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Movies Filmed or Set in Washington, DC

Hollywood on the Potomac


Washington, DC has been the setting of numerous movies, mini-series and television shows. The intrigue with the power of politics has inspired many a storyteller and in so doing produced some classic films. The Tombs in Georgetown provided the backdrop for the likes of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore to come to terms with the real world in "St. Elmo’s Fire". Old Ebbits Grille gave Clint Eastwood a place to hang-out while chasing his nemesis in the film, "In the Line of Fire". And of course, shots of the US Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House and so many important DC landmarks have been prominently featured in a number of movies like "Legally Blonde 2", "Along Came A Spider", "National Treasure" and many more.

To follow are the top ten films, in my opinion, filmed or set in Washington, DC.

  • The 1939 film Frank Capra Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starring Jimmy Stewart is perhaps one of the most famous DC films. Named one of the American Film Institute's 100 greatest movies, Jimmy Stewart’s character Jefferson Smith becomes a US Senator and takes on corrupt politics and doesn’t back down.

  • The 1943 The More the Merrier took on social conventions. Joel Mcrea and Jean Arthur star in this comedy set in DC. The city is experiencing a post-World War II housing shortage and two men and a woman share an apartment.

  • Born Yesterday, the 1950 version, is one of Judy Holliday’s best films and with the handsome William Holden as the love interest, it becomes even more enticing. The plot sounds pretty modern day, a wealthy man wanting to buy a congressman brings along his mistress and hires a newsman to turn her into a lady so she will be presentable to DC society. Of course, Holliday discovers that her sugar daddy is corrupt and falls for Bill Holden.

  • Houseboat is one of the best love comedy stories that Hollywood has produced. Sophia Loren and Cary Grant—does it get any better than these two--star in this comedy of a widower and housekeeper who fall in love on a houseboat. Tom Winston (Grant’s character) is a diplomat who returns to Washington, DC after his wife’s death. He and his children go to an outdoor concert where one of the children wonders off and meets Sophia Loren’s character Cinzia. Then the fun begins.

  • In the Line of Fire has to be on the list. Clint Eastwood plays a Secret Service agent in this quintessential DC flick where the broken agent chases after a would-be presidential assassin. Scenes were filmed in DC and has made Old Ebbits Grille a must visit watering hole.

  • In 1994 movie goers fell in love with The American President starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. This movie makes DC insiders laugh with all of its Hollywood grandstanding rhetoric.

  • Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger is a favorite of anyone intrigued with the spy world. Harrison Ford returns as Jack Ryan in this favorite thriller of cat and mouse.

  • Mars Attacks! was directed by Tim Burton and with an all star cast including Jack Nicholson (President), Glenn Close (First Lady), Rod Steiger (military adviser), Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lukas Haas this sci-fi comedy about Martians invading earth is a cult classic.

  • Brad Pitt and Robert Redford team up in Spy Game creating a thriller that both genders can enjoy. Set at the Langley headquarters of the CIA, the story is largely told through flashbacks.

  • People either love or hate The Sum of All Fears. I think Ben Affleck, who plays young CIA researcher Jack Ryan and Morgan Freeman as the CIA Director, both did a great job of producing another chapter in Tom Clancy’s much loved series.

Movie Tours of Washington, DC

Washington DC Tour of Movie and TV Sites. This is both a walking and bus tour where visitors will see more than 30 locations from 50 movies and television shows. It takes place on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and leaves from Union Station. Cost is $34 and the tour lasts approximately 2.5 hours. Advance purchase required at 212-683-2027.

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