As the capital of the United States, the city of Washington D.C. has to its name several landmarks that make it a perfect backdrop for loads of movies. From the White House and the Washington Monument to the United States Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial, there are loads of spots to choose from, and there have indeed been plenty of movies set against the backdrop of these famous landmarks. But what makes Washington D.C. a favorite with filmmakers is its political importance as a city that houses not just the President of the United States but also has plenty of other important government offices within its boundaries. From presidential coups to alien attacks, there have been several storylines that films have explored, and here, we bring to you our own list of great in the form of Ten Awesome Movies Straight Out of Washington D.C.!
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
The Federal Archives of the Smithsonian Institution forms the backdrop of the hilarious and action-packed fantasy action-comedy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian which has a long lineup of actors and an equally long lineup of twists and turns in the storyline. It all begins when the otherwise quiet exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. come alive, thanks to the Tablet of Ahkmenrah. What transpires is yet another fun and sometimes dangerous ride that threatens to throw just everything we know about normal life helter-skelter. With an impressive lineup consisting of Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams, and more leading the way, the film brings alive not just the Smithsonian but several other Washington landmarks, and even has a thoughtful and forceful Abraham Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial coming alive! At the end of it all, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian proves to be a delightful adventure, and makes us wonder how amazing it would truly be if ancient artifacts did come to life and gave us some life lessons to current generations on how to live life the right way!
State of Play
Political thrillers are a difficult genre when it comes to delivering a great piece, and State of Play is as close to a successful plot as a filmmaker can possibly get! Led by a star cast consisting of Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Helen Mirren, and more, the movie takes us through the ambiguity and conceit that runs freely through the corridors of politics as well as journalism, and how the two often play the biggest of games hand in glove with the other, all at the expense of the common people of a supposedly democratic nation. In addition to exposing the underbelly of all that goes down in the capital city of the US, the film also gives life to several landmarks from the city, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Supreme Court building, the World Bank building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Wahington Monument, and others. In terms of the storyline as well as landmarks and other locations, there’s surely a whole lot of Washington D.C. in State of Play!
As a nation with a rich history and heritage, the United States is well-known as one of the most powerful nations in the world. And also among the richest! Throughout its history, the nation and its people have witnessed several instances that point towards not just immense wealth but also untold treasures, and that’s what National Treasure is all about. An all-out action-adventure film that is led by a brilliant star cast consisting of Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, Christopher Plummer, and more, the movie has Benjamin Franklin Gates, played by Nicolas Cage, and team racing against time and violent adversaries in the quest of bringing to the nation’s treasury a heap of hidden treasures and to him and his team, the finder’s fee! In addition to Washington D.C., the movie was also filmed in New York, Philadelphia, and Utah, but since all the major action goes down in politically and historically connected locations, we can safely add National Treasure to our list here!
Enemy of the State
A fast-moving political action thriller that has the talented duo of Will Smith and Gene Hackman leading the way, Enemy of the State is one of those movies that just doesn’t believe in taking a breather, and we love it for that very reason! And it sure was a hit with audiences too, considering how the studios made a whopping $250 million off the movie against the $90 million it cost to make it. In addition to Washington D.C., the film is also set in Baltimore. Filled with subterfuge, political drama, and the shady ways of the many arms of government agencies, the film takes audiences on a ride that leads to the uncovering of more than just a handful of controversies. The movie especially brought out the debate of the many lines that are crossed in the name of national security and how NSA surveillance could be truly intruding upon the private lives of people. The impact of the storyline the film followed was so powerful that the NSA (the real one, not the one depicted in the film) even considered setting up a PR campaign of its own to thwart the popular opinions that were formed about the agency’s over-enthusiastic intrusions into the lives of everyday American citizens. Of course, considering how later events, including the Edward Snowden revelations and the NSA’s PRISM Surveillance Program, unfolded in the years after, one can even say that Enemy of the State was a movie that predicted or even rightly gauged all that probably goes down in real life.
Along Came a Spider
A neo-noir psychological thriller based on the James Patterson novel of the same name, Along Came a Spider uses the city of Washington D.C. as the perfect setting for the kidnapping of the daughter of a senator, and when you have Morgan Freeman in the mix, you know you’re in for a ride that’s absolutely worth it. Led by Freeman, the cast consisting of Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Penelope Ann Miller, and Michael Moriarty take the audience on a wild chase to hunt down a kidnapped girl before it’s too late, all the time creating sequences and twists that have everyone on edge. Made on a budget of $60 million, the movie was a success at the box office, raking in $105.2 million, and audiences especially enjoyed the extra fuel that the backdrop of Washington D.C. and the kidnapping of a US senator’s daughter gave the plot. Although diehard fans have managed to pick out several shortcomings and loopholes in the film, Along Came a Spider does give us a healthy dose of all things Washington D.C.!
