Our nation’s capital makes for a great background for evening strolls, afternoon meeting spots and high-intensity movie scenes. Nearly 200 movies have shot various scenes in Washington, D.C.
Why is this East Coast city such a popular movie spot? Because it offers political schemes, watchdog journalism and military tactics, not to mention all the well-known monuments and memorials directors can use as the perfect memorable backdrop for certain scenes.
Below are highlights from 54 blockbusters filmed in Washington, D.C. in alphabetic order:
1. Absolute Power
1997. Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Absolute Power is based on a novel and showcases the ruthlessness of people in power. A career thief witnesses a murder involving the President, who thinks he can do whatever without being reprimanded, and the Secret Service need him to keep quiet so they go on a hunt to find him, which isn’t an easy task.
2. Advise & Consent
1962. Genre: Drama
The President gives his nomination for a new Secretary of State, and during the investigation into his nomination, it’s found that this candidate has a big secret from his past — a secret that could possibly ruin this candidate, as well as the character and integrity of the President.
3. Air Force One
1997. Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
In this political action film, the President goes to Moscow to give a speech about the United State’s zero tolerance policy with terrorism. On his way home to Washington, D.C. terrorists hijack Air Force One and take all passengers hostage, including his wife and daughter. But these hijackers are in for an unfortunate surprise, as this President has more skills than just knowing how to look good and be charismatic while giving speeches.
4. All the President’s Men
1976. Genre: Drama, History, Mystery
Two Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, get assigned to a story by their editor, and they begin to uncover more and more details, which ultimately lead to the infamous Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s resignation.
5. Along Came a Spider
2001. Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
A U.S. senator’s daughter is kidnapped, and the kidnapper only wants to work with Detective Alex Cross. Cross wasn’t working because he’d recently lost his partner during a bust, but goes back to work to deal with this kidnapper and find the kidnapped girl.
6. The American President
1995. Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance.
This political movie involves another U.S. President but brings in a romantic aspect. The President is widowed but starts to fall in love with a lobbyist. His new love interest leaves room for one of his political opponents to attack him and his character.
20 things to do near Washington D.C. 10. Great Falls Park
2006. Genre: Comedy
Borat is a TV reporter from Kazakhstan and is sent to America by his government to make a documentary about the culture and society of America. Once in America, he decides to go on a cross-country journey to California to find and marry Pamela Anderson, all the while documenting his crazy journey and run ins with various kinds of Americans.
8. Broadcast News
1987. Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
This plot of Broadcast News revolves around a love triangle comprising of a female TV network news producer and two male rival TV reporters. The producer and network both have to choose between the two different styles of these men.
2009. Genre: Comedy
Bruno is an Austrian fashion expert who takes his show to America, specifically Los Angeles, hoping to find worldwide fame after disgracing himself in front of his Funkyzeit fan base back home.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2014. Genre: Action, Adventure
Steve Rogers, a.k.a the gorgeously strong Captain America, works to adapt to this unfamiliar modern world after being away for several decades and must face a new threat — a Soviet agent called the Winter Soldier — while being labeled as a traitor to SHIELD.
11. Chances Are
1989. Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
In this unique plot for comedy, Louie Jeffries is happily married, then is killed on their first anniversary, comes back reincarnated as Alex Finch and then meets his daughter 20 years later, not realizing nor remembering his former life until he goes to her home.
12. Clear and Present Danger
1994. Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
CIA Analyst Jack Ryan gets drawn into an illegal war being fought by the U.S. government and a Colombian drug cartel.
13. Collateral Damage
2002. Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a firefighter whose wife and child are killed in a bombing by a known international terrorist. He goes on a hunt to find the man responsible and make him pay for what he did.
14. The Contender
2000. Genre: Drama, Thriller
A female senator is nominated to become the next U.S. Vice President, but she struggles with what to do as sexual secrets from her past are brought to light during the running.
1993. Genre: Comedy, Romance
A temp agency operator looks exactly like the President, so when the President wants to ditch an official luncheon, this President look-a-like fills in for him and ends up playing the role for a while after the President suffers a stroke.
16. Deep Impact
1998. Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
A meteor is heading straight for Earth — a meteor that would wipe everything out — and unless it’s destroyed, only those people who were allowed shelter will survive this potential catastrophe.
17. The Distinguished Gentleman
1992. Genre: Comedy, Crime
Eddie Murphy plays a Florida con man who shares the name with a congressman from his district who passed away to get elected to the U.S. Congress and then continues to use his cons to get what he wants.
1999. Genre: Comedy, Drama
A high school civic teacher works with his students during a school election, but he brings in his personal emotions to make the election more democratic and to stick it to a certain student running unopposed in the election.
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19. Enemy of the State
1998. Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
A Washington, D.C. lawyer becomes the target of a corrupt politician after unknowingly receiving evidence to a serious political crime.
20. Evan Almighty
2007. Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Evan Baxter gets elected to Congress with the slogan, “Change the world.” And God wants to see if he’ll do just that by commanding him to build an ark because a great flood is coming.
21. The Exorcist
1973. Genre: Horror
A mom seeks the help from two priests to save her daughter after some mysterious being possesses her.
22. A Few Good Men
1992. Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
In this courtroom thriller from the 90s, Tom Cruise plays a Navy lawyer picked to defend two Marines accused of murdering a colleague.
23. The Firm
1993. Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
This is another Tom Cruise film where he plays a lawyer. In this particular one, he joins a very prestigious law firm and later learns The Firm has a evil dark side.
24. Forrest Gump
1994. Genre: Drama, Romance
Forrest Gump is a good man with a lower I.Q., who sits on a bench waiting for a bus telling his life story to anyone who will listen. In the end, he only wants to let people know it’s possible for anyone to anyone and that life is like a box of chocolates.
