Whether you’re looking for something to watch during the 2020 quarantine or trying to get inspired for an upcoming trip, these Washington, DC movies will provide hours of entertainment. Washington, DC doesn’t have nearly as many movies set here as New York or Los Angeles, but there are still plenty of gems.
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Rob and Ronald run through some of their favorite Washington, DC movies. These movies may not be perfect (and you can tell from their critiques) but still worth checking out before your trip. For a comprehensive list of over 200 movies with at least one scene set in DC, check out this Wikipedia article.
Captain America: the Winter Soldier
This Marvel superhero movie was one of the most popular films of 2014. You’ll recognize many Washington, DC landmarks, like the National Mall and Willard Hotel. Many of the action sequences were filmed elsewhere, however.
National Treasure (and Book of Secrets)
National Treasure (and its sequel Book of Secrets) are two popular Disney live-action movies. While the plot of both movies is fiction, some of the historic tidbits are based in history. Washington, DC landmarks like the National Archives, Library of Congress, and a few monuments and memorials can be spotted throughout the films.
Many Washington, DC movies feature politicians and FBI agents, but Wedding Crashers follows a couple DC-based divorce mediators who like to crash weddings. While many of the scenes are set outside the city, this one features a classic DC scene with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn drinking champagne at the Lincoln Memorial.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Kids love this fantasy comedy starring Ben Stiller. Armed with the Tablet of Ahkmenrah which brings museum exhibits to life, the characters explore the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Eventually they wind up at the Lincoln Memorial and bring the statue of our 16th president to life for a memorable speech.
Five Transformers sci-fi action films were made between 2007 and 2017. Many scenes center around the Pentagon and other sites around Washington, DC. Like many works of Hollywood fiction, the Pentagon looks a lot fancier in the movie than in real life.
Locals spotted Tom Hanks outside of the Capitol Building during the filming of this movie. The Post is set in 1960s Washington, DC and tells the story of attempts to publish the “Pentagon Papers”. The movie follows characters between the Washington Post building downtown and Editor Ben Bradlee’s house in Georgetown, though most filming happened elsewhere.
Burn After Reading
The Cohen Brothers are known for their black comedies and this no is no different. Burn After Reading features a cast of oddball characters (led by excellent actors like George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and others) as they awkwardly stumble through situations in DC.
The American President
Any movie starring the President is by default a Washington, DC movie since this is where the President lives. The American President is a love story that follows a widower president who pursues a relationship with a DC-based lobbyist. It was nominated for several awards the year it was released.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Many remember this 1939 classic movie when they hear about a congressional filibuster. In the film a newly appointed senator travels to Washington, DC to fight against a corrupt political system. The movie is worth watching as a history lesson because Congress has changed a bit since the 1930s.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde
This is a more modern Mr. Smith Goes to Washington story. The protagonist Elle Woods (who you may know from her adventures attending Harvard Law School) works in a Congressmember’s office while pursuing legislation to end cosmetics testing on dogs. The movie depicts Congress and DC as a place where people in politics like to play dirty.
Unlike movies about Presidents or Members of Congress, DC Cab is a movie about regular folks working in the DC taxi industry. Although the story could have worked in any city, the fact that we have a Washington, DC movie about regular people is pretty cool. DC Cab released in 1983 but has since become a cult favorite.
While Forrest Gump was set in many parts of the world, a few of the most memorable scenes include his visits to the White House, his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial and his stay at the Watergate Hotel.
Independence Day, Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down, 2012
These are all movies where Washington, DC gets destroyed. Although they are fiction and not at all realistic, if you are a fan of action and destruction movies they may be worth a watch.
This 1973 horror movie is based on a book by the same name. The Exorcist is a gruesome movie that caused viewers to have negative physical reactions when it was first released. The famous Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown are a popular spot for DC visitors!