Though Los Angeles can’t lay claim to holiday classics like Home Alone or A Christmas Story, our streets and backlots have hosted a number of Christmas favorites (think Christmas Vacation), non-Christmas Christmas favorites (think Die Hard), and festive scenes in movies most people don’t necessarily associate with Christmas at all (think the police station holiday party in L.A. Confidential). To help put you in the spirit of the season, here are 20 of our favorite places where L.A. set the stage for the most wonderful time of the year.
The Department Store from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Over-ambitious family man, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), does some holiday shopping at busy a downtown Chicago department store as he preps for the big family Christmas he’s always desired. Stunned by the allure of an attractive brunette saleswoman who approaches Clark in the lingerie department, a series of uncontrollable Freudian slips ensue. “I guess it wouldn’t be the Christmas shopping season if the stores were any less hooter—hotter than they are.”
The scene was shot inside the 1929 Art Deco landmark Bullocks Wilshire Building, which operated as a department store for more than 60 years before it was purchased by Southwestern Law School in 1994.
3050 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown.
The Strip Center from Friday After Next (2002)
As Craig (Ice Cube) and his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps) are fast asleep in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, their South L.A. apartment (actually located in Van Nuys) is robbed by a serial burglar dressed as Santa Claus. Their Christmas presents, Craig’s CD collection, Day-Day’s framed baby pictures, and the rent money are stolen. Already behind on the rent, Craig’s dad, Willie Jones (the late John Witherspoon), gets his son and his nephew jobs working as Christmas security guards in the tinsel- and garland-trimmed strip center where Mr. Jones and his brother run a barbecue restaurant called Bros. Bar-B-Q. Craig and Day-Day also have to protect other shopping center businesses like the fly-ridden Holy Moly donuts, Toys in the Hood, Weave It Alone, Chrome Dome Wheels, PDQ Check Cashing, Pimp’s & Ho’s, the 94-cent Bargain Store, and the Plaza liquor store. Supposedly located on Crenshaw Boulevard just off of Manchester Avenue, midcentury Carson Plaza from Friday After Next can actually be found in Torrance.
1540 W. Carson St., Torrance.
Mrs. Deagle’s House from Gremlins (1984)
Though the creatures in Joe Dante’s 1984 Christmas-set horror-comedy don’t discriminate when choosing their victims, there’s a certain satisfaction when they set their sites on Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), the real estate Grinch of Kingston Falls. Upon finding the little green critters caroling at her doorstep, Mrs. Deagle races inside, bolting the door behind her. She then climbs aboard her Gremlin-enhanced electric stair lift, which ascends the winding staircase at high speed, propelling Mrs. Deagle through a second-floor window of a house located on Midwest Street on the Warner Bros. backlot.
Midwest Street can also be seen as the town square of Medford, Colorado when, at Christmastime, Michael Keaton comes back to life as a snowman to make amends with his son in Jack Frost (1998).
Midwest Street, Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
Bedford Falls High School Gym from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Years before the Christmas pageantry depicted in Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, optimistic go-getter, George Bailey (James Stewart), attends his younger brother’s graduation dance for the Bedford Falls High School class of 1928. Across the gymnasium floor, George’s eyes meet those of a grown-up Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) who’s had a crush on George since childhood. Having been reintroduced, George and Mary compete in a Charleston dance contest. However, a fellow classmate (Charles “Alfalfa” Switzer) who has eyes for Mary acquires a key to open the gymnasium floor, newly installed above the school’s swimming pool. While many scenes from It’s a Wonderful Life were shot at the old RKO Ranch in Encino, the dance sequence was filmed inside the gym at Beverly Hills High School. The historic gym was constructed in 1939 with a retracting floor that exposed a 23-meter swimming pool. The floor and the pool are still used today.
241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.
