Around six hours north of Los Angeles, San Francisco has been the backdrop for many iconic movies throughout cinematic history. Some of the best movies set in San Francisco have gone on to win countless awards.
San Francisco has often been seen in iconic TV show intros, including Full House and 10 Things I Hate About You where you’ll find real life houses including Mrs. Doubtfire!
From dramas to comedies, the City by the Bay and its Golden Gate Bridge and artistic City Hall has provided a visually stunning and diverse location for filmmakers to showcase their stories.
Using San Francisco and its stunning studio sets, filmmakers have produced some of the best films and written a love letter to San Francisco, spreading these films from the box office to couches across America.
Here’s the scoop on the best movies set in northern California’s San Francisco, with the list of movies sorted alphabetically with brief descriptions of each.
Best Movies Set in San Francisco
1. 48 Hrs. (1982)
A cop (Nick Nolte) and a convict (Eddie Murphy) team up as a fugitive crew to catch a pair of cop killers in this action-comedy.
2. A View to a Kill (1985)
James Bond, played by Roger Moore, investigates a plot to destroy Silicon Valley in this classic spy thriller.
3. All About Evil (2010)
After inheriting a mansion, a woman creates a series of murder films. Unbeknownst to her fans, she is documenting her real murders.
4. Almost Famous (2000)
This coming-of-age film follows a young boy inspired by the musicians of the 70s, landing an interview with a new rock band that is on the rise.
5. Always Be My Maybe (2019)
After childhood sweethearts reconnect, they find a spark still is there between them after fifteen years of separation, using Golden Gate Park as a romantic backdrop.
6. Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
The Marvel superhero Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) teams up with The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) to save her mother from the quantum realm, using settings near Green Street.
7. Basic Instinct (1992)
Michael Douglas plays a detective who becomes obsessed with a beautiful and dangerous suspect, played by Sharon Stone, in this erotic thriller.
8. Bedazzled (2000)
This movie follows Elliot, played by Brendan Fraser, asking for seven wishes from his devilish coworker. He manages to get more than what he bargained for with each passing wish.
9. Bicentennial Man (1999)
In this heartwarming science fiction drama, a robot played by Robin Williams strives to become human.
10. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Kurt Russell plays a truck driver who finds himself in the middle of a supernatural gang war in the city of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
11. Blue Jasmine (2013)
Directed by Woody Allen, a former New York socialite (Cate Blanchett) moves in with her sister in San Francisco after a financial scandal. Blanchett won an Academy Award for her work in this movie, winning best actress!
12. Bullitt (1968)
Steve McQueen plays a tough all-guts no-glory San Francisco cop who goes after the underworld kingpin in this classic action thriller.
13. Chan Is Missing (1982)
This independent film explores the Chinese-American experience through the eyes of a taxi driver searching for his friend in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
14. Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood stars as a cop who takes on a deranged serial killer named the Scorpio Killer in this iconic crime thriller.
15. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Based on a true story in the slew of Alcatraz movies, Clint Eastwood stars as an inmate who attempts to leave the notorious prison on Alcatraz Island and become an escaped convict.
16. Fearless (1993)
Jeff Bridges plays a man who survives a plane crash and becomes convinced he is invincible in this drama.
17. Foul Play (1978)
In this comedy-thriller, Goldie Hawn plays a librarian who accidentally involves himself in a conspiracy to assassinate the Pope.
18. Frequency (2000)
A New York City cop, played by Jim Caviezel, discovers he can communicate with his deceased father, played by Dennis Quaid, via an old ham radio, leading to a thrilling chase in San Francisco.
19. Fruitvale Station (2013)
This biographical drama follows the final day in the life of a young Black man named Oscar Grant. Grant was shot and killed by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale Station in 2009.
20. Godzilla (2014)
The King of the Monsters wreaks havoc on San Francisco in this blockbuster reboot.
21. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Sidney Poitier plays a Black man who meets his white fiancée’s parents, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in this classic drama.
22. Harold and Maude (1971)
A young man, played by Bud Cort, falls in love with a 79-year-old woman, played by Ruth Gordon, in this quirky romance.
23. Hitchcock (2012)
Anthony Hopkins plays the legendary filmmaker as he directs his classic thriller Vertigo in San Francisco.
24. Inside Out (2015)
Pixar’s animated film Inside Out follows the emotions inside a young girl’s mind as she moves to San Francisco with her family, breathing animated life into iconic San Francisco locations such as Lombard Street.
25. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
After being born in the eighteenth century, a vampire gladly retells his life story to a curious biographer, documenting his life’s ups and downs.
26. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In this science fiction horror film partially shot on Russian Hill, a group of San Francisco residents must fight to survive as an alien invasion takes over their city.
27. It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
A giant octopus attacks San Francisco in this classic B-movie.
28. Junior (1994)
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a male scientist who becomes pregnant in this comedic film.
29. Kuffs (1992)
A down-on-his-luck young man, played by Christian Slater, travels to visit his brother, only to get wrapped up in solving his brother’s murder.
30. La Mission (2009)
A macho man of an ex-convict, played by Benjamin Bratt, comes to terms that his only son, played by Jeremy Ray Valdez, is gay.
31. Lady in the Water (2006)
Inspired by a trip M. Night Shyamalan took to San Francisco, Shyamalan’s fantasy film is set in an apartment complex in Philadelphia.
32. Lenny (1974)
Dustin Hoffman portrays controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, who performed frequently in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
33. Magnum Force (1973)
Clint Eastwood reprises his role as the cop Dirty Harry in this sequel, where he goes after a group of vigilante cops.
34. Maximum Risk (1996)
In this action thriller, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a French cop who travels to San Francisco to avenge his twin brother’s death.
35. Milk (2008)
This film is based on the real-life story of Harvey Milk, starring Sean Penn in a critically acclaimed performance as the politician, who was the first to be elected into public office while being openly gay.
36. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
This funny animated feature follows a woman teaming up with monsters to stop aliens from taking over Earth.
37. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
After a bitter divorce, Robin Williams plays a dad who disguises himself as a female housekeeper to spend time with his kids and regain custody of his son who is living with his former wife. This movie is shot in San Francisco on the iconic Steiner Street.
38. Pacific Heights (1990)
In this psychological thriller, Michael Keaton plays a tenant from hell who terrorizes his landlords.
39. Pal Joey (1957)
Frank Sinatra stars as a nightclub performer who romances two women, played by Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in this musical.
40. Phantom of the Opera (1943)
This classic romance and horror film features a scene set in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.
41. Point Blank (1967)
Lee Marvin plays a man who seeks revenge on those who betrayed him after a heist in this gritty crime drama.
42. Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)
Anne Hathaway’s character, now a princess, travels to San Francisco to find a husband in this romantic comedy.
43. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, Princess Mononoke features a young warrior who embarks on a quest to find the cure for a deadly curse in the forests of medieval Japan, leading her through San Francisco’s Muir Woods.
44. Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
In this heartfelt biographical film, Will Smith portrays Chris Gardner, a salesman who becomes homeless with his young son.
45. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, embarks on a quest to find the Ark of the Covenant, which leads him to San Francisco in this classic adventure film.
46. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
A scientist, played by James Franco, inadvertently creates a super-intelligent chimp who leads a rebellion in this science fiction blockbuster.
47. San Andreas (2015)
Dwayne Johnson plays a rescue helicopter pilot who must save his daughter after a massive earthquake hits San Francisco.
48. San Francisco (1936)
Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald act alongside their star cast in this classic musical drama set during the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire.
49. Sister Act (1992)
After a lively lounge singer, played by Whoopi Goldberg, witnesses a mob murder, she is relocated for her own protection.
50. Sneakers (1992)
A team of security experts, played by Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and Dan Aykroyd, among others, are hired to steal a top-secret computer program.
51. So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
Mike Myers plays a commitment-phobic poet who falls in love with a woman he suspects might be a local serial killer.
52. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The crew of the USS Enterprise travels back in time to the 1980s to save the future after getting lost due to an alien probe in this science fiction classic. The come across the only beings they can use to get home: humpback whales.
53. Superfly (1972)
A cocaine dealer tries to make one last big score before leaving the business in this Blaxploitation film.
54. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
This experimental biopic tells the story of singer Karen Carpenter’s life and death, including her time living in San Francisco.
55. Terminator Genisys (2015)
The latest installment of the Terminator franchise sees the battle between man and machine unfold.
56. The Age of Adaline (2015)
Blake Lively plays a woman named Adaline who is stuck looking at how she did at the age of twenty-nine for the next eighty years of her life.
57. The Birds (1963)
Shot near Union Street, this classic Hitchcock film shows birds attacking civilians in a confusing yet striking narrative.
58. The Conversation (1974)
In this thriller directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Gene Hackman plays a surveillance expert who becomes paranoid that he’s being watched.
