Give me your favorite movie scenes set in San Francisco

Happy Tuesday, folks! This Friday, my hubby and I will be on vacation to California for a week. We’ll be attending San Diego Comic Con for the first time next week but we’ll spend our first four days of our trip in San Francisco (including a day trip to Napa). My brother went to University of San Francisco for a couple of years so I’ve visited the beautiful city several times before, but it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been back there. Coincidentally, the city is named after St. Francis of Assisi, which is the name of my hubby & my grade school back in Jakarta.

Undoubtedly San Francisco’s beauty and iconic landmarks have often been depicted in various forms of pop culture. There are hundreds of movies set in SF, you can see the full list in its Wikipedia page. I’m afraid I’ve only seen a tiny handful of those, so I’m making this post sort of ‘interactive.’ Please supply your own favorite movie scene(s) set in that city. You can either give the title and description or supply the still shot or video clip from that film in the comments. I will add the scenes/photos you listed and keep updating the post until Wednesday night. By the way, I’ve just moved Vertigo to the top of the queue, hopefully I’ll get around to watching it before I leave. Anyway, here are three memorable scenes set in San Francisco to start things off:

  • I love this movie! I’ve watched it several times and it’s funny and heartwarming, perhaps one of the few Robin Williams movies where he doesn’t outright annoy me. That house 2640 Steiner Street is shown pretty prominently throughout where his kids live with their mother, and that part when Doubtfire ripped the hood ornament from his ex-wife’s Mercedes is priceless!

    Mrs. Doubtfire

  • The Rock
    I don’t know whether we’ll have time to take the Alcatraz tour but if we do, I’ll definitely remember some of the scenes from The Rock, perhaps the only Michael Bay movie I’d actually recommend. The cast is awesome, this is when Nic Cage still made watchable movies — add Ed Harris, Michael Biehn AND Sean Connery who didn’t bother to switch off his Scottish brogue, it’s a fun action romp I wouldn’t mind watching several times over.

  • Joy Luck Club
    It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film based on Amy Tan’s novel, but I remember being really affected by it. The story tells of four order Chinese-immigrant women living in San Francisco, so there are lots of scenes in the Chinatown area where they meet regularly to play Mahjong, eat and share stories. The film explores the hidden past of these mothers and the cultural conflicts between them and their Americanized daughters. I wonder whatever happened to Russell Wong, he was perfectly charming as well as despicable in this film.
  • A View to Kill
    Since Ted just did a Bond post yesterday, might as well include a Bond movie here, too. This one is nowhere near my favorite Bond movie, but Christopher Walken is always amusing, even if his take on a Bond villain is as tacky as ever. Add Tanya Roberts and 80s supermodel Grace Jones to the bargain and the agony is complete. The fight scene atop the Golden Gate bridge is pretty memorable though, probably the only thing I remember from that movie.

  • I’ve already included this Golden Gate bridge scene on my favorite Marvel superhero scenes post, but it deserves another mention on this list. It’s preposterous and over the top, but it’s a movie about superhero mutants, so that certainly comes with the territory. Plus, Magneto is such an iconic villain and that battle on Alcatraz island in the grand finale is pretty intense.

    X-Men 3


Jimmy Stewart rescues Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)

• The car chase scene in Bullit (1968) w/ Steve McQueen

Dirty Harry (1971) Harry confronts the downed “Scorpio” killer in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium
Check out Markus Welby’s post on Dirty Harry as he reminisced about his recent trip to some of the film’s locations.

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller The Birds (1963)

The Harvey Milk’s rally speech in Milk (2008)

• 1974 The Conversation‘s opening sequence in Union Square

The Killer Elite (1975) final shootout scene

Landscaped apartment rooftop in Just Like Heaven (2008)

Noir thriller Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum

• Another Clint Eastwood movie set in the Bay area – Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Classic musical San Francisco (1936) with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeannette McDonald

So I Married an Axe Murderer with Mike Myers as a SF poet who thinks his wife (Nancy Travis) is a serial killer

There’s even a movie locations tour for people who want to compare the locations in the movie to their real-life counterpart.

• The woman jumping scene from The Towering Inferno (1974) 

Well, now it’s your turn to supply me with your own favorite movie(s) and/or movie scene(s) set in San Francisco. We’ll be going to Napa Valley area as well so if you have fave scenes in that area, feel free to include them. The one movie I love that’s set in Napa is A Walk in the Clouds.

