'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' brought the Bay Area's biotech industry, as as well as its best-known bridge, to blockbuster consciousness this summer.

San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gates

SF360 Staff August 20, 2011

Though it was our BART system grabbing headlines this week, another Bay Area transportation portal has been occupying the silver screen for a month. Yet the Golden Gate Bridge’s starring role in summer blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes is anything but a breakout performance by the iconic span. True, its understated character turn in the battle between brainiac chimps, gorillas, orangutans and Marin’s finest at the base of the North Tower is Oscar worthy, but it’s a veteran in such roles and has spent decades honing its skills in films such as It Came from Beneath the Sea and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What follows is a short list of great Golden Gate Bridge sci-fi/action moments on the big screen.

[Editor’s note: We’d be remiss if we did not mention BART’s debut performance, which was in George Lucas’s 1971 THX 1138, in one of its as-yet-unfinished tunnels. Please add your own notes on San Francisco location-shooting in Comments, below.]


1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
High on every Trek fan’s favorites list but no less baffling than an episode of Lost to the uninitiated, The Voyage Home concerns a trip to Vulcan, a stolen Klingon warship and a destructive alien probe seeking communication with now-extinct whales. The crew of the U.S.S. enterprise saves the day by traveling back in time to the Golden Gate bridge, which is where all the whales live...right?


2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Cars speed through the toll plaza at Golden Gate's south end in Raiders of the Lost Ark scribe Phil Kaufman's remake of the original 1956 film classic. Invasion, starring an alternately smarmy and stricken Donald Sutherland, features a broad array of San Francisco locales, including numerous goofy cameos by the Transamerica Pyramid, Transamerica being the owner of United Artists at the time.


3. V (2009)
Recently reborn for a two-season run on ABC ending earlier this year, the alien invasion-themed film and TV miniseries V deployed one of the longest “breaking news” segments in recent memory, with an endless array of television sets depicting the alien motherships, hovering ominously over major metropolises. Of course the Golden Gate was one amongst the first in the shadow of the saucers.


4. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Having already devastated the Statue of Liberty and the White House in the first two films, the third entry in the X-Men series takes aim at the Golden Gate, rerouting it to Alcatraz where a chemical factory has created a “cure” to the mutant “plague.” All of this may just be an excuse for Sir Ian McKellen to take that vacation he's been dreaming of for all these years, however.

5. It Came from Beneath The Sea (1955)
In arguably one of the first entries into the "disaster film" genre, creature-effect specialist Ray Harryhausen conjured a giant stop-motion octopus (with only six legs due to cost-cutting measures) hellbent on destroying San Francisco and everything it held dear, beginning with the beloved Golden Gate!


6. Star Trek (2009)
Not to be outdone by his predecessors, J.J. Abrams’ series reboot couldn't help but revisit one of the long-running franchise's favorite locations, the Golden Gate Bridge. Appearing once again after a slew of scenes in Star Trek I, IV & VI, the landmark serves here as a backdrop for Starfleet Academy and unwitting canon-fodder for yet another unruly alien race.


7. The Rock (1996)
The good news is the Golden Gate bridge isn't torn in half, or re-routed, or held hostage in Bay's buddy-action great The Rock. The bad news is that with the payload of explosives they're packing out there on Alcatraz, if Connery and Cage don't do their magic, the bridge'll blow along with the rest of the city. As three Black Hawk helicopters emerge from its underside on their way to the crisis, we can't help but fear a little for our favorite icon.

Captions by Jackson Scarlett. Photos from Scarlett and Michael Read. Additional research, writing: Jennifer Young, Doug Young and Susan Gerhard.

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