Some of the most memorable moments in film history have been shot in San Francisco, from Madeline’s plunge into the churning water at Fort Point in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry scouring North Beach for a serial killer. A new exhibit at the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society celebrates the city’s role in the movies, both as a favorite location and as creative hub. What are your picks for SF’s greatest moments on celluloid?

San Francisco in the Movies 19 June,2012forum

Miguel Pendas, board member of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and curator of the "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: San Francisco And The Movies"
Jim Van Buskirk, author of "Celluloid San Francisco: The Film Lover's Guide to Bay Area Movie Locations"
Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation which sponsors Noir City, the annual San Francisco film noir festival

  • Assen

    Union Square in “The Conversation.”

  • Rhet

    There have also been worthless movies made in SF. I am thinking of The Bridge in particular, which almost seemed like an attack on San Francisco not to mention on human dignity. A more positive example might be the recently canceled TV show Alcatraz, which offered lots of spectacular views of SF and the island, justified with a completely ridiculous premise of time traveling serial killers. (In a way it was like Midnight in Paris, but with lots of corpses.) But given the film and TV industry’s track record, I have a fear that any day now, some studio is going to green light a remake of Ultraman versus Godzilla set in Japantown, and other places.

  • Annmarie

     In the David Fincher movie’s climactic scene the Michael Douglas character crashes through the magnificent  glass ceiling of the Palace Hotel dining room. I admit I didn’t know this SF icon until that long night of shooting (I was a member of IATSE Local 784 at the time [Wardrobe]). Also the City Club, dark rain slick back alley’s, many atmospheric locations throughout the city depicted in this little seen picture.

  • Annmarie

    See previous… David Fincher movie is The Game.

  • I like Wayne Wang’s “Chan Is Missing” and its realistic portrayal of Asian Americans in SF, including the discussion of the Filipino town in the city that was disappearing at the time. And of course there’s the obligatory car chase scene in “Bullitt.”

  • N_dilisio

    “Harold and Maude” for the way it captured the Bay Area before the tech boom changed the landscape. 

  • Will

    “The House on Telegraph Hill”. They used the old restaurant, Julius Castle, for the exteriors but there is a shot of the backyard of that house which is actually the small garden on the south side of Coit Tower.

  • Bernard

    “The Line Up”. Shot in 1958 San Francisco. An incredible time capsule of late 1950’s San Francisco. You can see the Sutro Bath house before it burned down. The embarcadero when it was still a waterfront for shipping. The old freeway that used to wrap around the embarcadero when it was being built. The south side of Potrero Hill with of view of the ship yards. Really clean BW camerawork.
    And then of course there’s “Bullitt.

    • Basel

      “The Line Up” was the precursor to the TV series “San Francisco Beat.”  It was also the seed for “The Streets of San Francisco.”

  • Julian

    A hot dog was what he was eating

  • Fred

    One more:
    Dark Passage with Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall.
    Amazing movie.

  • Maurine Starkey

    Harold and Maude had beautiful shots of San Francisco. Love, love, LOVED that movie. I believe that movie was a fine representative of the San Francisco personality; quirky, imaginative and inventive.

    My question is; I heard that the movie “What’s Up Doc” did a lot of damage to some of the city’s tourist spots. What is the story on that?

    Thank you, I’m looking forward to see the exhibit.

    Mo Starkey

  • A guest

    SF is home to two of the greatest “worst” movies ever made:  The Room and Birdemic, Shock and Terror. Truly memorable!  🙂

  • erictremont

    A portion of Woody Allen’s “Play It Again Sam” was filmed in S.F. around 1970, the Chamber of Commerce could not have presented the city in a more favorable light.

  • Jon Gold

    What’s Up Doc?!

    • I LOVE that movie! I think the car chase scene in it rivals that in Bullitt =P

  • Kieran

    Why are there so few movies made in SF today? Could the SF film commission do a better job?

