Best Movies Based in DC (and their Iconic Locations)

I still get excited when my adopted hometown of Washington, DC is featured in a movie. My heart sings when I watch real live on-location shots in DC, as well as films set in DC and faithfully represented (though possibly shot elsewhere).

I especially love catching a glimpse of some of my favorite Washington addresses on film, such as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, East Capitol St NE & First St SE, 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle and more. Addressy, the address verification service for websites, feels the same way and this post is written in partnership with them.

Here are 10 of my favorites, in order.

10. Minority Report at the Reagan Building and International Trade Center: The location for the future’s DC police department’s “Office of Pre-Crime” is this impressive building where we all may have attended a Washington gala or work conference.

9. Enemy of the State at Dupont Circle: Car and bike chases and espionage all center around the Circle, the Dupont/Q Street underpass and surrounding businesses. If you know this neighborhood well you can piece together how some portions of the on-location chase scene sequences are impossible and switch between the Adams Morgan and Dupont neighborhoods.

8. The Exorcist at the Georgetown stairs: These truly are scary steps, whether you are taking them at night as a Georgetown campus shortcut as a summer student (that was me, happily terrified) or running them today while trying to get a good cardiovascular workout (this is not me with much frequency).

7. The American President at The White House (well, a set, really): Although White House sets abound in Hollywood, this Rob Reiner film is known for its particular attention to detail, recreating the interiors of the White House as it looked in 1995. In fact, the sets were again used on The West Wing.

6. Forrest Gump in the Reflecting Pool: Although Forrest has several DC moments, with several “Presidents” via CGI, who can forget Jenny and Forrest’s Reflecting Pool reunion?

5. In the Line of Fire at the Lincoln Memorial: Sitting on the steps of the Lincoln is one of the best places to have a conversation and people watch, even if you are with Eastwood’s pompous, sexist Secret Service agent.

4. St. Elmo’s Fire at The Tombs: Another studio set, but the interiors of the movie’s St. Elmo’s bar are based on — and the inspiration for the film is —
The Tombs. This still-rocking Georgetown bar is located right next to the Exorcist steps, in case you’d like to hit two locations at once.

3. All the President’s Men at The Watergate complex and George Washington University: The film was shot on-site at both the famed office building and the dorms of the university, which stood in for the Howard Johnson Watergate lookout spot. However, The Washington Post newsroom featured on film was a set.

2. Broadcast News at the Jefferson Memorial: The hard news purist producer and the pretty boy anchor famously share a moment outside the Jefferson Memorial, but I adore the entire film for its numerous 1980’s DC settings.

1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at Union Station and the United States Capitol: No other film expresses a small town kid’s love for DC as keenly as this Capra classic, and I love the scene when Smith spots the Capitol dome from within Union Station with awe. I felt that way seeing it each day when I got off the Red Line at Union Station to walk to my first job in DC, and I still feel it now.

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