San Francisco vs. Baltimore: The Super Bowl of Cinema

All of America is getting ready for the Super Bowl next Sunday, but while this year's NFL championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will settle the question of which city has the better football team, there's one question it won't settle: which team has the better cinematic tradition.

Luckily, we have the answer to that question right here courtesy of the first ever Super Bowl of Cinema. We've sat down and watched some of the most famous (and infamous) films set in each city and have tallied the scores to determine which movies are touchdowns, which are field goals and which are gut-wrenching turnovers.

So, which city will win? Settle in, grab some popcorn and start cheering, because the battle between San Francisco and Baltimore for big screen bragging rights begins right now.

First Quarter

"The Lady from Shanghai"

San Francisco takes the opening kickoff and brings it all the way back to the house. For non-football fans, that means this is a no-brainer classic: Orson Welles wrote, directed and stars in this 1947 film that instantly became one of the most influential noir of all time. Plus, Rita Hayworth turns in one of the sexiest performances in Hollywood history.

Score: 7-0 San Francisco

"Sleepless in Seattle"

Baltimore counters with their own would-be classic, but this one has a few issues. Firstly, it's basically a remake of 1957's "An Affair to Remember." More to the point, it has Seattle in the title instead of Baltimore, and the most famous part of the film takes place in New York. Still, it does have writer/director Nora Ephron going for it and, more importantly, Meg Ryan's turn as a columnist for the "Baltimore Sun."

Score: 7-3 San Francisco.

Second Quarter


A modern masterpiece, David Fincher's 2007 thriller takes a deeply disturbing and intensely moving look at the real-life Zodiac murders that haunted and terrorized San Francisco in the late '60s and early '70s. It doesn't exactly make Frisco look like the nicest place in the world, but if you're looking for quality cinema, it's hard to beat this one.

Score: San Francisco 14-3

"The Raven"

This movie should have had everything going for it: a great location (19th century Baltimore), a great lead (John Cusack) and a great premise (Edgar Allen Poe as a real-life detective trying to solves crimes based on his own stories). Instead, it was one of the biggest flops of 2012 —  the movie equivalent of fumbling on the goal line.

Interception! Score: San Francisco 14-3.


Accidental Tourist"The Accidental Tourist"

Heading into halftime, Baltimore seems to need a big time, rousing speech — and they almost get it with this 1988 hit. Nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, "The Accidental Tourist" brought home the golden statue for Geena Davis as a dog trainer who embarks on an unusual romance with William Hurt's travel writer. It's a very cool film, but considering the pair flees for Paris at a key point in the story, will being cool be enough? Or is the theme of abandoning Baltimore (which seems to come up a lot in films about the city) foreshadowing for how the second half will go?


San Francisco, meanwhile, is clicking on all cylinders. And their halftime speech keeps the momentum going, as "Milk" earned eight Oscar nominations in 2008, including Best Picture. Sean Penn won Best Actor for his portrayal of legendary San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978. The only possible fly in San Fran's ointment? Baltimore gets the ball first to start the second half.

Third Quarter

"12 Monkeys"

One of the most underrated sci-fi films of the past quarter century, 1995's "12 Monkeys" did manage to snag a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Brad Pitt, who broke out of his pretty boy typecasting as a crazy guy who may or may not be responsible for a potential holocaust. Bruce Willis plays a time traveler sent back from the future to prevent disaster — just as this film helps prevent disaster for Baltimore by putting them back on the right track.

Score: San Francisco 14-10

"The Frisco Kid"

In this extremely unlikely 1979 western, Gene Wilder plays a Polish rabbi who travels across the American West in order to deliver a torah to a synagogue in San Francisco. Along the way, he falls in with a bank robber who just happens to be Harrison Ford, fresh off his success in "Star Wars." It shouldn't work and for the most part, it doesn't. But darned if it still doesn't manage to grab us every time it comes on. ON a broken play, San Francisco scores yet another touchdown to increase their lead!

Score: San Francisco 21-10

Fourth Quarter


A film adaptation of the musical adaptation of the wonky 1988 cult classic by Baltimore native John Waters, "Hairspray's" creation is almost more complex —  and interesting —  than the film itself. But with winning musical numbers and a breakout performance by lead Nikki Blonsky, 2007's "Hairspray" became a surprise hit, even with John Travolta playing an overweight woman. Another touchdown that nobody saw coming.

Score: San Francisco 21-17

"A View to a Kill"

Roger Moore was on his last legs in 1985's "A View to a Kill," the 14th James Bond film and Moore's final installment in the beloved spy franchise. And he definitely went out with a bang, thanks to Christopher Walken chewing up the scenery as a Silicon Valley nutjob with a penchant for tossing people out of airplanes. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was mostly cringe-worthy camp at best, despite —  or because of —  the presence of both Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren in his first film role. This field goal barely squeaks in over the crossbar.

Score: San Francisco 24-17

"The Rock"

After a defensive stop, San Francisco has a chance to run out the clock. Instead, though, they offer up the 1996 action flick "The Rock." Nic Cage began his long descent into self-parody in this tragically ridiculous film about a government agent (Cage) who teams up with an imprisoned expert on Alcatraz to stop a rogue band of Marines from using chemical warfare on San Francisco. It's even worse than it sounds, despite the best efforts of Ed Harris as the bad guy.

Fumble! Score: San Francisco 24-17


With less than two minutes to play and no timeouts left, Baltimore heaves up a Hail Mary in the form of director Barry Levinson's 1982 classic, "Diner." Levinson, a Baltimore native, was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his story of a group of friends in Baltimore who reunite for a wedding on the eve of the Baltimore Colts winning the 1959 NFL championship game. The film would be enough to rate a touchdown under any circumstances, but the spot-on depiction of the importance of football to the city is enough to earn this Baltimore a two-point conversion — and a surprise, come from behind, upset win!

Final Score: Baltimore 25, San Francisco 24