Collection by Luke Hopping

From Chinatown to Terminator, A (Very) Abbreviated Look at the L.A. River in Film


As the center of the global film industry, Los Angeles and its landmarks occupy a special place in the cultural imagination. What else could explain why a mostly dry, concrete waterway elicits such strong emotions? Though the Los Angles River of the silver screen frequently hosts vehicular and/or violent showdowns, the real-life locale is mostly uneventful day-to-day. Many Angelenos have trouble even accessing it. But all that could soon change. The 51-mile river, which has been dammed up for decades, is on the verge of a $1 billion revitalization that would transform it into a public green space, a development we touch on in our June issue. In anticipation, we take a look back at the river's gritty portrayal in iconic Hollywood movies.

Point Blank (1967) The cult classic starring Lee Marvin features a slaying beneath the 4th Street Bridge.
Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski's noir tale of Los Angeles's early water wars necessarily had to feature a cameo from...
Grease (1978) Another Los Angeles period piece (albeit one with more duets than duels), Grease excises the River's...
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) In the second installment in the Terminator franchise, action hero and future...
Drive (2011) For Ryan Gosling's nameless anti-hero in Drive, the River is less a site for mayhem, than a place for...
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