Hiding up in the mountains
—Billy Joel, "Los Angelenos"
L.A., Los Angeles, City of Angels, Shaky Town—by any of its nicknames, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciúncula  is one of the world's most famous cities and home to much of the US film and television industry. Also gets bonus points for having one of the longest and one of the smallest place names in the world, and being the largest metro area in the US contained entirely within a single state.
It has been described as the biggest small town in the country instead of its second-largest city. As with many cities in the American West, it experienced an explosive growth in the years after World War II. With the rise of car culture at the same time, Los Angeles raced outwards in all directions, blanketing the land with Suburbia. To cope with the sheer vastness of the place, the local lexicon splits the megalopolis into a patchwork of neighborhoods and cities that don't legally exist. Of these, Hollywood is the most well known, but other examples are: Venice Beach, Century City, Encino, Sherman Oaks. There are also many independent cities and towns that both surround and are surrounded by Los Angeles, such as Compton, Santa Monica, East Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and El Segundo. Don't worry, it can be rather confusing even for long time residents.
LA is sometimes called the "City on Wheels"—nobody walks anywhere in Los Angeles. A nice advantage to this sprawl is that most houses will have at least a small backyard, and the climate lends itself well to gardening. Bordered by Pacific Ocean on one side, LA has glorious weather for most of the year, full of sunshine and trade-winds and relatively insect-free.
Yeah, you wish you lived there, don't you? It comes with a side order of bad air quality, the worst traffic in America, expensive real estate, and all the headaches that come with sharing 4000 square miles (~10,000 square kilometers) with over four million of your fellow human beings, all of whom want your parking spot.
Owing to the postwar boom and its unique automobile culture, Los Angeles can be described as the home of the drive-thru. Name a fast-food chain subjected to Burger Fool style parody, and odds are it was founded in the greater L.A.-O.C.-San Diego area. A handful of such chains include McDonalds, Taco Bell, Del Taco, Jack in the Box, Wienerschnitzel, In and Out, Rubio's, El Pollo Loco, Tommy's, and Carl's Jr.
When you visit, be sure to look for the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Bowl (no relation), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (sometimes called the Taj Mahoney, after a bishop purported to have an inflated sense of self-worth), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (don't call it The Gehry Hall, no one will know what you're talking about), as well as the archetypal Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and the fantastic shopping in the Fashion District of Downtown LA—which is polluted, noisy, and a concrete jungle, but the prices are so good.
The film district is mostly in the San Fernando Valley. Disney, Universal, and Warner Brothers' studios are all in the Valley. Paramount is south of Hollywood Boulevard, and Fox and Sony are also on the Westside. The non-filming parts of The Industry may, of course, be done anywhere.
If you want to confuse a local, ask about the Los Angeles River. You've probably seen it. If you watched Terminator II you may remember the scene where the T-1000's semi truck crashes off of the road and chases John Connor down a concrete drainage channel with an inch of water of in it. El Rio de Los Angeles. It was also the location of the big race scene in Grease, and an emergency space shuttle landing in The Core.
A Quick History
Los Angeles was first built in 1781 as an outpost for travellers, cattle ranchers and the Spanish military. The town at that time was medieval-style, radiating from a central marketplace. Despite a tiny population, the town was staggeringly diverse, and by the time of the Mexican-American War, it housed as many Italians, Chinese and Americans as native Mexicans. Throughout the Spanish and Mexican colonial period, the main product of the region was leather (cattle were raised just to be slaughtered for the leather), which was then traded to oceangoing freighters for manufactured goods. The first book about California, written in English, was the journal of a sailor on a leather-trading ship (R.H. Dana, Two Years Before the Mast).
During the Mexican-American War, Los Angeles was initially captured and garrisoned by a detachment of U.S. Marines, who were then overrun by an uprising of Mexican ranchers and ranch workers. The Marines were eventually rescued, and the city recaptured, by a conglomerate force of U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Army forces, as well as the former army of the California Republic (which had since rebranded itself as the 'California territorial militia', despite the fact that California was never a territory, and continued to carry the Republic's flag, for lack of any other regimental battle flag.)
