The Pd-catalyzed intramolecular alpha-arylation of alpha-amino acid esters is described. Starting from readily available amino acids, the synthesis of a variety of isoindolines and tetrahydroisoquinoline carboxylic acid esters has been accomplished. Additionally, fused tricyclic systems can be efficiently prepared from cyclic amino acid esters. Reaction conditions have been found that allow the use of tert-butyl ester and N-(benzyloxycarbonyl) protecting groups.