Photography by izayah ramos on Unsplash
Photography by izayah ramos on Unsplash

25 Iconic Landmarks in SoCal You May have Seen on the Big Screen—#12 Will Leave You Singin’

See SoCal Through the Eyes of a Star

Written By: Dash Finley Southern California Movie Landmarks

As the home of “Tinseltown,” Southern California is the epicenter of the film and television industry. But beyond the soundstages, there are a bevy of real-life locations that acted as the site of numerous legendary productions. Let’s take a look at some fun, inviting SoCal spots that had their time to shine on the silver screen.



1 | The Jury Is Out Southern California Movie Landmarks

The Old Orange County Courthouse (211 W Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92701)

As Seen In: Catch Me If You Can, Legally Blonde, J. Edgar

This stately courthouse was the setting of a scene in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 hit Catch Me If You Can, wherein con man Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) defends himself in court before an incredulous judge.


2 | A Cinematic Education

The University Of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA 92697)

As Seen In: Poltergeist, Hangover 3, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Ocean’s Eleven

UC Irvine’s science department was put to use in the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven remake, as Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his team steal an electromagnetic device from the Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility.


3 | Old Town, New Tricks

Old Towne Orange (Orange, CA 92866)

As Seen In: Big Momma’s House, Forrest Gump, “Ghost Whisperer”, “American Horror Story”, “Parks and Rec”

This 1-square mile district of Orange County has been used to replicate the South with its All-American aesthetic. A home in Old Towne stood in for the Cartersville, Georgia abode of Hattie Mae (Martin Lawrence) from the 2000 comedy Big Momma’s House.


4 | Next Stop, Stardom Southern California Movie Landmarks

Santa Ana Train Station (1000 E Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92701)

As Seen In: Rain Man, “True Detective”

Known for its Spanish-style architecture, this junction stood in for LA’s Union Station in the closing scene of 1988’s Rain Man, where Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) boards his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) on a train to Cincinnati.


5 | Most Likely To Succeed

Fullerton High School (201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832)

YouTube video

As Seen In: “The Politician”

As the primary location for Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show “The Politician,” Fullerton was transformed into the fictional St. Sebastian High—a process which included beautifying the school grounds with flower beds and trees.


6 | Shootin’ On The Dock Of The Bay Southern California Movie Landmarks

Seal Beach (Seal Beach Municipal Pier, Old Towne, CA 90740)

As Seen In: American Sniper

This coastal enclave played host to a moment in Clint Eastwood’s 2014 flick American Sniper, where Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes Taya (Sienna Miller) out for a day of fun in the sun, winning a teddy bear at a shooting gallery in the process.


7 | The House Of Mouse Southern California Movie Landmarks

Disneyland (1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802)

As Seen In: Saving Mr. Banks, Tomorrowland, “Modern Family”

It’s natural that the “Happiest Place On Earth” would play host to film shoots, but none more fascinating than 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks, for which sections were re-designed to resemble the park circa 1961, as Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) tours around P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson).


8 | No Gilligan Here… Southern California Movie Landmarks

Balboa Island (206 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662)

As Seen In: “Dirty John”

The gorgeous harbor community of Balboa Island exposes its seedy side for Bravo’s true-crime adaptation “Dirty John,” in which wealthy Newport Beach resident Debra Newell (Connie Britton) is taken in by John Meehan (Eric Bana), a dangerous con man.


LOS ANGELES Southern California Movie Landmarks

9 | Not Your Average (Cup of) Joe

101 Coffee Shop (6145 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028)

As Seen In: Swingers, Entourage, “Gilmore Girls”

This now-hip eatery played host to writing sessions between then out-of-work actors Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, as they put together what would become the 1996 cult hit Swingers, which prominently features the restaurant as their hangout.


10 | Trailers For Trojans

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90007)

As Seen In: Legally Blonde, “How To Get Away With Murder”, The Graduate, The Social Network, Forrest Gump, The Bachelor, The Princess Diaries 2, The Roommate

As the site of one of the world’s best film schools, USC has found its way into plenty of pictures, even doubling as Harvard for the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde, as sorority girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) attends law school there.


11 | Una Noche Espléndida

Casa Vega Restaurant (13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423)

As Seen In: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino highlighted this old-school cantina (word on the street: he loves to dine here!) in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which depicts it as the site of fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt)’s dinner before their showdown with Charles Manson’s acolytes.


