The Oscars are, of course, a Hollywood affair. But Oscar is a frequent San Francisco tourist, bestowing his laurels on notable movies filmed locally for 75 years. The Danny Boyle-directed Steve Jobs, shot in a half dozen San Francisco locations, is up for two awards this Sunday. In honor of the big event, we've mapped San Francisco's proud Academy Award-winning tradition, going back to 1941.Read More
Envelope, Please: 23 Oscar-Worthy Sites in San Francisco
The golden statue is no stranger to the Bay Area
Treasure Island: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The supposed Berlin Airport where Indy and his dad Sean Connery hop a zeppelin to escape Nazi Germany is actually just the Treasure Island Administration Building. The movie won Best Sound Editing.
SHN Curran Theatre: All About Eve (1950)
This timeless drama about fame and fandom gone too far was nominated in 14 categories, a record at the time, and won six, including Best Picture and Best Director. Marilyn Monroe, then largely an unknown, appears as an empty-headed young actress in a scene shot at the Curran.
California & Powell: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
This apes vs. humans, post-apocalyptic sequel uncooly opted to shoot almost entirely in Vancouver, only sending in the second-unit team to get a few eye candy scenes of San Francisco. The movie won Best Visual Effects for its armies of motion-capture apes.
Chinatown Gate: Flower Drum Song (1961)
Based on the Broadway musical by Rogers & Hammerstein, which itself was based on a book by San Francisco journalist CY Lee, about immigration, love, and show business in old-school Chinatown. It was nominated in five categories, including Best Music; the score includes the maddeningly catchy I Enjoy Being a Girl.
555 California St.: The Towering Inferno (1974)
You’d think San Francisco’s most acclaimed disaster movie would be about an earthquake, but we got a skyscraper fire instead. Go figure. Inferno was nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. The entrance to the soon-to-be-in-flames tower was filmed on California Street, but if you pay close attention to the opening shot you’ll see that fictional building is actually closer to the Transamerica Pyramid.
555 Sutter Street: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
A landmark film about race relations that can still make audiences squirm (and think), Guess Who’s netted Best Actress for Katherine Hepburn as well as Best Original Screenplay. Unfortunately, all of the San Francisco scenes are long shots that used doubles; one quick exterior shot clues in us that Hepburn’s art gallery is on Sutter Street.
Union Square: The Conversation (1974)
This startling thriller about a professional snoop (Gene Hackman) who eavesdrops on a grisly murder plot earned Francis Ford Coppola a nomination for Best Picture, but it lost—to Coppola’s OTHER Oscar-nominated film that year, The Godfather Part II. You’d barely recognize Union Square in the famous opening scene where Hackman can’t seem to shake a pursuing mime.
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Golden Gate & Taylor: Interview with the Vampire (1994)
This sleek and sultry adaptation of the Anne Rice book, which won Best Art Direction and Best Original Score, is set in New Orleans and Paris, but the frame story is pure San Francisco. The building where the titular interview unfolds, at Golden Gate and Taylor, is dubbed the St. Martin Hotel in the movie, but no such establishment ever existed.
San Francisco City Hall: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones’ original adventure lost the contest for Best Picture but took home Best Editing, Visual Effects, and Art Direction. Indy and Marion are supposedly in Washington D.C. for the final scene, but actually that’s just good old San Francisco City Hall again, in arguably the most beautiful shot of the grand staircase ever framed.
War Memorial Opera House: Steve Jobs (2015)
This three-part biopic examines the life of the late tech mogul in three critical eras, and with three different dramatic styles. The high drama middle chapter shot in the War Memorial Opera House borrows some opera tricks of its own, with its urgent musical score. Michael Fassbender is up for Best Actor this Sunday for his portrayal of Jobs, and Kate Winslett is up for Best Supporting Actress.
Maiden Lane: The Birds (1963)
Hitchcock’s weird thriller about killer birds overrunning Northern California is mostly set in Bodega Bay, but opens in Union Square, where Tippi Hedren nips into a Maiden Lane pet shop and Hitch himself sneaks in his obligatory director cameo. The movie won Best Visual Effects.
