On nearby Ocean Park Boulevard, it was one of the city’s Big Blue buses that Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) chases down, boards, and ends up driving on that fateful day depicted in the 1994 action thriller Speed. “It’s just like driving a really big Pinto,” she later tells Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) as she, in spite of LA traffic, keeps the rig’s speedometer above 50 mph to prevent it from exploding.
The Ocean Park neighborhood, along with adjacent Venice Beach, is also the setting of the 2005 biographical drama Lords of Dogtown, a true story starring Emile Hirsch and Heath Ledger, which outlines the inception of Santa Monica’s beloved skateboarding culture in the mid 1970s. (Homages to this origin story remain in full sight at Dogtown Coffee, which recently opened its second location in the Fairmont Miramar.)
And yards from the Miramar’s front doorstep, the California Incline was featured in the final chase scene of the 1963 celebrity-studded comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, when police captain T.G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy) decides to steal off with a briefcase of unearthed cash and bolt for Mexico.
Santa Monica has also been the location of choice for a number of television shows, hosting sets for popular series like Pacific Blue, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NCIS: Los Angeles, and the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Private Practice. Throughout its telecasting tenure, the city has also served as the stomping grounds for the wacky trio of roommates in Three’s Company, the backdrop for Billy Bob Thornton’s unraveling mystery in Goliath, and the sandy setting for the buoyant cast members of Baywatch.
Through a self-guided tour of Santa Monica’s legacy in filmmaking, visitors can expect to recognize more than a few familiar scenes. And it’s up to the viewer’s discretion whether to pair their close-up of the city’s cinematic history with a soundtrack of their own making, a tub of popcorn to-go, or the pink and orange crossfade of a world-famous Pacific sunset — or all three.