River Phoenix and Robert Redford were among the stars of the 1992 San Francisco hug movie “Sneakers.” Photo: Universal Studios

Want to see “Sneakers” in a theater? Total SF is hosting a 7 p.m. screening on Thursday, August 25 at the Balboa Theater in San Francisco. Buy your tickets on www.cinemasf.com.

The “Sneakers” cast arrived in San Francisco in 1991 and settled into their home. Not since filming “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen have so many actors been covered in The San Francisco Chronicle for their extracurricular activities.

River Phoenix was a regular at the I-Beam nightclub on Haight Street, soaking up San Francisco bands including the Mr. T Experience. Sidney Poitier dined at North Beach. And Robert Redford was…pretty much everywhere. Chronicle columnist Herb Caen has written about his travels six times, including the morning the panicked actor jumped into the back seat of a random San Francisco couple’s car near Stockton Street, stating, ” I’m late for a shoot. Can you drive me? »

The vibrations carried through to the finished product. “Sneakers” isn’t the most cinematic, hilarious, or explosive movie in San Francisco movie history. But like its stars, it’s an exceptionally good shot. And it gets better with age.

The 1992 film, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on September 9, stars Redford as Martin Bishop, a former UC Berkeley student and hacker whose Robin Hood-style antics in 1969 (“The Republican Party Comes to make a very generous donation to the Black Panthers”) led to tragedy and forced him into hiding.

Bishop adopts a pseudonym and a legitimate company, bringing together a group of former electronics and computer experts, who test the security of large corporations. The film ups the ante quickly – a mystery surrounding software capable of shutting down America’s banks, air traffic and infrastructure – but it never strays too far from its geek-out core: a bunch of nice, eccentrics who keep looking out for each other.

The movie exists because Redford wanted something easy. He had directed, produced and helped edit “A River Runs Through It”. The storyline of “Sneakers,” a light cyber espionage thriller from the makers of “WarGames,” had been bouncing around for a decade.

Once Redford was attached, a collection of high-profile actors and filmmakers soon joined the project, including Poitier, Phoenix, “Field of Dreams” director Phil Alden Robinson, and “Star Trek II” and “Titanic” composer. “James Horner. The heavy collection of talent in a relatively low-key caper flick makes it look like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole are showing up to your rec center pickup basketball game.

Sidney Poitier on location at Hills Plaza for the 1992 film “Sneakers,” with the Bay Bridge and Fireboat Station No. 35 in the background. Photo: Universal Studios

Unlike almost anything from the 1990s, the film doesn’t feel dated, anchored by Horner’s subtle musical score – with plaintive saxophone work from Branford Marsalis and staccato choral elements that play like a “Harry Potter” movie soundtrack. lost.

This is the greatest miracle of “Sneakers”. It has a plot driven by outdated technology and was released in theaters at a time when everything but grunge music and Michael Jordan dunks had aged poorly. But with the exception of a few short, feathered feminine haircuts, every performance, wardrobe decision, and grooming choice is timeless.

Other good things about the movie:

Mary McDonald: There’s a lot of nerdy testosterone in “Sneakers,” and actress McDonnell single-handedly balances it out, being the movie’s most capable person and bringing playful empathy to this collection of hurt dorks. It’s very similar to Jennifer Connelly’s perfect love interest role in “Top Gun: Maverick.” She is the quiet MVP.

The deep bench: With Redford on board, actors accustomed to leading roles, including Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and David Strathairn, take complementary places in the film, but no one phones him. (Even if the plot has them acting on the other end of the phone lines more than any movie since “All the President’s Men.”) Aykroyd’s conspiracy theorist is especially charming opposite the former agent of the CIA of Poitiers. It’s fun to see two actors play very different types and meet each other halfway.

Dan Aykroyd’s selection of A+ hats: The headgear has aged well too. Aykroyd flatters locals like a visiting rock star, wearing Oakland A and 49ers caps.

The Bay Area locations: Much of the film, including most of the interiors, was shot in Los Angeles. But that’s not a liability, because San Francisco exteriors are so fun and unexpected. The team’s hacker clubhouse is in the Fox Theater building in Oakland. A tense exchange occurs at Hills Plaza, looking at Fireboat Station 35 under the Bay Bridge.

And finally (very slight spoiler): The Dumbarton Bridge is a major plot point. It’s worth the price of admission alone – watch Mister Tibbs and the Sundance Kid discuss at length the construction details of the Bay Area’s fifth most famous bridge.

In “Sneakers,” Dan Aykroyd plays a conspiracy theorist whose ramblings cover cattle mutilations and how NASA faked the moon landing. Photo: Universal Studios

“Sneakers” is not a perfect movie. The villain’s reveal is predictable, and his plan makes less sense with each viewing. I’m on my fourth or fifth, and more confused than ever. Phoenix in particular is underutilized; he died so young, less than a year later, it’s a shame we didn’t get another “Running on Empty” or “My Own Private Idaho”. (Who was playing San Francisco’s Lumiere Theater in 1991 while Phoenix was in Haight watching punk rock bands.)

Finally, the name. They paid for best film editing, best cinematography and best music, but couldn’t find anything better than “Sneakers”?

The film grossed $51 million domestically, about as much as “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Mighty Ducks,” which were released the same year. But it quickly fell into oblivion. No Oscar nominations. No call for a sequel. No future Netflix TV series of the same name. And it barely shows up on cable.

But San Francisco never forgot “Sneakers.” He develops a “So I Married an Ax Murderer” level of notoriety for San Francisco movies that no one saw in theaters but everyone loves now. When we let Total SF podcast listeners vote for our next movie, “Sneakers” was the easy winner, beating out “Foul Play,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and “Pacific Heights.”

Mary and Marvin Mah were also fans. Caen reported that Redford’s surprise drivers of 1991 — Did Robert Redford invent Uber? – got the star on set in time, and he gave them a story to tell for the rest of their lives.

“He was terribly nice and tried to make small talk,” said passenger Mary Mah in Caen in 1991. “But we were so surprised we couldn’t say a word.”

There are San Francisco movies because someone got permits to shoot here, and there are San Francisco movies because everyone willingly ventured into the fabric of the city. “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Bullitt,” and “Always Be My Maybe” are that kind of sci-fi movie.

“Sneakers” is the one that time forgot.

Total SF Movie Night Presents “Sneakers”: 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. $12.50 to $15. Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa St., SF www.cinemasf.com