The LA Eastside in the Movies


The famous 1954 thriller ”THEM” about the giant ants, changed by an atomic bomb blast and who migrated and set up their colonies in the LA storm drain system, filmed in the LA River and Lincoln Hts. I watched them film some of those scenes in the river with actor James Arness before he became Sheriff Dillon in the TV series “Gunsmoke”

As a kid, I also witnessed some filming of the movie “Six Bridges To Cross” starring Tony Curtis and Sal Mineo, done on Sichel St. and around the Main St Bridge in 1955.

In the 1950 film noir classic “DOA” there’s a scene shot on the old wooden pedestrian bridge that took you from Elysian Park to Dog Town.

And of course the LA Eastside has had it’s share of gang movies such as American Me,  Bound by Honor 1993 with a great screenplay by Jimmie Santiago Baca.


And of course the historic movie depicting the “Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial” screen play by Luis Valdez.

Edward James Olmos who is from the LA Eastside also did the inspirational “Stand And Deliver” about teacher Jaime Escalante and his incredible students at Garfield High School.


Then there is the classic Grifo film “Up In Smoke” which used as a local the house off N. Figueroa and Ave. 45. Check out the clip below and you’ll see the Pasadena Frwy, N. Figueroa and Flat Top and the Baby Jungle in the hills behind Strawberry on his moto.


Quentin Tarantino used locations in Highland Park (the bank robbery at the Bank of America on N. Figueroa and Ave 56), in his classic film Reservoir Dogs. The bloody finale was filmed at the Judson Studios.

Just a few of the many filming locations on the LA Eastside besides the many TV shots that are familiar to us natives.

32 thoughts on “The LA Eastside in the Movies

  1. Thanks for the Cheech clip DQ, but I think that was Yosemite Falls behind MC Hammer at the end of it. It’s Hammertime -“ya can’t touch that”.

  2. Yo that was Rev x in Yosemite but I don’t think they actually let him in the park, it was a backdrop. Ya got that?

  3. yeah, up in smoke’s got a clip of the ave 38 street sign. house is still there on the corner of pasadena, though somewhat altered.

    just watched “repo man” recently. great scene in the river with the 6th st bridge as a backdrop.

  4. also, but are you sure about the b of a location in resevoir dogs? i seem to remember most of those scenes being shot on york just up from avenue 50. seem to remember ther was another bank of america or something down that way as well…..

  5. …and a lot of “cheech and chong’s next movie” was shot in city terrace. i was literally across the street when they filmed the scene when they cherry out the van, and during the whole “pendejo” scene. the part with the pee in the bottle was shot right in front of an old school friend’s house just up the hill from the intersection of city terrace drive and pomeroy….

  6. Chale! chale and Mustafa, that wasn’t MC Hammer, Rev X or Yosemite Falls in the Up In Smoke clip, if you were from the Eastside you would know it’s MC Memo and Indio from Lomita Mara coming down from a parranda, with the water from a recent rain pouring off the hills of Geraghty Loma in the background.

    human, yeah “Repo Man”, one of my favorite movies, especially when Harry Dean Stanton is driving his car up the LA River and tells Emilio Estevez, ” When the big one hits this is where I’ll be, heading north, while all the rest of the assholes will be struck on the freeways”. Or Harry Dean Stanton to Estevez, “See those assholes standing around?, look at ‘em, ordinary fucking people, I hate ‘em.
    A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations. The life of a repo man is always intense.”

    Jimmy tumors, Yea, I’m absolutely positive about the location of the bank robbery in Reservoir Dogs, the reason is that my Father lived in the house behind the B of A on N Fig and 56, it’s the house you see in the film in the alley behind the bank. Also, my wife and then 3 year old son got stuck on N Figueroa waiting for the scene to be shot, my boy was freaking and my wifa came home pissed off saying they had the street blocked off for more than half an hour. Ave 56 and N Figueroa.

    Thanks, Above the City; the “baby jungle” is the area on the side of the hill above Griffin Ave that has all the vegetation as opposed to just the dry grass on the rest of the hills. It’s actually the result of an artesian water seep that used to supply the water for the commercial “Indian Head Water Co.” that was below at the bottom of the hill on Griffin Ave. You can still make it out because it is the house that has the big wide driveway and garages where the bottling plant and trucks used to be.
    All the kids in Lincoln Hts knew of the “baby jungle” and the cave that is there (now the entrance is covered with rocks and dirt). That cave was always said to be haunted by the Cucui or the lady that killed her kids with a claw hammer and was still running around the hills from El Sereno to Happy Valley to Griffin Ave. We were told that if we didn’t get home before nightfall she would get us kids in those hills and kill us with the claw hammer she killed her own kids with. Yikes! That image of the crazy white lady, bloody claw hammer in her hand, with her hair all wild and blowing in the wind, searching for little kids to kill! It worked well.

