BART in the movies: From THX 1138 to Predator 2 to Will Smith


BART in the movies: From THX 1138 to Predator 2 to Will Smith

Will Smith and Jaden Smith on a BART train While the city of San Francisco is immortalized in countless films, from the car chase of Bullitt to the bay plunge of Vertigo, BART seems to have precious little screen time.

We’ve scoured the internet and come up with just a handful of examples of BART in the movies. C’mon, all you BART buffs and film fans … help us out! Send us a comment here with anything we've missed (put "BART in the movies" in the subject line), and we'll add to the list. 

THX 1138. The granddaddy of BART in the movies, this 1971 sci-fi drama was the feature-length film debut of George Lucas, produced in a joint venture with Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope production company (Bay Area connections galore!). The story is set in a dystopian future where people are controlled with drugs that blunt their emotions. A key concluding scene was filmed, as described on Wikipedia, “in the incomplete BART Transbay Tube before installation of the track supports, with the actors using exposed reinforcing bars as a ladder.”

The Domino Principle. This 1977 feature starring Gene Hackman has a shot of Hackman on a BART train, and shows a train coming into Fruitvale Station, according to a lengthy discussion of the Bay Area in movies on Yelp. The conspiracy thriller has a great tagline – “Trust no one. No one.” – and a stellar cast. (Besides Hackman there’s Candice Bergen, Richard Widmark, Mickey Rooney, Eli Wallach, just to drop a few!)  Sadly, the reviews are pretty negative.

Predator 2. Sci-fi again… this 1990 release features Danny Glover (Six degrees of separation? Glover, a supporter of public transit, later appeared in a commercial for BART. We'd show you the clip here if it weren't for the cost of the residuals... hey, he's not THAT much of a transit supporter!)  According to the “goofs” section of the Internet Movie Database, Predator 2 is set in Los Angeles but shows the characters getting on a BART train. “You can see during a shot of the front of the train that it has a distinctive BA, the first two letters of BART,” says IMDB.

The Pursuit of Happyness. This Oscar-nominated 2006 Will Smith film is the best recent example we can find of BART in the movies. BART’s chief spokesman, Linton Johnson, elaborated on the production in a blog post:

"The film crews for The Pursuit of Happyness spent 17 days shooting on BART property. All of the scenes except the bathroom scene were at BART stations or on trains. The bathroom scene was shot on a sound stage in Alameda. It was quite the production. All the scenes were shot between October 1, 2005, and November 20, 2005, at the 12th St./Oakland City Center, 19th Street, Powell and Balboa Park stations. Because the movie was set in the early 80's, the production crew paid to change all the advertisments during the shoot days to ads that were around in the 80's. You'll notice the system maps were also changed. We even brought back the old uniforms our station personnel used to wear. The astute viewer will notice there are two things in the movie that weren't around in the 80's. First the seats. The crew was going to replace all the blue seats with brown ones, but we couldn't find any, unfortunately. Secondly, the #1 Transit System in America logo. The movie was shot right when we received that award and all of our trains had the #1 logos on them. Oh, one final interesting point... there is one scene where Will Smith's character jumps out of a cab and runs down a BART stair way into a supposed underground station in the Presidio. The crew made a makeshift BART station entrance for that scene. In fact they left it there for several days, prompting a number of people to call BART and demand why we hadn't issued a news release about our new station, and how come it only had one entrance. Ha ha!"
--Linton Johnson
BART Chief Spokesperson
So, folks, four films with BART scenes. There must be more out there. Don’t make us go to the level of made-for-TV movies  (Planet of the Apes: “The Trap” episode, 1974, anyone?) or TV series (Nash Bridges?).

Other "BART in the movies" examples sent in by our website users:

Noted by Donald:

Koyaanisqatsi (1982, directed by Godfrey Reggio, music composed by Philip Glass) is a non-verbal visual feast of slow-motion and time-lapse photography. The title comes from a Hopi word mean "life out of balance," a theme portrayed as the film shifts from natural landscapes to frenetic urban images, including a scene in a BART station, complete with tickets being fed through a fare gate. It may be filed in the cult section of your video store, but it had sufficient impact to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". And it's been parodied in pop culture in an episode of The Simpsons . 

Donald wrote: "Whenever I'm rushing through one of the downtown SF stations, I suddenly recall the sped up images in Koyaanisqatsi -- which usually slows me down.  I actually refer to rushing through a BART station as "koyaanisqatsying".

From Alex: BART was featured in The Kite Runner, a little bit north of the Coliseum station.  The scene shows the train passing by honking the horn.

From Evar: They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), starring Sidney Poitier. Chase scene at still-under-construction Montgomery Street Station and a little bit into the tunnel.

From Tag: There's a Chuck Norris vehicle called Eye for an Eye (1981) that has a pretty epic fight scene on BART. A massive martial artist shoves several patrons off an escalator in, I believe, the Powell Street Station.

From Cat: BART is prominently featured in the independent film Colma: The Musical (2006).  Lead characters featured on the train and at the Colma station.

From Oren: BART is featured in Haiku Tunnel (2001), set in San Francisco.

From Jonathan: In the independent film, Super High Me, comedian Doug Benson, arrived at the SFO International airport and has taken BART to 19th Street. 

From Vincent: The Streets of San Francisco's The Thirty-Year Pin, aired 9/23/72, was their first regular episode after the pilot.  Karl Malden and Michael Douglas chased a murder suspect into the still-under-construction 16th Street BART Station.  The suspect runs through the station, under the tunnel, and apparently surfaces at the 24th Street station.  From that episode and scene, the opening credits for this popular TV series show Michael Douglas’ face by the 16th Street station construction fence.

Noted by several people, including Georgene and Kevin: Although it is not a movie, one of the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood moves you around in "BART trains" so you can experience the 1989 earthquake "underground."

Photo credit: Will and Jaden Smith ride a BART train in "Pursuit of Happyness." Courtesy of Sony Pictures Digital Inc.