There are many good and great movies that feature L.A. as both a setting and a character. This is not that list. These are the films that completely miss the point about L.A., or offer a portrayal of L.A. that is either unintentionally cringe-inducing, racist, just plain dumb or all of the above.
If you can avoid these movies, please do so at all cost. These aren’t even particularly good hate-watching fodder. They’re just terrible in every conceivable way.
5. Entourage (2015)
This one’s a no-brainer. The film, that is.
It appears as if the makers of this film weren’t using a script as a blueprint so much as they were using celebrity cameos as the driving force in constructing this series of scenes that I guess you could technically call a film. The cameos are an ersatz grab bag of worthless celebrities who have no business being in the same film: Gary Busey, David Spade, Warren Buffett, Haley Joel Osment and Piers Morgan, to name a handful. It's also entirely possible this script was written by an email spambot.
Entourage is an unhinged, accidentally dadaist mess that proves its own premise: Hollywood is brainless and populated with stupid people making stupid things. And, also, the universe is indifferent.
We hate this movie because it’s partly true and exposes the vapid, boring side of celebrity. But it only gets there because it’s incompetent, not by design. There may be no more worthless character to grace both the small and large screen than “E." At the very least, it appears as if everyone involved in this film knows — on some level — how dumb and pointless Entourage and, by extension, chasing the Hollywood dream truly is. Surely no one involved in making this thought they were making high art, but rarely has a film been so hostile toward its audience and the world around it.
4. (500 )Days of Summer (2009)
Oh boy. This is the only one on this list I expect some people to actually defend. But let’s put it this way: (500) Days of Summer makes Garden State look like The 400 Blows.
Put another way: (500) Days of Summer is for people who either (a.) still fetishize the manic pixie dream girl as an archetype or (b.) are one herself. This movie came out around the time the DTLA Art Walks were becoming controversial, and much of the film is spent exploring both how “cool” downtown really is and how preciously twee and quirky its main characters are.
The truth is this movie has nothing to say about love, relationships, filmmaking or Los Angeles. It feels as if the makers of this film have never set foot in downtown L.A., never had to navigate the nation’s largest homeless population, and never visited the DTLA underground full of “unofficial” spaces like actual speakeasies (not just licensed bars themed like speakeasies serving $18 cocktails).
3. 1941 (1979)
Is Empire of the Sun some sort of mea culpa for 1941? Probably. And that’s because Steven Spielberg should be so ashamed of 1941 that it would have been in his best interest to track down every last copy and print of the film in the ’80s and destroy it, the way Kubrick did with Fear and Desire.
1941 is puerile, racist garbage, and it’s tremendously un-entertaining even if you can somehow overlook the gross, ignorant portrayal of the Japanese in this fetid turd.
This movie is indefensible on every count and was the first in Spielberg’s never-ending series of nationalistic, masturbatory WWII films. Though it actually turned a profit at the box office — contrary to the rumor that it tanked — everyone kind of wishes this anticomedy had been aborted in the development process.
2.. Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
I wouldn’t recommend actually watching this, the third installment in the Crocodile Dundee franchise, but I would encourage you to listen to the How Did This Get Made? episode about what a joke this production and final product were. Matthew Barry, the film’s co-writer, calls in to explain what a raging megalomanical asshat Paul Hogan was (including stealing writing credit).
This movie tries to play on cliches that have already been rinsed to death: L.A. has traffic, L.A. has queer people, L.A. has valets, L.A. has movie studios and theme parks. That’s about all Paul Hogan seems to know about the Angeleno experience. To take a tiny example, check out the scene shot in Venice in which a local woman refers to Beverly Hills as “Bev Hills." I’m pretty sure no one has ever used the term “Bev Hills” before or since.
Also, like Entourage, this film has a bunch of random cameos. The best and most baffling is when Mike Tyson — then recently released from prison for rape — shows up and rambles incoherently for a few minutes, apropos of nothing.
1. Crash (2005)
You knew this would be No. 1. It’s as if Short Cuts were directed by someone who'd never met another human being before.
If you like this movie, you must be Clint Eastwood, because you’d have to be severely out of touch (or suffering from dementia) to even make it through 30 minutes of this self-serious drivel. This movie was terrible in 2005, and it’s terrible now. It could well be the worst movie of all time. It’s recklessly asinine and paints racist portraits with the heaviest of hands. At least Leni Riefenstahl was competent at her craft.
The film tells the story of characters from different ethnic backgrounds coming into conflict with (or "crashing into") one another on the tough streets of L.A. It’s supposed to be some didactic tragedy but is ultimately just another shit sandwich made by noted hack Paul Haggis, then a privileged, high-ranking member of the cult of Scientology.
Every single person and entity involved in the creation of this film should be deeply ashamed of themselves. The Ayn Rand movies are probably more redeemable than this sloppily etched set of racially themed parables that tells us absolutely nothing about race relations in America or Los Angeles.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Much of the moviegoing public sat in stunned silence when Crash picked up the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006. This is the foul sort of hollow morality play that Hollywood loves producing as an antidote to white liberal guilt. This film is supposed to be important. It’s tellings us hard truths about the nature of tribalism. But it’s just really weak storytelling and pretension posing as profundity. Haggis eventually admitted he didn’t think Crash deserved the Best Picture Oscar, but he should have apologized for its mere existence as well. Only a being as sick and twisted as Xenu could have let something like this happen.
To quote a poet: “Everyone in this room is now dumber for” having watched this film.
Honorable mention: Knight of Cups (aka Terrence Malick presents Entourage), Swordfish, Hollywood Homicide, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, The Room, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Terminator 3, Joe Dirt, L.A. Story, Less Than Zero, The Canyons, The Muse, Shopgirl, The Black Dahlia, S.W.A.T., City of Angels
CORRECTION: We've removed mention of Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, as it is set in Detroit, not L.A.