Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Ten SF-Based Movies That Defined '90s Pop Culture

90s Movies Set in SF

If you look back at the '90s, there are many movies set in the San Francisco Bay Area that made a significant impact on the pre-Y2K era. From nannies in drag to lewd female murder suspects to singing nuns, here is a list of some of those movies.

Arachnophobia (1990): The movie didn't take place in San Francisco per se, but it features a family that moved from the city to a ficitional small town in the same area — so that counts, right? The movie starred a young Jeff Daniels four years before his iconic turn in Dumb and Dumber and over two decades before The Newsroom. It also stars scene-stealer John Goodman during his Roseanne heyday. Like many creature invasion movies before it, Arachnophobia definitely made the nation fearful of the creepy, crawly, eight-legged monsters. 

Basic Instinct (1992): This thriller was provocative, controversial, and shot all over the city. More than that, it made us pay more attention to Sharon Stone with that interrogation scene where she really "opened up." That single scene was and still is a memorable moment in cinematic history, being subject to parody and thensome. It has been burned into pop culture's memory FOREVER.

Sister Act (1992): In all of Whoopi Goldberg's work, Sister Act will probably be what she will be remembered for...that and The View. The Academy Award-winning actress starred in this "nun on the run" musical comedy that shot many of its scenes in St. Paul's Church in Noe Valley. The movie is still significant in pop culture. You can often view it on basic cable and even see it in musical form on Broadway.


The Joy Luck Club (1993): This drama that explores the relationships between Chinese American mothers and daughters has Bay Area written all over it. It was based on the book written by Oakland native Amy Tan and was shot all over the Bay Area including Richmond, the Filoli Estate in Woodside, and San Francisco, of course. The story and movie still strikes a chord (both good and bad) with the Asian American community as one of the only Asian American-centric movies in Hollywood.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993): People still visit the Mrs. Doubtfire house on 2640 Steiner Street in hopes to catch a peek of Robin Williams vacuuming the Hillard household while lip syncing to "Dude Looks Like a Lady." The movie won an Oscar for Best Make Up and probably inspired a counterculture of cross-dressing nannies.

So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993): Remember when Mike Myers was a big deal? In addition to Saturday Night Live and Wayne's World, this cult classic added to his successful career in the '90s.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994): Before the Twilight craze, there was this more mature take on the world of vampires based on the book by Anne Rice. Her books became all the rage in the '90s and this movie continued Brad Pitt's rise to Hollywood domination. And FYI: The actual interview with the vampire (conducted by another big '90s star, Christian Slater) took place in a fictious hotel on Market and Taylor!

Angels in the Outfield (1994): The Disney remake of the 1951 original was shot across the bridge in Oakland and Alameda, and has remained a favorite sports movie of many. More importantly it gave us an early look at the careers of Adrien Brody, Matthew McConaughey, and a very adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The Rock (1996): This thrilling, testosterone-fueled, high-octane movie set on Alcatraz was directed by Michael Bay and was one of THE best action movies of the '90s. It also starred the unstoppable duo of Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. It was almost too much awesome to handle then, and it still is now.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998): Angela Bassett played a super-successful, fortysomething stock broker from San Francisco who goes on vacation with her girlfriend and gets herself a little treat in the form of Taye Diggs. This inspired many fortysomething women of the '90s to go out and find a younger treat for themselves as well.