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5 Great Movies Set In San Francisco
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5 Great Movies Set In San Francisco

Picture of Kyla Giffin
Updated: 29 December 2016
San Francisco is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, as well as one of Hollywood’s favorite movie locations. Here are five must-see films set in the Golden Gate City.
“Madeleine” from Vertigo (1958) | © Elwin7/Flickr
“Madeleine” from Vertigo (1958) | © Elwin7/Flickr

Vertigo (1958)

There is no movie in the world like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It is the tragic story of a man who loses the love of his life, not once, but twice. When a police officer falls and dies after trying to help him, John “Scottie” Ferguson, played by James Stewart, develops acrophobia. He, an ex-detective, is cared for by his ex-fiancée, Marjorie Midge Wood,. After a college friend, Gavin Elster, asks Ferguson to investigate his wife, whom he suspects is suicidal, Scottie starts to fall in love with Elster’s so-called “wife.” But when Madeleine seems to have committed suicide, and Ferguson sees a woman who looks exactly like her, a murder, a romance and what was left of his sanity all start to unravel.

Steve McQueen is the ‘star’ of Bullitt (1968) | © Fabio Ikezaki/Flickr
Steve McQueen is the ‘star’ of Bullitt (1968) | © Fabio Ikezaki/Flickr

Bullitt (1968)

Bullitt is the ultimate car chase movie. The Fast & Furious series probably has this movie to thank. In Bullitt, Detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, the one and only Steve McQueen, is driven by Sergeant Don Delgetti and Sergeant Carl Stanton to the mansion of politician Walter Chalmers on a Saturday. Bullit is assigned to guard a Johnny Ross, who will be testifying in court against a mob on Monday, with his life. But when Ross is shot and dies later in the hospital, Bullitt’s questions and suspicions spin out of control, leading him on the wildest car chase of his life with Ross’ killers. To top it all off, the man they thought was Ross the entire time wasn’t, and Bullitt’s girlfriend reconsiders if she wants to be with a man such as he.

Autographed picture of Barbra Streisand, co-star of What’s Up, Doc? | © Alan Light/Flickr
Autographed picture of Barbra Streisand, co-star of What’s Up, Doc? | © Alan Light/Flickr

What’s Up, Doc? (1962)

This classic comedy is sure to make you ask, “What goes on in San Fran?” The main character in What’s Up, Doc? is a professor of musicology at the Ames Conservatory of Music in Ames, Iowa, Dr. Howard Bannister, who is played by Ryan O’Neal. When he is up for the $20,000 Larrabee Grant to be given out at the Congress of American Musicologists against the egotistical Hugh Simon, Bannister and his control-freak fiancée, Eunice Burns, travel to San Francisco, where Howard meets Judy Maxwell (the lovely Barbra Streisand), and instantly falls in love with her. But when Howard, Judy, a reporter named Mr. Smith and a rich lady named Mrs. Van Hoskins all have the same luggage, things start to get a little mixed up.

Poster for the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) | © Hannes Engelbrecht/Flickr
Poster for the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) | © Hannes Engelbrecht/Flickr

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

What more horrific movie is there than an alien that can copy your look and behavior? This movie was originally made in 1956, but the 1978 version is so much better because it takes place in San Francisco! When Elizabeth Driscoll, played by Brooke Adams, finds an interesting pod that she doesn’t know the name of, she takes it home to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, Geoffrey, and calls the mysterious object a “grex.” But when Geoffrey starts acting weird the next day, and she notices him handing packages to strangers, she goes to her friend, Matthew Bennell, played by Donald Sutherland, a health inspector, for help. When others start going to Bennell and claiming their relatives are impostors, he knows something is off…but is it too late by then?

The Italian movie poster for It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) | © Hannes Engelbrecht/Flickr
The Italian movie poster for It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) | © Hannes Engelbrecht/Flickr

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

The ocean is so unknown to mankind…but It Came from Beneath the Sea suggests that we know even less about it than we think we do. This takes the famous Kraken to another level. When something attacks a nuclear submarine, its stern becomes radioactive, and something becomes stuck in a control plane, the captain of the submarine decides to go back to Pearl Harbor to get it checked out. The team of Commander Peter Matthews (Kenneth Toby), Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domerque) and Dr. John Curtis (Donald Curtis) take up this investigation, and what they find is that the specimen caught in the plane was, in fact, part of giant squid. What happens when the squid starts appearing around the world wreaking havoc? And what happens when it surfaces, angry, in San Francisco?