Even after the Mexican-American War, history seemed to pass by Los Angeles for another generation. While the population of California boomed in the Gold Rush years, very few, if any, of that growth was seen in the southern coastal region. In 1869, completion of the Transcontinental Railroad theoretically connected California to the rest of the United States, but Los Angeles was still separated from the rails by a few hundred miles and at least one mountain range.
That all changed when the Southern Pacific Railroad managed to reach Los Angeles in the mid-1880s. At nearly the same time, the refrigerated railroad car was introduced, and the economy of Southern California quickly shifted to fruit and vegetable farming. The railroad ran advertisements for California oranges across the United States and offered incredibly cheap immigrant fares on returning trains. Los Angeles and its surroundings entered a period of rapid growth which continued through the early 20th century.
In the 1920s, the area boasted a vast metropolitan rail system (today's Metro Rail taken Up to Eleven) as well as a finely tuned municipal system, which together gave LA the biggest, best public transit system in the world. For what happened there, see Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. LA's golden age was at the end of this era, which many people know from Film Noir or perhaps The Rocketeer.
Los Angeles began to decline in The Fifties as crime increased, inner-city neighborhoods fell into disrepair, and huge numbers of people fled to the suburbs. Despite many civic improvement projects, things didn't really pick up until the 1984 Olympics  The old rail system began rebuilding in The Nineties (construction has sped up significantly since the Great Recession) and people no longer needed cars in the inner city. Having possibly hit the hard limits of urban sprawl, the outer suburbs are now in significant decline following the subprime mortgage bust while Los Angeles and nearby cities like Pasadena continue re-building-up.
Los Angeles itself is often a metaphor for change, as both a positive and a negative force. People come to Los Angeles, in reality as well as in fiction, to reinvent themselves.
Like New York City, LA has appeared in thousands of works of fiction and every reader here has probably had or has an LA-based show on their regular watch-list.
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew often featured Los Antelopes, Califurnia, Earth-C's Los Angeles. Los Antelopes' various neighborhoods and suburbs were often featured in stories, including Saint Bernardino (San Bernadino), Bel-Airedale (Bel-Air), Beaverly Hills (Beverly Hills) and Follywood (Hollywood), the latter where the Zoo Crew's headquarters were located.
- Marvel's Runaways, where one of the major plot points is the fact that the kids are in LA and not NYC.
- DC Comic's series Manhunter follows Federal Prosecutor Kate Spencer, who is based out of LA.
- Battle: Los Angeles: Ironically, not actually filmed in LA, but in Louisiana (which has the postal abbreviation, LA). Based on an incident during World War 2 when antiaircraft guns opened fire on an unknown object- the film is based on it being an alien aircraft, and the aliens coming back.
- Blade Runner
- The Big Lebowski
- The Big Sleep
- Boogie Nights
- Born in East LA: at the start, anyway.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The film is set in the San Fernando valley.
- Cars - the final race is at their Expy of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
- Cats Don't Dance
- Cheech and Chong
- Escape From L.A.
- The Fall
- Falling Down
- Get Shorty
- Grand Canyon
- Hollywood Homicide
- Killer of Sheep
- Kiss Me Deadly
- L.A. Confidential
- L.A. Story
- LA Without A Map
- Lethal Weapon and its sequels.
- Mulholland Drive
- The Rocketeer
- Repo Man
- Rush Hour
- The Soloist
- Singin' in the Rain
- Sunset Boulevard
- The Terminator
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- The film Los Angeles Plays Itself, done by Thom Anderson, takes a look at Los Angeles as it is shown in the movies—not Los Angeles pretending to be other cities There is, a marked divide between Los Angeles and Hollywood - Hollywood seems to find a perverse delight in destroying Los Angeles every chance it gets - Armageddon, Independence Day, you name it. They'd do it more, but the dearth of tall buildings makes it somewhat anticlimactic to watch. The film also points out that only a city with an inferiority complex would allow itself to be called L.A. so frequently.
