I’ve been afraid of starting this post. Purely because of the ground there is to cover. One of the things I did to make it a little less daunting, was to just include movies that I watched.

Didn’t help much. The list of famous San Francisco movie locations is almost as silly a task as a list of famous movie locations in NY. Almost, not quite. 

The city having landmarks like the Golden gate bridge, Chinatown and Alcatraz island has meant that it is rich with opportunity for filmmakers. 

The movies benefit from it too. It has a vibe that you can almost taste if the cinematographer does his job well. 

And icons of cinema have picked SF for their movies. From Buster Keaton to Chaplin to Hitchcock to Coppola and many modern filmmakers. 

I figured it’d be best if I go landmark by landmark, rather than repeat the landmark for each movie that has it. I don’t want to type Golden Gate bridge 20 bazillion times.

Unless of course, the filming location is movie-specific. Like …

Mrs. Doubtfire house

Not a recurring location unlike most of the list, the house where Mrs. Doubtfire went about his merry ways is instantly recognizable. 

Especially if there is a picture with the caption saying its the house where Doubtfire was filmed. 

The address, for you serious stalkers, is 2640 Steiner Street. A house which lists for a meager 4.5 million dollars. 

I was going to say our collective memory of Robin Williams’s antics inside and outside the house makes the location priceless. But apparently not. 

Golden gate bridge

Here we go. 

As one of the most iconic structures in the United States of America, the Golden gate bridge has been used as a setting or backdrop for numerous movies, many of them iconic. 

If it were a product. It would be one of the worst cases of product placement. But unlike product placements, this icon instantly improves the movie it is starring in. Like Andy Serkis with motion capture. Ooh foreshadowing. 


It is a sight to behold and gives the viewer an instant anchor to the action they’re watching. A sense of place, that only a few landmarks can provide. 

A sense of history because of the history of the bridge and the history of the movies that were shot on it. 

I mentioned Hitchcock as one of the many giants of cinema who picked SF. He used the bridge in one of his classics, Vertigo. 

For a pivotal scene too. And keeping the bridge to the side for now, what about that poster?! Now, adorning YouTubers’ rooms everywhere

Also, Stewart making some serious Dracula-eyes on the Blu-Ray box. 

In the scene, Jimmy Stewart’s John Ferguson follows his client to Fort Point, where she casually jumps into the bay (sold brilliantly by Stewart). The shot framed the bridge brilliantly in the background. 

The bridge was used uncharacteristically in Interview with a Vampire (Cruise and Pitt together? What the …). In that, the vampires were filmed at night driving on the bridge.

Uncharacteristic because this meant you couldn’t see the bridge’s beautiful red color at nighttime.

CGI versions of it have also been used quite a lot. No good disaster movie goes without destroying a few landmarks. And the bridge has not been spared.

There’s the scene in Planet of the Apes where the apes go full Tarzan on the Golden Gate bridge. Swinging in and stomping cars and taking down helicopters. 

Props to good ol Koda for unceremoniously dumping Government property over the bridge. How awesome was Toby Kebbell as a chimp?

X-men – Last stand (blergh) used it quite innovatively (silly really) when Magneto decides to use part of a bridge to carry himself and his minions to Alcatraz. The man has a natural flair. 

Godzilla rips it a new one in the 2014 version, in near-darkness. Because god forbid we see the monster we paid tickets to see. 

Who else loved King of Monsters by the way? He didn’t mess up a bridge, but he sure showed those clouds who’s boss.

For monster fans who like their monsters clearly visible and clearly people in jumpsuits, always go for the originals

Somehow managing not to get the daytime picturesque version or the moody nighttime version. Instead, opting for a grey mess. Which is what MUTO was after Godzilla was done with them. 

Big Hero 6 took a kinder view to the bridge, as Disney showed how landmarks can be appreciated without using sounds of steel cables being pulled and stretched.

Alcatraz Island

The segue was right there. Magneto takes the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz. The perfect segue was right there!

Alcatraz is another brilliant landmark used by filmmakers time and again with varying degrees of success (Last Stand again). 


The first movie to associate with the former prison island is Clint Eastwood-starrer Escape from Alcatraz

It captured the hellish nature of the prison and shows the titular breakout like a heist. 

Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery came along for the Rock to stop villainous villains committing villainies on the island. 

They successfully stop Ed Harris from using marble bombs to gas a lot of people. All the while showing runway staff around the world, how it’s done. Don’t just stand there and direct the aircraft, put some passion into it. 

The movie also has fighter jets flying under (under!) the Golden Gate bridge. 

Then there is the 1967 Point Blank. A narrative that begins and ends on this deserted island. It had Lee Marvin do the Memento before Nolan was born (not technically accurate).

Not the bit about memory loss, but the part where the protagonist is single-minded and has less-than-perfect ethics.

SF City Hall

Not nearly as prominent as the last two in cinema. But two of the movies that did include it turned out to be quite memorable. 

Indie cult flick Raiders of the lost ark used it as a sub for a Washington office building. 

While Sean Penn’s Oscar-winning turn (Was he that good in Mystic River?) in Milk had the politician entering and exiting the building many times. 

Lombard Street

This stunning piece of real estate has been featured in a lot of movies over the years and for good reason. 


And they always make sure to include not just the street but the majestic view from it too. 

Noteworthy movies include The Lovebug and What’s up Doc?

San Francisco Airport

This one has seen a lot of action. Makes sense. It’s where romantic movies and action movies go for a bit of closure. 

Coit Tower

It was the topic of discussion in The Enforcer. Also counted among the Sister act 2 filming locations.

It’s none other than this tower I read about just now


Wasn’t that impressed. Skip this on your tour.

Japanese Tea Garden

Built as part of the Golden Gate Park, this too is very popular as a filming location. The way it contrasts the rest of the scenes shot in the city makes it perfect for a respite scene


Final word

Another set of movie locations, another mini-walk through movie history. It’s a good way to refresh your memories of movies you watched long back too. 

San Francisco is a fantastic city as it is. But if you’re a movie buff, you can marvel at the splendor of the Golden Gate bridge.

Then contemplate why on God’s green earth, did Gareth Edwards feature it in his movie and then have it caked in miserable grey.

Most of these spots would be part of any bus tour through the city. So make sure to hit up TripAdvisor before making the trip.

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