Alexandria at the Movies

Alexandria is no stranger to the silver screen, from the many movies and television shows filmed in Old Town to cinema inspired by scenes from Alexandria’s past. And it comes as no surprise. We’ve got picturesque streetscapes, 18th and 19th century architecture and a deep well of American history to boot. So while Oscar hopefuls are hitting the red carpet and awards season swings into full gear, why not shine the spotlight on Alexandria’s own star turns? (Spoiler alert: we’re giving two thumbs way, way up for ALX!)

 

Remember the Titans (2000)

alexandria-va-movies-remember-the-titansImage via sky.com

How could we forget? This award-winning film starring Denzel Washington depicts the consolidation of Alexandria’s three public high schools into one, T.C. Williams High School, in 1971 and the subsequent integration of the schools’ football team, which went on to win the state championship that same year.

Today, many of those Titans team members are still active in the Alexandria community, including Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille. Petey Jones—the jokester running back-turned-linebacker for the Titans, played by Donald Faison in the film—still works at T.C. Williams High School.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Wood Harris

 

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

Given Alexandria’s important role in American history (and its connection to Freemasons like George Washington), it only makes sense that parts of the National Treasure sequel were filmed in Old Town. In case you missed it, the lecture hall in the movie’s opening scene is actually the auditorium inside the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Ed Harris, Helen Mirren

 

Hollow Man (2000)

alexandria-va-movies-hollow-manImage via film.com

This Kevin Bacon-helmed sci-fi thriller was a hit at the box office and a critical flop, although it did garner praise for its astonishing special effects that made Bacon appear invisible. One creepy scene involving a swimming pool was shot at 311 South St. Asaph Street in Old Town Alexandria, in a large townhouse with wrought iron on top of the entrance.

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin

 

J. Edgar (2011)

alexandria-va-movies-j-edgarImage via justjared.com

Clint Eastwood’s biopic of the most notorious director of the F.B.I. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) also shot several scenes at the George Washington Masonic Memorial, which brought Eastwood, the two stars of the film and lots of vintage cars to the streets of Old Town. Look closely and you’ll notice that the Masonic Memorial looks slightly different—that’s because the filmmakers used CGI to chop off the tower!

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas, Judi Dench

 

Random Hearts (1998)

alexandria-va-movies-random-heartsImage via Sony Movie Channel

This Harrison Ford vehicle may be the biggest production ever filmed in Alexandria. Although director Sidney Pollack’s movie was panned by critics, Random Hearts’ production was a big hit in Old Town, where it took over King Street for about a week. The film’s producers relied on a local Alexandria media center as their production offices for make-up and wardrobe continuity, making Ford a King Street fixture during the shoot.

Starring: Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas

 

The West Wing (1999-2006)

alexandria-va-movies-t-v-west-wingImage via The Completist 

Calling all Wingnuts: quite a few episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s classic serial political drama were filmed in Alexandria, but the most extensive shoot took place for part two of the second season premiere, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen.” The episode opens with an assassin stepping outside the Dixie Pig restaurant near Old Town for a smoke when he is immediately surrounded by dozens of federal agents. The show’s producers used several Alexandria police cars and officers for the scene, which required lots of driving up and down Powhatan Street. Today, Vaso’s Kitchen has replaced the Dixie Pig. (Side note: John Wells, executive producer of the show, was born in Alexandria.)

Starring: Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Kristin Chenoweth, Allison Janney

 

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave follows the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. The film—and the real Solomon Northup’s memoir—find Northup in the slave pen of DC-based slave dealer James Burch, who would go on to become one of the last owners of one of the largest slave trading companies in the country, Franklin and Armfield of Alexandria. Now headquarters of the Northern Virginia Urban League, Burch’s slave trading center is home to the Freedom House museum, where visitors can witness the powerful stories of the enslaved in the same space where they were once held.

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch

 

No Way Out (1986)

alexandria-va-movies-no-way-out-filmImage via movie-tourist.blogspot.com

In this smart thriller with a complicated plot, Will Patton’s character arrives to pick up soon-to-be murder victim Susan at 101 Quay Street near Alexandria’s waterfront, also affording us a glimpse of Founders Park in the background.

Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Will Patton

 

The Pelican Brief (1993)

alexandria-va-movies-pelican-briefImage via movie-tourist.blogspot.com

Although Denzel Washington did not film in Alexandria for Remember the Titans, he did make it out to Mount Vernon a few years earlier for his part in The Pelican Brief, a legal crime thriller based on the John Grisham novel. In one scene, Washington’s character meets with his editor, played by John Lithgow, at George Washington’s estate. The film would go on to be a blockbuster.

Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow

 

There are quite a few other movies filmed in Alexandria or inspired by Alexandria history, including State of Play (2009, with Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck), Rules of Engagement (2000, with Tommy Lee Jones), and Broadcast News (1987, with Holly Hunter and William Hurt), among others. Watch to see if you can spot Alexandria!

For more information about Alexandria’s starring roles, click here.

Header image via therufus.com