    One time as a ten or eleven year old me, and my little brother and Dodi Lujan went into that cave. We had to crawl in on all fours for about 30 to 50 feet, it was pitch black and we couldn’t see. About 50 ft in you could stand up and the walls and ceiling of the cave were covered in some kind of moss or roots that were dripping water. Supposedly the cave goes back a long ways but we never got to the end because we all fell into a hole of some kind about six ft deep. It was pitch black and I pushed Dodi Lujan up out of the hole, he reached down and pulled me up by the arms, but my little brother who about 8 years old was too short and we couldn’t reach down enough to grab his arms. We told him we would go get help and come back for him.
    He started yelling at the top of his lungs “You dirty motherfuckers better not leave me! You cocksuckers! You fucking deserters! You chickenshit fucking pricks better not leave me here!”
    Such dirty language from that little kid! But it worked on us, I hung on to Dodi’s arms and he reached down into that hole and grabbed my little brother and we pulled him up.
    We never went into that cave again!
    But on the subject of caves and storm drains, why is it that little kids are fascinated by caves? We couldn’t help ourselves and went into all the caves in the hills, above Happy Valley, above Griffin Ave., and above Eastlake below Thomas St there were caves. Also there were a series of caves along the railroad tracks below Elysian Park under the N Broadway Bridge that always had a bunch of hobo’s living in them, wonder if there still there.

  7. DQ, when are you gonna write your book? 🙂
    You know so much about local history, it’s amazing! I’ve been trying to find out the location of the cave for years now. The only answer I get is “They closed it up after some kids got stuck” Was that you??? Nobody seems to know exactly where the cave is. I spent A LOT of time exploring the hill, looking for the cave and just going for hikes. My friends and I even got drunk one night and pitched a tent at the flat top part of the hill. It was a very uncomfortable sleep.
    I used to live on Griffin and the hill was my backyard. We tied a rope to one of the walnut trees at the top of the hill near the small grove of palm trees. It made it easier to get up there for our excursions.
    I always asked my neighbors why more people didn’t go up in the hills and most of them said it had to do with fear of dogs, cholos or some other unknown entity. Maybe cause they were older, they were afraid to say they were really avoiding La Llorana! hahaha!
    Back in the 90s, some developer wanted to build a bunch of ugly houses up there. The neighborhood fought against it and amazingly, the housing project idea was abandoned.
    Perhaps our love for caves is primal, some ancestral memory of our human beginnings. Okay, so please tell me, where exactly is the cave? 🙂

  8. Chimatli, if you come down the hill from flat top towards the “baby jungle” it will be at the top of the trail before you go down into the “jungle”. It has been covered but you’ll be able to see the entrance because it is all scraped away and bare with no weeds on it and looks different from the surroundings due to the light colored small rocks and dirt surrounding it. The entrance wasn’t very big and we had to crawl into it on all four’s. And be careful of the poison oak up there, we used to get it so bad our whole bodys would swell up and leak. My Abuela used to give us cold baths with Purex in the water but that shit didn’t work either. Ouch!
    PS, you can actually see the lighter colored cave entrance from Griffin Ave or even the Pasadena Frwy. I often think of that dangerous ass cave and us in it while driving down the Frwy.

  9. SWAT (the movie) was filmed on N. Broadway at the beautiful old Security Pacific Building (which was torn down to build the sucky CVS). If you remember the movie there are all kind of explosions, machine gun fire, helicopters etc. It went on the whole day. One of my Asian neighbors seemed really scared, another neighbor was like “What’s going on? It sounds like a revolution is starting and there’s nothing on the news!” They were both so relieved when I told them it was just a movie.

  10. Don’t forget that a movie about the Black Panthers. There is a scene at a park in Oakland that was actually shot across from my home in Boyle Heights. The park is Prospect park.

  11. DQ- Great post again as usual!! My only experience with some filming was in 1973-74 my buddy’s cousin Tommy Rosales Jr, a stunt man and actor,he was the one from 11th st that Chuco stabs in “Boulevard Nights”, was doing some work in a George Segal movie called “The Terminal Man”. I was a kid we went to Calvary Cemetary in ELA to watch and hang out as guests of Tommy Rosales, I had a yellow Schwinn Super Sport 10 speed(WOW!) that the director wanted to buy from me.(no sale)
    The creepy part about the whole thing is the ending scene in the movie is a young boy’s funeral. What blew everybodys mind was the fact that in the funeral procession they had a big poster of the boy who died, he looked exactly like me!! The director and many others were stunned by the coincidence!!

