Pacific Coast Highway – The 9 BEST Must-Watch Movies/Films Shot on PCH

Pacific Coast Highway – The 9 BEST Must-Watch Movies/Films Shot on PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway is a road that runs along the California coastline, and it’s often called one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It’s no wonder that filmmakers and directors have used this stunning scenery as a backdrop for many movies and films over the years.

From dramatic car chases to romantic sunsets, the Pacific Coast Highway has been the setting for some unforgettable moments in cinema. In this blog post, we’ll be exploring nine of the best movies and films that were shot on the PCH, and highlighting the breathtaking locations and stunning views that make this highway so special. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and let’s dive into the world of movies that showcase the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway.

1. “The Graduate” (1967)

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Starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, “The Graduate” is a classic film that follows the story of a recent college graduate who has an affair with an older woman. Shot in various locations along the Pacific Coast Highway, the film showcases the stunning scenery of the California coast.

One of the most memorable locations in the movie is the opening scene where the main character, Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), is seen sitting on a plane flying over the Pacific Ocean. The shot then transitions to Benjamin arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) before he heads out to his parents’ home in Pasadena.

Later in the movie, Benjamin has an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), who is the wife of his father’s business partner. The majority of their trysts take place in a hotel room at the Taft Hotel in Hollywood. The Taft Hotel, which was built in the 1920s, was a popular destination for movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

In one of the most famous scenes in the movie, Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson go for a drive in her sports car, along the Pacific Coast Highway. The stunning coastline and ocean views are seen as they drive down the winding road, with the iconic sound of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” playing in the background.

2. “The Big Lebowski” (1998)

List of the best movies Pacific Coast Highway

This Coen Brothers cult classic features Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” a laid-back slacker who becomes embroiled in a kidnapping plot. The film was shot in various locations in Los Angeles, including scenes along the Pacific Coast Highway.

One of the most memorable locations in the movie is the opening scene, where the main character, Jeff Lebowski (played by Jeff Bridges), is seen shopping for milk in a supermarket. The supermarket is located in Venice, which is a beachfront neighborhood in Los Angeles known for its boardwalk and quirky shops.

Another notable location in the movie is The Dude’s (Jeff Bridges) apartment, which is located in Venice Beach. The building used in the movie is on Ocean Front Walk, which is a popular tourist spot with street performers, shops, and restaurants.

In one scene, The Dude and Walter Sobchak (played by John Goodman) drive to a coastal cliffside to scatter the ashes of their friend, Donny (played by Steve Buscemi). This scene was filmed at Point Dume, which is a picturesque coastal bluff located in Malibu. The area is known for its hiking trails, secluded beaches, and scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The bowling alley scenes were filmed at the Hollywood Star Lanes, which is a retro-style bowling alley located in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. The bowling alley has since been renovated and renamed as The Bowlero Los Angeles, but it still retains its classic charm.

3. “Inception” (2010)

Best movies shoot on Pacific Coast Highway - What movie watch before hot the PCH road.

Inception” is a 2010 science fiction heist film directed by Christopher Nolan. The beach scene in “Inception” occurs towards the end of the film when Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team are attempting to complete their mission to plant an idea in a target’s mind. The scene was shot on location at Leo Carrillo State Park Beach in Malibu, California.

Leo Carrillo State Park is a popular destination for beachgoers and surfers, and its scenic beauty has made it a popular location for films and television shows. The beach features dramatic rock formations, tide pools, and miles of sandy shoreline.

In the movie, the scene takes place on the beach and features Cobb and his team working to complete their mission while waves crash in the background. The beach’s rocky shoreline and cliffs make for a stunning backdrop, and the scene helps to add to the movie’s sense of intrigue and mystery.

4. “Point Break” (1991)

Pacific Coast Highway - best movies

This action-packed thriller stars Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a group of surfing bank robbers. Many of the film’s most memorable scenes take place on the beaches and waves along the PCH.

The movie’s opening scene takes place at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia, where Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) is shown surfing. However, the majority of the movie is set in Southern California, with several key scenes taking place along the Pacific Coast Highway.

One of the most memorable locations in the movie is the beach house where the surfer gang led by Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze) lives. The house is located in Hermosa Beach, which is a popular beach town in Los Angeles County known for its surf culture and laid-back vibe.

Another notable location in the movie is the bank where the gang commits their first robbery. The bank is located in downtown Los Angeles, but the chase scene that follows takes place along the Pacific Coast Highway, with Utah pursuing Bodhi on a motorcycle.

5. Chasing Mavericks (2012)

Chasing Mavericks - best Pacific Coast Highway movies - list

Chasing Mavericks is a biographical drama film released in 2012, directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted. The movie is based on the true story of Jay Moriarty, a young surfer who grew up in Santa Cruz, California, and dreamed of riding one of the biggest waves in the world: Mavericks.

The film is set along the Pacific coast highway, showcasing the stunning scenery of Northern California, including the towering cliffs and the tumultuous waves of Mavericks, which is located off the coast of Half Moon Bay.

Throughout the movie, the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific coast highway serves as a backdrop to the story, highlighting the power and majesty of the ocean as well as the rugged, breathtaking coastline that stretches along it.

