Top San Francisco Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen on Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV & More – SFGATE | Episode Movies

But some lesser-known films filmed here in the city have fallen into obscurity over the years, one of which was only seen by 12 people in its original form.

Here are some of our favorites that you might have missed and are worth streaming on a rainy night.

‘Medicine for Melancholy’ (2008)

Available for rent from Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

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

Produced in 2007 for less than $20,000 over a 15-day period, the story follows young black couple Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) on a random day the day after a drunken one-night stand house party. Awkwardly fighting a hangover, the couple wanders Twin Peaks to find coffee, rides the carousel at Yerba Buena Gardens and shops at the Rainbow Grocery while contemplating what it means to be black in San Francisco. Her philosophical talks, reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s “Before…” films, deal, among other things, with the hypocrisy of a very liberal city with a very small black population.

It’s a lonely, poignant little film—and a lot of its time: the pair check each other’s MySpace profiles, smoke cigarettes for fun, and debate the culture wars of 2007’s San Francisco: Marina vs. Mission.

The film’s most enduring line comes when Jo asks Micah if he even likes San Francisco.

“I hate this city, but I love this city,” he tells her over a suddenly color-soaked shot of Mission Dolores Park with downtown skyscrapers beyond. “If you find a street corner, you have a view. San Francisco is beautiful and has nothing to do with beatniks, hippies or yuppies. It’s easy.”

‘Greed’ (1924)

Available for rent from Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV

Only 12 people are said to have seen the original 8-hour version of this silent film tragedy. MGM’s producers decided to shorten it to around two and a half hours and lost the other reels, a decision that devastated director Erich von Stroheim until his death.

One of the most impressive feats of early Hollywood filmmaking, this epic tale of violence and greed follows a brutal and childlike San Francisco dentist to the depths of his animalistic tendencies. The film is based on Frank Norris’ 1898 book McTeague, which also inspired McTeague’s saloon and the golden tooth that now hangs outside 1237 Polk Street near the fictional location of the murderous protagonist’s dentistry. Amazingly, the film was shot on location in Polk Street, Hayes Valley and Death Valley, where dozens of the crew suffered from heat exhaustion.

“Greed” (1924)

The Goldwyn Company – Metro-Goldwyn

Many rumors are circulating about the existence of the legendary eight-hour original version. One says that a copy lived in a vault in South America for years and was shown annually on New Year’s Eve. The director once said he believed Benito Mussolini had a personal copy. The truth is that out of the dozen people who saw the original cut, several said it was the best film ever made.

A four-hour version, with some of the missing reels replaced with stills from the production, is currently available to stream. We won’t spoil (although the film was shot a century ago), but the final scene in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin has a haunting, brilliant twist that still shocks 100 years later.

‘The Lineup’ (1958)

Available on YouTube

One of the last major San Francisco noirs, 1958’s The Lineup follows Eli Wallach from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as the psychopathic killer Dancer who hunts down residents who unknowingly smuggled heroin into the city.

The film, which has a very convoluted but entertaining plot, was directed by Don Siegel, who would go on to become San Francisco’s preeminent crime director of the 1970s. He later filmed Dirty Harry (1971) and Escape From Alcatraz (1979) here.

As far as memorable mid-century San Francisco filming locations go, The Lineup is a real treat. The film features the doomed Embarcadero Freeway under construction and the old Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, and perhaps most notably features a lengthy sequence at the Sutro Baths, then an ice rink and a museum. Like the Autobahn, this landmark would be doomed. Built in 1894, the baths were burned down to the foundations eight years later.

The lengthy sequence in the baths offers some of the best and only shots from inside the historic San Francisco landmark. Watch below as Wallach’s dancer wanders eerily over skaters, through the ornate interior, among nuns and children playing antique slot machines (which would later end up in the Musee Mecanique):

“DOA” (1950)

Available on Amazon Prime Video

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

The fast-paced psychological thriller was largely filmed in the city. Locations include the Top of the Mark, the Westin St. Francis, and the Southern Pacific Hospital — that’s the massive building that still watches over the east end of the Panhandle. Today it looks similar and now serves as a retirement home.

"DOA" (1950)

“DOA” (1950)

United artists

If the film’s name sounds familiar, that’s because there have been at least three low-quality remakes of the film, due to a weird editor. In 1979, a typo was made when applying for a renewal of the film’s copyright, leaving the film in the public domain. This allows it to be remade at will, including in a disappointing 1988 thriller by Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, which saw the real-life (now divorced) couple first meet.

‘Interior’ (1987)

Available to rent on Apple TV and YouTube

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

Of all the films on this list, Joe Dante’s Innerspace is the most ridiculously fun. Loosely adapted from The Fantastic Voyage, Gremlins director Quaids Lt. Tuck Pendleton as a miniaturized test pilot who accidentally gets an injection in Martin Short’s buttocks, deep in the gut.

Surprisingly, although it’s garnered a cult following over the years, the summer blockbuster produced by Steven Spielberg wasn’t a hit when it was released in 1987.

It’s hard to say why. Quaid is at his best with that Jack Nicholson smile and twinkle in his eyes as he once danced naked at the top of Montgomery Street. Meg Ryan is irresistible and Martin Short’s slapstick spasms are hilarious. Perhaps it’s the fact that most of the film is spent not on the streets of San Francisco but in the colon of the Canadian comedy legend that kept audiences away.

“Again and Again” (1979)

Available on HBO Max

This wacky 1979 time-travel adventure is probably best known for the Cyndi Lauper hit of the same name, which the singer wrote after reportedly seeing the film on a TV program. The bizarre plot isn’t easy to explain, but essentially, famed sci-fi author HG Wells, played by Malcolm McDowell, travels through space and time to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

For some obscure reason, both historical figures end up in 1970’s San Francisco.

The film features one of the most interesting signs in San Francisco, which still towers over Chinatown today. “Son, watch the time and flee from evil,” reads the chilling warning above Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grant, California.

It was installed in the 1890s to warn licentious drunks from Barbary Coast brothels into the church. In the film, our Victorian serial killer takes a look at the biblical warning but chooses not to flee from evil; Instead, he murders some sex workers in North Beach. Worth seeing if you just see Malcolm McDowell in a Deerstalker looking confused at some of the cheapest 70’s special effects shot on film.

“Pacific Heights” (1990)

Available on Amazon Prime Video

John Schlesinger’s San Francisco thriller can be viewed as a cautionary tale on gentrification, a yuppie revenge fantasy, or simply a horror film where the monster is an insane tenant who breeds roaches in your basement.

Michael Keaton, fresh off his role as the star of Tim Burton’s Batman, rents a room in Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine’s new Victorian and terrorizes them with drills, a hammer and finally a golf club.

In terms of location, the film doesn’t make much sense to San Franciscans. The house the whole movie takes place in isn’t in Pacific Heights at all; it is on the corner of 19th and Texas. (The house also featured in “Nash Bridges” was said to be the first to be built on Potrero Hill.)

The film was met with decidedly mixed reviews upon its release, but geographic blunders notwithstanding, Pacific Heights is worth revisiting, if only to see the moment a wealthy young couple are shocked that a historical 3,000-square-foot Victorian San Francisco would cost $800,000.

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