My list of best San Francisco novels begat a list of favorite San Francisco movies. I’m including IMDB(1-10) ratings after the year to provide a consensus view of quality. I’m weighting San Francisco visibility more.
Vertigo (1958) 8.4
Alfred Hitchcock’s movie about obsession (James Stewart’s character’s) recently topped the decennial Sight & Sound list of greatest movies, so had better be atop this list! Along with Stewart’s relentlessness and Kim Novak’s vulnerability, this has a lot of San Francisco sites, including the top of Telegraph Hill, Madge’s Russian Hill apartment, the Legion of Honor, the Mission Dolores cemetery (where the alcalde after whom my street is named is buried), the long-gone Ernie’s and the mission at San Juan Bautista with a tower (not an insignificant plot element!) added.And the Bernard Hermann romantic score!
Bullitt (1968) 7.5
The chase makes no geographic sense, but I like that it includes my neighborhood (Potrero Hill). Steve McQueen is dour (supposed to be cool). I don’t remember the plot except that the smarmy Robert Vaughan is not to be trusted.
Dark Passage (1947) 7.6
I most love the ending, which is set far south of San Francisco (or Hollywood, for that matter), and the nightmare trek up and down outside stairways and Lauren Bacall’s (character’s) apartment.
The Lady from Shanghai (1948) 7.7
Playland had burned down before I moved to San Francisco, but the hall of mirrors shootout is forever. As is the glamour of Rita Hayworth, as in “Gilda.” Somehow I believe her character, but not Orson Welles’s.
The Conversation (1974) 7.9
An aural stakeout in Union Square with a then-unknown Harrison Ford, plus Gene Hackman becoming unhinged for Francis Ford Coppola (a short walk from Zoetrope).
Thieves’ Highway (1949) 7.7
Another vanished location: the waterfront produce market in Jules Dassin’s noir with Lee J. Cobb practicing for “On the Waterfront” and Richard Conte trying to be a leading man.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 7.4
I used to have a desk with a view across Grove Street of City Hall (home of what we called “the dome mentality”), where the pods take over in Philip Kaufman’s stylish remake that featured Leonard Nimoy (starred Donald Sutherland).
D.O.A. (1950) 7.4
Edmond O’Brien wanders the streets of The City (as we like to capitalize it), knowing that he has taken a lethal dose of poison in Rudolf Maté’s noir/thriller. O’Brien plays an accountant from Banning (inland southern California) on vacation. The movie begins with a tracking shot in police HQ (before the Hall of Justice was built). Much of the movie was shot in LA…
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) 7.3
This installment was inspired by Humphrey, the hump-backed whale that wandered into the Bay migrating from Baja to Alaska, and is fun for all, but especially for San Franciscans.
“What’s Up, Doc?” (1972) 7.8
I don’t remember much about Barbara Streisand’s second movie, a screwball comedy directed by Peter Bogdanovich with Babs channeling the actress who tied with her Oscar for her first movie and Ryan O’Neal trying to channel Cary Grant. In addition to the “Bring Up Baby” resonances, there was Madeline Kahn’s debut. There is a parody of the “Bullit” chase and the TWA facilities of SFO’s South Terminal (now Terminal 1 with no TWA).
and ten more:
Pal Joey (1957) 6.8 (Rita Hayorth’s character’s yacht)
Interview with the Vampire (1994) 7.6 (the interview itself)
Petulia (1968) 7.3
Sudden Fear (1952) 7.5
Experiment in Terror (1962) 7.3 the then-new, now demolished Candlestick Park
House on Telegraph Hill (1951) 7
Where Danger Lives (1950) 6.7
Point Blank (1967) 7.4
48 Hours (1982) 6.9
Time After Time (1979) 7.2
Towering Inferno (1974) 6.9
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) 7.2
Blue Jasmine (2013) 7.3