Screen Time

32 Cinematic Takes on California

Films and shows to better understand the Golden State

By Margaret Seiler and Portland Monthly Staff Published in the February 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

The Silicon Valley gang at the “incubator”


“Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!” (This isn’t actually true.)

The Real World: San Francisco

Puck was the only one originally from SF, but this season belonged to Pedro, who brought living with HIV into the open.

Fruitvale Station

“Why don’t you catch the train out there? That way you can drink and hang out, and not have to worry about anything.”

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.” (Still checks out!)


“The things that spell San Francisco to me are disappearing fast. I should have liked to have lived here then. Color, excitement, power, freedom.”


Yes, there are wine regions besides Napa and Sonoma.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

“A string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. My God, it’ll be beautiful.”


“Public school?! Might as well send him to Afghanistan!”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

“I’m Sharon Tate. I’m in the movie.”


“I’m not gonna let those Pacific Heights biddies write me off because of a ponytail.”

That’s So Raven

“Oh, snap!”


Be sure to treat your cab drivers well!

Lady Bird

“I have to get out of Sacramento.... It’s soul-killing. It’s the Midwest of California.”

Sullivan’s Travels

“You want to make a picture about garbage cans. What do you know about garbage cans? When did you eat your last meal out of one?”

Dogtown and Z-Boys

“Children took the ruins of the 20th century and made art out of it.”

Valley Girl

Tagline: “She’s cool. He’s hot. She’s from the Valley. He’s not.”

Top Gun

The palm trees, the sunsets, the beach volleyball ... welcome to San Diego.

Silicon Valley

Ah, coders living in an “incubator” (actually just a house) with a misogynist landlord.

Sunset Boulevard

“A neglected house gets an unhappy look. This one had it in spades.”


Yes, Vegas really is only a four-hour drive away from LA.

The Big Sleep

“Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains.”

The Big Lebowski

“He lives in North Hollywood on Radford, near the In-N-Out Burger.” “Oh, the In-N-Out Burger’s on Camrose.” “Near the In-and-Out Burger.”

LA Story

“You don’t meet someone named SanDeE* just anywhere.”

The Graduate

Essential part of Berkeley’s ever-evolving relationship with “plastics!”


“LA’s a small town. People talk.”

Bring It On

“Every time we get some, here y’all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different.”

Blade Runner

Even in the sci-fi future, LA is bleak but with great noodle shops.

Beverly Hills 90210

Brenda and Brandon’s house is actually in Pasadena 91001.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

“West Covina ... that’s near the beach, right? “Yeah, only two hours. Well, four in traffic.”

Singin’ in the Rain

“Just because you’re a big movie star—wild parties, swimming pools—you expect every girl to fall in a dead faint at your feet. Well, don’t touch me.”


Frogs falling from the sky: it’s something that happens.

The OC

Apparently moving from Chino to Newport Beach is also something that happens: “Welcome to the OC, bitch!”

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