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June 22, 2011 / Arlington Unwrapped

Arlington On Film – Depictions of Our Area on the Big and Small Screen

It certainly feels like the only (or possibly most accurate?) representation of Arlington on film is local star Remy’s famous You Tube video “Arlington: The Rap” in which he exposes our town’s noted preference for German luxury cars, Whole Foods, tiny dogs, brown flip-flops, and Starbucks.

But Arlington has actually appeared or been referenced in a number of notable movies and television shows!  When watching movies that feature the DC area, it’s always fun to try to quickly pick out Arlington landmarks during the inevitable establishing shot from above (National Airport and Key Bridge are probably the easiest to spot!). 

Arlington proper has also appeared on camera, in films dating as far back as 1909, and as recently as “Transformers 3” (at the Air Force Memorial in fall 2010) and the Clint Eastwood-directed J. Edgar Hoover biopic which filmed in the Donaldson Run neighborhood in March 2011, per

Here’s an interesting video tour of some of the places in our area that have ended up in camera. Arlington County also has an incomplete list of appearances.

Arlington National Cemetery is probably one of the places most often seen in movies, such as 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger” starring Harrison Ford. Iwa Jima, another landmark of historical significance, can be seen in “The Recruit” and the Clint Eastwood-directed “Flags of Our Fathers”.  Metro Stops are also frequently seen, such as Rosslyn in “State of Play” or Crystal City in “True Lies”.  And of course, one of the most important scenes in “All the President’s Men” was set in a Rosslyn parking garage!

“Breach” the movie based on the true story of Soviet Spy Robert Hannsen features a drive on Route 50 and makes mention of the Wilson Blvd exit (fun fact, Hannsen’s real-life Vienna home is currently listed for sale!).

As far as television, some of the most impactful scenes in “The West Wing” were actually shot on location in Arlington – including the assassination attempt on fictional President Bartlett in Rosslyn (shot outside of the old Newseum location) and a government-approved scene shot at Arlington National Cemetery where Toby helps a homeless veteran get a burial with honors.


My personal favorite shot-in-Arlington scene is from one of the later seasons, where Toby, CJ, and Josh go to Iota in Clarendon.

For the most part, due to limited budgets, television uses other locations to shoot and just says they are in Arlington (and the depictions are often rather poor).  The most egregious offenders in recent memory in my opinion are “JAG”, “NCIS”, and “Criminal Minds”. Oh and “Bones” earns a spot on that list as well, simply for having a character refer to 66 as “The 66.”

The quickly-canceled 2005 NBC drama “E-Ring” was set at the Pentagon but I don’t remember mention of anything being shot on location (somehow I don’t picture a post-9/11 Pentagon letting Benjamin Bratt and Co. run all over the place). And for all the mention “The X-Files” made of various Arlington locales, as far as authenticity goes I may recall a sole exterior shot of “Ruffinos Spaghetti House”.

Those are some of the “Arlington 15 Minutes of Fame” moments that I’m aware of – but I’d love to hear about the ones I missed! Let me know in the comments section!


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