A Taste of Posh Pacific Heights
San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood was camera-ready long before its stretch of Broadway from Lyon Street to Divisadero Street became known as Billionaire’s Row. Home to famous names like Getty, Steel (as in Danielle), Benioff, and Ellison, the community perched at the city’s highest point overlooking the San Francisco Bay has always had jaw-dropping mansions and views and stomach-dropping hills.
It also has agreeable weather and endless Instagram-worthy backdrops, which makes it a location-scout darling as well as a fantastic area to stroll, especially if you make your way to the Lyon Street Steps.
But there’s much more to see. Bee-line to the corner of Steiner Street and Broadway, and you’ll find the family house in the 1993 movie Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams, Sally Field, and Pierce Brosnan. (You may have to wait to take a selfie in front of the 1893 Victorian masterpiece; it’s that popular.) Stroll over to 2104 Broadway at Buchanan Street and you’re at the home where rock star Johnny Boz is found murdered with an ice pick in the 1992 film Basic Instinct, starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. (Watch the movie and you’ll get a tour of its interior, too.) A few blocks away, 2898 Vallejo Street was the residence of Richard Chamberlain’s character in the 1974 disaster film Towering Inferno (1974), starring Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, while nearby 2700 Vallejo Street has a cameo in another legendary Steve McQueen film, Bullitt.
San Francisco Hills that Thrill
Speaking of Bullitt, even today the 1968 crime-action-thriller, co-starring Robert Vaughn and Jacqueline Bisset, is heralded as having one of the best movie car-chases of all time. Sure, nearly 11 minutes of McQueen in his fastback Mustang is part of the thrill. But the real heart-racer is the city. Its astoundingly steep hills, all backed by world-class vistas, practically beg for cars to be launched off of them. This may explain why City by the Bay car-chase movie scenes are about as common as Golden Gate Bridge destructions (Hello, Godzilla and Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
Still, there’s a lot of sightseeing that comes with speeding through the 49 square miles that is San Francisco, and the white-knuckle chases of the authentically gritty 1970s-‘80s Dirty Harry action-thriller franchise take full advantage. Watch all five Clint Eastwood-starring flicks and you can practically become a S.F. Uber driver, or at least see everything from shockingly uncrowded freeways, complete with the “old” Bay Bridge to the real “crookedest street in San Francisco” (hint: it’s not Lombard).
While it doesn’t make it on any “best of” car chase lists, one of the most amusing hopscotches across San Francisco hills can be found in the 1978 romantic comedy thriller Foul Play. Starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, and Burgess Merideth, the movie was shot all over town. But its comedic car chase celebrates the heart-into-stomach drop that is Nob Hill to Union Square. (The Rock also gets props for its law-breaking city driving, including a respectable catapult off Nob Hill along California Street.) You’ll also see inside the San Francisco City Hall rotunda, which is positioned as the opera house lobby, the breathtaking Highway 1 drive just north of the city, and the still-impossibly-quaint houseboats of Sausalito.
Want a comedy chase on two wheels? Watch Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand’s slapstick bicycle-escape in What’s Up, Doc? (1971).