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20+ Films & TV Shows to Watch Featuring DC

boy facing the television watching it in the dark

Keep Washington, DC on your mind as you watch any of these movies or TV shows available for rent or stream

As social distancing becomes the norm across the U.S., evenings usually spent out on the town will now consist of couch time. Don’t fear: we’ve compiled a list of movies and TV shows that were either filmed in DC or feature the city prominently. Our roster runs the gamut from action flicks to conspiracy thrillers to romantic comedies to horror to….whatever Burn After Reading is (you’ll get that after you watch it). So grab a snack (PLEASE wash your hands first), settle into your nook of the couch and have at it.

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Movies

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Rated PG-13, 136 min.
Considered one of the best films to emerge from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Winter Soldier is the second in a trilogy of Captain America films and the ninth movie in the MCU chronology. Don’t be afraid to just pop this one on, though; the action runs at a breakneck pace and uses more practical effects than most MCU films. The throwback style extends to the story, which hearkens back to conspiracy films of the 1970s, including Three Days of the Condor, which you’ll read more about later. Keep an eye out for an array of DC locations, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and Theodore Roosevelt Island.​
Available to stream on Disney Plus with subscription

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Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)
Rated PG; 105 min.
Ben Stiller stars in this sequel to Night at the Museum, which takes viewers inside Smithsonian Institution museums (including the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History) as historic artifacts and artworks come to life. Stiller’s character, Larry Daley, is joined by an array of figures commemorated at Smithsonian museums, from Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams) to Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) to Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest). The movie is a potent mixture of comedy, history and adventure with an outstanding cast to boot.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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State of Play (2009)
Rated R; 128 min.
Various notable locations in DC, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, the Maine Avenue Fish Market and the Washington Monument, are featured in this tightly wound thriller based on a BBC miniseries that stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. Crowe and McAdams play reporters for the fictional Washington Globe newspaper who attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a congressman’s (Affleck) aide and mistress. We’re not telling you much more about the plot as we’re not a fan of spoilers here, but expect to see plenty of the District along the way; the makers of State of Play estimated that the film set a record for longest studio shoot in the nation’s capital.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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Burn After Reading (2008)
Rated R; 97 min.
This underrated Coen Brothers classic features Brad Pitt in quite possibly his funniest role – and one completely out of the norm for the Hollywood heartthrob. Idiocy rules the day in this caper, as George Clooney plays a buffoonish U.S. Marshal that is nearly as silly as Pitt’s gym instructor. The hilarity stems from a harmless set of files left at a gym by an irritated CIA analyst (played with maximum force by John Malkovich) and Pitt’s colleague’s (Frances McDormand) concurrent desire for reconstruction surgery. Sound confusing? You’re going to be laughing too hard to care. Be on the lookout for shots of Georgetown and other DC locales.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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Wedding Crashers (2005)
Rated R; 119 min.
Rowdy, raunchy and hilarious, Wedding Crashers was a blockbuster hit in 2005. John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) play two DC-based divorce lawyers who….well, crash weddings to meet and seduce women. That’s until the duo arrives at the Cleary wedding, where John quickly falls in love with Claire (Rachel McAdams), who’s unfortunately in a relationship with the egotistical Zachary (Bradley Cooper, in a breakout role). The movie makes regional references throughout and keep your eyes peeled for shots of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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National Treasure (2004)
Rated PG; 131 min.
Oh, did you think we’d leave this incredible Nic Cage vehicle out? No way. National Treasure is a classic Disney adventure that features DC landmarks in droves. Cage’s character, a historian and treasure hunter named Benjamin Franklin Gates (get it?) hoping to discover the ultimate prize. However, that will require him to steal the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives. Filled with elaborate set pieces and breathtaking action sequences, this family gem also showcases the National Mall, the Library of Congress and the J. Edgar Hoover Building.​
Available to stream on Netflix with subscription

