A guide to movies and TV shows set in Seattle

April 27, 2017

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I'm not sure what it is about Seattle that makes the setting for a great movie or show, but there are plenty of directors who choose the Emerald City as the backdrop for their work.

It's probably the fact that Seattle looks so much like Vancouver, the Hollywood of Canada, where so many movies and films are shot (it's way cheaper in Canada). 

There are tons of TV shows and films based in our city that end up being 'set in Seattle' while nothing more than a couple jokes about coffee, rain, and a big helicopter shot of the Space Needle.

Here are a few of those movies and shows:


Grey’s Anatomy
Let's just get this one out of the way. Seattleites who watch this show probably develop some sort of complex. If you watch this show, every time you drive through the Battery Street Tunnel, or take a ferry, or a bus, or hear about a sink hole or an earthquake, you probably think, just for a second, that this might be your last moment, but at least we have the hard-working staff of Seattle's Grace Hospital (which isn't real) who just got done slamming each other in the supply closet to remove that piece of that bus that’s stuck inside your abdomen.


Death Note

Speaking of disasters, the Seattle Great Wheel hasn’t been brought down by Shonda Rhimes yet, but where they fail, Death Note enters. It’s a movie based on a Japanese Manga series starring a dude named Light Yagami who can write a name in a book, causing that person to die however he says, and the trailer (it’s a Netflix film) is all about bringing down that wheel.


The Ring

This is another film with origins that lie in Japan. The Ring director chose Seattle for it’s “wet and isolated" mood, although the lighthouse in the movie actually sits off the Oregon Coast, meaning those ferry rides in the film must have been a lot longer than we thought. If I were a horse, I wouldn't be too stoked either.


Fifty Shades of Grey

Yes, this takes place here. Let’s not talk about it.


Chronicle

A few Seattle high schoolers get telekinetic powers and one of them turns evil. The final battle takes place right around Fisher Plaza and the Space Needle. It’s nuts and you should definitely watch the movie if not just to see a King County Metro bus fly through the air and hit a guy, who ends up flying through a Sounders billboard.


10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is shot in Tacoma and takes place at fictional “Padua High School” (really Stadium High School). You’ve probably been to Gasworks and wondered if you can play paintball water balloon fight. You can't. They get real mad if you try.


Frasier

Fraisier’s apartment doesn’t exist in real life and even if it did, there’s NO way he afforded that place on his DJ paycheck. Honestly, they hit the nail on the head what it’s like looking for a place in Seattle with a scene from almost 20 years ago.


Sleepless in Seattle

This is a movie about how Tom Hanks steals Bill Pullman’s fiancée. Ok, that’s the subplot, but do I really need to explain this movie, which is a classic?


Singles

If you were wondering what the 90s were like in Seattle, just watch this movie. It’s complete with so many grunge rock cameos (like Pearl Jam as the band Citizen Dick) and was set at an apartment building that’s still around! Oh yeah, Bill Pullman is in this one, too.


50/50

That kid from Third Rock From The Sun works for NPR in Seattle and gets cancer. Seth Rogen, his stoner buddy, offers moral support. 50/50 was one of those movies that tried really hard, but ultimately failed, to make all the Vancouver filming locations look like they were actually in Seattle. You aren't fooling anyone with those sweeping shots of Stanley Park, boss.


The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Don’t watch this if you plan on raising kids in Seattle and using a nanny. Also, don’t watch this if you don’t want to see a crazy lady impaled on a fence. Filming took place in Issaquah, Tacoma, and Seattle, with one of the character’s luxurious homes located in Queen Anne! There might not be a sweeping Seattle skyline shot, but you'll recognize a few places while watching.


Harry and the Hendersons

There will never be a better movie about bigfoot until they actually find bigfoot and do a 60-Minutes interview and tell-all documentary. Harry and the Hendersons is the perfect movie about a Seattle family discovering sasquatch in their car the same way Michael Scott discovers Meredith on The Office. Then the rest is like a big romantic comedy, but one of the halves of the romance is a big hairy beast and the other half is John Lithgow (eat your heart out, Emma Watson).


Replicant

A Seattle Police Detective uses Jean-Claude Van Damme (the clone) to find Jean-Claude Van Damme (the serial killer). They have a full fight scene where they fist bump a lot. It has a couple helicopter shots of the Space Needle so you know it’s set here, but that’s pretty much it. Not even one measley joke about coffee.

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