The Best San Francisco Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen | Jobi Cool


But some lesser-known movies shot here in the city have been forgotten over the years, one of which was actually seen by only 12 people.

Here are some of our favorites that you may have noticed that are worth streaming on a rainy night.

‘Medicine for Melancholy’ (2008)

Rent on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

Before director Barry Jenkins won the 2017 Oscar for best picture for “Moonlight” (the year “La La Land” famously didn’t win), he made this beautiful little romance and cultural commentary set in black and white (with the occasional splash of color. ) on the streets of San Francisco in the mid-2000s.

Made for less than $20,000 over the course of 15 days in 2007, the story follows young black couple Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joe (Tracy Heggins) who have a drunken one-night stand the next day at a random house party. The couple awkwardly battle hangovers while poking fun at what it means to be black in San Francisco and walk to Twin Peaks to find coffee, the carousel at Yerba Buena Gardens, and shopping at Rainbow Grocery. Their philosophical conversation, reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s “Before…” movies, focuses among other things on the hypocrisy of a very liberal city with a very small black demographic.

It’s a lonely, poignant little film — and a lot of it: The couple checks each other’s MySpace profiles, smokes for fun and debates the most 2007 of the San Francisco culture wars: Marina vs. Mission.

The movie’s most enduring line comes when Joe asks Micah if he likes San Francisco.

“I hate this city, but I love this city,” he tells her in a sudden paint-drenched shot behind the downtown skyscrapers of Mission Dolores Park. “Anyone who can find a street corner has got themselves a scene. San Francisco is beautiful, and it has nothing to do with beatniks, or hippies or yuppies. It’s just that.”

‘Greed’ (1924)

Rent on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

It is said that only 12 people saw the original eight-hour version of this silent-era tragedy. The producers at MGM decided to cut it down to two and a half hours and lost the other reels, which devastated director Erich von Stroheim until his dying day.

One of the most influential achievements in early Hollywood filmmaking, this epic tale of violence and greed follows a cruel and childlike San Francisco dentist into the depths of his animalistic tendencies. The movie is based on the 1898 book “McTeague” by Frank Norris, which also inspired the gold teeth that hang outside McTeague’s salon and near the fictional location of the murderous hero’s dentistry today at 1237 Polk Street. Surprisingly for the time, the movie was shot on Polk Street, in Hayes Valley and Death Valley, where dozens of crew members suffered from heat exhaustion.

"Greed" (1924)

“Greed” (1924)

The Goldwyn Company – Metro-Goldwyn

Many rumors have swirled about the existence of the fabled original eight-hour version. One states that a copy remained in a vault in South America for years and was screened annually on New Year’s Eve. The director once said he believed Benito Mussolini had a personal copy. What’s true is that dozens of people who saw the original cut, many said it was the greatest movie ever made.

The four-hour version, with some missing reels replaced with production stills, is currently available to stream. We won’t give away spoilers (even though the movie was made over a century ago), but the final scene in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin has a terrifying, spectacular twist that still shocks 100 years later.

‘The Lineup’ (1958)

Available on YouTube

One of the last great San Francisco noirs, 1958’s “The Lineup” follows “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” Eli Wallach as a psychopathic killer dancer, who hunts down residents who unknowingly smuggle heroin into the city.

The movie, which has a very complicated but fun plot, was directed by Don Siegel, who went on to become a famous San Francisco 1970s crime director. He would later shoot “Dirty Harry” (1971) and “Escape from Alcatraz” (1979) here as well.

As far as memorable mid-century San Francisco filming locations go, “The Lineup” is a real treat. The film shows the destroyed Embarcadero Freeway as it was under construction and the California Academy of Sciences’ old Steinhardt Aquarium, and perhaps most notably, it shows a long sequence inside the Sutro Baths, then the ice rink and the museum. Like the freeway, that landmark will be destroyed. The baths, built in 1894, would burn to the ground eight years later.