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Minority Report (2002)
Rated PG-13; 145 min.
Tom Cruise stars in this Steven Spielberg-directed sci-fi romp based on a short story by legendary author Philip K. Dick. The year is 2054 and Cruise’s character, John Anderton, works for DC’s PreCrime police department, which uses “Precogs” to predict murders before they happen. When Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer (played by a young Colin Farrell) enters the fray, a prediction details that Anderton will commit a murder in the next 36 hours, sparking an epic showdown. Minority Report is a stunning meditation on modern technology and surveillance filled with visuals of a futuristic DC.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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Enemy of the State (1998)
Rated R; 132 min.
Is this another film based in DC that addresses issues of privacy, security, surveillance and entails a government conspiracy? You betcha! Does that mean it’s not worth your precious social distancing time? Absolutely not. With a prime Will Smith, a nutso Gene Hackman (in a role that calls back to his classic turn as Harry Caul in 1974’s The Conversation) and an array of late ‘90s studs like Jamie Kennedy, Scott Caan, Barry Pepper, Jason Lee and yes, Jack Black, how can Enemy of the State not be awesome? The late and great Tony Scott directs this action-packed thriller that winds through DC and Baltimore at a breakneck pace. Okay, it was mostly filmed in Los Angeles, but that’s the magic of movies for you!​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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Wag the Dog (1997)
Rated R; 97 min.
Political hijinks are at the center of this dark comedy that stars two of the greatest actors of all-time. Robert De Niro plays political spin master Conrad Brean, tasked with covering up a presidential scandal in an election year. Brean’s big idea: staging a war with Albania with the help of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss, played by Dustin Hoffman. Director Barry Levinson lays the satire on thick in this hilariously prescient film. You can spot shots of Capitol Hill and the Hay-Adams Hotel and savor a supporting cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Willie Nelson, Denis Leary, William H. Macy and Woody Harrelson.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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True Lies (1994)
Rated R; 141 min.
No, we were most certainly not going this entire list without running into ARNOLD. Schwarzenegger stars in this James Cameron-directed popcorn flick that features enough explosions to satisfy any action movie diehard. Be ready for a chase scene through mid-1990s Georgetown and plenty of excellent one-liners from the decade’s biggest action star. True Lies also features Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold (double Arnold alert) and Bill Paxton (rest in peace).​
Available to stream on HBO GO with subscription

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Forrest Gump (1994)
Rated PG-13; 142 min.
Honestly, Forrest Gump is more cultural touchstone than movie at this point. The film raked in more than $677 million domestically, won six Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor) and has been shown on cable seemingly on loop for 20 years. And for good reason! Forrest journeys from his Alabama home to the Vietnam War to Washington, DC (the city will be tough to miss in this one) to New York City to the Bayou and back home again. Encompassing a litany of historical events and an unforgettable soundtrack, Forrest Gump is a cinematic voyage like none other.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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A Few Good Men (1992)
Rated R; 138 min.
Quite possibly the ultimate courtroom drama, A Few Good Men combines a dynamite cast and a pulse-pounding story to create one of the most memorable finales in film history. Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a lawyer with an aversion to trials, is assigned to defend two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine during a violent, extrajudicial punishment at Guantanamo Bay. With the help of Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and Lieutenant Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak), Kaffee uncovers foul play on the part of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, the Base Commander at the Bay, leading to an epic showdown. Can you handle the truth? Portions of the production filmed on location in DC; Kaffee’s apartment is unmistakably located in Georgetown.​
Available to stream for free on Amazon Prime (no subscription required)

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Broadcast News (1987)
Rated R; 133 min.
James L. Brooks (you may know him as the original executive producer of some show called The Simpsons) wrote, produced and directed this romantic dramedy that depicts the inner workings of television news in its late-‘80s heyday. Set firmly in DC and the surrounding suburbs, Broadcast News focuses on a love triangle between producer Jane (Holly Hunter), brilliant reporter Aaron (Albert Brooks) and the inexperienced but strikingly attractive Tom (William Hurt). With riveting dialogue and powerful ruminations on the ethics of journalism, the film is a stirring snapshot of Reagan-era media culture.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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No Way Out (1987)
Rated R; 114 min.
Shot on location in DC, No Way Out made full use of the landscape, including locations such as Rock Creek Park, the Pentagon and the Omni Shoreham Hotel in its final cut. Kevin Costner, just emerging as a Hollywood leading man, plays Tom Farrell, a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy caught in a deadly web of infidelity and deceit after beginning a relationship with Susan Atwell (Sean Young), who is ALSO having an affair with Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman). It’s one messy and suspenseful ride from there.​
Available to stream on Amazon Prime with subscription

