Producer-director Richard Rush recalled a difficult moment in which Alan Arkin and James Caan, along with Rush and cinematographer László Kovács, were stuck on a construction elevator at the top of a skyscraper under construction. Caan was afraid of heights, and the men had to jump out of the elevator onto the floor below them and descend the building's 65 floors on foot.
The SFPD detective car the lead characters drive was a white 1972 Ford Custom 500 police interceptor sedan. Over the course of filming, they totaled over a dozen of the cars. These were actual decommissioned San Francisco police vehicles purchased by Warner Brothers for this movie; many of them also appeared in Magnum Force (1973).
Plans to distribute the film early in 1974 were abandoned due to concerns about competition with Peter Hyams' similar film, Busting (1974). "Freebie and the Bean" was released in Christmas of 1974 instead.
Producer-director Richard Rush said that the film contained "four major chase scenes and over 100 car crashes" and that it was comprised of many short scenes which required constant changing of filming locations throughout the day.