Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, Wikimedia

Top 10 Movies Made in the Parks

From Park E-ventures, February 2013

Golden Gate, meet silver screen. With the Oscars coming up (Feb. 24), we’re handing out (figurative) statuettes to the most memorable movie scenes filmed in the Golden Gate National Parks.

We also want to hear from you! “Comment” below and share with us your favorite movies or scenes that feature these national parks.

10) The Presidio (1988)
Although this one looks like a hit—featuring legend Sean Connery, an up-and-coming Mark Harmon, and starlet Meg Ryan—“The Presidio” disappointed critics and audiences alike. But we had to include this on our list. Come on—it’s a movie filmed at and titled after one of our park sites! Strangely, “Gerbode Valley” and “Phleger Estate” have yet to get the Hollywood treatment. We’re looking at you, J.J. Abrams. Watch a clip >>

9) The Rock (1996)
Unlike “The Presidio,” this Connery/Cage vehicle was a worldwide blockbuster. Although it has its fair share of factual errors, much of the film was actually filmed on the island—which remained open to the public during production. The climactic “green smoke” sequence, in fact, was filmed in the Alcatraz laundry-processing building. Here is that famous scene, in all its Cage-y glory. Watch a clip >> (For more stories and photos of Hollywood history on the Rock, pick up the action-packed Alcatraz: The Ultimate Movie Book.)

8) So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
Although not a huge hit, this dark comedy hinted at Mike Myers’ uncanny ability to portray multiple characters, a talent he would later play to the hilt in the “Austin Powers” movies. This film’s off-beat comedic style is encapsulated in this scene of an Alcatraz cellhouse tour. Yes, we have Alcatraz tours led by park rangers. But no, none of them are named (or nicknamed) Vicky. Watch a clip >> (WARNING: Adult language in this clip.)
7) Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Apparently, 1993 was a good year for cinema of the City. This much-loved family favorite wonderfully captures Robin Williams’ gift for manic, goofy comedy—as well as San Francisco’s exquisite scenic charms. In this trailer, both of those strengths can be seen simultaneously (at 0:55), as Mrs. Doubtfire pedals her young charge along that unmistakable strip of bayshore that would become our Crissy Field Promenade. Watch a clip >>

6) Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood’s iconic character seems most at home in San Francisco’s grittier urban landscapes, but he also shows up in a couple places in our national parks. In addition to the scene in which he looks over the Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands, there’s this harrowing scene, beginning at 1:03 of this clip: a dash through the dark tunnel (closed to the public) under Fort Mason—home of Golden Gate National Recreation Area headquarters, and our Conservancy offices! Watch a clip >> (WARNING: Adult language.)

5) Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Its cinematic merits are disputed (some love it, some despise it), but what isn’t debatable is Muir Beach’s star turn in one of the most emotionally fraught scenes of the film. As Sayuri (played, controversially, by Zhang Ziyi) drifts to the end of a knife-edge promontory, park lovers might recognize the striking contour of the Muir Beach Overlook—and its soul-stirring vistas of the Pacific coast. Watch a clip >>

4) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
This installment of the “Star Trek” saga shows glimpses of the park, as Kirk and Spock ride a bus across the Golden Gate (in one of the film’s funniest moments) and stroll on the promenade near Fort Point. And, as Trekkies know—and this awesome compilation shows—our parks loom large in the Starfleet cosmos throughout films I–VI, with Command Headquarters and the Academy located at the Presidio and Fort Baker. Watch a clip >>

3) Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
In this dramatization of the more-incredible-than-fiction June 1962 escape attempt, Clint Eastwood is pitch-perfect as mastermind Frank Morris, who leads the Anglin brothers to freedom (possibly?) through an ingenious plot. This film scores big bonus points for its attention to historic details—the costumes are spot-on, and Paramount studios reportedly chipped in about $500,000 to restore and refurbish the weather-worn prison (imdb.com). Watch a clip >>

2) Harold and Maude (1971)
This quirky cult classic prominently showcases our parks in two scenes—the war protest scene (at Sutro Baths) and the penultimate car crash scene, in which a Jaguar E-Type plummets off a cliff. This segment, which starts at 1:02 of the clip, was filmed at Mori Point. We had forgotten just how long the camera tracks across the landscape, and lingers on the lovely bluffs and crashing surf. It’s truly remarkable. Watch a clip >>

1) Vertigo (1958)
Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, set one of the key scenes of his masterpiece—on the short list of films up for discussion as the Greatest of All-Time—at Fort Point, now a National Historic Site in the heart of the Golden Gate National Parks. In terms of the quality of the film, and the prominence of our park site in the story, “Vertigo” is a no-brainer for the #1 spot. Watch a clip >>

Now it’s your turn. Disagree with our rankings? Did we forget one of your favorite films? Share your thoughts below by leaving a “Comment.”

