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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 5 more classic films all about Hollywood


On 14th August, Quentin Tarantino's hotly anticipated ninth feature film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood arrives in Cineworld.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as a washed-up television actor and his loyal stunt double respectively, Tarantino's latest outing will follow the pair on their quest to make it to the top of Hollywood in the 1960s, set against the backdrop of the infamous Manson family murders.

Hollywood is notorious for breaking as many dreams as it creates, and many classic movies have been made about the fickle nature of Tinseltown. With Tarantino at the helm, we can surely look forward to his latest epic being a hilarious meta-commentary on aspects of stardom, fame, the cinema industry and the LA lifestyle, one set to be laced with the director's provocative and controversial sense of humour.

To celebrate the upcoming release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, here are five more unforgettable films all about Hollywood, in all its glory and ugliness.

1. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, cinematic masterpiece Sunset Boulevard follows the plight of failed screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) as he finds himself hired by forgotten silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, a real-life star of the silent era).

This ageing diva aims to re-write a movie script and cast herself in the leading role – as time goes on, however, Gillis realises that Norma has lost touch with reality, falling further and further into her delusions of stardom and vanity. She's obsessed with her own onscreen image, what Gillis calls her "celluloid self".

On the surface Sunset Boulevard plays out like the perfect film noir, beginning with the aftermath of Gillis's death and being narrated by him from beyond the grave. But lurking just below lies a cynical commentary on the destructive power of Hollywood and the studio system.

The film was so cynical, in fact, that Wilder had to submit the script a few pages at a time under a false title for his film to avoid censorship.

2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Co-directed by and starring Gene Kelly alongside Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, Singin' in the Rain is arguably the definitive example of a musical from Hollywood's Golden Age. It follows a production studio struggling to make the transition from silent movies into sound – packed full of memorable tunes and energetic dance numbers, this film is emblematic of the sort of extravagant, technicoloured wonderments that were being produced in Hollywood at the time.

The film does shine a light on the false façade of publicity through the on-screen pairing of stars Don Lockhart (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). However, Singin' in the Rain is less of a critique of fame than it is an all-out love letter to the magic of the moving image, as we watch the three leads put their heads together to find a way to make their film work. And of course it wouldn't be a grand old Hollywood film without a classic big Hollywood ending.

3. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Coming from the deeply twisted mind of David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), and repeatedly hailed as one of the greatest films of the 21st century, Mulholland Drive is one part mystery and two parts surreal nightmare.

After a car accident on the titular winding road leaves a woman (Laura Elena Harring) with amnesia, she joins forces with hopeful actress Betty (Naomi Watts) to solve the mystery of her true identity in a journey that takes viewers to glamorous homes, sinister diners and strange nightclubs.

As you'd expect from a David Lynch film, nothing is straightforward about what's presented to us; everything is coated with a uneasy artifice, which forms Lynch's twisted version of Hollywood. From naïve dreams of stardom to the manufactured illusion of production, there's plenty to be unearthed from Hollywood's seedy underbelly, though it'll take numerous viewings to begin to piece this puzzle together – to this day, we still don't know what's inside the blue box...

4. Maps to the Stars (2014)

Written by Bruce Wagner (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and directed by David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly), Maps to the Stars is one of the most disturbing depictions of tinsel town put on the big screen as it takes viewers into the personal lives of one Hollywood family, where their dark secrets are laid bare.

When Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman with severe burns, arrives in Hollywood, she finds herself at the centre of an increasingly twisted tale involving a washed-up actress (Julianne Moore) a troubled childhood star (Evan Bird) and his parents (John Cusack and Olivia Williams), each haunted by their own disturbing pasts.

Exploring themes of narcissism and the obsession with celebrity culture, Maps to the Stars is hauntingly beautiful and incredibly difficult to watch, especially when it begins to reach its burning climax.

5. La La Land (2016)

Snagging multiple Oscars, musical phenomenon La La Land follows the lives of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) over the course of a year as they fall for each other whilst trying to make their dreams of fame and fortune come true, Mia as an actress and Seb as a jazz musician.

While the narrative revolves around the blossoming relationship between the two protagonists, the film itself is a love story about Hollywood. From references to classics such as Rebel Without a Cause and Casablanca to being shot on CinemaScope to get that authentic 1950s look, La La Land is the ultimate homage to Hollywood.

Unlike the other films on this list, La La Land doesn't criticise the Hollywood system, but rather acts as a celebration of the city of stars as a place where dreams really can come true.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is released on 14th August. Tweet us your favourite Hollywood on Hollywood movies @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.