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All the President’s Men (1976)
Rated PG (Note: the film does contain profanity); 138 min.
The quintessential DC film chronicles the incredible investigative journalism of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) in their uncovering of the massive Watergate scandal that involved (and led to the eventual resignation of) President Richard Nixon. The nation’s capital is depicted as a haunting apparatus of Brutalist buildings and power structures; the city becomes a character in the film. Even though you know the ending, there’s nary a moment when you’re not fully enraptured, marking All the President’s Men as essential viewing, even more than 40 years after its release.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Rated R; 118 min.
Robert Redford was all about paranoid thrillers set in Washington, DC in the mid-1970s. Three Days of the Condor hit theaters roughly six months before All the President’s Men, and each film masterfully wrestled with the country’s heightened paranoia towards U.S. government practices after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Detailing too much of Three Days’ plot will give it away; just know that the film starts with a literal bang and never lets up, as Redford’s character, Joe Turner, becomes embroiled in a violent CIA cover-up. Faye Dunaway and the brilliant Max von Sydow co-star in Sydney Pollack’s tense drama.​
Available to stream on Amazon Prime with subscription

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The Exorcist (1973)
Rated R; 121 min.
Still considered one of the best horror movies of all-time, The Exorcist has its own special place in DC lore, as residents and visitors love to share photos of the infamous “Exorcist stairs” in Georgetown. No, we’re not about to tell you why the stairs are so famous! You need to watch the movie to find out. The story concerns the demonic possession of 12-year old Regan (Linda Blair) and her mother’s (Ellen Burstyn) attempts to save her. Fair warning: The Exorcist scared audiences out of their wits when it hit theaters in 1973, prompting calls for censorship. Prepare to be startled.​
Available to rent on Amazon Prime & iTunes

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TV Shows

Veep (2012-19)
Critics and politicos alike loved this HBO comedy smash that ran for seven seasons. Julia Louis-Dreyfus managed to pull off the second iconic role of her career in the form of Selina Meyer, a driven, foul-mouthed, energetic, manipulative vice president (she contains multitudes!) who aims to leave a legacy without being mired down by the political games of Washington. The one-liners and zingers fly relentlessly across the series’ 65 episodes, with memorable characters galore. Insiders have said that Veep is a more accurate depiction of national politics than dramas like The West Wing (highlighted below) and House of Cards, so…take that for what it’s worth.​
Available to stream on HBO GO

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Scandal (2012-18)
Kerry Washington became a household name thanks to this riveting ABC drama created by the incomparable Shonda Rhimes. Scandal focuses on Olivia Pope and her crisis management firm based in the District. Pope is partially based on Judy Smith, a press aide in the George H.W. Bush administration who also serves as a co-executive producer. Expect numerous twists and shocking moments as you make your way through the show’s seven seasons.​
Available to stream on Netflix with subscription

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The Americans (2013-18)
One of the best shows of the 21st century concerns Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), your standard American couple living in Falls Church, Va. They have two kids, Paige and Henry, and run a travel agency together. Harmless, right? Far from it. Philip and Elizabeth are in fact elite Russian spies, sent to the U.S. capital to foil American plans in the midst of the Cold War. In the series opener, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent, moves in across the street, further complicating matters. Throughout, notions of loyalty and morality are severely tested, and so is the stability of the family unit. Simply put, The Americans is essential viewing and should be on any list of must-watch programs. Fun fact: The chemistry between Russell and Rhys was so strong, the two began an off-screen relationship that continues to this day (the couple have a son together).​
Available to stream on Amazon Prime with subscription

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The West Wing (1999-2006)
Aaron Sorkin’s classic political drama won 26 Primetime Emmy Awards during its seven-season run on NBC. Martin Sheen stars as President Jed Bartlet, charged with guiding the country through crises, scandals and conflicts. Bartlet is supported by his outstanding crew of aides, from Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) to Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney). Through its compelling storytelling and sharp dialogue, The West Wing set a new standard for network TV.​
Available to stream on Netflix with subscription

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