Thanks everybody, please don’t drop the ball 😀

56 thoughts on “Give me your favorite movie scenes set in San Francisco

    1. This was gonna be mine! It’s a ridiculous movie, RTM, and I’m not sure if you’d like it … it’s the original female raunchy comedy, starring Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Selma Blair. I love it, but I don’t claim it’s a good movie. 🙂

      Anyway, in the opening scenes, Applegate and Diaz are getting home from work. They hop off the streetcar a few streets early, pop in their headphones, and are boogying up opposite sides a MASSIVE hill, still in pencil skirts and high heels. It’s awesome, and really does give you a sense of exactly how much work walking up one of those hills can be, if you’ve never done it. (I have.)

      Additionally, pretty much the entirety of So I Married an Axe Murderer. 🙂

      1. Awesome, thanks Sam! I couldn’t find a good image/clip of that movie, if you know of one pls let me know so I can add it to the post.

        Yeah, SF is VERY hilly. I first learn how to drive in the US in SF when I visited my brother. I had only been driving for about a year in Jakarta but everything is flat there so it was quite a challenge, especially in Chinatown when there were sooo many people!

        Oh, I heard about ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’ set in SF, I’ll add that too!

  1. I liked Joy Luck Club when I first watched it because I was all “Yay an all Asian female cast! (I’m Filippino) An honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship fraught with cultural differences!” But now I have a hard time watching it because of the one scene with the baby. I don’t want to spoil for anyone here who may be interested in seeing it but I’ll just say it’s so sad

    1. Yeah, there are lots of sad scenes in this film. I’m from Indonesia so yeah I can totally relate w/ some of the cultural stuff.

  2. Hmm, maybe close-to-riot scenes from Milk. By the way, when someone says “film set in San Fran”, my first thought is Milk. Vertigo is great!

    Have a nice trip! I visited San Francisco last year and I loved it, although an image of American city shocked me a bit. So different from what we have here!

  3. FUNK

    My favorite goes all the way back to 1968, which is scene of the high speed car chase through the streets of SF, in “BULLITT”. Stars Steve McQueen and a 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback.

  4. Aside from the ones mentioned above, one movie I felt really made San Francisco look good was “Just Like Heaven” starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo.

    Mrs. Doubtfire and The Rock definitely were highlights for me growing up.

    1. I didn’t have much interest to see ‘Just Like Heaven,’ seems like a standard Reese Witherspoon rom-com, but I’m intrigued now that you’ve mentioned it. I’ve never seen a Mark Ruffalo movie now that I think about it, I mean the one where he’s got the lead role.

      1. @ PrairieGirl: Yeaaah! There is a lot worse rom-coms than Just Like Heaven

        @ Ruth: You should give it a shot. It’s pretty funny and very nicely shot.

        1. I will, Castor. I don’t mind Reese in rom-coms anyway, she’s way more watchable than Katie Heigl, ugh!

          Cool, so I have quite a few recommendations here that I’ve added to my queue… The Conversation, So I Married an Axe Murderer and Just Like Heaven. Thanks everybody!

  5. I visited two Dirty Harry locations this past weekend…..actually three If I count Alcatraz….but he wasn’t Harry in that one. The first is the giant Cross on Mount Davidson where Harry stabs Scorpio in the leg….the second Kezar Stadium where Harry shoots Scorpio in the leg…Scorpio’s leg didn’t feel too lucky.

  6. Of course I have to throw the classic movie spin on things…Out of the Past, a seriously great (perhaps the greatest) film noir.

    I love San Francisco, i know you all are going to have the best time 🙂

    1. FUNK

      I’ll have to check that movie out sounds good. I Went to San Francisco, back in 73, for 5 days, for the a military unit reunion, stayed at the Presidio, and was most impressed and had a great time. Going there from Central Texas I didn’t pack a jacket, and ended up buying one.

      1. Hi Dave, yeah I’ve been looking at the forecast… man, it’s like 25-30 degrees cooler than here in MN! I’ll definitely be dressing like Fall again over there.

      2. Funk, if you like noir, or just suspenseful movies in general, you’ll like it 🙂

        the last time i was in SF they were having a heat wave with serious implications cos nobody has A/C

  7. Hi, Ruth and company:

    Others have mentioned ‘Bullitt’, ‘The Rock’ and Dirty Harry films. My favorite film where San Francisco plays a major character is a later Sam Peckinpah film of betrayal and double cross within the low rent domestic spying community titled ‘The Killer Elite’.

    Based on the novel of the same name (also being re-made with Jason Stratham and Robert DeNiro) and moved from London to San Fran. The film shows the quirkiness of the left coast during the 70s as James Caan decides to hunt down his ex-partner, Robert Duvall who’d shot Caan and left him for dead or early forced retirement.

    The story rolls from Russian Hill to Chinatown and finally the Navy’s mothball fleet of rusting transports for an overblown chop-socky Samurai/Ninja kick fest and gun fight that Peckinpah excels at.