Dixie’s House from Lethal Weapon (1987)
A drug-fueled binge during the holiday season sends Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson) plummeting to her death from the balcony of a high-rise apartment building. When the autopsy reveals that Amanda was poisoned, her father charges LAPD detective and old Vietnam War buddy, Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), with finding Amanda’s killer. Murtaugh and his new partner, suicidal loner cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), pay a visit to Dixie, a prostitute under suspicion of playing a part in the Hunsaker murder. Adorned with a plastic Frosty the Snowman figure, Dixie’s house explodes before the two detectives can reach the front door.
111th Street at Larch Avenue, Lennox.
The Back Alley of O’Hara’s Pub from Bad Santa (2003)
On a snowy winter night at O’Hara’s Pub (shot on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice), disheveled department store Santa and safe-cracker Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) sits alone at the end of the mahogany bar and throws back a stiff drink as general Christmas cheer permeates the establishment. Setting the tone for the entire film, Willie then walks into a back alley, his Santa boots leaving tracks in the freshly powdered snow, leans up against a brick wall and pukes his guts out as the title card for the Terry Zwigoff comedy appears on screen. In the background you can see the Renaissance Revival-style arches of the Proper Hotel.
Behind 1060 S. Broadway, downtown.
Downtown Lincoln Wood, Illinois, from Surviving Christmas (2004)
At the advice of his ex-girlfriend’s therapost, Chicago-based millionaire and market research executive Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) returns to his suburban childhood home at Christmas to rid himself of long-gestating familial grievances. Upon meeting the current residents, the dispirited Valco family, Drew offers them $250,000 to act as his family so that he can finally experience an old-fashioned family Christmas. As part of their Christmas shopping adventure in the Lincoln Wood town center, Drew and the Valcos take photos with Santa inside an Airstream RV at Santa’s Magic Village. The Culver Hotel rises in the background, placing Santa’s Magic Village on the Culver Studios lot, not in Illinois.
3912 Van Buren Pl., Culver City.
Gotham City from Batman Returns (1992)
Abandoned by his parents and tossed into the sewers beneath the frozen Gotham City Zoo on a snowy Christmas night, Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito) reemerges 33 years later at the height of the holiday season as the notorious umbrella-toting Penguin. With political aspirations of his own, Oswald sends his henchmen of the Red Triangle Circus Sideshow to wreak havoc on the streets of Gotham in an effort to turn its citizens against the mayor.
After shooting 1989’s Batman in the UK, director Tim Burton came back to his hometown of Burbank to shoot the Christmas-set Batman Returns at Warner Bros. Studios, where Gotham City streets were filmed largely between New York Street and Hennesy Street.
Also on Hennesy Street are the Lower East Side tenement facades where, on Christmas Eve, 1989, Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal) lament, in song, about paying the rent in Chris Columbus’s film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Rent. And if you’re still looking for that perfect Christmas gift, Hennesy Street might have you covered. There you’ll find the stairway from Gremlins that led down to Mr. Wing’s antique shop where Billy’s dad stumbled upon Gizmo.
Hennesy Street, Warner Bros. Studio Tour
The “Garbage Day” House from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Years after young Ricky Caldwell witnessed his axe-wielding, Santa-obsessed brother being shot, an adult Ricky (Eric Freeman) recounts his childhood and murderous intervening years from the confines of a psychiatric hospital. In a flashback sequence, Ricky electrocutes his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend with a car battery charger, strangles his girlfriend with a car antenna, and shoots a police officer. He continues on a bloody rampage through a quiet suburban neighborhood decorated for Christmas. In the cult film’s most infamous scene, Ricky maniacally announces that it’s garbage day before shooting a man moving his aluminum trashcans to the curb outside this Sierra Madre dwelling.
Santa Anita Court, Sierra Madre.
Nakatomi Plaza from Die Hard (1988)
Since the release of Die Hard in July of 1988, the Bruce Willis-starring action film has become arguably the most non-Christmas Christmas movie ever made. Thirty stories above Avenue of the Stars, East German terrorists take over a Christmas Eve office party at Nakatomi Plaza. Luckily, rugged New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is on the scene picking off the terrorists one by one. Originally, the producers of Die Hard considered shooting at an empty office building in Houston. However, time and money caused the filmmakers to rethink the location. Fox Plaza in Century City was an obvious replacement. Fox controlled the building and it was adjacent to the 20th Century Fox lot where the production was based. It was also appealing that Fox Plaza, which opened in 1987, wasn’t completely finished and provided empty floors that the filmmakers could adapt to their needs.