- The Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Chandler was a poet before diving into hard-boiled detective fiction, and it shows in his narrative descriptions of the City of Angels.
- Michael Connelly has written a long series of mystery and detective fiction novels in the Raymond Chandler spirit, most of which are set in Los Angeles and which display a deep familiarity with the city's history and culture.
- The Alex Delaware novels of Johnathan Kellerman and the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novels of Faye Kellerman. Since the Kellermans are husband and wife, their characters have had at least one Crossover.
- Many of LA-native Harry Turtledove's short stories and novels. In particular, The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, and "Counting Up/Counting Down" are full of references to San Fernando Valley landmarks.
- The majority of Snow Crash is set in Los Angeles. (Geographically, at least. Politically, it's mostly set in Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong, Cita di Cosa Nostra, The Farms of Cloverdell, The Clink, and, very occasionally, the United States of America.)
- The main characters of A Wind Named Amnesia visit L.A early in the story.
- In Shanghai Girls, sisters Pearl and May Chin move to Chinatown in 1938.
- In Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Percy and his friends travel to L.A--- which is the current location of the Underworld.
- Angel the series, plus the occasional episode of its parent series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- The Closer
- Dollhouse is based in LA as well. Native New Yorker Joss Whedon likes his adopted city as a setting.
- Dragnet: "This is the city: Los Angeles, California."
- Naturally, The Movie was set here too.
- Jonas LA
- Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
- The L.A. Complex
- Maybe this is kind of a reach, but... L.A. Law.
- Law & Order: LA
- Men of a Certain Age is set and filmed in Granada Hills, out in The Valley.
- NCIS: Los Angeles
- Noah's Arc
- Most episodes of Perry Mason
- Power Rangers with the city of Angel Grove, explained by California being founded by the British Empire.
- And while they had adventures worldwide, the Power Rangers Operation Overdrive team is based in San Angeles.
- The Rockford Files.
- Six Feet Under
- Some Zorro series took place here. At the time, Spanish was the de jure language.
- Bad Religion: "Los Angeles is Burning" .
- Indeed, their first studio album was called How Could Hell be Any Worse? (which receives a Call Back in the above song). The cover image was just a shot of L.A.
- Billy Joel: "Los Angelinos".
- The Briggs: "This is LA".
- Cheech and Chong: "Born in East LA".
- Concrete Blonde: about half of their songs, but "Still In Hollywood", "Roses Grow" and "God Is A Bullet" more than most.
- Counting Crows: "Goodnight L.A", "Come Around".
- The Doors: "LA Woman".
- Eagles: "Life In The Fast Lane" and "Hotel California"
- Eagles of Death Metal: "Wannabe in LA".
- Frontman Jesse Hughes told The Sun January 30, 2009: "You know when you're some place and you want to be somewhere else. But when you're not in that place, you want to be there. That's LA. It has its skeletons but when you leave it, s--t, all you want to do is go back."
- Guns N' Roses: "Welcome to the Jungle".
- (from Songfacts) This song is about Los Angeles. It exposes the dark side of the city many people encounter when they go there to pursue fame. Guns N' Roses knew this side of the city well: in 1985, they lived in a place on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles that they called "Hell House." The house was often filled with drugs, alcohol and groupies.
- Jonathan Coulton: "I Hate California," a tongue-in-cheek song complaining about California, specifically calls out Los Angeles: "I don't blame the Beach Boys, don't blame Hollywood / I don't blame LA, though I probably should..."
- My Chemical Romance: "Battery City" is a ridiculously thinly-veiled version of Los Angeles in the "Danger Days" universe.
- Meat Loaf: "Los Angeloser".
- Rancid: "L.A. River". It's about people coming to LA, not making it out and getting caught up in all sorts of bad stuff. The LA River is the backdrop.
