Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The creepiest LA movies ever made
Brad Pitt (Fury) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) are channeling Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke) to eerie perfection in the first image from Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Dicaprio is playing former TV star Rick Dalton while Pitt is playing his buddy and longtime stunt double Cliff Booth as they struggle to make it in Hollywood. Tarantino has described the film as taking place in “Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippie Hollywood.”
As you might expect from a Tarantino flick, it’s a star-studded affair with a cast including Al Pacino (Scarface), Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Luke Perry (The 5th Element), and Dakota Fanning (The Alienist). The film is also maintaining Tarantino’s great love for being as proudly distasteful as possible by opening the film on August 9 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Manson-LaBianca murders and the day after Tate and her unborn child were slaughtered by Manson and his followers.
All in all, it sounds to be a gory and hopefully very creepy film about a violent moment in Los Angeles history. But you don’t have to wait until next Summer to see a creepy LA movie. There have been a fair few of them made over the years that expose the dark underbelly of Los Angeles and explore its secrets and insidious mechanics. Here’s our ranking of eight of the best.
8. Scream 3 (2000)
Scream 3 is executive produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and features a disquieting storyline regarding a culture of casting couches and the historical rape and abuse of young female stars. Whether anyone involved in the movie actually knew about the allegations toward Weinstein and thought Scream 3 would be a sharp way to take a dig at him for it is something worth speculating about, with the Wes Craven movie now swimming in a strange flood of irony.
7. The Neon Demon (2016)
Another “the true cost of fame!” movie, but this time it comes courtesy of Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) who attempts to upcycle some already pristine Lynchian tropes with a load of neon and clunky dialogue. Still, Christina Hendricks (Good Girls) is a marvel as a pushy modelling agent and Elle Fanning (Mary Shelley) is appropriately blank and all the more eerie for it, so that’s something.
6. Starry Eyes (2014)
Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s horror movie is a little on-the-nose for how it uses Faustian metaphors to depict the Hollywood elite as a literal cult exchanging souls for fame, but it still packs a punch.
5. Lost Highway (1997)
David Lynch’s noir horror is one of the definitive LA films of the 90s. As well as featuring shades of the O.J. Simpson trial and the role of video cameras in capturing the dark side of the city (like in the Rodney King trial of 1991), the film also plunges into insidious mechanisms of Hollywood. Patricia Arquette (True Romance) plays a woman drawn into a world of casting couches, pornography, and seedy parties filled to the brim with paranoia and insecurities.
4. The Day of the Locust (1975)
Starring Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces) and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games), John Schlesinger’s surreal thriller turns Los Angeles into a psychotic hellscape where fledgling talents scramble for respect and where a movie premiere erupts into a violent riot.
3. Nightcrawler (2014)
Dan Gilroy’s tense thriller about a conman (Jake Gyllenhaal) sweet-talking his way into the morally questionable world of LA crime video journalism draws on the underbelly of the city and of the individuals looking to make a quick buck from other people’s suffering.
2. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Though Inland Empire is a startlingly scary plummet into Hollywood madness, Lynch really nailed the sometimes savage results of pursuing a Hollywood dream with this one. In Mulholland Drive, ambition is drawn in a woozy palette of fractured optimism and horror with Naomi Watts and Laura Harring depicting two sides of the same dream.
1. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)
The decaying Hollywood mansion where Bette Davis (All About Eve) and Joan Crawford’s (Mildred Pierce) warring sisters could easily be seen as a metaphor for an industry desperate to change but unable to let go of the past. Fame and power are showcased at their most suffocating and toxic extremes, with the city itself reduced to the constraints of a house haunted by past success.