Mel's Drive-In: American Graffiti (1973)
Before Star Wars, George Lucas was most acclaimed for this coming-of-age story about goodhearted but rebellious teens on an all-night spree of fast cars and young love. Mel’s Drive-In, site of the famous diner scene, is no longer with us. Lucas was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.
430 Mason Street: The Jazz Singer (1927)
A true cinema landmark, the movie that ended the silent era, about the son of Jewish immigrants pursuing fame, music, an American identity, and, unfortunately, blackface. One scene was shot at Coffee Dan’s, a genuine San Francisco speakeasy and the city’s hottest jazz club. The movie was awarded a “Special Award” Oscar for breaking film’s sound barrier.
2640 Steiner: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The “Mrs. Doubtfire House” on Steiner briefly became a shrine to star Robin Williams after his death in 2014. The movie won Best Makeup for the effects that turned the rubber-faced Williams into a prim and proper older woman.
1541 Montgomery: The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
Good luck sorting out the plot of this noir thriller about a concentration camp survivor embroiled in high society murder, but at least it makes damn good use of those Telegraph Hill views. The titular house is actually an illusion, a façade built around the famed Julius Castle Restaurant at 1541 Montgomery. The movie won Best Art Direction.
Saints Peter and Paul Church: The Ten Commandments (1957)
San Francisco makes an appearance in the greatest Biblical epic of all time, with exterior images of the famed North Beach church at 666 Filbert. Yes, you read that right, 666 Filbert. Commandments competed for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, but only won for Best Visual Effects.
Stockton Tunnel: The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The movie that made Humphrey Bogart a star, and arguably the defining “Old San Francisco” film, Falcon was nominated for Best Picture. It was up against Citizen Kane, but actually lost to How Green Was My Valley, which still annoys cinema buffs. A plaque marks the spot in the alley above the Stockton Street tunnel where Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, is murdered, and also spoils the ending of the movie by revealing who the killer is.
The Castro: Milk (2008)
Sean Penn took Best Actor for his humane portrayal of slain city supervisor and gay rights icon Harvey Milk. There are plenty of beautiful San Francisco locations to see, including gorgeous City Hall interiors, but the Castro, where the movie had its red carpet premiere, is the heart of the film.
Cesar Chavez & Mission Street: Bullitt (1968)
The greatest car chase scene of all time was shot on half a dozen streets, mostly in the Mission and Bernal Heights. Any real life San Francisco cop will tell you that by rights Frank Bullitt should have spent that entire scene stuck in traffic, but that probably wouldn’t have netted an Oscar for Best Editing.
Marina Green: Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for this A Streetcar Named Desire by way of the West Coast picture by Woody Allen, probably in large part thanks to the scene where she hunkers down in the Marina grass and quietly loses her marbles.
Golden Gate Bridge: Superman (1978)
Hollywood is so obsessed with destroying the Golden Gate Bridge that we could take it a little personally, but the Man of Steel was on hand to actually save it this time, just as Lex Luthor’s earthquake machine was about to send it tumbling into the bay. The movie won Best Visual Effects.
Palace of the Legion of Honor: Vertigo (1958)
Cited not only as possibly the greatest San Francisco movie of all time, but perhaps even Hitchcock’s best, Vertigo was nominated only for Best Art Direction and Best Sound, and lost both. We could do an entire map just of Hitch’s many loving shots of city landmarks, but the startling white beauty of the Legion of Honor takes the cake.
San Francisco Zoo: The Graduate (1967)
The movie that put Dustin Hoffman on the map, made Anne Bancroft’s legs landmarks in their own right, and earned a Best Director Oscar for Mike Nichols. Fans were heartbroken when the monkey enclosure (a WPA project from the ’30s) that appears in the zoo scene was torn down due to earthquake damage from the ‘89 Loma Prieta temblor.