- Randy Newman: "I love LA".
- Newman was asked to write a song about Los Angeles as a theme to the 1984 Olympics held there. Instead, he wrote a tongue-in-cheek "homage" to the car-cruising, sun-worshipping LA culture, complete with mentions of a "Big nasty redhead" and a "Bum down on his knees." LA officials didn't think this was the image they wanted, but Newman released the song anyway. For a while it was the adopted theme song for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. (from Songfacts)
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers make a lot of Los Angeles references in their songs, which may or may not be coded drug references.
- X: "Los Angeles". This song is about a very racist person that feels compelled to leave the city for a less diverse environment.
- Songs about how much Los Angeles sucks seems to be a popular theme for indie rockers from the Pacific Northwest.
- Death Cab for Cutie has "Why You'd Want To Live Here" off of The Photo Album, asking the obvious question. Ironically, lead singer Ben Gibbard ended up moving to Los Angeles; apparently, marrying Zooey Deschanel is the reason why one might want to live in LA.
- The Decemberists have "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," a delightfully snarky attack on the lifestyle of certain Angelinos. The song was penned while lead singer/songwriter/etc. Colin Meloy was visiting his sister, who lives there. Hmm....
- LA, LA, Baby! by the Jonas Brothers for Jonas LA.
- Tool's song "Ænema" is one giant Take That at the city which fantasizes about it being buried beneath an ocean. This song is an Homage and Shout-Out to Bill Hicks, as mentioned below.
- Bill Hicks, born in Texas, spent several years in Los Angeles and never tired of reminding his audience how much he hated it. Arizona Bay is a borderline Concept Album which repeatedly comes back to the subject of how much better off the country and the world would be if Southern California sank into the Pacific.
- Los Angeles is an important spot in the Demon: The Fallen fluff, being the city where the ex-Archangel Lucifer himself has resided since its foundation (the city name is the clue).
- In Nomine's published canon has LA as a city heavily influenced by the demonic forces, with the closest angelic stronghold being found in Death Valley.
- Vampire Bloodlines is set in and around LA.
- Midnight Club LA
- In Fallout, the city was devastated by nukes during the Great War, and is known as the "Boneyard" among the survivors.
- Future Cop LAPD gives the LAPD a Transforming Mecha and a whacked-out crime wave in the future.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, one of the game's three cities is a Fictional Counterpart called Los Santos, mostly consisting of Downtown, the beaches, and the violent ghettos that protagonist Carl "CJ" Johnson calls home. It's pretty accurate as most of the major landmarks are there and accounted for, even if they are under a different name.
- Grand Theft Auto V will be set in an updated Los Santos and its surrounding countryside.
- True Crime: Streets of LA
- Police Quest IV: Open Season along with SWAT 1-3
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a level set in downtown Los Angeles (recreated for Underground 2), while American Wasteland is ENTIRELY set in L.A.
- L.A. Noire is, logically, set here. The map's pretty realistic, too (One of the first things Team Bondi had to do was remove the freeway.) They used over 180,000 photographs to map out the entire city.
- Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever (first half) take place in Los Angeles during an Alien Invasion.
- Animaniacs: the Warner sibs lived on the Warner Brothers lot, in Burbank; Slappy Squirrel also lived in Burbank.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Patchy the Pirate lives in the LA suburb of Encino.
- Dan Vs. takes place in the Van Nuys neighborhood.
- The Flintstones often features "Hollyrock," the prehistoric version of Hollywood. The adult Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm live there in several 90s TV-movies.
Be sure to try the taco trucks!
- The City of our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the River of Porciúncula, the little portion
- This would turn out to be a Characteristic Trope of the city
- Because of its vast land holdings, population nominally continued to increase, but even today there's a major distinction between the suburban West Side and Valley and the more traditional, landlocked "City."
- Los Angeles is the only American city to host the olympics twice; the first time being in 1932.