Blondie Street from Christmas Vacation, Lethal Weapon, and Gremlins
There’s one neighborhood in town where a number of our favorite holidays films were shot, but no amount of Christmas cheer will gain you access upon arriving at the guard gate of the Warner Bros. Ranch. Located just up the street from the main Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, the ranch was originally founded in 1934 by Columbia Pictures and was the site of classics like The Wild One, High Noon, and 3:10 to Yuma. Popular television shows like Dennis the Menace, Bewitched, and The Partridge Family also filmed there. That fountain from opening title sequence of Friends? Yup, that’s at the ranch. The 1980s, however, saw the ranch’s quintessential suburban neighborhood set, Blondie Street, get a Christmas makeover on a few separate occasions. The Peltzer and Futterman homes from Gremlins are located there, as is the Murtaugh house from Lethal Weapon. Perhaps the crown jewel of Blondie Street is the home that was built specifically as the Griswold house for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Remember Margo and Todd, those uptight neighbors living next door to the Griswolds? They moved into the Murtaugh house. That pool that Clark fantasizes over? It’s situated across the street from the house. Unfortunately, tours are not given at the ranch.
411 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank
Christmas Scenes in Non-Christmas Movies
Miss Donuts from Boogie Nights (1997)
Sunday, December 11, 1983, Sherman Way, Reseda: Fledgling stereo store entrepreneur, Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), walks into Miss Donuts and orders a dozen to go. Another customer sitting in one of the restaurant’s yellow booths reads Hunting & Trails magazine. Just as Buck orders a couple of specialty Christmas doughnuts, a gun-toting thief enters the store and demands the money from the safe. The customer in the booth pulls a .44 Magnum from his vest, shooting the robber. Exchanging fire, the thief shoots the gun enthusiast, causing him to fall forward and uncontrollably shoot a hole in the cashier’s head, splattering brain matter all over Buck’s face, his white suit and the paper cutouts of Santa taped to the store windows.
18231 Sherman Way, Reseda.
Hollywood Police Station from L.A. Confidential (1997)
On Christmas Eve at the Hollywood police station, spiked eggnog is passed around as rumors swirl through the muster room. Some say that officers Brown and Helenowski were beaten to within an inch of their lives after attempting to arrest a group of Mexican men. The injured cops, however, are actually at home tending to bruises. When the men who assaulted the officers are violently dragged into the Hollywood station, ambitious police officer and night watch commander, Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), tries to contain the situation as his drunken colleagues retaliate and a bloody brawl ensues in the station’s holding area. Shot inside the old Venice police station, home to Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) since 1977, the scene is based on the true 1951 incident, Bloody Christmas.
685 Venice Blvd., Venice.
The Liquor Store from Clueless (1995)
After successfully playing matchmaker to Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Kaplan), Bronson Alcott High School socialite, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), has a desire to perform more good deeds when she finds a pet project in new student, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Transforming Tai from grunge to glitter, Cher attempts to set up Tai with the school’s most popular guy, Elton (Jeremy Sisto). Unbeknownst to Cher, Elton has a crush on her, not Tai. Upon driving home from a Christmas house party in the Valley, Cher denies Elton’s advances in a parking lot illuminated by Christmas lights and a 32-foot smiling neon clown. Stranded outside of Circus Liquor, Cher is robbed at gunpoint and forced to lie on the ground, ruining her designer dress in the process.
5600 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood.
Nirdlingers from The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
As an employee Christmas party is in full swing on the sales floor of Nirdlingers department store, Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini) confesses to mild-mannered Santa Rosa barber, Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton), that he received an anonymous blackmail letter threatening to expose an affair. What Big Dave doesn’t reveal is that the woman in question is Ed’s wife and Nirdlingers accountant, Doris Crane (Frances McDormand). Ed, however, is already in the know; he sent the letter to drum up $10,000 to invest in a suspicious dry-cleaning business deal. The Coen Brothers’ black and white, post-WWII noir drama turned the 1925 Seeley’s Furniture building in Glendale into the small-town department store.