A long sequence in the bath provides some of the best and only footage from inside the historic San Francisco landmark. Watch Wallach’s Dancer oscillate menacingly among ice skaters, ornate interiors, nuns and children playing antique slot machines (which would later end up at Musée Mécanique) below:

‘DOA’ (1950)

Available on Amazon Prime Video

Another lesser-seen noir classic, 1950’s “DOA” revolves around a simple but brilliant premise: our hero, Frank Bigelow (Edmund O’Brien) enters a San Francisco police station to report his own murder. Our man has been poisoned, has seven days to live and is on the run around San Francisco to find out who is killing him and why.

The fast-paced psychological thriller was largely shot in the city. Locations include Mark’s Top, the Westin St. Francis and Southern Pacific Hospital—that towering building that still overlooks the eastern end of the Panhandle. It looks much the same today and now serves as a retirement home.

"D.O.A" (1950)

“D.O.A.” (1950)

United Artists

If the movie’s name sounds familiar, it’s because there have been at least three subsequent remakes of the film thanks to a strange clerical editor. A typo was made in the film’s copyright renewal application in 1979, making the film public domain. This allows it to be recreated at will, including the disappointing Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid 1988 thriller, where the real-life couple (now divorced) first met.

‘Innerspace’ (1987)

Available to rent on Apple TV and YouTube

Speaking of Quaid and Ryan, our next underrated San Francisco classic shows them at their grand, charismatic peak.

Of all the movies on this list, Joe Dante’s “Innerspace” is the most ridiculously fun. The “Gremlins” director, based on “The Fantastic Voyage,” took Quaid’s Lt. Tuck Pendleton deep into the guts, as a miniature test pilot who accidentally injects Martin Short in the butt.

Although it has grown a cult following over the years, upon its release in 1987, the Steven Spielberg-produced summer blockbuster was not a surprise hit.

It’s hard to say why. Quaid is at his best, with Jake Nicholson’s smile and twinkle in his eye, at one point naked at the top of Montgomery Street. Meg Ryan is irresistible, and Martin Short’s slapstick physical convulsions are hilarious. Perhaps it’s the fact that most of the movie isn’t spent on the streets of San Francisco, but inside the bowels of the Canadian comedy legend, that alienates audiences.

‘Time After Time’ (1979)

Available on HBO Max

This unhinged 1979 time-travel adventure is perhaps best known for the Cyndi Lauper hit of the same name, which the singer reportedly wrote after seeing the movie listed in TV Guide. The bizarre plot isn’t easy to explain, but essentially, famed science fiction writer HG Wells, played by Malcolm McDowell, travels through space and time to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

For some complicated reason, it brought both historical figures to ’70s San Francisco.

The movie shows one of the most interesting signs in San Francisco, which can still be seen in Chinatown today. “Son, watch the times, and fly from evil,” reads the chilling warning atop the old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grant and California.

It was established in 1890 to warn of debaucherous drunkards in the Barbary Coast brothels and churches. In the movie, our Victorian serial killer takes one look at the biblical warning but decides to run away from the evil one; Instead, he murders some sex workers in the middle of the North. Worth watching if you can see Malcolm McDowell in Deerstalker bewildered by the cheap 70s special effects put on the film.

‘Pacific Heights’ (1990)

Available on Amazon Prime Video

John Schlesinger’s San Francisco thriller can be seen as a cautionary tale on gentrification, a yuppie revenge fantasy or simply a horror movie in which the monster is a crazed tenant breeding cockroaches in your basement.

Michael Keaton, fresh off his star-making turn in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” rents a room in Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine’s new Victorian and proceeds to terrorize them with a drill, a hammer and finally a golf club.

Location-wise, the movie doesn’t mean much to San Franciscans. The house on which the entire film is based is not in Pacific Heights; It is on the corner of 19th and Texas. (The house, also featured in “Nash Bridges,” was reportedly the first built on Potrero Hill.)

The movie certainly met with mixed reviews upon its release, but regardless of the geographic blooper, “Pacific Heights” is worth rewatching if you want to see the moment a wealthy young couple is stunned by a historic 3,000-square-foot San Francisco Victorian. Cost $800,000.



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