The River That Runs Through It

Licensed under creative commons:

There are certain locations and buildings that tend to show up in films again and again, and after spending last weekend in Southern California, I was reminded of one of my favorites–the Los Angeles River basin. You may not have realized that what you were looking at on screen is in fact a river basin, since it is so often filmed when the river is low or nearly non-existent, such as in this iconic scene from the film Grease:

A newer film that uses the L.A. River to delightful effect would be Drive, wherein Ryan Gosling takes a ride down the canal while dreamy pop music plays on the soundtrack:

And then there is that scene in Terminator 2 where a kid riding a bike is being chased by a giant semi-trailer:

There is a key scene if Repo Man (my favorite L.A. film) when our heroes get in a drag race versus the Rodriguez Brothers:

And my absolute favorite L.A. River scene (that doesn’t feature an actual river) would have to be the silly end credits for the movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai:

These days the L.A. River has been cleaned up considerably, thanks in large part to the efforts of Friends of the L.A. River and the Los Angeles River Revitalization project. Certain scenic sections of the river are now even navigable by kayak:

Amazingly, even though this iconic slab of concrete has shown up in an unbelievable amount of movies, music videos, and television shows, I never get sick of seeing it–it’s always strangely haunting, equal parts lovely and sinister. Here’s hoping that now that it’s navigable, we’ll see a boat (rather than a car) traveling down the river on screen.

– Tara

PS – What L.A. movies am I missing?


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8 responses to “The River That Runs Through It

  1. Sarah

    In the first Transformers, the scene where Bumblebee gets captured was filmed in the LA River Basin :)

  2. ZZMike

    “Chinatown” (L.A. and the origin of water in the area)

    “L.A. Confidential” (film noir, corruption in L.A. police, set during the ’50s).

  3. KL

    “Rodriguez brothers! Gypsy doldo punks! I’ll get your ass!”

  4. powerrangersfan1993

    I can’t think of any movies at the time. But I know the music video for Cheryl Cole’s song Call My Name was filmed there. She is a British singer who was in the girl group Girls Aloud. Here’s the video:

  5. Tara

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions–even more great L.A. films for me to check out!


  6. Pingback: Militant Angeleno: North Atwater Park: Up Close and Personal with the Los Angeles River | The Golden West Review

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