25. G.I. Jane
1997. Genre: Action, Drama
A senator gets a female enrolled into the U.S. Navy’s elite (but very brutal) SEAL and C.R.T. training and selection program where everyone expects her to drop out like more than half of the males do, but she’s determined to prove all of her doubters wrong in the end.
26. Hollow Man
2000. Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Scientists learn how to make people invisible, but when one of them becomes the test subject and the process can’t be reversed, he starts showing unexpected side effects that lead him to become a killer.
27. How Do You Know
2010. Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Reese Witherspoon plays the role of a softball player who’s cut from the USA team. After that dramatic event, she starts evaluating her life and then is put in the middle of a love triangle.
28. In the Line of Fire
1993. Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
A Secret Service agent can’t forget about being one of the agents assigned to President Kennedy and not being able to save him when he was shot. Several years later, he does all he can to prevent that from happening again to the current President.
29. In the Loop
2009. Genre: Comedy
The President of the United States and the UK Prime Minister want a war, but not everyone else wants this war or believes it to be a good thing.
30. Independence Day
1996. Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Aliens attack part of the U.S. and other major cities around the world on July 3, so the next day becomes their Independence Day as survivors work together to fight off these aliens and protect their freedoms.
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2016. Genre: Drama
Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
32. Jason Bourne
2016. Genre: Action, Drama
Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless CIA official and his agents from a new assassination program and is drawn out of hiding to uncover more explosive truths about his past.
1991. Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, the perpetrator is arrested and then shot by a man who was avenging JFK’s death. A Louisiana DA believes and finds out there’s more to the story than that.
34. Live Free or Die Hard
2007. Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Police detective John McClane teams up with a young hacker to bring down a cyber-terrorist in Washington, D.C.
35. Minority Report
2002. Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi
In the future, a special police unit knows and arrests murders before they can commit their crimes. But then one of those special police officers finds himself accused of a future murder.
36. Mission Impossible III
2006. Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, wants to keep his identity a secret and protect his girlfriend and must face a very dangerous arms dealer while doing so.
37. No Way Out
1987. Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Tom Farrell has an affair with Susan Atwell, who is also Secretary of Defense David Brice’s mistress, and she is later killed. Tom gets assigned to the case and has to find the killer before he becomes a suspect.
1995. Genre: Drama, Thriller
A lethal virus is transported to the United States via an African monkey host. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infections Diseases and the Centre for Disease Control are two Federal agencies headed by an ex-husband and his former wife rush to stop its deadly spread.
39. Patriot Games
1992. Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Harrison Ford plays CIA Agent Jack Ryan again, but this time he interferes with an IRA assassination and then he and his family become the targets of a renegade group seeking revenge.
40. Prime Risk
1985. Genre: Drama
A female engineer and her friend uncover how to rip off ATM machines, while learning about a plot to destroy the United State’s monetary system in the process.
41. Rules of Engagement
2000. Genre: Action, Drama, War
Wounded Vietnam vet Hayes Hodges becomes a lawyer and goes up against the service defending a colonel who ordered his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed into a U.S. embassy in a third world country.
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2010. Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
CIA Agent Evelyn Salt is well liked and respected, but when a Russian spy says she’s the assassin planning to murder the President of Russia, she must go on the run.
43. St. Elmo’s Fire
1985. Genre: Drama, Romance
This 80s movie is about seven friends going through the ups and downs in life and their relationships after graduating from college.
44. State of Play
2009. Genre: Drama, Mystery
A Congressional aid and a thief are each killed, and the deaths seem unrelated except to a newspaper reporter who senses a conspiracy and starts uncovering clues to a mess of a corporate situation that could risk his life to find out the whole story.
45. Strangers on a Train
1951. Genre: Drama
A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder – a theory that he plans to implement.
46. The Sum of All Fears
2002. Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Jack Ryan, this time played by Ben Affleck, has to stop the plans of a terrorist group that threatens to detonate a nuclear weapon at a Baltimore football game to start a conflict between the U.S. and Russia.
47. Thank You for Smoking
2005. Genre: Comedy, Drama
The main character in this movie is a tobacco industry spokesman. He always knows how to spin things for cigarettes and the tobacco industry but at the same time wants to remain a good role model for his young son.
48. Thirteen Days
2000. Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
This film takes place in 1962 and showcases dramatized events during the Cuban Missile Crisis during President Kennedy’s term.
49. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
2011. Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
The Autobots go against the Decepticons to find a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the moon.
50. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2009. Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi
Sam Witwicky, know starting college, leaves behind his Autobot friends to have a normal college life, but becomes a target to the Decepticons and gets drug back into the Transformer war.
51. True Lies
1994. Genre: Action, Thriller
A secret agent is kidnapped by terrorists, along with his wife, and must convey who he really is to try and stop the terrorists.
52. Wag the Dog
1997. Genre: Comedy, Drama
To cover up a presidential sex scandal, an adviser to the President teams up with a Hollywood producer to fabricate a war and give the President a better chance for re-election.
53. X-Men: First Class
2011. Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi
The U.S. government calls on the Mutants to help them stop a dictator who has plans of starting a World War III.
54. XXX: State of the Union
2005. Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
A former U.S. Navy Seal is selected to be a new agent with the XXX program and has to go to Washington, D.C. to try and stop a power struggle between national leaders.
As you can see, the nation’s capital made for the perfect place to film several blockbuster hits. It’s also a great place to visit. Find hotels in Washington, D.C. and hit the streets for a visit to the monuments and memorials where many of your favorite scenes were filmed.