59. The Core (2003)
A geophysicist played by Aaron Eckhart finds a mysterious force in the Earth’s core causing unnatural rotations.
60. The Dead Pool (1988)
Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character investigates a string of murders in this action-packed crime thriller.
61. The Disaster Artist (2017)
The Disaster Artist follows Tommy Wisseau as he creates his now hilarious cult classic The Room.
62. The Enforcer (1976)
Filmed on Pine Street, The Enforcer is another Dirty Harry film, but this time Harry goes after a group of terrorists in San Francisco.
63. The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
Jason Segel and Emily Blunt play a couple who get engaged but encounter a series of delays and obstacles on their path to marriage.
64. The Game (1997)
This psychological thriller stars Michael Douglas, who plays a wealthy banker who becomes caught up in a dangerous and elaborate game.
65. The Graduate (1967)
Dustin Hoffman stars as a recent college graduate who has an affair with an older woman, played by Anne Bancroft.
66. The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
A woman inherits a San Francisco mansion but discovers dark secrets about the previous owner in this suspenseful film noir.
67. The Institute (2012)
An Oakland artist composes a game for San Francisco residents to play, only for the players to get more than what they bargained for.
68. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
A group of friends meets to play Mahjong, but end up exchanging a series of sixteen stories from their San Francisco homes.
69. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Produced by Brad Pitt, this film portrays Jimmie Fails and his best friend, Mont, trying to reclaim Jimmie’s grandfather’s house.
70. The Lineup (1958)
Two hitmen go on a killing spree in this gritty crime drama.
71. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Humphrey Bogart stars as the private investigator Sam Spade in this classic film noir involving tangled webs of crime.
72. The Presidio (1988)
Sean Connery plays a cop who must team up with an Army investigator, played by Mark Harmon, to solve a murder on a military base.
73. The Princess Diaries (2001)
Anne Hathaway stars as a typical high school teenager who discovers she’s the heir to a European throne in this romantic comedy.
74. The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981)
Based on a real unsolved true crime story, this adventure film has Treat Williams portraying the infamous hijacker who jumped out of a plane with a ransom.
75. The Rock (1996)
This action thriller depicts an ex-con (Sean Connery) and a mild-mannered chemist (Nicolas Cage) teaming up to stop a rogue group of military men led by a renegade general who has taken control of Alcatraz Island and is threatening to use nerve gas attack on the city.
76. The Room (2003)
While this film did not receive much commercial success at the time of its release, this cult classic has become hilariously famous for its terrible acting, bizarre dialogue, and inexplicable plot shot near Union Square.
77. The Towering Inferno (1974)
A massive fire breaks out in a skyscraper, trapping its occupants in this disaster film starring Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.
78. The Wedding Planner (2001)
In this romantic comedy, Jennifer Lopez plays a wedding planner who falls in love with a groom-to-be, played by Matthew McConaughey.
79. Time After Time (1979)
This science fiction thriller tells the story of H.G. Wells, played by Malcolm McDowell, traveling through time to a modern-day San Francisco to stop Jack the Ripper, played by David Warner.
80. Trauma (2004)
This psychological thriller shows a woman played by Mena Suvari with amnesia who must piece together her past after witnessing a murder.
81. Vertigo (1958)
Shot near San Francisco’s iconic Taylor Street and Nob Hill, this classic Hitchcock film shows James Stewart playing a detective who becomes obsessed with a woman (Kim Novak).
82. Zodiac (2007)
This film, directed by David Fincher, follows the investigation into the real-life Zodiac Killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
There you have it, the best movies set in San Francisco!
San Francisco’s iconic landmarks, unique neighborhoods, and diverse culture have made it a popular destination for filmmakers, and it’s easy to see why. The city’s beauty and charm shine through on the big screen, and it’s no wonder that so many filmmakers have been drawn to it over the years.
From classic films to modern blockbusters, the film industry has used San Francisco as the backdrop for some of the best memorable movies in history, from historical settings such as Alcatraz and serving as the birthplace of notable figures such as Steve Jobs.
Whether you’re in the mood for action, romance, comedy, or drama, there is something for everyone on this list, using the streets of San Francisco as its backdrop.
So the next time you’re looking for some great movies, consider one of these “set in San Francisco” classics starring some of the best actors.
You might just discover a new favorite film or gain a new appreciation for the City by the Bay. Maybe next time you’re in San Francisco, stop by the Civic Center or Financial District to catch one of the city’s famous movies in the scenic city itself, or sign-up for a San Francisco movie tour!
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