    Another film that offers very telling glimpses of the weirdness of post Vietnam San Francisco is ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ from 1978. Religiously following Robert Stone’s novel ‘Dog Soldier’, A tale is woven around three kilos of Laotian heroin in the custody of a young Nick Nolte and Tuesday Weld as they travel though laughably liberal Berkeley to L.A. and then south to Mexico with crooked D.A. Anthony Zerbe, psychotic Richard Masur and slimy, off the wall Ray Sharkey a few steps behind.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Jack,

      Good call on The Killer Elite, not particularly one of Peckinpah’s good films but it was o.k. As for the new Killer Elite film, I think you may have mixed them up, both films have the same name but based on different novel.

      Here are some information on both films:

      Now I’ve never read any of the novels so I don’t know if they’re the same storyline or not.

      In any case, I’m looking forward to see the new Killer Elite film.

      1. Leave it to Ted to know the difference of the two films 🙂 That’s interesting that they used the exact same name, people’d automatically think it’s a remake.

      2. Hi, Ted, Ruth and company:


        Good catch on the Caan/Duvall and Stratham/DeNiro films, Ted.

        I had mixed feelings when I’d first heard rumors regarding the latest ‘Killer Elite’ project with Stratham and didn’t give due diligence afterward.

        I’d read the Robert Rostand novel about a year before Peckinpah’s project hit the big screen.

        Agreed, ‘The Killer Elite’ was nowhere near one of Peckinpah’s best work, but it was great to see Caan and Duvall work together and play off each other. Plus some very realistic looking, slow motion violence involving a silenced .22 Colt Woodsman and defector Helmut Dantine early on in the film.

  8. PrairieGirl

    Not too long ago I watched the 1936 film, simply called San Francisco, with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeannette McDonald, and ended up very impressed as the story unfolded; it’s more involved than it seems to be at first. Both the characters and the script are very well developed. It used background shots of San Francisco, and was set just before, during and after the 1906 earthquake. It had 6 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Sound, Recording. Excellent classic film, highly recommended.

      1. PrairieGirl

        BTW, San Francisco is really more of a romantic drama. I wouldn’t call it a musical, but I guess IMDb includes that genre along with drama and romance. There is individual songs sung by Jeanette, but it’s in context of her performing on stage for an audience showing her advancement in her career as a singer. I don’t recall any one else singing anything. Just wanted to clarify that because calling it a musical in the usual sense of the word could scare some people away.

  9. No appreciation of San Francisco in the movies is complete without ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home!”

    – Chekov and Uhura looking for the nuclear wessels (good shot of a cable car in the beginning):

    – Kirk and Spock walking in front of the Golden Gate Bridge:

    – And of course Kirk’s homage to Dustin Hoffman in ‘Midnight Cowboy’:

    1. Oh yeah, I remember the Star Trek ones! Thanks for reminding me, Rich. Thanks for including the clips too, so I don’t have to add ’em to the actual post. Haven’t seen Midnight Cowboy though.

  10. My Top 5 favs, (in no particular order):

    Opening scene of The Conversation (which you have),
    Underwater scene of The Graduate,
    The entire 1924 silent movie Greed, which is just phenomenal,
    Woman jumps from The Towering Inferno,
    The Zodiac killer mercilessly tears a picnicking couple to shreds in David Fincher’s cop drama Zodiac.

    1. Awesome! See, you don’t have to visit the place to know what it looks like 😀 Oy, I don’t know if I want to include that scene from Zodiac, very brutal!

  11. I have nothing to add here as I am extremely late to the part. I would say fashionably late yet I see that all the good nibbles have gone and it is only those pineapple chunks on sticks left….pants!

    I was going to add bulliitt and Dirty barry, but heck they have gone…ah well

    Have a good one my BFF

    Scott er I mean Custard

  12. Corinne

    Hey, it looks like you already have a pretty good list of movies going here. My personal favorites set in San Francisco are The Birds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Star Trek IV, Magnum Force, and Escape from Alcatraz. Harold and Maude was done in San Francisco too, but I can’t remember any San Francisco scenes. I love that movie though.
    The movie Sideways had a lot of wine country scenes in it too.
    All the Alcatraz movies are good, but don’t bother to take a tour of Alcatraz. It’s real boring. I couldn’t wait to get off that rock!
    Have a fun time in SF Ruth, I’ll miss you!

  13. The Rock is the only one that sticks in my head, I know Bullitt was set in SF but I haven’t seen it. My parents went there a couple of years ago and they took a tour on a submarine. I assume you will be visiting Alcatraz?

  14. I love that you included Ms. Doubfire! love that movie..even though its kinda sad and although X3 was totally lacking in many areas it definitely had some great SF scenes! great selection!

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