The Western States have played a starring role in so many of the movies we love.

Woman with a Clapper Board
fzant/Getty Images

Longtime San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle has a new book coming out soon called Dream State: California in the Movies. We can’t wait to flip through it and relive movie moments that shaped our view of CA. Lately we’ve been thinking about our own favorite films set in California, and beyond the Golden State, too—after all, the camera loves the whole region. This is Best of the West, silver screen edition.

10 Things I Hate About You

In my high school theater class we were studying Shakespeare when I discovered the all-time classic 10 Things I Hate About You. Because the movie came out when I was just one year old, I missed it hitting theaters and had to come to it years later when it could be more relatable. The 20th-century take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew features a star-studded cast in one of my favorite cities, Seattle. You can see the parallels between the scenes and the city like the famous paintball scene at Gas Works Park or The Fremont Troll in the background of Cameron and Bianca’s conversation. I am a huge Heath Ledger fan and like to pay tribute to him by rewatching this flick from time to time. This movie is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. —Teaghan Skulszki, editorial intern

Harold and Maude

Are we programmed to like films the same age as ourselves? I, too, was in college when I discovered a movie that came out when I was a year old: cult favorite Harold and Maude. This dark comedy about an unlikely relationship between a morbid young man (his hobby is going to strangers’ funerals) and a fun-loving much older woman isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely loved the offbeat humor and the perfect-for-the-period Cat Stevens soundtrack from the start. Now I also appreciate that the film captures in amber scenes of the Nixon-era Bay Area. Some places have drastically changed—the iteration of the Dumbarton Bridge where Harold and Maude are pulled over with a liberated street tree doesn’t exist anymore. Same with the sculpture garden at the Emeryville mudflats. Others, like the Sutro Baths, already in ruins at the time of filming, have barely changed at all. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

I Can’t Choose Just One!

So many of my favorite movies have been filmed in the West that narrowing the field to just one is 100% impossible. Even restricting the focus to California doesn’t help much. I love The Birds, L.A. Confidential, Valley Girl, The Player, and Boogie Nights equally for different reasons—like my children. When I put my home & design editor hat on, though, there are two that stand out: Foul Play with Goldie hawn, a 1978 romantic-comedy-thriller set in San Francisco (think house plants, house boats, Queen Anne Victorians, etc.) and It’s Complicated, filmed in Santa Barbara. It’s the ultimate Nancy Meyers movie in which a kitchen renovation is a major plot point, and the upholstery will distract you (in a good way) from the Meryl Streep-Steve Martin-Alec Baldwin love triangle.  —Christine Lennon, home and design editor

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

When watching the 2019 blockbuster by Quentin Tarantino, I was stunned by the all-star cast and the set designers’ ability to make Los Angeles transport back to 1969. Filmed across Los Angeles County—Hollywood, Westwood, Malibu, and Fairfax to name a few sites—Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood stays true to portraying Los Angeles’ history and locations, making it feel like an authentic representation. Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio will make you burst out into laughter throughout the movie, and we have a bittersweet moment as Luke Perry makes his final cameo in a movie. —Navpreet Dhillon, editorial intern

Keep Reading: