Though COVID restrictions may provide limited opportunities to get out and enjoy all that DC has to offer, you can always explore the nation’s capital through these 10 iconic Washington-based films.
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian
Former Museum of Natural History security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) heads to the Smithsonian to rescue his friends who were mistakenly shipped to the Washington museum. Characters like Amelia Airhart Al Capone and Napoleon Bonaparte come to life as Daley fights to save his friends and protect both the museum and the world.
A pair of divorce mediators (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) spend their days crashing weddings and picking up women. That is, until they each manage to get involved with one of Secretary of Treasury William Cleary’s two daughters—hilarity ensues. One particularly iconic moment from the film takes place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the reformed wedding crashers share a meaningful moment, toast Champagne and watch as the sun comes up.
As you watch historian Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Ian Howe (Sean Bean) fight to find the founding fathers’ hidden treasure, keep an eye out for shots of the National Mall, the Library of Congress and the J. Edgar Hoover Building.
The 1973 supernatural film has terrified millions and for decades. The film follows a 12-year-old girl who’s possessed by a mysterious entity, forcing her mother to seek a priest to exorcise the demon. While the entirety of the movie takes place in Washington, the film’s climactic final showdown specifically transpires at a set of stone steps in Georgetown, which have since been dubbed “The Exorcist Steps”.
In the year 2054, new technology allows police to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, only the head of DC’s so-called pre-crime unit (Tom Cruise) is acused of a future murder himself. Though the city looks a little different in the imagined future, landmarks like the International Trade Centre and The Willard Intercontinental still make an appearance.
DC doesn’t fare well when aliens invade earth with the purpose of destruction. Buildings burn, and the White House is obliterated as an unlikely group of people fight against the unwanted extraterrestrial visitors on the Fourth of July.
Director and producer Stephen Spielberg rarely disappoints, and this historical drama recounting the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life is no exception. The film, which was nominated for seven Golden Globes and 12 Academy Awards, focuses on Lincoln’s efforts to abolish slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks take on the roles of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post publisher and editor, respectively, who publish the infamous "Pentagon Papers" in 1971. Based in DC, the Washington Post offices and the Newseum appear in much of the movie.
All the President’s Men
The Watergate scandal comes to life in the 1976 political drama that follows reporters Bob Woodward (Robbert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) as they uncover the details that eventually lead to President Richard Nixon's resignation. The break-in that prompted the journalist’s investigation was actually filmed in the Watergate complex, the same place it took place just four years before.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
This 1939 Frank Capra film takes us all across DC, from the Supreme Court building and the White House, to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, as a naive and newly-appointed senator (Jimmy Stewart) attempts to take on political corruption in the nation’s capital.
Photography by: Jon Tyson on Unsplash