SAN DIEGO – As it has been nicknamed “America’s Finest City,” it’s no surprise that writers of television shows and movies have been known to set their fictional stories in San Diego.
Below, we have compiled 10 of the best fictional San Diegans from movies and television.
10. Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli
“My Blue Heaven” – 1990
In 1980s San Diego, FBI agent Barney Coopersmith, played by Rick Moranis, is tasked with taking in a New York mobster, played by Steve Martin, who is in the witness protection program. While Martin’s character initially struggles to fit in, he eventually learns to love and accept his new home throughout the film.
9. Sheila Rubin
“Physical” – Apple TV (2021-)
Rose Byrne stars as Sheila Rubin, a housewife turned fitness fanatic in 1980s San Diego, in this dark comedy on Apple TV. Sheila’s husband, Danny, is a professor of political science at a university in the area and while the show is not filmed in San Diego, the local ties are plentiful!
“Paranormal Activity” – 2007
Whether you love it or hate it, “Paranormal Activity” became a global phenomenon and it all started with a story about a haunting at a San Diego home — the real house from the film where the movie was shot is in Rancho Peñasquitos. The film follows Katie and Micah who recently moved into a house in the area and are haunted by a supernatural presence. The movie is primarily centered around Katie and her struggle with the horror inside the house.
7. Drake Parker and Josh Nichols
“Drake and Josh” – Nickelodeon (2004-2007)
Drake Bell and Josh Peck starred in this early 2000s comedy featuring mismatched stepbrothers living in San Diego. The show aired for four seasons on Nickelodeon.
6. William Miller
“Almost Famous” – 2000
San Diego, 1970s: the scene is set for Patrick Fugit’s character from the beloved film to develop a love of rock and roll, and even get involved in underground San Diego papers, writing about music and pop culture. Though the movie has scenes in Ocean Beach and at then-San Diego Sports Arena, much of the movie is not set in San Diego — but William does decide near the end of the film that there is no place better to head than home after heartbreak.
5. The Foster family
“The Fosters” – Freeform (2013-2018)
San Diego plays a major role in Freeform’s “The Fosters,” with one of the main characters even working as a San Diego police officer. The blended family lives in Mission Bay and the children attend the fictional Anchor Beach Community Charter School.
4. Torrance Shipman
“Bring It On” – 2000
Set at the fictional Rancho Carne High School in San Diego, Kirsten Dunst’s Torrance attempts to create a team of champions all while grappling with the realization that former captains had stolen routines and chants from the fictional East Compton Clovers. The movie even sparked several sequels and a Broadway musical following its theatrical debut in 2000.
3. Grace Hanson and Frankie Bergstein
“Grace and Frankie” – Netlfix (2015-2022)
After their husbands — partners at a divorce firm in San Diego — decide to end their marriages to Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda) and Frankie Bergstein (Lily Tomlin), the two divorcees decide to move in together at a “La Jolla” beach home (the real home is located in Malibu) and utter madness ensues. The pair could not be more different, which makes for an enjoyable — and hilarious — television experience.
2. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
“Top Gun” – 1986
Filmed and set in the region, “Top Gun” is often the No. 1 movie that comes to mind when you ask residents, “what movie comes to mind when you think of San Diego?” Played by Tom Cruise, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is without a doubt one of the most well-known fictional San Diegans of all time, and even gets a few extra points for bringing SD back into the spotlight this year with the long-awaited sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick.”
1. Ron Burgundy
“Anchorman” – 2004
With a catchphrase of “Stay classy, San Diego,” it’s no surprise that Will Ferrell’s iconic character from the 2004 film “Anchorman” takes the No. 1 spot on our list. Despite much of it not being filmed in San Diego, the movie is about as local as it comes and even features a whacky scene where Burgundy’s dog is punted off what is supposed to be the Coronado Bay Bridge.