  • Janine

    “Foul Play” with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn is my favorite SF movie.  Does anyone know where Goldie’s apartment was?

  • Lets not forget Mrs. Doubtfire and crime thriller Copy Cat

  • Rhet

    San Francisco in 1939, from

  • A guest

    The Coen Brothers movie in Santa Rosa was The Man Who Wasn’t There…

  • Jonathan Mann

    Though it’s a contemporary selection, I loved Ms. Doutbfire. I used to work at a  demonic property management company in San Francisco at their flagship apartment highrise in pacific heights. It was always a joy when I had the opportunity to drive by the Doubtfire home on Steiner and Broadway.

  • Patrick

    48 Hours was supposed to set in San Francisco, but was any of it actually filmed here?

  • How can you forget Harold and Maude!! Filmed at Sutro Park and The Sutro bath ruins!! What a great film!

  • Monie Tenbroeck

    What about Harold and Maude? We came in late have you talked about that movie yet?
    Love the show

  • Luke


  • Ms. Doutbfire is not really a contemporary selection.  That movie was about 20 years ago.  Something contemporary would be Just Like Heaven with Reese WItherspoon

    • Jonathan Mann

       That was like 7 years ago, though… Not really contemporary.

  • Lee

    Freebe & the Bean (1974) staring Alan Arkin & James Cann as police detectives hunting down a serial killer.

    The scene of their car careening off the Embarcadero Expressway into an apartment building bedroom was memorable.

  • Jonathan

    Years ago I saw a movie in which the protagonist takes some unwittingtourists on a tour bus tour of the tenderloin.Anyone know the name of the film?I think it was about displacement of poor people from housing…?

  • David

    They installed a fake BART station entrance in Duboce Park for Happyness. I guess they wanted pretty Victorians in the shot. It was surreal to turn the corner and see the BART entrance with stairs going nowhere…

  • Reg

    Spike Lee’s pilot film ‘Sucka Free City’

  • Dave

    Vertigo.  I know its obvious, but every time I pass Scotty’s apartment I get chills.

  • Guest

    Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn

  • Wheatspear

    Oldest one I recall: “I Remember Mama”

    Favorite: “Class Action”

  • george

    I’m told that movies were shot in the City of San Mateo off Peninsula on “Studio Circle” .  Can you shed any light on this?
    John Carradine might have been part of this.

  • Erica

    Alabaqma’s Ghost

  • Luke

    And MILK!

  • Barneclo

    Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite

  • Edwin Orteleza

    Mrs. Doubftfire. Sister Act. The Heart Break Kid by Ben Stiller. 

  • MJ

    Favorite scenes / moviesIan McKellen as Magneto in X-Men III tearing up the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge and streching it to Alcatraz!Psych-out from 1968, with Jack Nicholson galavanting through the Haight AshburyI also remember cutting class from Grace cathedral School for Boys to go meet Steve McQueen. The parking lot of Grace cathedral was used as te staging lot for the movie.And here’s a stumper for Eddie:Can he name the director of the 1974 film “The Heretic”, shot at McAteer High School?It was Eddie himself!

  • Jeff Raess

    Not a movie but great scene from The Simpsons. The family gets imprisoned in Alcatraz and escapes by swimming.  Lisa yells, “Everyone head for San Francisco!” Homer responds, “What are we, made of money? We’re swimming to Oakland!”

  • MartinG

    Another location in the Bay Area is Alameda. I lived in a house that was on the old Navy Base  that was used in “Yours Mime and Ours.” With Lucile Ball. 

  • Hilo Hattie

    On the Beach… remember the absolutely vacant streets of Russian Hill after the blast?

  • Wheatspear

    Just recalled another that was shot in my then-neighborhood (trashed then made better than before): “Sister Act”

  • mike henneberry

    Not that’d be on anyone’s best list but where’s the house in Mrs. Doubtfire?

  • Katieksfo

    As a gen x-er, I absolutely love the campiness of “so I married an ax murderer” with Mike Myers- hilarious and yet also a fabulous showcase of San Francisco.

