With it’s scenic backdrops and proximity to Hollywood, it’s no wonder Santa Barbara has a long history with film. Whether you’re a local or a future visitor here, it is exciting to see our favorite familiar spots on the big screen. Here’s our list of the top 5 movies that showcase SB best:

It’s Complicated

It’s Complicated is probably the absolute best choice if you’re looking for a film that showcases modern Santa Barbara accurately. Filmed all over town in some of the most iconic spots, the movie also does a great job of portraying the SB lifestyle and feel of the city. Starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and following the lives of two divorcees, this should go straight to the top of your list!


Sideways became an instant hit because of its two central characters, Jack and Miles, and the hilarious situations they find themselves in on a trip through wine country. Certainly entertaining, the film also highlights the beauty and splendor of Santa Barbara’s valley vineyards. Watch with a glass of wine in hand!

Alpha Dog

While Alpha Dog was filmed mostly outside of Santa Barbara, there are a few scenes that take place here, and the film tells a dark story that many locals remember as it happened in 2000. Tracing the life of Jesse James Hollywood, infamous Californian drug dealer charged of kidnapping and murder, the movie stars Bruce Willis, Emile Hirsch and Justin Timberlake, among others.

I Love You, Man

I Love You, Man is a great 2009 comedy starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel that follows the friendship of two men, one in search of a best man for his upcoming wedding. While most of the film takes place in Los Angeles, the wedding is set in Santa Barbara and highlights the real-life reasons so many couples choose this spot as their destination.

20th Century Women

20th Century Women, just released in 2016, is an independent drama that tells the story of a single mother in 1979 Santa Barbara. Entirely based on this beach town, the film embraces the vibe of Southern California in the 70’s and will make any viewer nostalgic. If you’re looking for something a little different, let this movie inspire your next trip here!