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7 Movies That Capture The 90s In San Francisco

Picture of Rayanne Piana
Updated: 2 November 2016
Between aerial shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and scenes filmed in Victorian townhouses, San Francisco was a popular choice of setting for filmmakers in the 1990s. Starring the likes of Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, movies shot in The City by the Bay garnered critical acclaim and drove into the heart of 90s pop culture. If you’re searching for a sense of San Francisco nostalgia, check out these movies that capture the 90s in SF!

Mrs. Doubtfire

In one of Robin Williams’s many unforgettable roles, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) tells the story of the divorced Daniel Hillard, who dons a disguise as a middle-aged British woman to sneak past his ex-wife and get closer to his children as their nanny. Williams’s hilarious performance as Mrs. Doubtfire is both amusing and moving, as his character learns a thing or two about being a better father. The iconic San Francisco home from Mrs. Doubtfire is still a popular tourist destination, and you can visit it at 2640 Steiner Street!

The Bachelor

Not to be confused with the popular reality tv competition by the same title, The Bachelor (1999) is about a free spirited Jimmie Shannon, played by Chris O’Donnell, who proposes to his girlfriend Anne (Renée Zellweger). But after his crude attempt at a proposal, Anne says no and leaves him for a trip to Greece. Suddenly, Jimmie learns his wealthy grandfather has passed away and willed him the family fortune, but only on the condition that he gets married by the next day. Word gets out about Jimmie’s search for a last minute bride, and he soon finds himself sprinting through the streets of San Francisco, being chased by hundreds of desperate women in wedding gowns.

Sister Act & Sister Act 2

Led by an Academy Award-winning performance by Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act (1992) tells the story of a Reno lounge singer who is relocated to San Francisco to adopt her new identity as Sister Mary Clarence as part of a witness protection program. Now a nun at St. Katherine’s Parish (set in St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Francisco), she uses her talents to give some life (and attitude) to the sisters’ choir. In the follow up film, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), Sister Mary Clarence brings her music to a rundown part of the city to teach a group of defiant teenagers, including a character played by Lauryn Hill.

The Joy Luck Club

Based on the novel written by bay area native Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (1993) breaks down the complex relationships between Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters. The women meet regularly to play games of mahjong, whilst exchanging stories of their past and the struggles they faced throughout their immigration experiences. The film brilliantly captures the dynamics of Asian American communities in San Francisco, following the city’s cultural shift after the immigration wave of the early 90s.

Dr. Dolittle

In this 90s family comedy starring Eddie Murphy, Dr. Dolittle (1998) chronicles the adventures of John Dolittle as he navigates his strange ability to converse with animals. As the film progresses, Murphy’s character learns to use his ability to help animals with their problems. When word gets out about Dr. Dolittle’s services, thousands of dogs, rats, and birds race through the streets of San Francisco to seek his help. The doctor treats wounds and provides counseling for countless animals, including an emotionally unstable tiger that Dolittle must talk out of jumping from the top of the Coit Tower.

Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco

In the sequel to original Disney film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the beloved pets of the Seaver family find themselves in yet another adventure in Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996). On their way to Canada, the Seavers arrive at San Francisco International Airport and check in their pets: Chance the American bulldog, Shadow the golden retriever, and Sassy, the appropriately named cat. The pets somehow escape from their carriers and find themselves facing the streets of San Francisco as they attempt to reach their home across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Fearless

In Fearless (1993), Max Klein becomes a changed man after surviving a tragic plane crash during a flight from San Francisco to Houston. After the near death experience, Max inexplicably comes to believe he is invulnerable to the dangers of the world. The film follows his wreckless behavior in his newfound fearlessness as he walks calmly through open traffic, dances atop skyscrapers in downtown San Francisco, and declares himself indestructible in an emotional scene shot by the Bay Bridge.