  • Tom

    Koyaanisqatsi has a brief segment of a high speed shot of a drive on the Embarcadero Freeway, a couple shots inside the Powell Street bart station. 

  • Cj

    Please thank your guest for mentioning the public library so many times!  And did anyone mention the Main Library being featured in City of Angels?  The ego lobby was finally put to good use.

  • Wu

    The Lineup, great Sutro Baths stuff.

  • Todd Dickason

    Joan Crawford “Sudden Fear” 1952

  • Sven Reischauer

    I can’t believe nobody mentioned that the StarFleet Command will be buid up at Fort Baker in only 150 years from now on.

  • Wheatspear

    Sorry Krasny, but no,, Ed “Kookie” Byrnes was a character in the tv series “77 Sunset Strip” — not even SF in name.

  • James R

    Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety

  • Bob H.

    I tuned in late, so I don’t know if these films were mentioned: ‘Petulia’ with Julie Christie and George C. Scott, and Sam Peckinpa’s ‘Killer Elite’.   As for Oakland, the great parade scene from ‘Tucker’ was filmed downtown at 19th street.

  • Usairguitar

    What’s the name of the annual film series that cuts together random “found” scenes of SF? I think it plays at the Castro, and audience members are encouraged to shout out when they see something they recognize,

  • Erika

    Oakland movies:   “Made in America”, “Moneyball”
    “Fahrenheit 911” (Lake Merritt is in the background at one little part)

  • Bob H.

    Also, don’t forget that Star Fleet is headquartered in SF.

  • Sylvia

    Remember when Dustin Hoffman drove across the GGBridge to get from LA to SF in “The Graduate”? Haha

    • Erica

      It was actually that he drove in the wrong direction on the Bay Bridge to get from Berkeley to San Francisco…. but I get your point. 

  • Noelle

    Jeff Bridges and Isabella Rossellini in Peter Weir’s Fearless! SF and also Oakland in that one.

  • Michael Keaton as a scary tenant in Pacific Heights movie? Was that the name of it. He wouldn’t move out. Remember that one?

  • Chris B

    Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

  • Basel

    “The Lady from Shanghai” 1948 – Orson Wells, Director

    “Old” Portsmouth Square before the installation of the garage and scenes of Chinatown circa 1948 near the end of the film.  Playland at the Beach and the “Hall of Mirrors” scene is classic.

  • Johnsnavymom

    “Dream for an Insomniac” Lousy movie but great SF stuff

  • K. Antonio

    “What’s Up Doc?” Peter Bogdanivich, Ryan O’Neal, Barbra Streisand.I’m currently teaching summer school at Galileo HS to English language learners and this movie could not have been told in another city. San Francisco is a character in the story

  • Sacveggie

    Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam” in 1972. San Francisco was one of the wonderful cast.

  • Apiazzaj

    I was a part of San Francisco film and television productions during the 1960s and 1970s. As was my father. I’ve been telling my stories elsewhere. Also wrote an e-book about meeting STEVE McQUEEN and visiting the set of Bullitt. All profits goes to McQueen’s charity The Boys Republic.

  • Apiazzaj

    One of your commentators made a mistake. The Streets of San Francisco was filmed entirely on location in the city. Only the interior of the squad room was shot on the Warner’s lot the first season. After that, the set was transferred to a studio QM Productions set up on Kearny Street. I was on the crew as a stand-in…first three seasons for guest stars, the forth for Michael Douglas, and the final season as Richard Hatch’s.  

  • James Weston II

    How about “HULK”; “Star Trek”; “Twisted”; “Memories of a Geisha”; “Sucker Free City”; “Rent”; “Hereafter”;”Just Like Heaven” for movies. For TV “Streets of San Francisco”; “Trauma”; “Nash Bridges”. I was in 9 of them

  • James Weston II

    I was also Will Smith’s standin for a couple of days in “Pursuit of Happyness”

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