All the President’s Men
Based on the non-fiction book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men brings to life the infamous Watergate scandal that not just rocked American democracy but even brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in the lead, the movie also has other prominent actors such as Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, and Jason Robards, contributing to the brilliance of the plot. In addition to several nuances of the scandal, the film also made famous the catchphrase “follow the money”, a term that is now synonymous with scandals involving politics and of course, money! The movie, a serious biographical political drama-thriller, was a hit with audiences who clearly wished to know more about all that went down in the Watergate scandal, raking in a whopping $70 million and more against the $8.5 million it took to make it. And to think that one of the biggest scandals in US history began with a break-in! In addition to several nominations at the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Golden Globes, All the President’s Men has also found its way to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Wag the Dog
In the phrase “A dog is smarter than the tail, but if the tail were smarter, then it would wag the dog,” lies the preface of the film Wag the Dog, and as it turns out, the film reveals more than just a fictional storyline, with audiences now comparing incidents related to the times we live in with the ones in the movie. A brilliant political black satire comedy that is further fueled by the presence of actors such as Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Andrea Martin, Woody Harrelson, Kirsten Dunst, and William H. Macy, the film revolves around the coverups that are brought into play whenever a scandal is uncovered and needs to be removed from public memory or at least media headlines. And when the president of the US is caught by cameras trying to take undue advantage of his position, and on an underaged girl nonetheless, you know that all the firepower would need to come into play to cook up news that would overtake the scandal in the media. What transpires is a shameless rollout of a story that not just reveals how far the top brass can go when it comes to protecting its elected representatives but also shows how every participant needs to be either on the same page or find their name in the obituary section! All in all, even controversy theories aside, Wag the Dog does indeed seem like a movie that was far ahead of its time.
A work of science fiction that experiments with and includes a wide mix of genres including thriller, tech noir, whodunnit, crime, and suspense, Minority Report is a fast-paced and intelligent film that reveals just how technology can create havoc in people’s lives if we take things too far in the name of advancements. Directed by Steven Spielberg and carried on the shoulder of Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samatha Morton, and Max von Sydow, the film is set in the near future, the year 1954 to be precise, and shows just how advancements in fighting crime have overtaken the world of policing. As yet another new technology infiltrates the police program of Washington D.C., it is now up to a victim of the program who believes he has been wrongly identified as a future murderer, to bring to the forefront the shortcomings of the program. In addition to the thrills the film provides, Minority Report also serves as a warning for humans, that there has to be a limit to technology, failing which, technology may leave us with no room for privacy or decision-making at all.
Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman 1984 may not have done as well as the previous installment but as far as Washington D.C. is concerned, it sure explores several locales and buildings in the city to term it a Washington movie! From the White House and the DAR Constitution Hall to the Lincoln memorial and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, several D.C. locations made their presence felt throughout the movie. And of course, since most sequences in the movie have the backdrop of the Smithsonian — both Gal Gadot as Diana and Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva and Cheetah work at the museum — one simply cannot deny the capital city’s contribution to the storyline. Of course, the movie itself turned out to be a box office dud, raking in only $166.8 million against the $200 million it took to make it. But while the poor performance of the movie in theaters was mostly attributed to the limited theaters available due to the pandemic, the movie did make up for its numbers on OTT and was labeled the “most-watched straight-to-streaming film” for the year 2020. Well, whether you caught up with Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters or on OTT, there’s no way you could have missed all those heavy doses of Washington D.C. in it!
When a movie registers multiple nominations and wins right from the Academy Awards, the British Film Academy Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, and the National Board of Review Awards to the Golden Globe Awards, the London Critics Circle Film Awards, the Writers Guild of America Awards, The National Society of Film Critics Awards, and more, you know it’s got to be amongst the best, and that’s exactly what Being There is! A satire film that stars Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Dysart, and Richard Basehart in the lead roles, the premise of the film is based on how just about anything sells in a world where people seldom take the trouble to scratch the surface, accepting or rejecting things at face value without thinking twice, and how this is more prevalent as we move up the ladder. As smart and sophisticated as it is made out to be, and with as humble a storyline as possible, Being There doesn’t just reflect the ironies that are prevalent in the corridors of power but also shows us just how fragile it can all be! And since it all goes down in Washington society, and with the President of the United States nonetheless, we can easily term Being There to be a perfect Washington D.C. film!
Let’s Wave Washington D.C. Goodbye For Now!
That’s all we have in store for you on our list of Ten Awesome Movies Straight Out of Washington D.C.! folks! And we bet you’d enjoy the movies on this list as much as you’d enjoy the references and visuals of Washington D.C. in them! After all, when it’s the capital city of one of the greatest nations in the world, it’s bound to get a lot of attention from just about every industry, and aren’t we glad that the entertainment industry does all it can to include the city in its many films. So, until we line up some more movies from other cities, here’s waving Washington D.C. as well as you, our readers, a stay-safe-and-take-care goodbye!