News & Politics

Vote: The Most Washington Movie Ever Tournament, Part 3

What are the most Washington movies about secrets and lies in our city? You decide.

Welcome back to Washingtonian’s inaugural movie bracket, where we work to determine what’s the Most Washington Movie Ever. Herewith, your third quadrant of 16 contenders. You can vote on this set until Wednesday, February 25, at 11:59 pm. For the full slate of competitors, click here, and for the second group of contenders, click here.

1. Movie: D.C. Cab

Year: 1983

Stars: Adam Baldwin, Mr. T

Plot: Rival cab companies duel for dominance of DC’s livery industry.

What’s Washington About It: What’s not Washington about it? It was shot throughout the city. It doesn’t focus on the federal sphere, not even when a cabbie played by Bill Maher goes on a primordial Real Time rant in front of the White House. There’s the classic food-fight scene filmed at the World-Famous Florida Avenue Grill. The cabbies spend most of their time griping about low fares and external competition. Characters pick up service-economy passengers in Southeast for low-wage gigs on Embassy Row. Joel Schumacher didn’t bother to dress up U Street and Eckington from their early-1980s decay. Sure, the city looks much different today, but 31 years after this movie’s release, the taxis haven’t really gotten much better. Readers: If D.C. Cab doesn’t make it to the final four at least, you’ll have failed this magazine, but, more importantly, you’ll have failed your city.

16. Movie: State of Play

Year: 2009

Stars: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams

Plot: Old-media reporter Russell Crowe and blogger Rachel McAdams uncover a plot between Congressman Affleck and a military contractor.

What’s Washington About It: Crowe lives in Adams Morgan, eats at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and gets to work by first walking to the Rosslyn Metro station. That’s an unusual commute.

8. Movie: Damn Yankees

Year: 1958

Stars: Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon

Plot: Washington Senators fan sells his soul to the devil to give the team a shot at beating the New York Yankees for the American League pennant.

What’s Washington About It: After 24 years without a major championship, there are probably some present-day sports fans here who would be willing to spend an eternity in Hell for a shot at a World Series or Super Bowl win.

9. Movie: Protocol

Year: 1984

Stars: Goldie Hawn, Chris Sarandon

Plot: Ditzy waitress stumbles into Middle East intrigue and winds up a national hero.

What’s Washington About It: It’s basically proto-Dave, another triumph for the supposed small town that surrounds the White House gates.

5. Movie: No Way Out

Year: 1987

Stars: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman

Plot: A young Navy officer chases a KGB mole across town, including the fabled Georgetown Metro station.

What’s Washington About It: The “Georgetown Metro station” was actually in Baltimore, a fact frequently cited today by Council member Jack Evans in his repeatedly futile attempts to rebuild DC’s film incentive program.

12. Movie: The Walker

Year: 2007

Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas

Plot: Middle-aged gay man works as a social escort for the wives of high-ranking male politicos.

What’s Washington About It: The story was criticized as a bit outdated, but no less a figure than Nancy Reagan was squired around DC and New York by Jerry Zipkin, easily the most famous “walker.”

4. Movie: Strangers on a Train

Year: 1951

Stars: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman

Plot: Two passengers on a train between Union Station and Penn Station concoct the perfect, untraceable crime: killing the other person’s nemesis.

What’s Washington About It: You never know who you’ll meet on the Northeast Corridor.

13. Movie: The Good Shepherd

Year: 2006

Stars: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro

Plot: Upwardly mobile (and anti-Communist) soldiers and intellectuals found the CIA with the help of mob boss Joe Pesci.

What’s Washington About It: As always, the Yalies have too much power.

6. Movie: Seven Days in May

Year: 1964

Stars: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas

Plot: Military cabal plots the overthrow of a peacenik president.

What’s Washington About It: If the president seeks to avoid war, someone in this town is going to have wet dreams about a military junta. Good thing we have a president who’s never ordered an airstrike or sent “military advisers” back into Iraq.

11. Movie: Enemy of the State

Year: 1998

Stars: Will Smith, Gene Hackman

Plot: Rogue NSA agents ruin Will Smith’s life to avoid exposure of a warrantless digital surveillance system.

What’s Washington About It: This movie came out 15 years before Edward Snowden’s leaks. What’s not Washington about it? In the movie, the NSA calls off the surveillance to avoid a riot against the agency. In real life, we’ve had a few strongly worded editorials and some fairly toothless legislative reforms.

3. Movie: A Few Good Men

Year: 1992

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson

Plot: Colonel Jack Nicholson orders the code red; JAG officer Tom Cruise can’t handle the truth.

What’s Washington About It: Of all the political material Aaron Sorkin’s written over the years, this is really the only thing that holds up.

14. Movie: The Distinguished Gentleman

Year: 1992

Stars: Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith

Plot: A Florida con man wins a Congressional seat for the sole purpose of soaking lobbyists.

What’s Washington About It: Florida is still the cause of—and solution to—most of federal Washington’s problems.

7. Movie: The Man With One Red Shoe

Year: 1985

Stars: Tom Hanks, Dabney Coleman

Plot: A ladder-climbing CIA official ensnares a clueless concert violinist into his scheme to take over the agency.

What’s Washington About It: Much like DC’s street grid, this one’s better in the original French. Go rent the 1972 Yves Robert film Le Grand Blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire instead.

10. Movie: Shattered Glass

Year: 2003

Stars: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny

Plot: An ambitious New Republic reporter files stories that turn out to be complete fabrications.

What’s Washington About It: It’s the original New Republic hot take. N.B.: is available for $2,295.

2. Movie: Minority Report

Year: 2002

Stars: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell

Plot: In 2050, the Metropolitan Police Department is the pilot agency for a psychic technology that can predict future murders.

What’s Washington About It: Current DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s love of cutting-edge surveillance technology is well documented. Maybe Future Crime will be here sooner than Steven Spielberg predicted.

15. Movie: Arlington Road

Year: 1999

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins

Plot: George Washington University professor Jeff Bridges thinks his new neighbors are domestic terrorists intent on blowing up FBI headquarters. Turns out he’s right.

What’s Washington About It: Nobody would miss the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

Illustration and bracket by Brooke Hatfield.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.