Seattle is one of the most scenic places in the country to shoot movies. Our distinctive skyline, misty mountains, luscious forests, and plentiful bodies of water make the city look gorg on celluloid. With a recent boost to our state’s film incentive program, industry leaders expect more film work to happen around the state. So now’s a good time to revisit the rich legacy of movies shot on our verdant shores.
I’ve rounded up nine cinematic spots you can visit, but it’s just a taste. There are hundreds of movies filmed in some capacity about Seattle. And if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into films of the Pacific Northwest, check out Seattle author David Schmader’s excellent new book Filmlandia!, which digs into the movies shot both in Washington state and Oregon.
📸: Adam Kubota
📍 5th Ave and S Jackson St, Seattle
During the height of the pandemic, Seattle got a special visit from Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh. The director shot some of Kimi (2022) here, a feature following an agoraphobic coder named Angela (played by Zoë Kravitz in the wildest blue wig you’ve ever seen) who overhears a murder while reviewing her daily streams. Filmed less than a year after the 2020 uprising, the thriller is rife with government surveillance and protesters taking to the Seattle streets. In one such scene, Angela decides to finally leave her apartment and ride the light rail from the International District/Chinatown station to downtown. It’s shot so disorientingly that it accurately captures Angela’s mental state—and the feeling of trying to ride Seattle’s sometimes chaotic Link trains.
Other Kimi locations: Westlake Center, the West Thomas Street Pedestrian Bridge, and King County Administration Building.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
📸: Adam Kubota
📍 1517 Pike Pl, Seattle
Despite how gray Seattle is, there’s still an impressive amount of romantic comedies shot in our fair city. The most exemplary is Sleepless in Seattle (1993), which stars Meg Ryan as Annie, a woman who becomes infatuated with widower Sam (Tom Hanks) after hearing his story on a talk radio show. The production filmed at various places throughout the city. However, one scene featuring Rob Reiner’s character giving Sam awful dating advice occurred at The Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar in Pike Place Market. Skip the bad advice and get the oysters instead. There’s even a plaque to commemorate the exact spot Hanks and Reiner sat in.
Other Sleepless in Seattle locations: A houseboat on Lake Union, the now demolished N Gates at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and other famous locations.
The Ring (2002)
In The Ring (2002), Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalist Rachel (played by Naomi Watts) possesses a mysterious VHS tape that kills its watcher in seven days. Though the idea of a VHS killing anyone in 2023 is laughable, The Ring is pretty terrifying—partly owing to its drippy, cold portrayal of Seattle. Rachel’s investigation into the tape’s origins takes her all across the Puget Sound region, and viewers might recognize the Harbor Steps, Westin Seattle, and parts of Whidbey Island as shooting locations. But the most freaky sequence happens on the Quinault ferry on its Mukilteo-Clinton route when a possessed horse bursts out of its cage and throws itself into the water. The horse is CGI, but the feeling of terror is real.
📸: Chihuly Museum
📍 305 Harrison St, Seattle
In the late director Lynn Shelton’s Laggies (2014), being an adult is overrated. At least it is to Megan (played by Keira Knightley), an avoidant 20-something who starts hanging out with a teenager named Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her hot single dad (Sam Rockwell) to dodge facing her responsibilities. Megan’s squeamishness is instigated by a proposal from her longtime boyfriend, who pops the question inside the Glasshouse at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Above the characters, Dale Chulily’s vibrant, warm-toned glass sculptures twist and slither. Other notable filming locations include the Crown Hill Grocery Outlet, where Megan buys underage Annika alcohol, and various spots around Ballard. We’re surrounded by prime filming material!
It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963)
📸: July 7th
📍 400 Broad St, Seattle
We’re focusing on the Seattle Center for this movie location, which features the one and only Elvis Presley. It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) literally happened at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. In the musical film, Elvis stars as a down-on-his-luck pilot with so much uncontainable rizz he hits on every woman in sight. He hitchhikes to the World’s Fair in Seattle and ends up caring for a young girl named Sue-Lin (Vicky Tiu). The plot is weird, but the Space Needle gets a special introduction. Painted an orange-y Century Gold, the camera does a slow pan from the observation tower’s curvy base to its UFO-like deck. Never has our beloved Needle looked so cinematic.
Other filming locations: There’s a scene on the Monorail, and Elvis goes on a date in the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. Also, a young Kurt Russell makes his film debut kicking Elvis in the shin near the Pacific Science Center (he’d go on to play The King nearly 20 years later).
📍 2101 N Northlake Way, Seattle
Scorchy (1976) is my favorite film shot in Seattle because it’s just downright bonkers. The movie stars Connie Stevens as Jackie Parker, an undercover agent trying to bust a narcotics operation in the city. There are classic B-movie sequences like wild shootouts and scenes of gratuitous sexuality. But one of the most bombastic scenes features Detective Parker commanding a helicopter to chase the bad guys on boat through the Montlake Cut and into Gas Works Park for one final, ridiculous showdown. It’s one of the pulpiest movies set in the Emerald City, so next time you walk through the serene park, think of Jackie kicking some behind!
Other locales: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and a wild dune-buggy chase through Seattle Center, SoDo, Downtown, and the Waterfront.
📸: Adam Kubota
📍 1114 Howell St, Seattle
Cameron Crowe’s debut feature Singles (1992) defined perceptions of Seattleites for a generation. Released as grunge was reaching its zenith, the comedy follows the romantic lives of single adults living in the city. And even thirty years later, a lot of its Seattle stereotypes ring true—the urbanist evangelizing about trains, the hot and sensitive barista, the emotionally stunted grunge rocker. Two star-crossed characters, played by Kyra Sedgwick and Campbell Scott, meet while headbanging and swilling beers at a concert, shot at the club formerly known as Re-Bar. The bar sadly shut down during the pandemic, but the space reopened as the piano bar Keys on Main. A decidedly different vibe, but you can make your Singles pilgrimage there no less.
Other Singles locations: Many locations in the film no longer exist (RIP), but you can still hang out at Virginia Inn, Occidental Park, and Coryell Court Apartments if you want to feel moody and in love.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
📸: Clinton Ward
📍 111 N E St, Tacoma
This next recommendation takes you out of Seattle, but it’s well worth the drive. Iconic teen romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is a wildly fun retelling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew featuring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The appropriately castle-like Stadium High School in Tacoma stands in for Padua High School in the film, where many of the characters’ shenanigans go down. Every month, Pretty Gritty Tours hosts tours of the French chateau-style school if you want a closer look!
Other 10 Things locations: There are plenty of spots to check out in Seattle. Gas Works Park was the backdrop to a paintball scene, the Fremont Troll appears in another scene, and Padua prom goes down at Paramount Theatre.
Twin Peaks (1990)
📸: Amy Johnson
📍 137 W North Bend Way, North Bend
No “film location” list is complete without referencing Twin Peaks (1990) in all its weird, surreal glory. Directed by David Lynch, the TV series is set in the fictional Washington town of Twin Peaks. FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is assigned to investigate the murder of high school student Laura Palmer and, in the process, runs into spooky happenings. The slick haired, curious Cooper runs on cherry pie and coffee from Double R Diner, now known as Twede’s Cafe, which you can try for yourself. The cafe in North Bend aptly served as the shooting location and remains a popular spot with Twin Peaks fans.
Other Twin Peaks filming locations: The Great Northern Hotel, Ronette’s Bridge, and all these iconic spots.