News & Politics

Vote: The Most Washington Movie Ever Tournament, Part 4

The fourth (and final) quadrant squares off the wide-eyed naïfs that are always trying to fix Washington.

Welcome back to Washingtonian’s inaugural movie bracket, where we work to determine what’s the Most Washington Movie Ever. Herewith, your fourth quadrant of 16 contenders. You can vote on this set until Thursday, February 26, at 11:59 PM. For the full slate of competitors, click here.

1. Movie: Being There

Year: 1979

Stars: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine

Plot: A simpleton gardener is mistaken for a political clairvoyant, and may also be a supernatural being.

What’s Washington About It: Deep down, you know you like to watch, too.

16. Movie: J. Edgar

Year: 2011

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer

Plot: The life and rise of J. Edgar Hoover, America’s most dangerous mama’s boy, with some truly hideous makeup effects.

What’s Washington About It: It’s fitting that we named our ugliest government building after Hoover.

8. Movie: The More the Merrier

Year: 1943

Stars: Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn

Plot: A visiting policy adviser can’t get a hotel room, so he winds up subletting half an apartment that’s already crowded thanks to a World War II-era housing crunch.

What’s Washington About It: No matter the era, DC’s housing supply will always appear constricted.

9. Movie: Remember the Titans

Year: 2000

Stars: Denzel Washington, Will Patton

Plot: Black head coach leads newly integrated T.C. Williams High School’s football team to an undefeated season; racial strife in Northern Virginia ends.

What’s Washington About It: While the broad strokes are accurate, this story, like so many other local legends, is full of embellishments.

5. Movie: Broadcast News

Year: 1987

Stars: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter

Plot: Two ambitious, but unseasoned television news reporters (Hurt and Brooks) compete for the affection of their attractive colleague (Hunter) and, more importantly, that of the viewers.

What’s Washington About It: Ambitious television reporters will go to great lengths to burnish their credentials. By the way, read our post-mortem on our 1994 Brian Williams profile.

12. Movie: Legally Blonde 2

Year: 2003

Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Bruce McGill

Plot: Elle Woods gives up the fast-track to making partner to work on Capitol Hill on behalf of animal welfare, discovers her boss will sell out her pet causes.

What’s Washington About It: The plot hinges on a scene at a doggy day spa, an infant industry in 2003. In 2015, your neighborhood hasn’t arrived unless it has at least three pet-care businesses.

4. Movie: St. Elmo’s Fire

Year: 1985

Stars: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore

Plot: A bunch of good-looking Georgetown graduates try to make it in Washington.

What’s Washington About It: All glory is fleeting. Just ask John Parr.

13. Movie: Chances Are

Year: 1989

Stars: Cybil Shepherd, Robert Downey Jr.

Plot: A DC lawyer (Christopher McDonald) gets run over by a car and dies, but gets reincarnated as Robert Downey Jr. Then, reincarnated Downey Jr. falls in love with the dead guy’s daughter while working for Ben Bradlee at the Post, but also romances the dead guy’s wife when he realizes he’s the reincarnation of the dead guy, and ultimately picks the daughter.

What’s Washington About It: Ben Bradlee’s love life was still more complex than this convoluted reincarnation rom-com.

6. Movie: In the Loop

Year: 2009

Stars: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander

Plot: British diplomats come to Washington to plan the Anglo-American partnership’s latest Middle East misadventure.

What’s Washington About It: Released when DC was still swooning for then-new President Obama, there’s never been a more perfectly timed cynicism bomb.

11. Movie: Philomena

Year: 2013

Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Plot: Washed up journalist helps an elderly British woman find her long-lost son.

What’s Washington About It: Turns out the son was a deeply closeted Republican official who died from AIDS, a casualty of the Reagan Administration’s real-life indifference.

3. Movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Year: 1939

Stars: Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur

Plot: Charming bumpkin is appointed to a vacant Senate seat and blocks an infrastructure project just to save some meaningless campsite.

What’s Washington About It: What real-life infrastructure projects don’t get blocked by some bumpkin who’s just trying to score cheap, sentimental points back home while our roads, sewers, and electrical grid continue to decay?

14. Movie: Advise and Consent

Year: 1962

Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton

Plot: A dying president tries to usurp his vice president’s place in the order of succession by appointing a more loyal secretary of state.

What’s Washington About It: Director Otto Preminger reportedly tried to cast former Vice President Richard Nixon as the movie’s frowned-upon vice president. This could have been the greatest casting coup ever!

7. Movie: Wedding Crashers

Year: 2004

Stars: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson

Plot: Two high-priced divorce lawyers attend weddings, uninvited, to get laid.

What’s Washington About It: And so was born a generation of Frat Pack-idolizing Glover Park bros.

10. Movie: Talk to Me

Year: 2007

Stars: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejofor

Plot: Petey Greene goes from ex-con to radio host and activist who helped quell the 1968 riots.

What’s Washington About It: A few artistic liberties aside, Greene is one of Washington’s most important homegrown broadcasters—a rare radio host who actually gave a damn about the city that listened to him.

2. Movie: Born Yesterday

Year: 1950

Stars: Broderick Crawford, Judy Holliday

Plot: Scheming rich guy brings his ditzy girlfriend to DC. Hires a local journalist to tutor his girlfriend while he’s out bribing politicians; girlfriend wises up and falls for the journalist.

What’s Washington About It: This is basically fan fiction for every reporter who’s had to cover lobbyists.

15. Movie: How Do You Know?

Year: 2010

Stars: Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon

Plot: Softball player Reese Witherspoon can’t decide between dopey Nationals pitcher Owen Wilson or nice-guy businessman Paul Rudd.

What’s Washington About It: The District gave the producers $2 million to shoot this $120 million film here. Every critic hated it and it made no money at the box office and that, folks, was the end of DC’s film incentive program and why if you see Washington in a movie or TV show, now, it’s probably a combination of Baltimore and a green screen.

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.