Chasing Mavericks is an inspiring and thrilling movie that showcases the raw beauty of the Pacific coast highway while telling a captivating story about chasing one’s dreams and the power of mentorship.

For those who have a passion for surfing and want to explore the best spots along the Pacific Coast Highway, I invite you to dive into my blog post dedicated to this thrilling topic: Pacific Coast Highway – TOP 8 BEST Surfing Spots on the PCH California 1

6. “Sideways” (2004)

The best movies about California Highway 1.

Set in California’s wine country, “Sideways” follows two friends as they take a road trip through Santa Barbara County. The film features stunning shots of the vineyards and rolling hills along the PCH, making it a must-watch for wine lovers and nature enthusiasts alike.

One of the most notable locations featured in the movie is the quaint town of Solvang, which is located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. This charming Danish-style village is home to several wineries and tasting rooms, as well as boutique shops and restaurants. In the film, Solvang serves as the backdrop for many of the character’s wine-tasting adventures and provides a picturesque setting for several important scenes.

Another memorable location featured in “Sideways” is the Hitching Post II, a rustic steakhouse and winery located in Buellton. This iconic restaurant is known for its mouth-watering grilled meats and extensive selection of local wines. In the film, the Hitching Post II is where the main characters, Miles and Jack, share several meals and engage in meaningful conversations throughout the story.

The Pacific Coast Highway itself also plays a prominent role in the film, as the characters frequently take scenic drives along the winding coastal road. One particularly memorable scene takes place at the Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, where Miles and Jack contemplate the beauty and fragility of life while watching the sun set over the ocean.

7. “Top Gun” (1986)

Movies - Pacific Coast Highway - best movies shoot on California Highway 1.

This iconic film starring Tom Cruise as a hotshot Navy pilot features several memorable scenes that take place along the PCH, including a motorcycle ride along the ocean and a beach volleyball game.

One of the most memorable locations featured in “Top Gun” is the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. This military base serves as the primary setting for much of the film, as it is where the main character, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, trains to become a top fighter pilot. The base’s iconic runway, hangars, and control tower can be seen in many of the movie’s aerial shots and training scenes.

Another notable location featured in “Top Gun” is the Top Gun House in Oceanside. This beachfront house served as the exterior location for the residence of Maverick’s love interest, Charlie. The iconic scene where Maverick serenades Charlie with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” was shot on the porch of this house, making it a popular destination for fans of the movie.

The Top Gun House is located on Pacific Street in Oceanside and is easily recognizable with its blue shutters and white picket fence. The house has since been renovated and now serves as a vacation rental property, allowing fans of the movie to stay in the same house where Maverick and Charlie fell in love on the big screen.

8. “Almost Famous” (2000)

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“Almost Famous” is a coming-of-age story about a young journalist who goes on tour with a rock band in the 1970s. Shot in various locations around California, including scenes along the PCH, the film captures the essence of the era and the magic of rock and roll.

One of the most prominent locations in the movie is the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. This iconic boulevard is home to several legendary music venues, including the famous Whisky a Go Go, where the band in the movie, Stillwater, performs a pivotal show. The Sunset Strip also features prominently in several other scenes, as the characters navigate the glamorous yet tumultuous world of rock and roll.

Another notable location in the film is San Diego, where the young journalist, William Miller, meets Stillwater and begins his journey on tour with the band. The scenes shot in San Diego feature several well-known landmarks, including Balboa Park, the Hotel Del Coronado, and the San Diego Zoo.

The movie also features scenes shot along the Pacific Coast Highway, including a memorable scene where the characters drive along the Big Sur coastline. This stunning stretch of road offers sweeping ocean vistas and rugged cliffs, providing a breathtaking backdrop for the characters’ road trip.

9. “Lost Highway” (1997)

List of best movies shoot on Pacific Coast Highway California.

David Lynch’s surreal and haunting “Lost Highway” features a plot that twists and turns through various realities and identities. Many of the film’s key scenes take place on the dark and winding roads of the PCH, making it a must-watch for fans of Lynch’s dreamlike storytelling.

In conclusion, the Pacific Coast Highway has provided the backdrop for some of the most iconic and memorable moments in cinema. Whether you’re a fan of action, drama, or romance, there’s something for everyone on this list. So why not take a road trip down the PCH and experience the beauty of California’s coastline for yourself? And while you’re at it, why not watch one of these amazing movies and relive the magic of the Pacific Coast Highway on screen?

👍 Find out more:

Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide - 202 Best Stops

Discover the best stops along the PCH in my travel guide, “Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops”, which is available on Amazon. This is the ultimate travel guide and pocket reference for anyone wishing to experience the adventure and wonder of THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY! MUST-HAVE for all West Coast travelers. Visit 202 places on the PCH with “Scan QR and go” for easy navigation.


Pacific Coast - Mark Watson

Mark Watson is a California-based member of a Los Angeles motorcycle club and an avid traveler. He has completed seven full journeys along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway on his Harley-Davidson and is passionate about promoting this historic drive to others. Mark has also explored the Alaska Highway and Route 66, and has authored three bestselling travel guides on Amazon: “Route 66 Travel Guide – 202 Amazing Places,” “Alaska Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops,” and “Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops.”

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