observatory, and fall in love. It has the feel of old movie musicals but set in a thoroughly modern Los Angeles, traffic included.

Sunset Boulevard

This film about an aging silent-movie star (Gloria Swanson) and a broke B-movie screenwriter (William Holden) is a 1950 classic. Winning three Oscars, this movie ranks as one of the best American hits of the 20th century.

Named after a street that runs through Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard shows the grubby side of Tinseltown and the fickle nature of stardom. The director, Billy Wilder, came up with the plot when he lived in LA and found many faded silent-movie stars still lived in Hollywood’s grand mansions but no longer worked in film. He was fascinated by their lives after fame. For a peak into the film studio world, this is the perfect watch.

The Big Lebowski

Meet The Dude and his pals in the Coen brothers’ off-beat comedy. Filled with eccentric characters you could easily meet in the fringes of LA, The Big Lebowski is, on the surface, a film about a kidnapping and mistaken identity. But the cult status and retro bowling alleys that followed this film’s release is more about the surreal scenes and The Dude’s stoner attitude to the events that unfold. Watch on a movie night with friends and follow it up with a trip to a classic LA bowling alley.


See a much darker side to LA in this thriller about a freelance cameraman who scours LA looking for crime scenes and accidents to film to sell to TV news outlets. This 2014 film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as disturbed loner Lou Bloom, who feeds the 24-hour news cycle with graphic footage. A gripping anti-hero film where we watch the lead character drive the streets of LA in the early hours, crossing police tape and turning tragedies into dollars.