San Francisco’s movie landmarks
A few miles down the bay is Alcatraz, where Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery prevented missiles from launching and Clint Eastwood may or may not have escaped. Up on shore, there is Coit Tower, City Hall, the Transamerica Pyramid, all those hills that have been the setting for so many chase scenes.
Filled with iconic landmarks, breathtaking scenery and a wide range of locations, San Francisco has a long history as a favorite site for filmmakers — and the movie buffs who want to see the places where their favorite scenes were filmed.
“So many people are so familiar with the icons, with the landmarks of San Francisco,” said Bryan Rice, owner of San Francisco Movie Tours. “You can show the Golden Gate Bridge, you can show the Transamerica Pyramid in the background, show these different places where people are familiar with and it draws people in.”
The Bay Area’s moviemaking history goes back to the beginning of film, to Eadweard Muybridge’s study of a horse galloping in Palo Alto, widely regarded as the first motion picture ever made.
Charlie Chaplin’s movies and many of the first silent films were shot near San Francisco, along with parts of “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie” released in 1927.
It’s easy to see why: The bay, the bridge, the landmarks and a variety of elevations for interesting angles from which to shoot. Locations are diverse: downtown, the waterfront, the Painted Ladies Victorian homes, Chinatown, the gritty Tenderloin. Film noir can be shot in the fog; a screwball comedy can bounce along hilly streets. Many films shot in San Francisco are written for the city, so it, in a sense, becomes a character in the movie.
“All the producers I talk to say they would love to shoot here because visually it’s such a beautiful place that it makes anyone’s film better looking,” said Susannah Greason Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission.
The city’s long history of film offers plenty of iconic spots to visit. Here are just a few.
Alcatraz: In “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “Escape from Alcatraz,” “Murder in the First,” “The Rock,” “The Enforcer.”
A federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, “The Rock” housed notorious criminals including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and James “Whitey” Bulger. Now a national park, Alcatraz offers visitors a chance to tour the prison, including a look at one of the cells portrayed in Mr. Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz,” with the concrete chipped away behind the vent.
Round-trip ferry to Alcatraz, $28 to $32 including audio tour, every half-hour starting about 9 a.m., www.alcatrazcruises.com/.
Built to protect the San Francisco Bay from Confederate and foreign attack during the Civil War, Fort Point is where Stewart saved Miss Novak in “Vertigo,” right at the base. The bridge has been blown up countless times on film, including in “X-Men 3” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” The best view is from the north side back toward the city.