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20+ Films & TV Shows to Watch Featuring DC

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

The nation's capital has served as a setting or backdrop for numerous Hollywood blockbusters. In some of these films, the city takes on a personality of its own. Celebrate the District by watching this wide range of flicks and TV shows and then plan a trip.


Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Rated PG-13, 133 min.
Washington, DC is a prominent player in this Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) title that grossed more than $880 million worldwide upon its release. Marking the beginning of the second re-boot of the Spider-Man film franchise, this wild ride features Tom Holland as the central character, as the youngster attempts to balance his life between being Peter Parker and saving the world as a superhero. You’ll see Spider-Man clash with Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) and run into plenty of other MCU characters, including Iron Man and Captain America, as well as an incredible set piece in the nation’s capital.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Rated PG-13, 136 min.
Considered one of the best films to emerge from the 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.​

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.​

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.​

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Rated PG-13; 155 min.
Set in 1984, this epic sequel takes place in Washington, DC as Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, works against two foes to save the world from a dangerous fate after corruption ensues following the misuse of an ancient “dreamstone.” Throughout the movie, you’ll notice iconic DC scenes such as the Lincoln Memorial, the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station, VUE at Hotel Washington, historic Georgetown and even the White House. Many Smithsonian museums are also featured, including the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. In addition to playing in some movie theatres, WW84 was also released on HBO Max on Christmas Day 2020 and became the most streamed title of the year. 

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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!​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​

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.​


TV Shows

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (2018-Present)
John Krasinski stars as the legendary Tom Clancy character, Jack Ryan, in this political spy thriller from Amazon Prime. The series follows the CIA analyst as he is promoted to field work from a cushy desk job in DC after discovering a string of questionable bank transfers by an Islamic extremist. Eventually, Jack is dropped into political warfare in Venezuela, the backdrop for the second season. Expect plenty of suspense and intrigue in this acclaimed series that has been renewed for a third installment.


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.​


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.​


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).​


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.​


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