12 | City Of Angels

Angels’ Flight

As Seen In: La La Land, “Bosch”

As a 116-year-old cable railway in the heart of Downtown LA, Angels’ Flight has provided over 100 million rides—none more attention-grabbing than the swoon between Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), which culminates in a kiss.


13 | Let’s Do Lunch

Dinah’s (6521 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045)

As Seen In: The Big Lebowski, Nightcrawler

While best known for its fried chicken, this comfort-food standby served up plates of lingonberry pancakes for a squad of nihilists in the Coen Brothers’ absurdist 1998 neo-noir hit, The Big Lebowski.


14 | Made In Manhattan

Manhattan Beach Pier (2 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266)

As Seen In: Point Break, “Starsky and Hutch”

Though it’s since been restored to its 1920s-era heyday, the once-seedier pier served as the backdrop for the moment where FBI Agent Pappas (Gary Busey) convinces his partner Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) to take up surfing in the 1991 thriller Point Break.


15 | Just Look Up Southern California Movie Landmarks

The Griffith Observatory (2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027)

As Seen In: Rebel Without a Cause, Jurassic Park, The Terminator, Bowfinger, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, The Rocketeer, Yes Man

Tourists hit the Observatory to gaze at celestial bodies above, but a number of stars have graced the building itself, such as James Dean. In 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, he joined classmates at the planetarium before getting into a knife fight in the parking lot.



16 | A Home For Scoundrels

999 North Patencio Rd (Palm Springs, CA 92262)

As Seen In: Ocean’s Eleven

Back to the Ocean’s remake, this midcentury residence serves as the house of hotelier Reuben Tischkoff (Elliot Gould), as Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) try to convince him to put up money to fund their heist.


17 | Nature Calls

Anza-Borrego State Park (200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004)

As Seen In: Into the Wild, The Scorpion King

This arid range was integral to the journey of hitchhiker Christopher McCandless, whose story was fictionalized in 2007’s Into the Wild. The park is highlighted in a scene where McCandless (Emile Hirsch) swaps tales with Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook).


18 | Springs, Palm Springs

Elrod House (2175 Southridge Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264)

As Seen In: Diamonds Are Forever

Designer Arthur Elrod commissioned this lavish bungalow as his residence, but he lent it to the crew of the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, where it acted as the mansion of industrialist Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean).


19 | Gone With the Wind Southern California Movie Landmarks

Windmills (62950 20th Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92258)

As Seen In: Mission Impossible 3, Welcome to Me

These turbines provide clean energy with visual flair, and they were put to use during MI-3’s thrilling helicopter chase, in which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) weaves his chopper through the pylons.


20 | A Good Feeling

Grapefruit Blvd and Avenue 54 (Thermal, CA 92236)

As Seen In: “Feelin’ Myself” Music Video

The Coachella City Limit sign at this intersection was featured in the 2015 music video for Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s collaboration, “Feelin’ Myself,” where the pair croon in front of the nearby mountainous scenery.



21 | A Walk In The Park

Balboa Park (1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101)

As Seen In: Anchorman, Almost Famous, Citizen Kane

This cultural park is perfect for a stroll, but in 2004’s Anchorman, reporter Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) heads here for a depressive moment after Veronica (Christina Applegate) tampers with his teleprompter.


22 | Hotel California Southern California Movie Landmarks

Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118)

As Seen In: “Baywatch”, Some Like It Hot, My Blue Heaven

Constructed in 1888, one of the beachfront hotel’s brightest moments came in a 1994 episode of “Baywatch,” which saw the crew staying at the resort; while there, Summer (Nicole Eggert) is haunted by the ghost of a businessman.


23 | Keep Your Fears at Bay

Mission Bay (San Diego, CA 92109)

As Seen In: Freaky Friday

In the 1976 film Freaky Friday, this saltwater bay marks the site of a water-skiing competition, during which the body-swapped Ellen (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster) switch back to their normal forms.


24 | Danger Zone

Mississippi Room of the Lafayette Hotel (2223 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104)

As Seen In: Top Gun  

The stately ballroom of this retro hotel has hosted many soirees over the years, but the most memorable one appeared in Tony Scott’s 1986 classic Top Gun, where Maverick (Tom Cruise) serenades Charlie (Kelly McGillis) with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”


25 | A Pier-less location

Oceanside Pier (Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, CA 92054)

As Seen In: Animal Kingdom, Bring It On

This legendary wooden pier boasts stunning views of the Pacific and the Junior Seau Pier Amphitheater—the bandshell of which was featured as the site of a cheerleading competition in the 2000 comedy Bring It On, starring Kirsten Dunst. 

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