Now Playing! Tour San Francisco on Your Home Screen

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Images from films set around the Bay Area, now streaming on digital platforms. (Collage by Sarah Hotchkiss)

Our favorite movie theaters are closed, necessarily but depressingly, though the month will come when they reopen. (And the concession stands will sell out of popcorn and Junior Mints within hours, I predict.) Until that glorious day, we’re reliant on home entertainment—chess and Monopoly are OK if you wash your hands regularly, but no Twister, please!—which for most people, my little joke notwithstanding, means watching images on a screen. And that means streaming.

With our favorite haunts largely off-limits, I dove into the platforms in search of San Francisco-set films that would (virtually) put us back on the streets. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I was mostly drawn to paranoid thrillers which are scarily relevant right now and may be too horrifying to “enjoy” in the not-too-distant future. If you don’t find fear cathartic, well, I promise to amass a list of comedies for the next installment.

D.O.A., 1949
Amazon Prime
Poisoned in a San Francisco bar while on holiday, doomed small-town accountant Edmond O’Brien races to discover the hand behind his fate in this pitiless noir.

Zodiac, 2007
Amazon Prime
Death is delivered by another phantom in David Fincher’s moody, manipulative movie about the hunt for the killer who spread terror once upon a time in Northern California.


Dirty Harry, 1971
If you’re in need of a happy ending, where “justice” prevails, revel in Clint Eastwood’s reactionary, renegade S.F. cop with a gift for catchphrases. Don Siegel’s exploitative film tapped into the law-and-order zeitgeist in 1971 and spawned four sequels, but it’s not a very good movie.

The Birds, 1963
Nature comes a-knock-knock-knocking on Bodega Bay doors in Alfred Hitchcock’s perfect, and perfectly brilliant, classic.

We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco, 2011
David Weissman’s powerhouse documentary finds inspiration in the gutsy response of ordinary San Franciscans to the devastatingly lethal virus.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
Amazon Prime
Philip Kaufman reimagined Don Siegel’s McCarthy-era indictment of groupthink as a New Age bad trip in (where else?) post-hippie San Francisco. Imagine seeing it in a S.F. theater when it opened, a month after Jonestown.

OK, that’s enough dark fare (for now). Let Robin Williams, and the sunshine, in.

Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993
Williams’ stardom gave him leverage, which he used to prod studios into shooting his movies in San Francisco. (It gave local folks lots of work, in addition to reducing the star’s commute to the set.) This flick is still paying dividends, attracting visitors from all over to the city and the house where it was shot. Well, it did. And it will again.