Hollywood On Location in Sonoma County, California

Few places seem to attract Hollywood scouts and film directors more than Sonoma County, next to Napa County, about 70 miles north of San Francisco in the wine country. It is a combination of architectural and natural settings that have many movies being made or partially made there. The old buildings in Petaluma offer a wide variety of eras to use as backgrounds. The rolling hills and oak trees provide great vistas, as does the coastline.

Hollywood has been making films there since 1914. Here is a list:

  • Valley of the Moon (1914)- author Jack London then played in his own autobiographical movie at Wolf House in Glen Ellen (now part of Jack London State Park).
  • Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - Alfred Hitchcock's WW2 thriller filmed in Santa Rosa starring Joseph Cotten about a serial killer. The movie won an oscar. In 1991, it was remade, in Santa Rosa, starring Mark Harmon.
  • The Happy Land (1943) - Starring Don Ameche and Harry Morgan, both much younger. The movie also discovered a very young, Natasha Gurdin, who lived in Santa Rosa. She would become a major star in 1955 under the name Natalie Wood.
  • Pollyanna (1960) - One Disney's best films ever staring Haley Mills, filmed in Santa Rosa, she won an oscar for it. The movie is still hilarious.
  • The Birds (1963) - Mr. Hitchcock returns to Sonoma County for his BEST films where nature goes amok. Filmed in Bodega and around Sonoma County, it starred Tipi Hedren and Rod Taylor. Oscar for special effects. The movie remains a classic.
  • The Candidate (1972) - Robert Redford starred in this political thriller also filmed in the parks around Santa Rosa. The movie also won an oscar.
  • American Grafitti (1973) - George Lucas' first major film that was a smash hit before Star Wars. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Ron Howard. Mostly filmed in Petaluma for its 1960's architecture. The movie won 5 oscars and the soundtrack was ever so popular.
  • Smile (1974) - A movie about teenage beauty pageants filmed around Santa Rosa, starred Bruce Dern, Melanie Griffith.
  • Little Miss Marker (1980) a remake of the earlier movie from the 1930's, this starred Tony Curtis. Again, filmed in Santa Rosa.
  • Howard the Duck (1986) - George Lucas came back to Petaluma to film this. It was his worst movie.
  • Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) - Francis Ford Coppola made this classic starring Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Cage filmed in Petaluma and at Santa Rosa High. It got three oscars.
  • Tucker: the Man and His Dream (1988)- Coppola returns to make this film with Jeff Bridges and Martin Landau about the man who created the Tucker car. Filmed in Santa Rosa and Petaluma,
  • A Walk in the Clouds (1995) - a younger Keanu Reeves stars in this along with Anthony Quinn, filmed in Sonoma County and at Haywood Winery.
  • Phenomenon (1996) - A great John Travolta movie filmed in Sonoma County.
  • Flubber (1997) - Disney returns with Robin Williams in this remake filmed in Petaluma.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) - Steve Martin in the classic remake of the 1950 film, shot in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
  • Bottle Shock (2008) - Bill Pullman starred in this wine making historical correct film. Filmed in both Sonoma and Napa County.

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Comments 3 comments

Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

Totally too cool, and just my luck! I'm visiting Sonoma County soon. Wonderful guide and information on these classic movies. Bookmarked, voted up and everything else. AWESOME ideas for a more enjoyable road trip/vacation, and something to add to my collection of magazine and travel articles and books. Thanks so much!


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perrya 4 years ago Author

@Poma-make sure you visit the small town of Bodega, not Bodega Bay, to see where the epic scene to the Birds was filmed as the birds attack kids running down the street. Also, down Petaluma blvd, in Petaluma. Visit lake sonoma.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

Oh, yeah. I did a story for the Independent Journal in Marin County (now the Marin Independent Journal) waaaaaay back. Took photographs to go with my story, but there was not enough time to visit everything. I am drawn to the ocean, so I am looking forward to it. Yes, I loved "The Birds." I will never forget the scene where one of those birds took out someone's eye. Yeeccch!

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