Go On Location: Oscar-Winning Best Picture Locations in Los Angeles

14 March 2018


Los Angeles has been home to the Academy Awards ever since the very first ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Eight Oscar trophies were handed out that night, including one to “Wings” for Outstanding Picture. In the past 90 years, numerous Best Picture winners have filmed in L.A. Read on for a list of ten memorable Oscar-winning movie locations that are found in the City of Angels.


Though “The Sting” was set in 1930s-era Chicago, the 1974 Best Picture winner was lensed largely in the City of Angels. One of the most prominent locations featured in the flick was the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, where grifter Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) works with his scrappy girlfriend, Billie (Eileen Brennan). To give the carousel the illusion of being located in the Windy City, artist Albert Whitlock superimposed a matte painting of the Chicago skyline behind the two-story Moorish structure. Located adjacent to the historic Santa Monica Pier, the Hippodrome was originally constructed in 1916 by Charles I.D. Looff and his son, Arthur, and looks much the same today as it did in “The Sting.” Three different merry-go-rounds have called the place home over the years. The current one, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #62, was built in 1922 and transferred to Santa Monica in 1947. 


In the 1994 Best Picture winner, “Forrest Gump” the exterior of Cole’s, L.A.’s’ oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant, served as the outside of Dick Cavett’s television studio, where Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) experiences a less than warm reunion with Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise). In a later scene, the duo rings in the New Year at Cole’s and Forrest informs Dan of his plans to become a shrimp boat captain. The historic eatery was originally established in 1908 and touts itself as the originator of the French Dip sandwich (just don’t tell that to Philippe the Original). Cole’s has been featured in countless productions over the years, including “Rumor Has It,” “Se7en,” “A Lot Like Love” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Bonus fact: Forrest learned to play ping pong and recovered from his war injuries on the second floor of the Ebell of Los Angeles in Hancock Park. 


Inside a small Sunset Boulevard restaurant, Woody Allen famously proposes to girlfriend Diane Keaton over a plate of alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast in the 1977 Oscar-winning Best Picture, “Annie Hall.” The restaurant, which at the time of the filming was an organic health food eatery named The Source, played itself in the movie. The vegetarian cafe was established by the founder of The Source Family cult, Father Yod and was insanely popular in its day - it even became something of a celebrity hot spot. When Yod began to fear that the apocalypse was imminent, he sold The Source and fled to Hawaii. Today, the space houses Cabo Cantina Sunset Strip, but it’s still very recognizable from its onscreen appearance in the comedy classic. 


Employing Farsi signage, period cards, posters of Ayatollah Khomeini and 800 Persian extras, Ben Affleck transformed Terminal 1 at Ontario International Airport into the Tehran Airport circa 1979 for the filming of his 2012 Oscar winner, “Argo.” Terminal 1, which is no longer in use, appeared in two of the movie’s scenes. It’s initially shown when Affleck first arrives in Tehran in order to rescue the six American Embassy workers. The terminal was later used in the movie’s nail-biting climax, when Affleck and the escapees board a plane to the U.S. under the guise of being a film crew. The Iranian mountains that appear in the background were digitally added, as was the roaring 747 that the airport security workers unsuccessfully try to chase down. 


In the innovative Best Picture winner “The Artist” (2011), the rear side of Red Studios Hollywood masked as Kinograph Studios, where actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is employed. The lot’s back entrance, which is located on Lillian Way, looks quite different in person - a false front and fake guard shack were installed for the shoot. The front of the property has also been immortalized on the big screen - it masqueraded as Maroon Cartoons in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which won Oscars in 1989 for Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. The historic lot is an actual working studio in real life. It was originally founded as Metro Pictures Back Lot #3 in 1915. The site has had numerous owners over the years and was leased for a time by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who turned it into the very first Desilu Studios. In 2010, the property was sold to the Red Digital Camera Company and is currently known as Red Studios Hollywood. Both of the property’s entrances can be easily viewed from the street.



The famous line from “Casablanca” reads, “We’ll always have Paris,” but if Humphrey Bogart had said, “We’ll always have Burbank,” it would have been more accurate. The Paris flashback scenes from the 1943 Best Picture winner were not actually shot in the City of Light, but on the backlot of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. Filming took place on the studio’s appropriately named French Street, though due to the changing nature of backlot facades, the exact spot where Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick Blaine (Bogart) learned of the impending German occupation remains a bit of a mystery. Bogie fans who wish to see French Street in person can catch a glimpse of it and even stroll among the picturesque storefronts via the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour.


The most famous scene from the 1972 Best Picture winner, “The Godfather” – and arguably one of the most famous scenes in movie history - took place at a mansion in Beverly Hills known as the Beverly House. Designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann in 1927, the 72,000 square-foot estate was the setting when consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) makes movie producer Jack Woltz (John Marley) “an offer he can’t refuse.” Of course, that offer is denied and Woltz wakes up the following morning with the severed head of his beloved horse in his bed. Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst spent his final years at the Beverly House, which also hosted John and Jacqueline Kennedy on their honeymoon. Only the exterior of the estate was was used in the filming - interior scenes were filmed at the Guggenheim estate on Long Island. 


The Culver Studios was originally founded in 1918 by silent film producer Thomas Ince. The first building constructed on the lot, then known as Thomas H. Ince Studios, was the Mansion, a massive 15,000 square-foot Colonial-style administration building that was modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. Producer David O. Selznick purchased the site in 1935 and renamed it Selznick International Pictures. His 1939 Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind” was lensed on the premises. In the epic, the Mansion’s gate and landscaped front walkway were used as the entrance to the new Atlanta home of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh). The Mansion’s exterior was covered with a matte painting for the shoot and looks nothing like Rhett and Scarlett’s estate. The scenes of Atlanta burning also took place on the studio’s former backlot. To create the fiery scenes, Selznick simply burned old sets, which made room for him to eventually build the Tara façade. The Mansion and its front walkway are still standing and are clearly visible from Washington Boulevard.


The Best Picture of 1988, “Rain Man” was shot on location across the U.S. A few locales are in Los Angeles, including the apartment building where Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) lives. In one scene, Charlie’s autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman, in an Oscar-winning performance), freaks out after setting off the fire alarm while cooking Eggo waffles in a convection oven. The rear side of the complex, located on Evanview Drive, is the area shown in the movie. “Rain Man” is not the building’s only claim to fame – a young Brad Pitt called it home at one point in the 90s. 

If you love cinema, Los Angeles is the mecca of all things film. Speak to your Travel Counsellor today about a trip to the City of Angeles. 

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