L.A. Plays Itself In The Movies: Valley Girl (1983)

She’s cool.
He’s hot.
She’s from the Valley.
He’s not.

Julie (Deborah Foreman) and Randy (a very young Nicolas Cage) are geography-crossed teenagers in love in 1983 Los Angeles. Not long after dumping her popular boyfriend, Tommy, Julie falls for Randy, who is from Hollywood. Her friends do not approve because, like oh my gawd, he’s “different.” He wears red and black instead of pastels, he slums it in a loud, dirty bar, and has friends who look like Sid Vicious. Grody to the max. I’m so sure.

In spite of how much Julie likes Randy, her bitchy “friends” convince her to “do the right thing,” which is break up with Randy and get back together with Tommy. They threaten her with the prospect of losing all of them and her social status. While truly conflicted, the desire to be popular prevails. What a total bummer. Randy is crushed and tries really hard to win Julie back, but she won’t give in.

In one last ditch effort to get the girl, Randy and his best friend crash the Valley High prom and make quite a scene disrupting the coronation of Prom King and Queen, Tommy and Julie. Fists fly and Randy and Julie steal away in the limo that brought her to the dance. Off they go, up the 405, to spend what can only have been an amazing night at the Valley Sheraton.

The premise of this movie, a modern day Romeo and Juliet, depends on Los Angeles playing a strong supporting role. You could even look at the L.A. portrayed in Valley Girl as multiple characters: The Valley, Hollywood, and The Beach. Now that I live in L.A., I definitely suffer from the problem of noticing, and often pointing out, the liberties that are taken in presenting the city. It’s something I didn’t think about before moving here in 1994. I find it fascinating to see how parts of Los Angeles are stitched together to create a version of the city that suits the needs of the storyteller.

L.A. is actually the first character you see and hear about as Valley Girl starts. A radio announcer says, “…they’ll be playing at the Hollywood Bowl…” as we hover above the Lake Hollywood reservoir looking toward Hollywood. We then head over the hills that house the famous sign for a reveal of The Valley. Well, it’s Burbank, but close enough. What I do find amusing is that instead of panning west into The Valley proper, we pan east into Glendale. Anyway, what-EVER! The first place where we encounter the Valley girls is The Mall. Duh. The location used for the opening sequence is the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, not the Sherman Oaks Galleria which is often misstated on various websites. In addition to official location lists, there is a clear shot of a door handle at the mall that says Del Amo on it.

The generic beach where all the kids are hanging out is a minor, but pivotal character. It’s a more neutral location where you really have to look at some one’s hair or listen to them talk to see if they are one of “us” or “them.” It’s here where Julie and Randy (“what a hunk!”) exchange glances while Randy’s friend, Fred, overhears the address for a party in the Valley later that night. Randy’s initial reaction is, “I don’t wanna go to the Valley. I’m not in the mood to go to the Valley.”

Of course Randy and Fred do go to the Valley party where they stick out as being quite different from everyone else with their red and black clothing and their disdain for sushi. Randy talks to Julie, which the ex-boyfriend Tommy doesn’t like so he and his friends punch Randy and literally throw Randy and Fred out the door. Randy is smitten and says, “That chick Julie, she’s truly dazzling” and Fred replies, “yeah, but she’s not one of ours.” The guys barely pull away from the house when Randy stops the car, sneaks into the house. He manages to convince Julie to leave the party. She brings along her incredibly annoying and whiny friend, Stacey, who protests, “oh no, it’s those guys! They’re hoods, look at them!” She dragged along and exclaims, “I’m simply going to freak out and die!” If we could have only been so lucky.

The four are driving along what looks like Mulholland Drive and make a right turn into Hollywood. The girls are wide-eyed, as if they’ve never been to this part of town. Certainly they’ve never been there at night. Stacey says, “Julie, look!” at a guy who has been pulled over by the cops. By her astonishment, I can only assume that things like that never happen in The Valley.

They’re traveling, in Randy’s convertible, east on Hollywood Boulevard as they pass Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and just next to that, the Rainbow Bar and Grill and The Roxy, which are both actually on the Sunset Strip. Across the street is the Pussycat Theater, an adult cinema in West Hollywood that is now Studs. Randy calls out to friends hanging out or walking on the sidewalks. He’s clearly popular in this neighborhood and seems to know not only an ethnically divers crowd of people, but an actual punk dude. Stacey becomes more and more distressed. After continuing past the Nuart Theater (I think) and Musso and Frank, she states, “Look, I’m getting out of this car,” prompting Randy to say, “Okay, but if they attack the car, save the radio.” All we hear from Stacey is an ear damaging, “Juuuuuuuuuuuliiiiiiiiiiieeee…”

Club Central, which is now The Viper Room, is Randy’s “home away from home” and their next stop. There’s live music (The Plimsouls), mohawks, and apparently germs as Stacey put napkins on the chair before she sits down. At some point Randy says, “You won’t catch anything.” Stacey complains about the loud music, Fred says they are “living on the edge.” Randy and Julie kiss in the club and then some more while parking on a hillside overlooking the lights of Hollywood.

Julie is smitten and tells her friends, “he’s the most awesome dude EVAR!” and “man, he’s just like tripendicular.” The next day Randy comes to visit Julie in The Valley. One of the most well-known New Wave songs of the ’80’s, “I Melt With You” by Modern English, plays behind a montage of Randy and Julie hanging out on several occasions in The Valley at places like Du-Pars in Studio City and The Sherman Theatre in Sherman Oaks, which has since closed. Other prominent Valley landmarks include Casa Vega restaurant and a Winchell’s Donut House. As Julie and Randy take off from the prom at the end of the movie, the one last L.A. icon we see is the Sherman Oaks Galleria, once a shopping mecca and now a complex housing several chain restaurants, an Arclight Cinema, a gym, and a few shops.


Throughout the movie, both the Val kids and the guys from Hollywood are pretty judgmental of each other. It’s totally awesome that Randy and Julie throw caution to the wind and decide to not let the Santa Monica Mountains, or their friends’ attitudes (especially in Julie’s case) keep them apart.

Julie: “We go to normal parties, we go to normal places, we buy nice new clothes.”

Fred: “No different from what we do.”

Randy: “It’s the way we do things that makes the difference.”

This post is part of the L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies series. For a listing of posts in this series, click here.

3 thoughts on “L.A. Plays Itself In The Movies: Valley Girl (1983)”

  1. This is one of my all time favorites. I need to watch it again with an eye towards looking for landmarks. I had SUCH a crush on Fred!! And I still think this is one of Nic Cage’s best roles.

  2. I’ve long wondered who the hell is the girl in the movie poster. Doesn’t look in the slightest like Deborah Foreman.

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