Washington DC: as seen on screen

Katie Gatens
25 October 2014

With its world famous buildings and historic monuments, Washington DC is heaven for filmmakers and TV producers. Here’s where to walk in the footsteps of your favourite stars

Union Station 
This train station has been captured in films such as Wedding Crashers and Hannibal, for which a full-scale carousel was placed inside its cavernous entrance hall. The building is also used as a mall, with restaurants and exhibition spaces. It’s the most visited destination in Washington DC with over 25 million visitors a year and the hexagonal coffers and gold-leaf decoration in the ceiling surely make it one of the most glamorous train stations on the planet.

National Archives 
Washington's National Archives are home to some of the most important documents in the world, including the Declaration of Independence, which was stolen by Nicholas Cage’s character in the action movie National Treasure. It was also the one of the locations in the 2013 film JFK, chronicling the life of the ill-fated but much-loved president.

Willard Hotel 
One of Washington DC’s most historic hotels, The Willard was home to Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration in 1861 and has seen many other famous guests. Stephen Spielberg famously shot the epic finale of science-fiction thriller Minority Report here, with Tom Cruise taking over the kitchens and hallways — and probably surprising a few guests in the process.

The Lincoln Memorial 
It’s safe to say that besides the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument obelisk are the most iconic Washington DC sights, and the list of films that use this spot as a location is endless. It’s been taken over by aliens in Independence Day, featured in Anthony Hopkins film Nixon, and most famously saw Forrest Gump reunited with Jenny as they waded towards each other through the Reflecting Pool — recreating this moment is not recommended.

The Tombs, Georgetown
Moving away from the hard-hitting political dramas and into some classic 1980s Brat Pack fare. Cult coming-of-age film St Elmo’s Fire, starring Demi Moore and Andie MacDowell, was shot mostly in Georgetown, Washington DC’s university area. The hip St Elmo’s bar was inspired by The Tombs restaurant — which you can still visit today for a bite to eat.

The Smithsonian 
Also known as ‘The Castle’, this beautiful red brick building was built in 1855, and no visit to Washington is complete without a visit to its zoological gardens and 19 distinct museums and galleries — though it might take a while to get round them all. Don’t be surprised if you see Ben Stiller wandering the corridors — Night at the Museum was partly filmed here. You can have your own night at the museum courtesy of its ‘Smithsonian sleepovers’ for families. It’s also the inspiration for the fictional ‘Jeffersonian’ in darkly comic TV show Bones.