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It’s telling that in his intro to Washington Life‘s list of The 100 Best Washington Movies, fedora-wearing ABC-7 movie critic Arch Campbell invokes a famous North Carolina landmark.
One of my favorite Washington films is Being There, in which Peter Sellers plays an idiot gardener who only knows the world through television. Thrown into the real world, our town’s most powerful people take his utterances as pure wisdom. Being there also has great scenes of D.C. in the late ’70s, and I think it’s the first movie to use Biltmore in Ashville, North Carolina as a location. Rent the movie if you haven’t seen it, and then go see Biltmore.
On the one hand, Being There is indeed a great Washington movie. On the other, that’s a misplaced modifier in the second sentence—-and one of many clues that Washington Life‘s list shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
In fact, plenty of films on this list feature only a scene or two in D.C. The French Connection is one of the New Yorkiest New York movies ever made, but a walk-and-talk scene in D.C. is enough to secure it room on Washington Life‘s list. And you’re not mistaken: The Hunt for Red October takes place in a submarine, thought it occasionally flashes to Langley. Howard Hughes is dragged before a Senate committee in The Aviator, but he spends most of the film around Hollywood. And we have no idea what they were thinking when they included Apocalypse Now on this list.
It could be that there aren’t a lot of great films set in the District. Or maybe it’s because Washington Life thinks that anything having to do with war, politics, espionage, or drug smuggling counts as a Washington movie. Or maybe the magazine’s cultural thinkers are just being lazy. Whatever the problem is, here’s our index to Washington Life‘s list:
Featured Non-Washington Locations in List of “Washington” Films: Vietnam, Lake Tahoe, Sicily, Cuba, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, South Dakota, outer space, underwater, Springfield, a bus
Number of Movies By Presidential Adminstration:
- Five: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush
- Four: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson
- Three: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan
- Two: Jimmy Carter, Ulysses S. Grant
- One: Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, Merkin Muffley, Bob Roberts, Thomas J. Whitmore, Jefferson Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dave
Written by Aaron Sorkin:A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, Bulworth (uncredited script doctor)
Demi Moore in Uniform:A Few Good Men, G.I. Jane
Fred Thompson in Uniform:The Hunt for Red October
Fred Thompson as Bureaucratic Hack:Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, No Way Out, In the Line of Fire
Made for TV Movies:Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Michael Moore Films on the List:Canadian Bacon, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore Films That Deserve to Be on the List:Canadian Bacon
Films about D.C. Radio Not Included:Private Parts, Talk to Me
Starring Reese Witherspoon: One
Erroneously Reported Al Gore Cameos: One