Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of San Francisco and get you in the mood for travel


Bullitt (1968)
A determined detective, played by Steve McQueen, tracks down the killers of a key witness who was to testify against the Mafia; high-speed car chase scales San Francisco's rollercoaster streets and remains one of the best in movies.

Dirty Harry (1971)
Controversial action thriller starring Clint Eastwood as a rough cop pursuing a psychopath through San Francisco, using any means necessary to catch the killer.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Heart-warming family comedy starring Robin Williams as a desperate divorced father who dresses up as a grandmotherly nanny to see his kids; a Victorian house on Steiner St. served as the set.

San Francisco (1936)
The earthquake of 1906 is as much of a star as Clark Gable, Jeanette McDonald, and Spencer Tracy in this musical melodrama that combines romance, religion, and splashy special effects.

Vertigo (1958)
Classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller follows an acrophobic detective around San Francisco as he investigates (and becomes obsessed with) a beautiful-but-suicidal woman.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003)
Documentary about a homeless man, Mark Bittner, who befriends a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco and reaches a new understanding about his life, the city, and its mysterious inhabitants.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers (2000)
Tender, witty memoir of a young man raising his adolescent brother while exploring San Francisco's Gen-X culture during the '90s.

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, by Simon Winchester (2005)
Historical nonfiction by best-selling storyteller and scholar; studies San Francisco's 1906 natural disaster and its aftershocks through time, space, and society.

Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende (1999)
Multicultural, historical novel in which an adventurous heroine travels from Chile to gold rush-era San Francisco to search for her lost lover, but finds herself instead.

Baghdad by the Bay, by Herb Caen (1949)
Collection of essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning San Francisco newspaper columnist; profiles the city, its people, and its landmarks as they were in the 1940s.

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan (1989)
Multigenerational novel set in San Francisco's Chinatown and in China; details the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, the past and present, and Chinese and American cultures.

The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
Hard-boiled detective fiction; follows San Francisco private-eye Sam Spade as he investigates his partner's murder, dodges shady characters, and uncovers jewel-encrusted treasure.

McTeague, by Frank Norris (1899)
Inspired by a sensational 1893 murder case, this naturalist novel portrays a dark, violent San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century.

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Autobiographical novel definitive of San Francisco's Beat movement; free, unstructured prose describes the journey of two men as they crisscross the American continent, inherently searching for religious truth and profound values.

Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin (1978)
First in a series of six novels praised for their compassion and humor; set in San Francisco in the 1970s, the story reveals the lives of a young woman, her gay friend, and their transsexual landlord.



In San Francisco
Bay Area-based Queen Ida and her Zydeco Band bring home their Grammy award-winning Cajun sound on this live album featuring Al Rapone on accordion.

The Gift
Bay Area blues musician Joe Louis Walker sings with soul and struts some of his best guitar work on this acclaimed 1988 album.

Kronos Quartet garnered a Grammy nomination for this 2002 genre-blurring album that features Mexican music played with the San Francisco string quartet's trademark creativity and bravado.

American Beauty
The Grateful Dead—an icon of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s—shines on this country- and folk-inspired album with the classics "Truckin'," "Sugar Magnolia," and "Ripple."

Cheap Thrills
Big Brother and the Holding Company's 1968 album showcases the fierce vocals of San Francisco rock legend Janis Joplin. Don't miss the hit single "Piece of My Heart."

Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane's 1967 release embodies San Francisco's psychedelic rock music scene and includes hit singles: "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit."

Classic Songs:

From rockers to blues singers, many musicians have left their hearts in San Francisco. Here are some tunes to take you there:

1. "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding
2. "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by Scott McKenzie
3. "Piece of My Heart" by Big Brother and the Holding Company [featuring Janis Joplin]
4. "Frisco Blues" by John Lee Hooker
5. "San Francisco Days" by Chris Isaak
6. "Lights" by Journey
7. "San Francisco Blues" by Peggy Lee
8. "San Francisco" by Judy Garland
9. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett
10. "On a San Francisco High" by Sonny Holland


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