San Francisco, a popular place to leave one's heart, has played the backdrop to many a romance and romantic comedy. Here, a roundup of 11 of them that are varying degrees of charming, funny, sweet, and good. Obviously it's ridiculous that they're all about straight couples, but let's put that on Hollywood and not San Francisco.
The Wedding Planner
Always the wedding planner, never the bride. Deep sigh. Although she's the best in the San Francisco marriage biz, Jennifer Lopez is too busy for love of her own in this 2001 rom-com. Until, that is, hunky pediatrician Matthew McConaughey sweeps her off her feet. Drama on Nob Hill and dates in Golden Gate Park make this a good San Francisco movie, but come on, it's just a good movie all-round. McConaughey is pre-McConaissance, and J-Lo wasn't schtupping Drake, who maybe wasn't even born. Fascinating.
Bacall and Bogart, baby. This Frisco-set noir-thriller/dark romance is the story of a man escaped from prison who comes to rely on a young artist as he recovers from plastic surgery to disguise his identity. The first half of Delmer Daves's 1947 picture, before Bogey gets his new mug, is shot first person, from his point of view. Stay to see him unmasked, and for shot's of Bacall's residence, which as Rain Jokinen, our film critic and native San Franciscan in-residence at SFist points out, is the Malloch Apartments on Telegraph Hill — a very romantic art deco pad if there ever was one.
When A Man Loves A Woman
In sickness and in health, as they say. Now senator Al Franken co-wrote this 1994 drama, directed by Luis Mandoki and starring Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan as a San Francisco couple whose family must come to terms with her alcoholism. The material is somewhat autobiographical, Franken told the New Yorker, and its drama feels particularly real thanks to Ryan, who plays the part with pathos.
A characteristically trippy 1968 romp through such San Francisco settings as Fort Point, the Fisherman's Wharf Cannery, and the former Cala supermarket on California Street. Julie Christie, a divorcée, seeks comfort with the older doctor gentleman type in George C. Scott. I guess romance is a stretch, as it's more of a cultural commentary, and as much about romance and marriage thwarted as found. The Grateful Dead play extras!
Medicine For Melancholy
Before his breakout film Moonlight of this past year, director Barry Jenkins lived in San Francisco and set his romance starring Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins here. "I love this city," Cenac's character says, wandering town with Heggins. "I hate this city, but I love this city. San Francisco's beautiful. You shouldn't have to be upper-middle class to be a part of that." It's kinda like those movies about couples in New York City where the third character is the city itself, only this time, it's San Francisco.
40 Days And 40 Nights
Josh Hartnett tries suppress his sexual desire, but good luck doing so yourself. Michael Lehmann's 2002 erotic comedy and romance — in the very Miramax vein — stars a sensitive brogrammer type at a dot-com era SF web startup who tries to abstain from sex for the period of time described in the title. This is a great movie.
BedazzledA 2000, admittedly inferior remake of the classic British 1967 film casts Brendan Fraser as an unlucky in love San Francisco who strikes a good old Faustian bargain to be with the woman of his dreams. Elizabeth Hurley plays the devil to perfection, and in hindsight, it seems possible that Fraser did have some sort of unsavory deal going at some point that he's now paying for.
The Five-Year Engagement
This one's Judd Apatow-era entertainment, co-written by costar Jason Segel, whose courtship with Emily Blunt hits a number of road blocks on their way to the aisle. Chris Pratt's the embarrassing best friend to Segel, a sous chef with a taco truck that looks like an ambulance called "Taco-Emergency." Look for it at Off the Grid. The point of the movie is that Michigan is bad and leaving San Francisco for love doesn't work.
So I Married An Axe Murderer
Woaaaah-man. Mike Myers is a shitty North Beach poet who meets the woman of his dreams only to discover she could be a serial killer. Phil Hartman as an Alcatraz tour guide, Ranger John 'Vicky' Johnson, is extremely good, and to my serious embarrassment this whole movie delights me, from its use of the song "There She Goes" onward.
Harold and Maude
Mostly shot in the larger Bay Area , although there is a trip to Sutro Baths, Harold and Maude is the classic, dark and sweet 1971 Hal Ashby film about a 79-year-old woman played by Ruth Gordon and her 18-year-old paramour, a death-obsessed Bud Cort. Famous and adored because it's so funny, sad, and weird.
Loosely adapted from the musical of the same name, this 1957 movie musical features such classic standard songs like "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "I Could Write a Book." Frank Sinatra plays a washed-up singer and noted womanizer who refers to women as mice, the sicko, and meets naive Kim Novak, a chorus girl (whose singing voice is dubbed by Trudy Erwin), but he's also two-timing her with a society matron (Rita Hayworth) whom he wants to finance his club. Oh good. Movie musicals are cool again — thanks La La Land — so this one is too.