15 Movie Posters That Capture the Essence of San Francisco

Blue Jasmine | Courtesy of Gravier Productions and Perdido Productions
Blue Jasmine | Courtesy of Gravier Productions and Perdido Productions
Photo of Deanna Morgado
12 September 2017

The essence of San Francisco is something that many wish they could grasp, and that journey has not yet come to an end—except for film. Movies have captured the city’s wonder and mystery for decades; anyone can watch a movie made in San Francisco and think they understand the foggy city by the bay. It’s in those films’ movie posters where people can see and marvel at the nature of San Francisco.

Dirty Harry (1971)

Although finding the type of bigoted man that stars in this film in the very liberal San Francisco can seem like a bit of a stretch, Dirty Harry is a classic. Native San Franciscan Clint Eastwood and the infamous SF skyline in the back—how much more old-school San Francisco can this film poster get?

Dirty Harry | Courtesy of Warner Bros. and Malpaso Productions

The Rock (1996)

The nickname “The Rock,” referring to Alcatraz Island, has long gone out of style. However, three men brooding over the menacing shut down prison that once kept over 1,000 men shackled is a pretty good telltale of Alcatraz’s reputation.

The Rock | Courtesy of Hollywood Pictures

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Mrs. Doubtfire might very well be the most San Francisco movie ever made. An out-of-work creative pushes his family’s buttons and patience, only to attempt to win them back with a costume charade. Starring beloved San Franciscan Robin Williams, the obvious cross-dressing in the film and poster makes this a clear and oh-so-lovable tribute to San Francisco.

Mrs. Doubtfire | Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Kuffs (1992)

“Who needs experience when you have attitude?” This quote might as well be San Francisco’s motto today. The heavily blurred but visible city streets tip their hat to SF’s never-ending traffic—not to mention the very apparent Transamerica Pyramid poking its way into the shot.

Kuffs | Courtesy of Dino de Laurentiis Communications, EvansGideon, and Beginner's Luck

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

In San Francisco, a group of people discovers that clones devoid of emotion are slowly replacing the human race. This movie strikes fear in many individuals, no matter which city they’re in. Invasion of the Body Snatchers exposed the fear of the world turning into mindless warm-bodies, sucked into the world of consumption and work. The year 1978 was a difficult time in San Francisco, with the Milk-Moscone assassinations, the Jim Jones murders, and hard times surrounding civil rights. The fright-inducing art on the poster captures those emotions of human terror.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers | Courtesy of United Artists

The Presidio (1998)

A year after The Presidio’s release, Congress voted to shut the city’s military authority down, leaving this police vs. military authority story based in the actual Presidio neighborhood up for imagination. The poster shows two men divided by the Golden Gate Bridge; it screams San Francisco.

The Presidio | Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Pacific Heights (1990)

Another film named after a San Francisco neighborhood, Pacific Heights claws at the embedded fear of being taken as a hostage in your own place. The huge and old Pacific Heights homes set the whole scene for this creepy movie, and the poster is the perfect image of all landlords in rent-crazy San Francisco horrors.

Pacific Heights | Courtesy of Morgan Creek Productions

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

Worlds collide when an All-American trucker finds himself stuck in a centuries-old mystical battle in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Opposite worlds coming together is what built San Francisco and made the city what it is today. And the poster depicts that melting-pot attitude perfectly.

Big Trouble In Little China | Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Bullitt (1968)

Set in San Francisco, this movie is about a cop (Steve McQueen) and his mustang trying to take down the mob. San Francisco’s need for speed and action are effortlessly conveyed.

Bullitt | Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Time After Time (1979)

In his homemade device, character H.G. Wells travels to the future, from London to SF, in order to hunt down a close friend who just happens to be Jack the Ripper. The poster embodies San Francisco’s pure essence to this day, with its obsession with tech, fantasy, and, of course, serial killers.

Time After Time | Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Conversation (1974)

The forever inner turmoil of human curiosity is tested when a paranoid surveillance expert has to decide what to do when he suspects that the couple he is currently spying on is going to be murdered. The desire to know all and see all at virtually any cost encompasses San Francisco’s way of thinking to a T, as well as back to their obsession with technology.

The Coversation | Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Vertigo (1958)

When a San Francisco detective that suffers from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, he finds himself falling into a dangerous obsession with her. San Francisco can sweep you away if you’re not careful. Sometimes, the city will take you to your dreams, and other times, it will allow you to get carried away, leaving yourself spinning and reeling.

vertigo | Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The Game (1997)

With everything that San Francisco has to offer, whether positive or negative, it can send anybody into a tailspin. The depiction of curiosity, confusion, and anticipation is something that anyone who has spent time in San Francisco will find familiar. The Game, like its poster, is thrilling and nail-biting.

The Game | Courtesy of Lionsgate and Propaganda Films

Blue Jasmine (2013)

The West Coast and East Coast clash in this San Francisco film. A deeply disturbed and oblivious New York socialite stays with her sister in the City by the Bay and makes life hell. The blue wonder of the San Francisco Bay and the promising dazzles of the Golden Gate Bridge shed light on many outsiders’ views of San Francisco.

Blue Jasmine | Courtesy of Gravier Productions and Perdido Productions

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla wasn’t shot at all in San Francisco, but the film’s poster depicts the city in a pretty awesome light. As the feared Godzilla looms over the city’s skyline, with the fog, and blazing sunset, the image is very much the feel of San Francisco. This particular Godzilla film’s plot, with another alien monster terrorizing the city and Godzilla somewhat being the hero, ties together quite well with the city’s actual philosophy of those who are different and feared actually make San Francisco a better place.

Godzilla | Courtesy of Legendary Entertainment and Toho Co., Ltd.

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