Many TV shows and films are set in Washington D.C. But Hollywood doesn't seem to understand our city at all.
Over the last few years, Washington, D.C., has seen alien invasions, demonic possessions, the end of the world, and wedding crashers – at least in TV shows and films.
From Independence Day to Captain America: Winter Soldier, many movies take place in Washington, D.C. However, it seems like no one from Hollywood has ever set foot in our nation’s capital. A lot of these films provide some inaccurate buildings, odd locations, and straight-up nonsense.
So, let’s take a look at these films and see how Hollywood movie magic can erase all that our beautiful city has to offer.
There Aren’t Any Skyscrapers in D.C.!
Although there are skyscrapers in most of the nation’s major cities, Washington, D.C., is not one of them. The city has a height restriction that limits buildings in the District to 130 feet (although exceptions have been made throughout the years). However, a lot of films set in D.C. still feature skyscrapers in the background. Why not, right?
The tallest commercial building in D.C. is One Franklin Square, which is only 12 stories high, and the number of skyscrapers in the area is equivalent to the number of Green Lantern Corps members in the 2017 film, Justice League (if you don’t know, the answer is 0). Yet in Homeland, the Department of State is surrounded by beautiful skyscrapers that aren’t actually there, Live Free or Die Hard features a 30-story-tall building in its D.C. skyline, and True Lies has a terrorist jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper in Georgetown.
Captain America Never Passes Sam Wilson
In Captain America: Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers meets his friend Sam Wilson as they jog through the nation’s capital. During this scene, Cap infamously says “on your left” as he loops past Wilson three times. However, it’s nearly impossible for Rogers to pass Wilson on his path because there are absolutely no loops on the route.
During the run, the two pass by the Inlet Bridge, Reflective Pool, U.S. Capitol building, and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. Based on the monuments, this journey would be 4.615 miles long. If you traced out the route, though, there are absolutely no closed circuits and therefore, there’s absolutely no way that Cap could pass Wilson even once. This shows that the run was only added to the movie to feature some amazing shots of D.C. and mysteriously introduce Falcon.
The Fake Metro Stops
During the first episode of House of Cards season 2, we see a shot of the “Cathedral Heights” Metro stop. However, if you’re a real D.C. resident, you’ll know that there is no Metro stop in Cathedral Heights. This scene was actually shot in the Charles Street subway stop in Baltimore.
This isn’t the only time fake Metro stops were used in D.C. TV shows and film. Scandal features a stop called “Meridian Hill,” Homeland stops at “Farragut Station,” and the 1987 film No Way Out uses the “Georgetown” Metro station.
Spider-Man and Jack Bauer Are Going the Wrong Way
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker takes a trip to Washington, D.C., for a school decathlon tournament. However, the producers might need some schooling if they think that New York is south of Washington, D.C.
When Peter’s bus enters D.C., it crosses the Arlington Memorial Bridge, which is located on the southwest side of the city. The only way the bus would’ve gone across that bridge from New York is if it drove around D.C. for an hour and then went back into the city just for that iconic Lincoln Memorial shot.
During the D.C. season of 24, the producers also seem to have been living in a geographically different city. In this season, Jack Bauer says that he will take “the 355” back to Virginia, but he definitely won’t get there because highway 355 doesn’t go through Virginia – it goes through Maryland. We also don’t say “the” before our highways like they do over in California.
The Things That Happen on the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is used in a lot of movie shots, and for good reason. It’s a beautiful area with some amazing views. However, some of these views are literally impossible to see. For example, you would never see anyone drinking a bottle of champagne on the steps of the memorial at sunrise, as audiences see in Wedding Crashers. The memorial is guarded by the United States Park Police, and you wouldn’t dare pull out a bottle of booze in public.
True Lies Truly Lies
In 1994, Arnold Schwarzenegger flew on his horse into a hotel in D.C in True Lies. However, this hotel is actually the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. There are literally no buildings in Washington, D.C., that look remotely similar to this hotel.
You can also tell the movie was not shot in D.C. because once Schwarzenegger leaves, he exits on the “Key Bridge,” which is actually a shot of a bridge in L.A.
Why Is Baltimore Always in D.C.?
For some odd reason, Hollywood seems to think the East Coast is just one giant state. Therefore, we see a lot of shots of Baltimore throughout movies and TV shows that are actually set in D.C.
For example, in Veep, Selina Meyer goes to a frozen yogurt store in Season 1, Episode 2. This froyo place is on U Street, but the scenery around it actually features SoHo, Baltimore. Meyer also attends an Orioles batting practice in Season 2, but the Orioles practice in Baltimore. I don’t think the Nationals were too happy about that episode.
You Can See the Capitol Building From Any Office Building
Whenever I have friends visit from outside the United States, they always ask me why the Capitol building is so small. This is because of the way Hollywood portrays the building in television and movies.
According to movie magic, you can see the Capitol building from just about anywhere you are in D.C.
The Traffic and the Parking Situation
How come in every movie set in Washington, D.C., everyone seems to be able to get to their destination within 10 minutes and can always find parking right outside the building? For a true D.C. resident, you know this is far from the truth. It definitely grinds our gears and revs our engines when we see Carrie getting from Georgetown to Bethesda in 15 minutes in Homeland or when Jack Bauer can maneuver during rush hour in a couple of minutes.
Have you noticed any other Hollywood mistakes about D.C. movies and TV shows? Let us know!
Amazon Prime's "Jack Ryan" show is simply filled with DMV geographic discrepancies. Read about Jack's inconceivable work commute here!