Return to Park E-ventures archive or read more articles about related:




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There should be a a marker at the Presidio to note it's close connection with the Star Trek universe. 
Submitted by theater on October 31, 2013 
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Harold and Maude has at least one scene; at Sutro Baths. 
Submitted by mrblack on August 30, 2013 
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Whenever I hike through Muir Woods, I'm reminded of the scenes of the ewoks in Star Wars. 
Submitted by Lynn Eve on February 24, 2013 
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For views of the bustling Embarcadero ca early 1950s, see "Thieves' Highway," "D.O.A." and "The House of Telegraph Hill." 
Submitted by Barbara Bernstein on February 7, 2013 
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Lest we forget, " Play It Again, Sam)- another Woodie Allen; not his best but beaches in both SF & Marin (a swim at Ocean Beach, brr) and many other familiar locations. 
Submitted by Susan Richmond on February 5, 2013 
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Don't forget Chris Columbus' Bicentennial Man with a lovely scene at Ft. Point, among others. 
Submitted by john on February 3, 2013 
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Perhaps the latest movie was 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". It was shot in Muir Woods and at the Golden Gate Bridge. 
Submitted by Supercilious on February 2, 2013 
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Within the last 38 years I've phisically been in San Francisco four (4) days. So when my heart turns to "homesickness" I find refuge in foto books or in a movie: "What's up, Doc?" This is definitely my favorite emotional SF city portrait!! 
Submitted by Andreas - Berlin, Germany on February 2, 2013 
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My favorite bad Alcatraz movies include Skidoo (comedy), Terror on Alcatraz (horror), and Slaughter House Rock (drama?). All of these are truly bad. 
Submitted by Craig Glassner on February 1, 2013 
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Great choices. However I think you are missing out on the 1980's classic "Jagged Edge" with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. It has some incredible shots of pre 1989 earthquake San Francisco.  
Submitted by teenstar78insf on February 1, 2013 
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To Mary Jeanne: Do you mean "The Golden Gate Murders," which was a 1979 TV movie? Information about it can be found at www.imdb.com.  
Submitted by Marilyn on February 1, 2013 
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How about the Bond Film View To a Kill which has stunning views from the airship tied to the top of the Golden Gate, or the amazing Tales of The City which is jam packed with scenes set in the parks, especially when Laura Linney let's the unspeakable Norman Neil Williams fall off the cliffs. 
Submitted by Jon Champs on February 1, 2013 
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No love for "big trouble in little china"? 
Submitted by Oggie on February 1, 2013 
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In “A View to a Kill” (1985), the fourteenth spy film of the James Bond series, Bond moors an airship to the framework of the Golden Gate Bridge. 
Submitted by Roger O. Thornhill on January 31, 2013 
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Bullitt 1968, Steve McQueen ... best use of SF city streets ... best car chase film! 
Submitted by jennifer on January 31, 2013 
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I enjoyed "Sweet November" (2001) with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. The dog walking on Crissy Field scenes are particularly memorable. 
Submitted by Sandra on January 31, 2013 
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Yeah, Lineup's great for many locations. How about Allen's "Take the Money & Run"?  
Submitted by Susan Richmond on January 31, 2013 
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Definitely agree that Vertigo is a top pick.  
Submitted by BB on January 31, 2013 
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The greatest of all: Dark Passage starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. There are several scenes around the Bridge, like when Bacall smuggles escaped convict Bogart over the Bridge from Marin County, and when Bogart gets the best of the con man in a scene that takes place under the Bridge. 
Submitted by Bill Girolamo on January 31, 2013 
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I loved "The Presidio" because they are 2 of my favorite stars. They filmed a sequence at the foot of Market that many of us watched during our lunch hour. "The Rock" another favorite. I love watching movies filmed in areas I know. There is a 1979 mvoice called The Golden Gate Murders starring David Janssen. 
Submitted by Diane Hendricksen on January 31, 2013 
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One of my all-time favorite films was 1967's Point Blank by director John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin. Nice scenes filmed at Alcatraz and a very key sequence shot on one of the SF Bay excursion ferries. 
Submitted by Steve Cook on January 31, 2013 
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I loved the 1958 movie, The LineUp, for the scenes inside Sutro Baths! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JklqpaDdYX0 
Submitted by Michael Norelli on January 31, 2013 
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I have heard of a movie called "Murder on the Golden Gate Bridge", and have always wanted to see it. Anyone have any leads? 
Submitted by Mary Jeanne on January 31, 2013 
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How could you overlook Herbie the Love Bug? Especially with the dramatic scene of Herbie trying to throw himself off the Golden Gate Bridge? Great stuff. 
Submitted by Mary on January 31, 2013 
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Can't believe you did not include "What's Up Doc?" My favorite, with lots of situational comedy involving SF hills... 
Submitted by Sarah on January 31, 2013 
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You left out one of my favourite films set in San Francisco;'Zodiac' 
Submitted by Michael on January 31, 2013 


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