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We’re Adding to Our California Movie List

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We’re Adding to Our California Movie List

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If my email inbox is any indication, several essential California movies have yet to be added to our Golden State watch list.

Readers have recommended to me a total of 215 films that reflect California, ranging from romantic comedies to documentaries, and today I’ll be sharing six of them.

I recently watched “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’s 1973 comedy, for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it — not least because the movie features so many young actors who went on to stardom, including Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.

Brian McMahon, a reader who lives in Murrieta, offered a great description of the movie: Set in 1962 in the agriculture-adjacent Central Valley town of Modesto, this low-budget masterpiece captures life just prior to the socially disruptive ’60s. Frequently referred to as a ‘coming-of-age’ story, I suggest this last summer evening with a group of recent high school graduates captures an important life decision we have all made at one time or another: Stay within the comforts of home, or head out into the unknown.”

Here are five more films we’re adding to our watch list, along with what readers shared about them, lightly edited for clarity. You can see the first five California movies we recommended here.

Feel free to email me at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your choices and why you think they deserve to be included. Happy viewing.

“L.A. Confidential” (1997)

“A great story with great acting, capturing the look of postwar L.A. and the early ’50s. It reflects the police corruption and the political sleaze of the time. I grew up in that era in L.A. and it brought memories flooding back. The end credits with Hopalong Cassidy in a parade was the frosting on the cake. So California. So L.A.” — Lynda Ramsey, Los Angeles

“Bullitt” (1968)

“The car chase scenes through the streets of San Francisco are a thrilling ride for the viewer. The 1968 Ford Mustang is a classic California car. And the suspenseful chase scene at the end of the movie through San Francisco is all California. And Steve McQueen’s portrayal of the cop Frank Bullitt is California Cool.” — Jane Winsor, Orinda

“The Birds” (1963)

“‘The Birds’ was based on an event that happened while Hitchcock was visiting Capitola, and then filmed in Bodega Bay. And you can visit a little museum and the places he filmed on a weekend jaunt to a beautiful little coastal town.” — Greg Meyer, Santa Cruz

“The Big Lebowski” (1998)

“No list is complete without ‘The Big Lebowski.’ Filmed all over the region, including Malibu, the old Hollywood Star Lanes bowling alley and even Santa Susana Pass Road. Plus, the best movie ever, with the classic L.A. line, ‘Is there a Ralph’s around here?’” — Stephanie Wilson, Simi Valley

“The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

“The iconic San Francisco locations — Chinatown, the Ferry Building and the Golden Gate Bridge! And what genre could possibly be more compatible with the mysterious and moody atmosphere of our foggy climate than film noir?” — Tina Perdices, San Francisco


We’ve been compiling our California soundtrack for years and have captured most of the hits. What songs do you think still need to be added?

Tell us at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your name, the city where you live and a few sentences on why you think your song deserves to be included.

In a famous scene from the 1968 film “Bullitt,” Steve McQueen’s character walks up to the awning of a corner store, grabs a newspaper, then an apple, a bunch of scallions and a stack of frozen TV dinners and heads back to his apartment across the street.

The scene was filmed at VJ Grocery, a real family-owned corner store in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. It has become something of a destination for movie buffs from around the world, who visit the grocery to recreate McQueen’s shopping scene, SFGate reports. The store has had cameos in other films, including “George of the Jungle” and “Hereafter,” and it was officially designated a legacy business in the city in November 2021.

The grocery is owned by Anastasios Taptelis, who grew up in San Francisco and started working there in 2004, when he was 24; he officially took over the operation from family friends in 2020. The store takes its name from the day it opened — Aug. 15, 1945, also known as V-J Day, when President Harry Truman announced that Japan had surrendered in World War II.

Taptelis has had some difficulties keeping the store running recently, because of rising costs and diminished tourism since the pandemic began. Even so, the steady stream of visitors who come to act out McQueen’s routine and catch a bit of movie magic have helped the shop endure.


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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