  12. Vince, I have met Tommy Rosales on a number of occasions. I used to play in the Stunt Mans Golf Tournament for quite a few years. Tommy seemed like a very nice guy and family man.
    Did he have a brother that was a stunt man also?
    Seems I remember he did.

    PS I’m glad you didn’t sell your Schwinn Super Sport Vince, you would have never forgiven yourself

  13. DQ- I don’t remember his brother, I never got to meet him, sometimes when Tommy would go on vacation in the 80’s we would house sit for him, he had a nice canton up in the Hollywood hills, we had a blast when we hung out there!! He was always so nice to us, always inviting us to watch him film many movies and tv shows, he has quite an extensive stunt man/actor resume.

  14. films/tv shows shot in the Lincoln Heights area: “Training Day” used a house on Thomas Street in the part where the cholos are partying and Ethan Hawke is about to get killed but is rescued by the fact that he had saved one of the cholos’ nieces from being raped. Hawke’s character also takes an M.T.A. bus down Darwin Avenue(although no buses actually run down that street)/ “Blood in/Blood Out” uses the road near Flattop (Two Tree avenue past the steep hill on Thomas Street near Lincoln High) during the knife fight scene. and Minnesota Street; oddly a car going down Minnesota onto Eastlake suddenly winds up in East L.a.. / “The Streets of East L.A.”1979 Joanne Woodward/Lorenzo Lamas? shot near Bi-Rite/chapalita on Broadway/a “knight rider” episode about what else? gangs shot near taco bravo,elysian park entrance(also used in Lethal Weapon 2)/ the swat movie with Colin Farrel shot on Broadway between workman and Daily(Bank robbery scene)/ Helltown t.v. show with Robert Blake shot on Workman in a church where i use to go to Headstart in, that church was torn down and now there’s apts. there./There was a PBS movie with Tony Plana as a Mexican immigrant struggling to pay for his daughter’s quinceniera shot on Minnesota and near Sacred Heart/Laurel and Hardy had their first coupling in a movie shot on Lincoln Park Avenue near where the Dmv is now at/”hard times” with that Batman guy and Freddy Rodriquez shot on Broadway near Daly/the cover of Tierras album shot on Flattop/”WalkOut” does not use Lincoln High, what was used instead?i don’t know/Pedro actor from Napoleon Dynamite claims to be from the Heights/ Robert Young from Marcus Welby M.D. went to Lincoln High/ The old jail has been used as a film location, can’t recall for what, Los Lobos played backyard parties in the Heights/”Street Knights” with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker filmed in the Heights too/

  15. If you recall any type of t.v. show/movie shot in Lincoln Heights/Eastside not already mentioned add to the discussion

  16. The Los Angeles River, especially as it “flows” pass the Eastside has appeared in many movies, t.v., videos and the bridges over it in commercials. Here are some that I recall: “Grease”;Danny Zuko races Grease Lightning against his acne scarred rival/Cha-Cha’s man, Red Hot Chili Peppers’Anthony Keides(sic) famous fall from grace took place “Under the Bridge” with some tecatos,Kid Frost’s “La Raza” video,”To Live and Die In L.A.’s famous car chase with william petersen/”Colors” as Frog’s gang goes on a revenge mission/ Mi vida Loca cholo casanova recalls the days the river overflowed/”Blood In/Blood Out(Bound by Honor) also uses the river as a story backdrop/Resurrection Blvd- the silent war scarred brother tosses a cholo over the bridge because he had threatened his little sister/i know there’s more but i can’t recall- add to the list!

  17. That bridge at 4th and Lorena has been used in a lot of movies, hasn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s the bridge in Colors when the cops ask those guys “have you seen any gang members around?”. And then again later in the film, as you pointed out, when the 21st street gang goes on their revenge mission. They give the impression that 4th and Lorena is en route to Broadway/South Central from Belmont tunnel. LOL. But hey, it’s all cinematography. It worked. I loved the sequence where all of those guys were under the bridge listening to Brenton Wood “oogum boogum” and yelling at the 21st street gang, then it cuts to Rocket listening to Ice T’s “squeeze the trigger”. Awesome music sequence. There’s a lot of things I didn’t like about Colors but there some memorable scenes and characters, that’s for sure.

    I think the bridge at 4th and Lorena is used in the beginning of Boulevard Nights, too. I’ve read that they’re turning the dirt area underneath it into a park, with a skateboard ramp, although I just tried to find the link and couldn’t. Is it another bridge they’re doing that at?

  18. Another flick shot in Lincoln Heights is “Black Dahlia”, they use the motel across from Lincoln Park,Hilary Swank meets the cop(Josh Harnett) for a little o-la-la action. Lincoln Heights is also mentioned in the dialouge(I saw this in Alhambra and the lines cracked the audience up) The wife of a Hollywood set maker tells Josh Harnett that her husband made a deal to have a street in l.a. named after her; she expresses her disappointment in the location of that street being in Lincoln Heights where(and i quote)”mexican prostitutes show off their breasts to passerby.” Josh Harnett’s cop character responds by mentioning he was born and raised in Lincoln Heights!/ I was told that Lincoln Heights appears in Pearl Harbor but I can’t seem to recall what scene specifically./The documentary “Chicano” shows Lincoln Heights during the 68 blowouts,notably Lincoln High but one scene discussing police infiltration and surveillance of the moviemiento shows this area on Broadway between Sichel and Workman and a cop walks out between two buildings;where the chamber of commerce meets and where Phoenix Furniture used to be(now a swapmeet). Also I’m pretty sure when the kids of 68′ meet to voice their demands that it’s Hazard Park.

  19. My homies Jerry Aguilera/Villa born and bred in Lincoln Heights comes out in “Mi Familia”; he lights up Jimmy Smits’character’s(chucho?)cigarrette as he walks down the street. He also comes out in the jail cell scene in Chris Rocks “CB4”; Chris Rock is scared as the homies in the cell recognize him and start walking up to him, chris thinks he’s about to get his butt kicked but my friend Jerry winds up just auditioning a wack ass rap for him.

  20. can’t remember if it was already mentioned before here — and i can’t seem to find any reference to it above — but the big gang fight/shootout scenes of “falling down” include shots of boyle heights.

  21. hey jimmy t.! that falling down scene, i always thought that was Echopark/fillipino town/rampart area, anyone know exactly? The surplus store scene where he jacks the Frederic Forrest neo-nazi is definitely in Echo Park on Sunset.

  22. One great movie filmed in Lincoln Heights I forgot to mention is Clint Eastwood’s “The Changeling” with Angelina Jolie. The movie is based on an actual kidnapping that took place in the Heights back in the 20’s. Sacred Heart Church is used in a scene where John Malkovich’s character condemns the LAPD for its corruption and oppressive tactics(to put it lightly.)I don’t exactly know if any other scenes actually take place in the Heights, but it’s constantly mentioned in the dialogue(“Lincoln Heights Police Station”,”Lincoln Park juvenille division.”) Angelina Jolie’s character Christine Collins resides on Avenue Twenty-sometthing and she works at the phone company(was it possibly the one that use to exist on Daly by the present day Smart and Final?) The house they use as her home looks like it possibly could have been in the Heights.
    Also if the actual juvenille hall on Eastlake was used in “American Me,” then you could add it to list of movies made in Lincoln Heights.

  23. I just saw a straight to video/now on satellite movie called “The Take” with John Leguizamo and Rosie Perez and Boyle Heights is featured prominently in its storyline. John plays an armored truck guard who is in on an armed robbery but is betrayed and shot during the commission of the robbery. John’s character lives on “City Terrace” survives and seeks out “Baby Boy” to avenge his betrayal. Broadway in Downtown is the backdrop for the climax of the story. Eastern Avenue,El Tapatio Bar and other locales are featured in the movie. A lot of Raza have supporting roles and act as extras in the flick. Hey, why is it that the Puerto Rican Actors get a lot of the acting jobs that could have been played by chicano actors? I guess they have the better conncections, still they usually do a good job of it(remember Esai Morales in La Bamba,My Family(also with Jimmy Smits,JLO.)

  24. XicanoSerg, I’ve noticed Hollywood subbing Puerto Rican characters and actors for Chicano ones too. I think it’s because most of the producers are from the east coast, and their experience with Latin culture is with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. They’re just too lazy to take a 5 mile drive across the river to see Latin culture on the west coast, so they just create their own vision of what Latin culture on the west coast is. The cholos in Falling Down were hideous. The arguing between them and the girl driving the car when they’re shooting up Michael Douglas, which is a great scene otherwise, is so corny it almost ruins the film for me. And I agree, Esai Morales was great in La Bamba. La Bamba was directed by Luis Valdez, a Chicano born and raised in California, so I think that made the difference. And it’s worth noting that Lou Diamond Phillips isn’t Chicano either. So Valdez made sure that two non Chicanos looked, acted, and felt Chicano. I think it all comes down to film production. Too many producers and directors just don’t know and/or don’t care about Latin culture on the west coast, so they just cut corners.

  25. Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man” has scenes filmed in Elysian Park(when he says “yes” to a bum wanting a ride there) and North Broadway in Lincoln Heights is prominently shown when Jim gets a scooter ride from his co-star Zooey DaSchanel. You can tell they filmed this scene late at night because places like Fashion City are closed and there’s that thin fog that settles onto the street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *