Lights, Camera, San Francisco!

Staff writer Madeleine Bonniot highlights some of the best movies filmed right here – do you recoginize any of the landmarks?  

    Although Hollywood is known as the movie making capital of the world, San Francisco has added its artistic flare and culture to film over the years. With breathtaking views and diverse neighborhoods, it is easy to see why directors would choose to indulge in their craft here. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” for example, was filmed at Fort Point, at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Chinatown, the Tenderloin, Alcatraz, and Fisherman’s Wharf – along with vintage Victorian homes (dubbed “painted ladies”) – have all been featured. Classic movies, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, A View to Kill, and The Graduate, all contained such scenes. Even modern blockbusters, like “The Five Year Engagement,” “The Social Network” and Woody Allen’s recent “Blue Jasmine,” include shots taken within our beautiful city. In fact, there are over 3,000 movies with scenes filmed in San Francisco.

The 1958 Hitchcock film, “Vertigo,” centers on San Francisco police detective, Scottie Ferguson, who suffers from chronic dizziness and is forced to retire prematurely. He ends up coming out of retirement to follow a woman, Madeleine, who behaves peculiarly. The psychological thriller premiered at San Francisco’s own Stage Door Theater (now known as the Ruby Skye nightclub) on Mason and Geary. As previously mentioned, one of the scenes was filmed at Fort Point, which is just a short bus ride away from USF’s campus. It has an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The first time that Scottie spots Madeleine was at Ernie’s Restaurant on Montgomery Street, in the Jackson Square Historic District. Ernie’s Restaurant unfortunately closed in 1995 to be reopened as the Essex Supper Club, which has also since closed. The complex where Madeleine lives is actually the Brocklebank Apartments at 1000 Mason Street; it is still present today.

“Mrs. Doubtfire,” starring Robin Williams, is a childhood classic that I watched constantly growing up. The movie was filmed exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area, and most of the locations are also not too far from the USF campus. If you have not seen or heard of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” it is about two parents and their family. Daniel and Miranda Hillard are in the middle of a very complicated divorce when Miranda bans Daniel from seeing their children. As his desire to visit with them is so strong, Daniel creates an alter ego: the children’s nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire. The house portrayed as the Hillard’s home is located on Steiner Street in Pacific Heights. Other scenes take place in the East Bay, North Berkeley, and on Columbus Avenue in North Beach.

A quick ride on the 43 bus will take you to the rooftop basketball court, which is a main feature in every girl’s favorite teenage movie, “The Princess Diaries.” It tells the clichéd teenage story of frumpy Mia Thermopolis, played by Anne Hathaway, who discovers she is the princess of a ficticious country called Genovia.  The displayed basketball court is at Hamlin School, between Webster and Buchanan on Vallejo Street. The film also features the Golden Gate Bridge, a house on the cliffs of Ocean Beach with a view of the Sutro Baths, and a small scene on the corner of Taylor Street and Broadway.

Additionally, the 2013 Allen film, “Blue Jasmine,” features Cate Blanchett as a New York City housewife struggling through a midlife crisis. Her character moves to live with her sister in an apartment on South Van Ness in the Mission District. Locales included: the Outer Sunset, various restaurants in the Mission, Chinatown, and Ocean Beach. The film co-stars Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., and Peter Sarsgaard. It received a score of 89/100 on the critic website, Rotten Tomatoes, as well as generally great reviews. Go see it in theaters!

If you’re a movie buff looking for an adventure, our city is home to many places recognized in cinema. And if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, San Francisco is the place to start your career.


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