May 29, 2012 by Amanda
If you had to guess, how many movies and TV shows do you think have been filmed in San Francisco, California?
25? 50? 75?
San Francisco and its wealth of character-filled neighborhoods has served as a backdrop for tons of Hollywood blockbusters and television hits. It sometimes even stands in for other cities around the U.S. and the world — it’s just that versatile.
If you’re a movie buff like me, a city tour that incorporates famous filming locations and attractions is always a draw when visiting a new place. And that’s exactly why I decided to give San Francisco Movie Tours a try during a recent visit to the City by the Bay.
Unlike some other themed movie tours I’ve been on in the past, this tour doesn’t focus on any one film or genre of films. Instead, it highlights ALL of San Francisco and the different ways the city has played roles onscreen.
Playing hundreds of movie clips from dozens of films (the company has an arsenal of more than 200 clips from over 100 movies filmed in San Francisco), the tour takes you through a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods, playing appropriate clips along the way. I was impressed by the time it must have taken to come up with the route and corresponding reel of clips, which seems timed perfectly.
You’re not watching clips on the mini-bus the whole time, though. The tour has a handful of designated breaks and photo stops, most associated with some of the best movie sites on the tour.
My favorite stops included:
This gold-gilded building in downtown San Francisco would be a must-see even if you weren’t interested in it’s role in movies. For the film buff, though, it has appeared in films such as “Milk” and “A View to a Kill.” It also doubled as the U.S. Capitol building in “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” which is almost ironic, as it is in fact one of the only domed buildings in the United States that is actually larger than the Capitol.
Here, under the famous Golden Gate Bridge, is where Kim Novak jumped into the water and Jimmy Stewart saved her in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” The spot is definitely popular with film fans, but also with ordinary tourists, as it offers a truly fantastic view of the bridge.
Alamo Square Park
While not strictly-speaking famous for its role in movies, I was really glad to get a photo stop at Alamo Square Park. The line of Victorian houses known as “the Painted Ladies” is known to “Full House” fans as being featured in the American sitcom’s opening credits. And, let’s face it — that view is amazing.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” house
In the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood, you’ll stop briefly to see the house that served as the Hillard home in the Robin Williams film “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Fun fact: in the movie, when Sally Field’s character Miranda is giving “Mrs. Doubtfire” her home address, she gives the actual address of the home: 2640 Steiner Street. The current owners of the house have a sense of humor about it, though, as evidenced by the fact that their wireless Internet network is called “doubtfire.”
On the tour, you’ll also see:
- The various locations from the famous chase scene in “Bullitt”
- The building where Christian Slater interrogated Tom Cruise in “Interview with the Vampire”
- The high school attended by Anne Hathaway in “Princess Diaries”
- The alley where a killer offed Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, in “The Maltese Falcon”
- The damaged park steps from the car chase in “What’s Up Doc”
As evidenced by the stops listed above, this tour traverses all over San Francisco. You’ll visit most of the city’s major neighborhoods, including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Nob Hill, Union Square, Civic Center, Alamo Square, Haight/Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Presidio, Fort Point/Golden Gate Bridge, and Pacific Heights. If you haven’t seen much of the city yet, this tour would be a perfect way to get a glimpse.
You’ll also learn fun facts about movies in San Francisco on the tour (for instance, did you know that the first “talkie,” 1927’s “Jazz Singer,” was set in San Francisco?), as well as movie trivia about some of your favorite films and movie stars.
And the best part? You won’t have to compete with 50+ other tourists, as numbers on this tour are kept quite small.
Most San Francisco Movie tours are led by enthusiastic actors, but I ended up on a Sunday morning tour led by the company’s owner, Bryan. He started the tours about 4 years ago after sensing an interest among his own friends in seeing famous filming locations around San Francisco. The rest, as they say, is history, but the company is still in its developing stage. I always enjoy supporting locally-owned and -operated companies like this one, though — there’s always so much more love and attention put into them.
So would I recommend this tour?
The short answer is yes, especially if you’re into movies and haven’t taken a good city tour of San Francisco yet. The only criticism I had was that, at times, it was difficult to both watch the movie clips being played and take in the neighborhoods we were driving through. However, I feel like the number of photo stops makes up for this, and I would still recommend this tour to others.
If you aren’t a big movie fan and already have seen most of the city, however, this probably won’t be the right tour for you.
If You Go:
Price: $47 per adult
Time: 10:30 a.m. daily
Length: 3 hours
Pick-up: The tour does not do hotel pick-ups, but offers 3 options for pick-up locations around downtown San Francisco, including Union Square, Nob Hill, and Pier 43 ½ at Fisherman’s Wharf, where the tour departs from.
*Note: I received a complimentary tour from San Francisco Movie Tours. But, as always, all opinions are my own.