San Francisco in the Movies

With its spectacular cityscape, atmospheric fog, and a camera-ready iconic bridge, it's little wonder that San Francisco has been the setting for hundreds of films. Here are a few of the city's favorite cinematic sites:

  • Zodiac, a 2007 drama about an infamous Bay Area serial killer, filmed scenes at the real-life locations where victims were gunned down. (It also recreated the San Francisco Chronicle offices, but down south in L.A.)
  • City Hall shows up in the Clint Eastwood cop thrillers Dirty Harry and Magnum Force and is set aflame in the James Bond flick A View to a Kill. Its interior became a nightclub for Robin Williams's Bicentennial Man and a courthouse in Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
  • Streets in Russian Hill, Potrero Hill, and North Beach were used for the supreme car-chase sequence in Bullitt. The namesake detective, played by Steve McQueen, lived in Nob Hill at 1153–57 Taylor Street. And the "King of Cool" did much of his own stunt driving, thank you very much.
  • Brocklebank Apartments, at Mason and Sacramento Streets in Nob Hill, appears in several films, most notably as the posh residence of Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Other key Vertigo locations include the cemetery of Mission Dolores and the waterfront at Fort Point.
  • The great Bogie-and-Bacall noir film Dark Passage revolves around the art-deco apartment building at 1360 Montgomery Street and the nearby Filbert Steps.
  • Dashiell Hammett's Thin Man characters, Nick and Nora Charles, do much of their sleuthing in the city, especially in films like After the Thin Man, in which the base of Coit Tower stands in as the entrance to the Charleses' home.
  • North Beach's Tosca Cafe, at 242 Columbus Avenue, is the bar where Michael Douglas unwinds in Basic Instinct.
  • The Hilton Hotel at 333 O'Farrell Street became the "Hotel Bristol," the scene of much of the mayhem caused by Barbra Streisand in What's Up, Doc?
  • At 2640 Steiner Street in Pacific Heights is the elegant home that Robin Williams infiltrates while disguised as a nanny in Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • The Castro of the 1970s comes alive in Milk, Gus Van Sant's film starring Sean Penn as slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk.
  • Woody Allen's 2013 drama-comedy Blue Jasmine takes place across the city and Marin County and includes a noteworthy scene in SoMa's South Park, a neighborhood favorite near Oracle Park for kids and workers on lunch break.
  • And, of course, there are plenty of movies about the notorious federal prison on Alcatraz Island, including Burt Lancaster's redemption drama Birdman of Alcatraz, Clint Eastwood's suspenseful Escape from Alcatraz, the goofy So I Married an Axe Murderer, and the Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage action flick The Rock.

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