1800 S. Brand Boulevard, Glendale.
The All Valley Karate Championship from The Karate Kid (1984)
A couple of visual cues subtly place the climactic All Valley Karate Championship of The Karate Kid at Christmastime. When Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) accompanies Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to the Cobra Kai dojo in an attempt to stop the attacks on young Daniel-san, militant sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), demands that Daniel fight his best student, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). With Kreese having a perceived advantage in his own dojo, Mr. Miyagi motions towards a poster on the dojo wall for the under 18 All Valley Karate Championship taking place at State University on December 19th. Upon checking in at the tournament, shot inside the Matadome at Cal State Northridge, red, gold and silver tinsel line a wooden trophy case and a flocked Christmas tree can be glimpsed in the background.
18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.
Lipton’s from La La Land (2016)
Having been fired once for straying from the approved set list, the owner (J.K. Simmons) of old-school Hollywood restaurant Lipton’s gives struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a second chance to gig during the holidays. When equally struggling actress, Mia (Emma Stone), wanders into Lipton’s, she finds Sebastian veering from the Christmas set list playing a melancholy tune on a baby grand piano. While the exterior of Lipton’s was shot in front of the “You Are the Star” mural at the corner of Wilcox Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, the interior was filmed inside storied Burbank hangout the Smoke House.
4420 W. Lakeside Drive, Burbank.
Mary X-Mas Rave from Go (1999)
Three storylines intersect at a Christmas-themed rave called Mary X-Mas in Doug Liman’s Go, which Entertainment Weekly called “a kind of junior Pulp Fiction.” On the verge of eviction from her apartment, supermarket cashier, Ronna (Sarah Polley), winds up with a supply of common household pain and allergy meds after a drug deal gone wrong. Embarking on an impromptu career as an Ecstasy dealer, Ronna passes off the over-the-counter drugs as X to unsuspecting ravers. The Christmas rave was shot inside a hangar— still standing—at the southwest end of the Santa Monica Airport.
2501 Airport Ave., Santa Monica.
The Meyer House from Better Off Dead (1985)
Tortured teen Lane Meyer (John Cusack) devises multiple ways to off himself after losing his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss) to pompous high school jock, Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier), in Savage Steve Holland’s offbeat ‘80s comedy, Better Off Dead. On Christmas Day, Lane shuts himself in the garage and attempts to poison himself with carbon monoxide. At the same time, Lane’s parents, dressed in homemade reindeer and aardvark jackets, stand in the driveway admiring the new garage door windows that had previously been broken by a disgruntled paperboy. As he passes out in the family car, Lane’s hand hits the gearshift, throwing the vehicle into reverse and plowing through the garage door adorned with a large Christmas bow. The Meyers’ home and that of Lane’s antisocial classmate Ricky Smith (Dan Schneider) can be found up in the Glendale hills.
Virginia Ave., Glendale.
Melvin Belli’s House from Zodiac (2007)
When a series of unsolved murders in the Bay Area baffle police and local journalists, the self-proclaimed Zodiac killer reaches out to prominent San Francisco attorney, Melvin Belli (Brian Cox). A letter from the Zodiac arrives at Belli’s house and Inspectors Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) respond to the lawyer’s Tudor-style mansion while a Christmas party—or Christmass as spelled by the Zodiac—is in full swing. A number of locations in the David Fincher thriller can actually be found in Southern California. Tudor houses being commonplace throughout Hancock Park, a Google image search led us to the Belli house in historic Fremont Place, a gated neighborhood in which many of the houses date back to the 1920s and ’30s.
Fremont Place, Hancock Park.
Please keep in mind that some of these locations are on private property. Do not trespass or disturb the owners. Follow Jared on Twitter at @JaredCowan1.